When Madeline Doyle started her PhD in Mental Health Services, she realised almost immediately this was not the right path for her career. Describing herself as an extrovert with generalist learning interests, she wanted to add more value to “the management side of things”. For her, it was time to switch careers.
Although the outline of this story is not unique, professionals have many reasons for taking on a new career path. Some might come across an exciting opportunity by chance, while others will be looking for it on purpose. How do they decide to finally take the leap and switch careers?
Access MBA have obtained insights from four business school alumni who graduated in Canada and transformed their line of work through education.
How does an MBA help you switch careers?
The MBA knowledge and skill set are universal
Today’s MBA seekers can choose from a great variety of MBA programmes and specialisations. Yet the degree is most recognisable for teaching the pillars of business and management. Class participants learn and improve essential skills in strategy, finance, and more. Adi Montas, MBA Class of 2004 at the School of Management Sciences at the University of Quebec in Montreal (ESG UQAM), agrees:
“The practical approach of the learning, the soft skills and the ‘toolkit’ provided through the MBA can be applied to different industries. Business and management skills are required in almost every industry, so having an MBA can certainly help while you transition from one industry to another.”
This all-inclusive toolbox enables MBA professionals to excel in almost any industry.
Soft skills stand the test of time
Most MBA participants have one major realisation when they approach the end of their business school studies: soft skills are crucial. Communication, teamwork, problem-solving, flexibility – those qualities which are sometimes the most difficult to master and measure also hold great value for any line of work. Adi Montas, who is now Director of Marketing at Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business in Trinidad and Tobago, discovered this for herself:
“As one grows [to leadership positions] it is more and more noticeable how the soft skills and people management become much more important than the technical skills.”
Industries are connected
More experienced leaders will know that managing an organisation or growing a business requires know-how of different sectors. Francisco Azares, who gained his MBA degree in Investment Management from John Molson School of Business, Concordia University (Montreal, Canada), learned this lesson as a business owner and MBA graduate:
“When you own a business, you are always in touch with different industries. For example, any business with expansion plans will cross paths with real estate. Law, regulations, contracts, leases – so many definitions that my MBA background allowed me to absorb better.”
The MBA will give you a solid base so that you feel confident when dealing with different business situations and industries.
Change is the future
Professionals who switch careers see the importance of business and management education first-hand. They discover that the MBA achieves the impossible – it is a timeless learning experience for a business landscape that is constantly changing.
“In today’s work environment, employees don’t stay in the same role for 20 years. If they stay at the same company, they tend to grow into different areas, and roles are not always so clearly defined.”
Madeline Doyle, MBA Class of 2017 at John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, is one of the many talented professionals who wanted to be better prepared for the future. The MBA helps to facilitate this transition.
3 tips from career switchers
The MBA is a rich journey of learning and self-discovery. Read the personal insights and advice for embarking on a new career path revealed by four successful MBA alumni.
Learn to be versatile
While expertise is essential for succeeding in your new business role, Julien Baudry believes it is also important to stay open to different perspectives. “If you want to have a real impact, you have to be both an expert and a versatile person,” the ESG UQAM alumnus says. “Otherwise, you run the risk of seeing the problems from a single point of view and thus, making the wrong decisions. Anyone who has a broad view will have a great advantage over anyone who sees only one thing.”
On a more practical level, you can make your career switch easier by connecting with the right people early on. “Start building the relationships, both internally and externally; that will aid and facilitate your career transition,” Adi Montas recommends.
Be open to learning
Although business school will prepare you for a dynamic business landscape, every career switcher inevitably faces challenges along the way. What does Madeline Doyle, currently Specialist Business Analysis at CN Rail, recommend? Embrace the challenge and keep learning.
“Since my MBA led to a complete career pivot, I’m still finding my way as to my long-term career plan. I bring a lot of important experiences to my roles, but I’m also relatively new to this career path. It’s the time to really challenge myself and explore the many doors that have been opened by the MBA.”