Professional career development is no trivial undertaking. The process is supposed to be both arduous and time-consuming, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. In fact, career development without guidance supplied by another seasoned perspective can sometimes yield counterproductive results.
That’s why it’s important to add some clarity to the decision-making process for anyone struggling to advance their business career. That could be you today or someone else tomorrow. What matters most is understanding all of your options.
Most veterans encourage professionals to focus on accumulating relevant work experience. Spearheading major projects, resolving process bottlenecks, and assuming responsibility for a wider array of duties are all tactics regularly proposed. Susan Heathfield at The Balance shared tips for career development that echo those suggestions. To be clear, you certainly shouldn’t avoid doing those things since they hold tremendous potential value. The unspoken takeaway is understanding that you shouldn’t limit yourself exclusively to those activities.
There’s also something to be said about your higher education. An increasing amount of professional careers now benefit directly from earning an advanced degree beyond the standard bachelor’s. Debra Legg at highlighted the growing importance of a graduate degree in The Washington Post. She points out, however, that not all degrees are treated equally. According to her, students recognize that employers have definite preferences when it comes to an advanced education. Those that focus on business and/or a STEM education are often considered much more competitive than those holding equivalent degrees in separate disciplines (e.g., humanities and social sciences).
Forbes contributor Sean Gallagher shared a more optimistic perspective when it comes to earning an advanced degree. According to him, “employers increasingly value the problem-solving, critical thinking, and technical skills that graduate-level education provides.” That’s especially true for those working in business. A quick online search for a master of business administration (MBA) should generate dozens, if not hundreds, of relevant options. The real challenge, then, is identifying the right one.
Fortunately, Karen Schweitzer at ThoughtCo published a comprehensive guide to understanding the MBA. She walks readers through the rationale behind earning one and then describes the various concentrations available to those pursuing the MBA. Example specializations include accounting, finance, entrepreneurship, operations, etc. They are important to remember because they let you gain highly specific exposure, which can then be later applied in a business context. For instance, those hoping to work in digital advertising might benefit most from a digital marketing MBA online as opposed to a strategic management counterpart. The key is alignment.
You might also consider the insight shared by Christoper Hann at Entrepreneur. He takes a more stringent approach to determine whether or not someone should earn an MBA. It’s his impression that some businesspeople don’t really need an MBA. He instead encourages everyone to be judicious when it comes to the decision-making process. You should have explicit future goals and outcomes in mind, otherwise, the MBA might simply divert your time and effort for one to two years. Since time is our most precious asset, that’s something you want to eschew it at all possible.
The last sound strategy would be to investigate career prospects for 2018. Forbes contributor, Marissa Peretz, already did everyone the favor of releasing her hiring predictions for this year. She begins by cautioning readers to expect increased recruitment competition but that’s probably unsurprising to most. Other pointers included increased transparency and the fact that artificial intelligence (AI) is unlikely to displace everyone’s jobs. She concludes by reminding people that career development is entirely up to them. There are no shortcuts to career success.
Remember that while your professional career development and higher education are connected, they are not totally equatable. In other words, ensure you have a sound rationale behind earning a graduate degree–whether it’s a specialized MBA or something within another discipline altogether. The right higher education decision not only advances a certain career path, but also compels intellectual and emotional growth within the student. That’s something to bear in mind while exploring different possibilities. Approaching your personal and professional development with intention is always a good idea.