Advice for Graduating MBA Students . . . .

If you are a newly-minted MBA graduate, you probably have already had some business experience and have had an opportunity to see the real world in action (for better or worse). Your decision to return to the academic world for awhile most likely resulted in either a first job disappointment crisis (see “The Doom Loop”) or a sober recognition that today’s competitive business world requires more than simple basics learned in undergraduate programs.

The purpose of this posting is to offer you some advice about accepting a job after receiving your MBA and re-entering the world of corporate advancement.

As you progress in your career AFTER receiving your MBA degree, you will come to recognize that there are essentially two sets of skills in which you must gain competence. The first set consists of the “technical skills” or the “core competencies” that represent those skills that you need to be proficient in a functional area such as finance, marketing, manufacturing, etc. The second set consists of the “critical skills” that are discussed in depth in this blog.

You will find that over time the “technical skill sets” for functional areas will change mainly because of the rapid advances in technology as well as the changing nature of the business or industry that you have entered. You will find that there is a need to continue learning and mastering these changing technical skills as you progress in your career.

The “critical skills” are a different matter. They do not change over time.

So how does all of this relate to the decision you must make about what job to accept (assuming you might have more than one from which to choose)?

Well, here is my advice.

  1. Go to work for the ‘best’ organization you can find. The reason for this is because the ‘best’ organizations generally do things right – and in your early years, it is wise to learn how to operate in the business world from organizations that ‘get it right.’ Recognize that there is a very slim chance that you will spend your entire career with your first organization.
  2. Do whatever your first job requires to the best of your ability, but concentrate on learning and practicing the “critical skills.”
  3. Don’t worry about rapid advancement during the first 4-5 years of your new job. What is important is that you learn the ‘critical skills’ during these crucial years.
  4. Adopt a strategy of building a “technical skill set” that focuses your skill profile toward one or more of the first level “Career Capstone” positions – that is, one of those positions in an organization where you will first have some major responsibilities. As discussed elsewhere in this blog, it is essential that you move through one of these “Career Capstone” positions if you ever hope to achieve some sort of senior management role.
  5. Recognize that in these early years of learning about your job and enhancing your technical skill set that you might start to follow a “Doom Loop” track – this is an entirely normal phenomenon. Recognize that you will most likely face the career crisis of “Doomed Before Capstone” – and resist the temptation to make poor job changes that might blur the technical skill set that you are trying to build.
  6. Do NOT listen to a ‘headhunter’ who presents a job opportunity for you with another organization unless that position clearly builds upon your technical skill set. Do NOT make a “lateral move” outside an organization simply for higher compensation.
  7. Keep your focus on the growth and development of your technical skill set as you progress toward a first level career capstone position. Recognize that promotions within an organization are made based on the strength of these skill sets – and that ‘headhunters’ look directly at these skill sets when identifying potential candidates for attractive positions.
  8. Finally, do NOT make your job decision based only on compensation. Make your decision based on the potential of the job to build your skill set. That is a crucial factor in choosing a first job after receiving your MBA.

Congratulations to you on earning your MBA – and GOOD LUCK!




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