Managing Recommenders Is Just As Important As Choosing The Right One

Employers Hire MBAs With This Skill

MBA employers today seek out grads who can demonstrate a variety of marketable skills—from leadership to interpersonal traits. Among the list of desirable skills is problem-solving, or strategic thinking.

Dinuka Gunaratne, the former inaugural director of the center for graduate professional development at the University of Toronto, recently explained why strategic thinking is so desirable in the work force, and how students can start developing the skill in school.


Strategic thinking is defined as the ability to see the big picture. It’s about planning ahead and being action-oriented in achieving goals, Gunaratne says.

“It is showcased through curiosity and connecting the dots across different domains while, at the same time anticipating and mitigating challenges to crafting a path forward in achieving goals,” he explains. “This highly sought-after skill is valued across many sectors and employers.”


Strategic thinking, Gunaratne says, can be developed in many ways—especially during your time in B-school.

“As a graduate student, the first opportunity to practice and develop such skills presents itself as you consider your research projects and next steps,” he says. “How are you thinking about your long-term goals as you plan your projects for graduate school? Are those goals focused on immediate outcomes, or are they connected to future processes? Can you clearly articulate how today’s actions will impact your future in three, five or 10 years? The answers to those questions can provide the insight needed to further develop your strategic thinking skills.”

On a project-level, strategic thinking can easily be applied by thinking about what outcomes you want to achieve.

“Take time to move away from your regular tasks and routines to self-reflect,” Gunaratne explains. “As you reflect on your project outcomes and consider future next steps, you are exercising your strategic thinking muscles.”

The practice of strategic thinking is easier said than done. But one tactic that Gunaratne says can be helpful is prioritization of your workload.

“Knowing what is essential and what is not important is vital, as that connects to our longer-term goals,” he explains. “Choose carefully where you invest your time. If such tasks and activities add value to your longer-term goals, then you can choose to prioritize them.”

To develop strategic thinking is one thing, to demonstrate the skill is another. Gunaratne encourages students to demonstrate their strategic thinking skills in their daily engagements. A group project, for instance, is an ideal environment to demonstrate strategic thinking.

“If you are part of a team of researchers, make sure you actively contribute to discussions and dialogue,” Gunaratne says. “Sharing your thoughts and ideas is an essential building block in this process. Many graduate students stay silent due to the fear of criticism. If we can reframe fear as an opportunity to practice this valuable skill, it may be easier to put forth yourself and your ideas.”

Sources: Inside Higher Ed, P&Q

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