Can You Coach An MBA?

MBA students, online MBA students and graduates hold high expectations for the return on the MBA. Many expect high salaries and corner offices after graduation. Unfortunately, students often find confusion, disappointment and a long job search. This is why it is important to attend a quality school that prepares you for the job market, such as a graduate school in Pennsylvania. In this post, I’ll share some thoughts and ideas about how the process of getting an MBA complicates the graduates’ ability to be successful right after graduation.

Having spent a couple of years interviewing MBA graduates for my new book, The MBA Owner’s Manual, I thought I would jump to the other side of the fence, academia, to ascertain the challenges in helping graduates become more successful. Some of these challenges are fairly easy to fix, while others will require change. Yep, I said that bad word, change.

Great Expectations. No matter how many students I talk to, they always seem to have high expectations for what the MBA will do for their career. The biggest advantage seems to be related to increased opportunities. The more interesting part of this is what their expectations were founded upon. When I ask about where these opportunities come from and how they are positioned to take advantage of them, I usually get a blank stare and the response “I don’t know.” This is a problem. It implies you have student with an undecided career path. The MBA will not provide that for them. It will give them ideas but the students will need a little help to adopt one of them and turn it into direction and goals.

Transformation. The MBA is, as Dorothy Grandia, Corporate Recruitment Manager at the Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Business in the Netherlands suggests, a “transformative degree.” Students walk in with one idea of how their career will go and graduate with a different idea. As most of experienced professionals know, changing direction takes time. MBA students need to be focusing their efforts on learning about their chosen area, building their network, contributing to their field and lining up their next job. All of this could take up the two years required for getting the MBA. Changing in mid-stride only serves to cause more stress and a little unemployment time after graduation, as the student doesn’t have time to accomplish the tasks needed for employment while trying to finish their degree.

Still, there is much to be said for earning a Master’s in Business Administration Degree. It is easy for students to become disillusioned when reality does not line up with their expectations. When earning this business degree, it’s beneficial to determine if it should be field specific for the career you are seeking.

This degree and other MBA degrees can be valuable if the student is able to take a step back and consider an alternate career path. Their situation will vastly improve once they realize that this is not tantamount to giving up a lifelong dream. Good things will come as long as the individual pursuing the degree remains optimistic, humble, and eager to learn.

Placement Support. Students also don’t realize that colleges and universities don’t have a huge staff to support massive job search campaigns. At the same time, colleges have to cater to both the students and the companies that come to campus in search of new hires. Again, small staff and lots of activities. It’s almost impossible to juggle all of this. There are some universities that have outsourced career consultants to help their graduates find a job after graduation, giving students the one on one attention they need. This is an additional financial burden on the schools so not too many have embraced this approach.

Some colleges bring in consultants and career experts to show students how to perform a job search. With the Internet changing so rapidly, seasoned professionals struggle to find a new job, even with an established network. After all, everyone doesn’t want to be proficient at job searches. Unless you’re in the business, that would mean you’re constantly looking for one.

Networking. In my last post, I talked about how important networking is to one’s career and how it can be done. I hate to belabor the point but many students and graduates don’t seem to grasp the importance of this activity. It’s not until they are unemployed that they begin to understand the value of such skills. Business today is heavily reliant upon social skills, since we’ve been embraced by a global market. Technical skills (i.e. what it takes to do your job) are not as critical as they once were. They have given way, ever so slightly, to those who have the ability to communicate effectively across cultural, race and gender barriers.

Very few would argue that job searches are aided tremendously by a large network of business contacts, friends, recruiters, etc. But how many students and graduates have that? While they may have lots of friends on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and all the other sites, it is unlikely that students possess enough business contacts to find opportunities before they hit the company website or even create an opportunity from scratch. Nor do they have the skill sets or time to create such networks. Colleges must be creative in ways to teach students how to be self-sufficient. Students must realize that colleges are limited in their support and that the responsibility for their career resides within.

The economy has brought about considerable change to employment, forcing students to rely more heavily on the value of their degree and college career services to support their needs. When you combine these high expectations with the lack of communication of the limited capabilities of college and university career service departments, it’s very easy to see how a major misalignment of expectations occurs. Coaching graduate students is challenging.

Graduates have just dedicated that last couple of years to learning specific skills that make them valuable to the job market. If the market doesn’t recognize that value, then they are in trouble. We haven’t taught them how to communicate that value, who to communicate it to, where to communicate it, or even when to communicate (e.g. long before you graduate). And students, you need to remember what Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once uttered; that is, “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.”

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