In a world that can change in an instant, an MBA may be your safest bet for long-term career success.
We’re all feeling a heightened sense of uncertainty about the future during the coronavirus pandemic. In no time at all, things went from business as usual to a new reality of masks, social distancing, and, unfortunately, high unemployment and shuttered storefronts. When things can change so fast, how can you possibly plan for your long-term career success?
The reality is that even in normal times you can’t so much plan for the future as much as you can prepare for it. Investing in your education, keeping your options open, and committing to lifelong learning are ways you can be ready for anything life wants to throw at your career.
Earning a broad-based, generalist degree like an MBA is the perfect way to set yourself up to thrive in a world that can change in the blink of an eye. Here are five reasons why an MBA is a smart choice for long-term success in an unknowable future.
Diversity of career possibilities
A principle of investing that you may have heard before is that diversification reduces risk. The basic idea is that if you spread your money across different investments, you’re not too exposed if any one investment takes a dive. When you invest in an MBA, you are in a sense reducing your career risk because MBAs are hirable across the spectrum of industries and job functions.
In fact, a recent survey shows that no more than about 1 in 5 MBA alumni currently work in any one sector. Among nearly 6,000 responding full-time MBA alumni, 21 percent work in the products/services industry, followed by technology (17%), finance/accounting (15%), consulting (14%), and government/nonprofit (10%). Similarly, full-time MBA alumni also vary widely in their job functions. Twenty-three percent work in general management roles, followed by finance/accounting (22%), marketing/sales (19%), and consulting (15%).
This diversity speaks to the wide applicability of the MBA curriculum to all types of businesses and the desirability of the MBA skillset among employers seeking new management talent. With an MBA you can feel confident that if economic conditions change—or even just if your interests change—you can pivot your career in a new direction because you’re employable in all kinds of organizations in a variety of roles.
While certain skills can rise and fall in demand in the labor market, others stand the test of time because they’re focused around people and widely applicable. There’s a reason leading companies across sectors like Google, McKinsey & Co., Apple, and Goldman Sachs are among the world’s leading hirers of MBA talent every year: MBA programs attract top talent and train them to effectively understand and lead people and solve problems.
A survey of full-time MBA alumni shows that 4 in 5 agree that business school developed their soft skills—interpersonal abilities that enable harmonious and effective working interactions. This is, of course, by design. The business school experience encourages students to constantly put their soft skills to the test in situations like team-based assignments and classroom case study discussions.
A recent survey of more than 1,200 corporate recruiters shows that across world regions, industries, and company types and sizes, working with others and problem solving and are the skills that are the most important for their current job openings. And how do these recruiters rate business schools on teaching these skills? The vast majority say graduates are prepared to execute these skills on the job in leadership positions in their companies. In addition, overall nearly 9 in 10 recruiters agree or strongly agree that their new business school hires are primed for sustained success at their organizations.
Alumni network support
While the skills you’ll learn in your MBA program will be a tremendous benefit to you as you apply for jobs over the course of your career, you can’t underestimate the importance of relationships to hiring choices. The fact is, sometimes the difference between getting an interview and not hearing back is that someone at the company was willing to vouch for you.
When you’re a part of an extensive business school alumni network with thousands of members, that’ll likely happen to you a lot more than it does now. According to a recent survey, an incredible 95 percent of full-time MBA alumni say they would recruit an alumnus from their program for a job at their company.
Beyond leveraging business school networks for job opportunities, there’s also a great sense of community and camaraderie that comes with it. Alumni not only share new job openings amongst their network, but they also connect and share advice, articles, personal stories, and much more in private, virtual group settings like LinkedIn, but also in fun, live networking events sponsored by the school in different cities around the world.
In challenging times, your business school network can be not only your career support but a part of your emotional support as well.
Cutting-edge educational experience
In MBA programs, students learn a broad-based, general management curriculum that has both been proven over the decades and is regularly updated to meet the demands of the modern business world. The subjects and courses covered span the spectrum of topics relevant to business leadership, providing you with a solid footing in the principal concepts that will underpin your career development for decades into the future.
MBA program curriculums typically require you to complete a set of core courses and provide you with a level of flexibility and customization in selecting elective courses. Electives give you the opportunity to explore more specialized or industry-specific subjects that align with your career goals, help you develop a new or existing skill, or simply give you the chance to learn more about a subject you’re interested in.
In addition, many programs offer experiential learning opportunities that truly enable you to learn by doing, collaborating with your classmates and real business leaders to innovate and problem solve.
Lifelong learning and career coaching
While an MBA will provide you with a solid foundation of business and managerial knowledge, to sustain your career success over decades you’ll need to commit to being a lifelong learner and continually add new skills to your repertoire.
MBA programs know that your education shouldn’t end when you earn your degree, and many are committed to supporting your educational journey long after you’ve left the MBA classroom. Through their alumni networks, programs often make available online coursework in in-demand subjects, as well as host live in-person learning events on-campus. In addition, some offer the ability to leverage resources and even one-on-one counseling with the career services staff.
Lifelong learning options vary by program, so be sure to do your research and ask admissions staff about what they have to offer when you engage with them. It will signal that you’re committed not only to adding an MBA to your resume, but that you’re committed to being the kind of lifelong learner and long-term thinker they want in their MBA classrooms and later in their alumni network.
Investing in an MBA is a smart choice for your long-term career prospects in a world that is always rapidly changing. There are more than 3,000 MBA programs of all types and formats in Program Finder for you to choose from. Which is the fit best for you and your goals? Start exploring! Create an mba.com account to begin your journey.
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This article on Why an MBA is a Smart Choice for an Uncertain Future was originally published on mba.com.