In business, the lines between industries have blurred, digital trends change markets more quickly, and global companies increasingly face new opportunities and competitors. As a result, companies must constantly change their strategies.
Recent MBA graduates should be familiar with these concepts and prepared to tackle them. As an active recruiter of MBAs, here’s the proof I’m looking for that they can do that.
They take advantage of change.
IT, once a specialized part of an MBA program, is now essential to every role. Many companies are struggling with how to adapt their business models in the light of digital and market transformation, and they are looking to business school graduates to help.
One personal example of how this convergence affected my role is the introduction of LinkedIn. I was not an early adopter of this recruiting tool, but it is something that I began to rely on once I understood its value: It provides access to a wider pool of candidates, lets me communicate efficiently, and even shows common connections.
They redefine thinking globally.
Traditional geographic markets are giving way to even more complex segments. For example, targeting smaller inland Chinese cities is an entirely different proposition from reaching those on the country’s eastern seaboard. At the same time, groups of consumers with characteristics in common are spread across national boundaries, and that further complicates marketing efforts. New MBA graduates must not be overwhelmed by the need for a more nuanced approach to international thinking.
Many MBA programs now require students to spend part of the program abroad, which can help raise sensitivity and cultural awareness in a global workforce. I look for such experiences in applicants. If they can’t complete a global assignment, they must at least show an interest in—and knowledge of—the global landscape.
They keep learning.
Staying current in your field is a must. If your employer offers continuing education and training opportunities, take advantage of them. If that’s not possible, consider shadowing someone, pursuing externships and internships, or registering for a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).
I value intellectual curiosity. Applicants who pursue training programs or other education opportunities show that they’re committed to learning new skills and growing as professionals.
They have found a guide and built a network.
It’s some of the oldest and best advice in the business world: Whether you’re 20 years old or 20 years into your career, you need a personal board of directors—people who will help you forge a path and hold you accountable. It’s equally important to build and maintain a strong and meaningful network of clients, colleagues, and industry contacts. A great way to forge these relationships is to join professional organizations and participate in discussions, forums, and events.
I followed this advice when I graduated from business school many years ago. I got my first job through on-campus recruiting and then joined several networking groups and professional organizations. I found it helpful to join a broad range of organizations at first–including groups that focused on capital markets, women in business, and everything in between–before narrowing my involvement, once I had a better sense of where I wanted to specialize.
They know what they want.
Mapping out where you want your career to lead is the only way to ensure you reach your goals. Still, you should stay flexible. Many paths can lead to the same place, and other factors, such as becoming a parent or caring for an aging loved one, may force you to adjust your plans.
Your career can take many twists and turns, but it should tell a complete story and lead you to a clear destination–one that you have aspired to and believe is the best fit for your professional and personal life.