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    Applying Your MBA to Your Career


    It’s not easy getting into an MBA program. You have to be really committed and pretty smart. It’s also going to cost you a lot in terms of your financial commitment to it. When you come into the program with the belief that you’ve done well in your career so far, you’re really looking forward to learning a lot and gaining an important qualification. It can become quickly apparent that no student, us included, knows everything. We all come with specific experience of different aspects of the program but none of us know everything. And that’s great because you know you’re going to get learning in areas you haven’t had a chance to explore before. You’re also going to benefit from getting to know colleagues on the program who are from different backgrounds to you. Whilst every MBA program is quite differently structured, in broad terms an MBA will cover many different areas of business, such as strategy, marketing, resources and people. How can you apply the wide variety of skills you learn during the course of your MBA to your career?

    In a recent discussion I had with professionals in investment banking, there was one individual who was responsible for operations in the office or the bank. He was asked what element of his MBA had really lit him up. What was the most interesting, intellectual element of the program over a 3 year period? He said that the most interesting aspect was that of marketing. What was it about marketing that was so interesting to him? It had nothing to do with competitive positioning but had everything to do with brand. It was to do with building on his previous understanding of those issues. It allowed him to see in a different light the front office that worked with the internal clients in the bank and it allowed him to think quite differently about the service that he’s used to providing and about what the bank must do to be effective in what it does.

    Looking at the finance modules, they’re going to be wide in scope and they’re going to cover profit and loss and cash flow. They may well open up the issues of profit margins and by-product. For some organizations, this is a derail, because we often believe that the business that we win is good business, when quite a lot of the business we win is not good business at all. Margins are low or, if we don’t have more products that are higher than the margins, business can’t be sustained.

    Between finance and operations is the centre of production or service, which is another element of the MBA that we wouldn’t necessarily see day to day in our jobs. MBAs teach these subjects in a huge amount of depth, with the student looking for and often able to explore and experiment with organizations other than their current employer. Those skills of learning are hugely important, as is the opportunity to go and place our learning in other companies. It is very similar to the type of work that one does as an intern.

    Typically, MBA programs offer not just different functional experiences but also cultural ones, especially to international students. Such students may not have English as their first language but they can still pick up a lot. Learning is a lot to do with behavioral nuances when it comes to MBAs, making the earning of an MBA such a rich experience. But it’s not just about those things; the main thing is to do with the outcome and how you can apply what you learn. It’s about how you can fit together the agenda of all the broad areas brought together. This type of learning stays with you for the rest of your life.

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