Published 24 April 2019
How to Change Careers With an MBA
In Australia, a worker can now expect to have five to seven career changes in their lifetime. * That’s career changes, not jobs! Learning how an MBA can help you change careers might make you consider undertaking what feels like an impossible goal.
Kaplan Business School graduate Alison Gutierrez is living proof that where your career begins, doesn’t define where it ends up. She’s part of a growing international trend towards career flexibility.
For some, a career change can also mean moving across the world! Alison grew up in Colombia. She did well in maths at school, so on advice from a teacher she went on to study electronic and then industrial engineering.
“I have studied almost my whole life, mainly because I love to study (a bit unusual!), but also because in Colombia it is the best way to access a better quality of life.
After graduating, I got a scholarship thanks to my high grades. This encouraged me to study further and complete a Bachelor of Industrial
Engineering.” – Alison
Her career took off after graduation, and she spent several years improving engineering processes in several different companies. She enjoyed her work, but after a while, felt the need for a change. She packed up her life, hopped on a plane, and began a new journey abroad.
Alison moved to Australia, learned English, completed an MBA at KBS and then found her ‘dream job’ in international student recruitment. Within three years, she had not only stepped into a new career, she changed her whole life.
So, how did she go about making this huge change, and what can we learn from her process?
Step One: Assess your values, skills and interests so you can identify your knowledge and skills ‘gaps’
Are there new skills you’ve enjoyed learning lately, or roles you’ve been taking on that you found exciting? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but it’s never been the right time? Try writing a list of all your skills, and looking up job descriptions of roles you’d like to take on. Ask yourself: which of your skills might be transferrable into your post-MBA career?
An MBA can be a great qualification to help professionals who are looking to change their career direction. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), more than two in five students (43%) plan to use their MBA to pursue opportunities in industries or jobs they have never previously worked in. ^
That’s because it provides graduates with a solid foundation in general business, leadership and management skills that are applicable across a range of industries and job functions.
If you’re enrolling in an MBA, there are also plenty of opportunities to specialise. This can help you stand out as a potential candidate if you have a specific industry you know you want to move into. You can take this quick quiz to help you decide if an MBA specialisation is the right fit for you.
“I began working to help international students in Australia and realised that this was my passion. I choose the MBA because I also realised that to work in this area, I needed to learn how to manage companies, and to develop a new skill set more focused on communication.
I already had the data analysis and systemic thinking skills I needed from my engineering degrees, so I was able to build on that. The MBA helped me to gain other critical skills, including but not limited to, business strategic thinking, marketing approaches and business relationship building.” – Alison
Step Two: Maximise the services and networks available to you as part of your MBA program
Many institutions provide a range of services to help students launch into their new career. Use them. When you enrol in an MBA program, you’re not just signing up for study content. You have access to an institution full of experienced industry professionals (your lecturers!), its own established networks, and programs to help you access these.
At KBS, Careers Central links up students to a broader network of industry contacts. They also provide an industry placement program, professional development services, and even one-on-one career coaching!
“Studying an MBA at KBS allowed me to improve my professional and academic profile and network in my industry.” – Alison
Careers Central is also a lifelong service whether you’re a current student or an alumnus, which means you can access help and advice as you navigate taking your first steps towards building a new career.
Step Three: Stick to your new path through all the challenges
Changing careers is no walk in the park. You need to stay strong, stick to your new plan, and deal with challenges as they come up. Focus on your long-term goals, be open to change, and work hard.
“The biggest challenges that I faced in Australia all relate to being out of my comfort zone, being far away from my family, and adapting to a completely different culture. I have overcome all my challenges by setting up clear goals, having a willingness to learn from every experience, and working with honest passion.
I’ve currently found my dream role in international student recruitment at a university. I love to go to work every day. In my job I help international students create their own career paths, and achieve their dreams, like I did.
My advice to others who want to change careers is this. Follow your dreams, do what you love and do it with passion, so you never complain when you have to wake up and go to work.” – Alison
*Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) report, 2017, https://www.fya.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/FYA_TheNewWorkSmarts_July2017.pdf