As a career advisor with the Full-time MBA program at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, I’m often asked how feasible it is to make a significant career change during an MBA program. It’s a fair question to consider as a prospective MBA student, but my typical response is, “that’s exactly what a Two-Year MBA program is for.”
If you’re looking to move into a new industry or function, attending an MBA program – and more specifically, participating in a summer internship – is an ideal way to make a career pivot. Many companies with MBA internships are not only open to hiring students with no direct experience in that industry or function – they’re expecting it. At Goizueta, I’ve seen professional athletes land internships in investment banking, U.S. Army veterans successfully recruit for consulting, and former high school teachers receive offers in brand management.
Certainly, the rigor of our Full-time MBA academic program challenges students to build the foundational knowledge and skills to make these significant career changes. But a necessary part of making a successful career pivot is reflecting on your transferable skills – and then effectively communicating them to potential employers. At Goizueta’s Graduate Career Management Center, we spend a lot of time focused on developing your story and highlighting your strengths.
Teamwork, problem-solving, initiative, adaptability, strategic thinking – all of these skills are crucial to your success as an MBA intern, but they’re not unique to MBA roles. Most people are already developing some of the skills in their roles now. The goal is to reflect on your pre-MBA skills and identify how those skills align with your post-MBA goal.
Self-reflection not only allows you to identify your strengths but also can help you to find an MBA program that matches your needs. It’s true that a Two-Year MBA program offers students the time for exploration and skill-building that may be required to make a major career switch – but for some MBA students, a slight pivot is all they need. Fortunately, at Goizueta, our One-Year MBA program provides students with a quicker, more direct path to achieve their career goals.
Our typical One-Year MBA student is not looking to make a drastic change but instead accelerate their existing career path. Maybe you’re looking to transition from product design to product management or move from sales to marketing in the same industry. Perhaps you just want to build your leadership skills to take on a management-level role.
Pursuing an accelerated MBA option like Goizueta’ One-Year MBA program may be the ideal way to have an immersive MBA experience without taking as much time away from the work you enjoy. One-Year MBA students are driven, focused, and clear in their goals – and they’ve also done the necessary self-reflection to know that an accelerated program is the right fit.
Know What You Want
It’s important to know what you want. Pursuing an MBA is a significant investment of time, money, and energy, so it’s only reasonable that you should make the most of your MBA experience. The most successful MBA students are those that have clarity about their goals. As a prospective student, you need to spend some real-time considering what your ideal career path would be because many attractive opportunities will come your way during the MBA program.
Do you enjoy being challenged on a daily basis? Are you comfortable with long hours? Do you thrive in a collaborative environment, or do you prefer to spend more time working independently? Reflecting on your likes and dislikes now will make you more focused and prepared to ask the right questions when networking begins (and don’t worry, networking is not as awkward and difficult as it may seem).
It’s also important to have considered your career goals before applying to MBA programs. This will help you narrow down the MBA programs that are the right fit for you. You’ll also need to articulate what you want from an MBA and why, during the interview process. You’re looking for a right fit MBA program and MBA programs are looking for the right fit MBA students.
Data-Informed, Interest Driven
At Goizueta, you’ll find some of the best employment rates (99% of the class of 2021 accepted a job offer within 90 days of graduation) as well as competitive compensation ($135,000 average salary plus $29,151 average signing bonus for the class of 2021). Goizueta Full-time MBA students have had great success in popular MBA career paths such as management consulting (27.5% of the class of 2021), investment banking (14.7% of the class of 2021), corporate finance (9.2% of the class of 2021), and product management (7.3% of the class of 2021). Top hiring companies at Goizueta include McKinsey, Amazon, Deloitte, EY, PwC, UPS, Truist, and Wells Fargo.
While understanding these career paths, companies, and trends can be valuable to your MBA research, make sure you don’t let it be a barrier to identifying your true interests. One of the best things you can do in preparation to join an MBA program is to reflect and think deeply about what appeals to you and why. Research different paths, read about company cultures, and find people on LinkedIn who you think are doing interesting work.
Regardless of your goals, an MBA degree allows you to establish, widen, and deepen your business knowledge across all disciplines, which makes it ideal for both career switchers and career accelerators.
Liz Chilla is Senior Director of Full-time MBA Advising in the Graduate Career Management Center at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. She oversees the career education, coaching, and programming for Goizueta’s Two-Year MBA and One-Year MBA programs. Liz has been at Goizueta for more than five years, starting as a career coach working primarily with MBA students pursuing general management, operations, real estate, healthcare, and social impact careers. Prior to Goizueta, she spent several years working in MBA admissions at NYU’s Stern School of Business.