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Harvard MBA Explains How To Make A Career Switch

Harvard Business School graduates

Harvard MBA Explains How To Make A Career Switch

An MBA, for many, can act as a ticket to a new career.

“Career switchers” often pursue an MBA degree in order to switch industries or disciplines.

“I think the MBA is a great way to get an introduction generally to business,” Idie Kesner, Dean of the Kelley School of Business, tells P&Q. “You get a chance to explore a variety of different functional areas, sometimes without the deep dive that you would necessarily get in an MS program, a customized or specialized MS program. And when you’re changing your career, you need that breadth of perspective.”

A former engineering manager at Etsy, Adam Palay, who’ll be earning his MBA from Harvard Business School in 2021, recently offered a few pieces of advice for career switchers pursuing an MBA in a blog post for Harvard Business School’s MBA Voices.


Palay, who joined the MS/MBA Engineering Sciences Program, wanted to learn about how entrepreneurs and investors are coming up with solutions to climate change.

Yet, Palay recalls not having much experience or knowledge of climate change. He tells MBA Voices that he was “a career-switcher coming in from scratch; I didn’t know the industry terminology or how the energy grid worked, let alone the organizations and roles I should target.”

So Palay did his research and attended Career & Professional Development (CPD) industry education programs, company presentations, and company conversation events in pursuit of the right internship for his goals.

“Hearing what companies had to say about their business and their impact gave me a sense of what I could learn in an internship,” Adam tells MBA Voices. “Those observations helped me focus my internship interests and inform my search strategy.”

Palay ultimately landed an internship in VC as a Portfolio Greenhouse Gas Impact Analysis Intern at Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV).


Palay also highlights how helpful the resources and wider alumni network at HBS were in helping him career switch.

“Through the School’s Business & Environment Initiative, which runs a mentorship program connecting students with alumni, I was able to speak to alumni in venture and at technology start-ups that have an environmental impact,” Palay tells MBA Voices. “Those conversations shed light on the different career paths in venture and cleantech, which proved valuable as I prepared to discuss my transferable skillset in interviews.”

Ultimately, Palay says, the MBA path is a journey that can open doors to new paths, careers, and findings.

“When I came to business school and this journey started, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, and that is completely okay,” he tells MBA Voices. “I knew HBS would open a lot of doors, but I didn’t know just how many different doors there were out there; I’m glad I took the time to figure things out.”

Sources: HBS MBA Voices, P&Q