MBAs: Using the Summertime to make the SWITCH

You’ve just graduated with your MBA and are looking forward to your opportunity to get into management.  While we may want to use the summer as a time of reflection and a little job searching for that new leadership position we so desire, graduates should be taking just a little time to  publish the history of their transition to leadership before contacting potential employers.  While top tier MBA programs are connected to companies that will hire their freshly minted graduates, smaller to medium enterprises, as well as startups, need experienced talent.  If you’re in the market for this type of opportunity, painting yourself as a new leader won’t get you very far.  Let’s take a look at what the summertime should hold for your activity plan.

As an MBA graduate, you likely have high expectations for improvements in your career mobility brought about by your increased understanding of the operational aspects of business life.  But these aren’t the expectations you should focus on initially.  Employers want to know your value proposition.  They expect you to add value to their business through such things as helping identify and obtain global opportunities, developing products and services, finding unique solutions to problems, utilizing exceptional communication and leadership skills, and building high performing teams.  Is this the value you offer?

Making the switch, or changing careers, is normally a stressful activity.  If you’re thinking that the MBA degree will be enough to convince employers you’re ready for management, you might be in for a surprise.  Relevant experience is more important than the degree.  You will need to be able to prove that you already have significant relevant experience as an MBA.  Otherwise, you’re viewed as someone the company will have to train.  Oh, training budgets hardly exist today.  Most companies focus on hiring the “right” people, which means they won’t train them.  Your proof of value starts with your resume and social network profiles.  If your resume doesn’t communicate much because you don’t really have the experience you need, here are some things you can do this summer.

Volunteer.  Small to medium sized companies need help.  Why?  Well, not every business owner is highly educated, formally speaking, on the many aspects of running a business.  There are plenty of places to find companies who need support.  You can contact a city’s chamber of commerce, small business service centers, SCORE, and many other groups setup to help small businesses.  All of these can be found with a simple Google search.  Finding projects will help broaden your expertise and provide success stories that you can offer to potential employers.

Learn to speak publicly.  Toastmasters is a great place to learn to speak and is fairly low cost.  They also have branches everywhere.  The best thing about them is that you can develop and practice any speech.  More specifically, you could have an audience that helps you tell your stories.  Maybe you can develop the speech that articulates your desire to transition into management and all the steps you have taken to make that switch, the things you’ve learned and the value it has to an organization.  Can you imagine how well this will sound once practiced over and over?

MOOCs.  Yes, I know.  You feel you already have enough education, especially after spending two years working on your MBA.  Well, I’ve graduated quite a few times and am always finding reasons to learn more.  Online classes, which are mostly free of charge, are a great way to build expertise on a topic that you might be interviewing for.

Consult.  Gaining experience rapidly is best done by freelance consulting.  There are numerous websites that can help you find projects to work on.  Just do a quick search online for MBA freelance jobs to find a lot of them.  I’ve worked with MBA & Company and people per hour.

These are just a few ideas on what to do with your summer, assuming you haven’t made the switch you planned on.  The business world is moving at a fast pace, requiring MBAs to learn more and more, all the time.   Remember the old saying about competition in the marketplace, “if you’re sitting still, you’re losing ground.”  Get busy building evidence of the value you can offer as a manager to companies.  You don’t have to be a fresh graduate with no experience.  Experience is too easy to get.  You just have to do something to get it.

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