Welcome to the Financial Times Ask the Expert Jobs Clinic 2013. Are you an MBA graduate still looking for a job? Or are you a corporate recruiter hoping to employ MBAs this year?
On Friday 14th June 2013, between 13.00 and 14.00 BST, Donna Sosnowski answered reader’s questions.
Donna Sosnowski is senior associate director of the MBA Center for Career Development at Babson College in the US. Her career includes work with Fortune 500 companies and start-up companies across a broad spectrum of industries, including consumer products and services, environmental consulting, financial services, manufacturing, technology, and hospitality. In addition to her corporate and consulting roles, she has served on the faculty of Stonehill College, teaching courses in human resources and served as a career consultant at Northeastern University and University of Connecticut.
I am 32 year old chartered management accountant. I am looking to undertake a part-time MBA at Warwick Business School next year. I have been working in finance since graduation. I have worked within several FTSE 100 companies and asset management firms.
I am currently working as a finance manager. I am completely transforming the business operations which I enjoy. I am keen to step away from the nuts and bolts form of accounting. I am even open to the idea of stepping away from the role of accountant and venture into another job which is more consultancy focused or perhaps another role altogether. Ultimately I am keen to step away from dry aspects of accounting.
Can the panel offer advice as to how I can use the MBA to make this change? If at all.
Ameer Ali, finance manager at The Urban Market Company
Donna: It sounds like you have enjoyed a successful career in accounting and finance. Entering a part-time MBA programme is an excellent avenue for you at this point in your career. The diversity of the academics, combined with the interaction with colleagues across functions and industries will provide an excellent source of career information and platform to work from.
As you enter the programme, keep an open mind, actively engage in programmes, activities and events to expand your horizons about ways to leverage your accounting and finance expertise and parley that into your next career move. Utilise this time to extend your network and explore options, while you are still actively employed.
Individuals with accounting and finance expertise are key players in any organisation. Senior leaders within organisations focus on mission, vision and strategy to drive business, while consultants assist organisations (from the outside) to do the same. During your MBA, consider whether your preference is for an internal or external role.
Enjoy the journey.
I did an MBA just four years after my BSc and graduated in July 2012. I have just three years of work experience pre-MBA and it’s been challenging to get a job.
It’s worsened by the fact that I’m in a foreign country (South Africa) and it seems employers are threatened by the MBA as they keep saying I am over qualified for positions.
What can I do, seeing as I don’t have vast experience and would like to start working again?
Donna: Working in a foreign country always comes with challenges (VISA status), combined with just three years of experience, you need to work twice as hard to penetrate the market.
Are you leveraging your alumni and network contacts? Utilise your network to gain feedback and recommendations regarding their thoughts about organisations/positions that might best suit your background and experience. Develop a target list of companies and seek out individuals in those organisations. Does your ”elevator pitch” clearly articulate your value proposition?
In summary, clearly define what you have to offer, engage your network, target companies and individuals and be purposeful and focused in your search. Good luck.
I need advice about the right time to do the MBA. Probably there is no a right or wrong time, but I would like to ask to experts if, on the basis of my experience so far, it is the right time for me to apply for the MBA or is it too early?
I studied environmental engineering and am currently part of a rotation programme at Det Norske Veritas which involves four to six-month rotations in different departments and places. For the third rotation, I will be working in the London office in business and operational risk for the oil and gas industry as consultant. The last rotation will again be as consultant in the oil and gas industry, probably in Manchester or London.
Please could you tell me what you think about that? My concern is that applying too early for an MBA will mean I cannot get a good role in my company post-graduation because of my young experience.
Donna: Congratulations on being selected for the rotation programme at Det Norske Veritas. Only those candidates that are to be future organisational leaders are selected for these programmes. The fact that you are considering your MBA now demonstrates your motivation and intentionality for defining your career path.
After the two year rotation, you have had a brief opportunity to experience various parts of the organisation and as such are still getting a feel for the culture and your professional aspirations. I suggest that during the rotation you identify a mentor with whom you can discuss your future goals and aspirations and get his/her input relative to the organisation and the value of an MBA in moving ahead within the company.
I do find that the MBA students most engaged and ultimately ready for the next career move, come into the programme with 3-5 years of prior work experience. They have fundamental knowledge of an organisation and the MBA provides the business acumen necessary to succeed as a business leader.
The business cases and academics are relevant to your work experience and as such are quite impactful.
I’m an Executive MBA candidate at Manchester Business School currently undertaking my final project, due for completion in July 2013, following which I’m due to be awarded my degree in October 2013.
I’m an experienced management professional in the packaging industry, with significant exposure to global companies in sectors such as home & personal care, food & beverages, pharma, oil lubricants etc. Along with my MBA qualifications, I’m looking to leverage my skills and experience into the management consulting industry with a focus on strategy building. I would appreciate if you can advise me on how to approach an entry into this industry.
Donna: The management consulting industry seeks professional with industry and/or functional expertise. I recommend that you take stock of your diverse experience and chunk it down into those industry sectors where you have significant expertise.
From your question, it seems like you have more experience in consumer products than other sectors. The consulting firms employ a rigorous interview process that incorporates case interviewing (this involves complex problem solving). If you are not familiar with this process, I recommend that you use Mark Cosentino’s, Case in Point to become familiar with case interviewing.
Start networking in management consulting, starting with colleagues in your Executive MBA programme. Speak with faculty, many work as independent consultants or come from a consulting background. They can be great resources for establishing internal contacts.
I wish you the very best.
I recently earned my MBA in International Business & Strategy from a top 20 school. I am mid-career and have a very diverse background spanning from operations management consulting, corporate finance, business intelligence, and manufacturing. Each stop during my career had an “operations” underlying tone. Is there a place in the market place for me with this diverse background or should I have focused on one area in my career and became a subject matter expert either in corporate finance or a Six Sigma Black belt?
Donna: It sounds to me from your brief description that operations has been the most significant portion of your career. If you excel in this area and like it, I am inclined to suggest you “stay the course”. Operations leaders/executives need expertise across all functions to drive the business. If you have experience and expertise in finance, manufacturing, etc, you are quite valuable to an organisation.
Play off your strengths, where you can make the greatest contributions. If you feel a need for a change, consider larger organisations with more complex business challenges.
I am starting my MBA in September 2013. I have worked as an operational professional for the last seven years and I have also done two years of undergrad in bachelor of business and commerce, majoring in logistics and supply chain management from 2007-2011 part-time. I am now looking to work in a management consulting firm. How do I position myself to develop a career progression in a management consulting firm?
Donna: Management consulting firms vary in size and focus. As you begin to explore this industry, defining your focus and value proposition will be key. Do you want to work for a large, highly recognised brand? or would you prefer a smaller boutique firm that has a particular area of specialisation? (supply/chain logistics).
During your MBA programme, is the perfect time to meet these organisations and determine how your background, skills, talents and competencies (and personality) best fit. What do you have to offer and how can you contribute.
Next step is becoming adept at case interviewing, as this is the process utilised to screen candidates. I recommend that prior to interviewing, you complete 30-40 case interview practice session. Mark Cosentino is one of the case interview guru’s, so I suggest getting at least one of his books.
Visit our MBA Jobs Clinic homepage to find out out how other experts answered reader’s questions.