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If you are like most MBA students, at least part of your motivation to seek the degree was career advancement. Perhaps you have entered this program directly from an undergraduate degree because you believe the MBA will improve your first job placement. Perhaps you are happy with the professional field you are in, but believe an MBA will make it easier for you to advance within your company. Or perhaps you are seeking an MBA because you believe it is time to change your professional direction. Whatever your professional motivation, the beginning of your MBA enrollment is a good time for you to think about the direction you want your career to take after you graduate.
In your previous academic experience, at some point you were likely encouraged to complete some personal assessment inventories to determine what your best career options were. Now that you are more advanced as both a student and a professional, personal assessment inventories are still important. However, their purpose at this juncture will probably not be to identify your interests and skills--these you should already have a good idea about. Rather, assessment inventories can tell you more about how you work--your personal style of leadership, management, communication, and conflict resolution, as well as your attitude toward control and your tolerance of ambiguity. Having this information about yourself will allow you to identify areas where you could become more effective, as well as begin to visualize the professional situation where you are most likely to thrive. The Keirsey Temperament Sorter, the Enneagram, and the Culture Fit Assessment are some of the useful assessment tools available online. Others are available from SBA's Career Opportunities Center.
In this orientation, you have been introduced to mission, objectives, values, and expectations of the UHV MBA program. One of your self-assessment exercises should be to write for yourself a professional mission statement, a list of objectives, an inventory of the values which define you, and a collection of expectations which you have for your career and your employers.
Once you have a handle on not only your education, experience, and talents, but also your professional style, you are ready to look more specifically at the career options that appeal to you. The U.S. Department of Labor offers resources on occupational outlooks. Careers in Business is an excellent resource for both corporate and non-profit job opportunities. Best Jobs USA allows you to search for available jobs by occupation and state and discusses trends in the job market.
When you plan a long trip, you probably begin by selecting your destination and then determining the best way to get there, based on how quickly you need to arrive, what your resources for the trip are, and whether there are stops you would like to make on the way. However, too often people "plan" careers by selecting the road in front of them and seeing where it goes, without consciously thinking about where they want to end up, how long it will take, and what they might have to sacrifice to get there.
If an effective career plan is a priority for you, you should devote time to it now. Don't settle for daydreaming about it--commit your career plan to paper. The plan should be comprehensive: Include a timeline. List the steps between where you are now and where you want to be in a logical sequence. Identify the obstacles you are likely to encounter, and decide how you will overcome them. Catalog the resources, both concrete and abstract, which you will have at your disposal for your trip. Decide how and when you will evaluate your professional progress. Above all, make sure that your plan, for all its detail, is still flexible. An unexpected detour shouldn't require that you write an entirely new career plan.
Implementing your plan doesn't begin after graduation--it begins right now. What do you need to accomplish between today and the day you graduate to start your post-MBA career? It is never too early to sharpen your job search skills. Many student actors prepare for future auditions by preparing a new audition piece each week. You can rehearse for your next job application by selecting job advertisements that fit within your plan and drafting a resumé and cover letter. Using SBA's Career Opportunities Center, conduct research on the company advertising positions to find out what their values and philosophies are, and write up what they would be likely to ask you in an interview and how you would respond. By the time you apply for your next job, you'll be an old hand at the interview process.