Mastering Your Career: The Right Postgrad to Pursue

Everyone knows what an MBA is, but if you’re living outside Europe, the MiM, or Master’s in Management, may have passed under your radar. Nonetheless, whether you’re looking to change your career or kick-start it, a Master’s program is worth looking into, and in the world of business, the MBA and the MiM are the top contenders.

So which one is right for you?

The first step is to be honest with yourself. Unlike most other Master’s programs, the Masters’ in Business Administration and in Management are not mainly academic, but rather a ticket into a “members only” club with equally ambitious and accomplished individuals that can help make or break your career. It is hence extremely important that you pick the right club for yourself.

Length and goals

The MiM can more or less be considered a mini-version of the MBA. The duration of MiM programs averages out at less than a year, while MBAs will take anywhere between 1 and 2 years, which will allow enough time for an internship in case you are looking to experiment with different roles. More importantly, the MiM caters to recent graduates who either haven’t entered the workforce yet or have worked less than a certain period. As a result, the MiM is obviously less specialised and more theoretical than the MBA, where there is usually a minimum experience requirement, giving you the opportunity to share experiences and insights with people more advanced in their respective careers and apply what you already know to cases and real-life scenarios. That said, the MiM does bear the added benefit of allowing those without business-related backgrounds, i.e. athletes, arts majors, scientists, etc. to break into more “business-oriented” roles by offering a well-rounded foundation of basic concepts and theories to help you get started.

With this in mind and before you go any further, stop and ask yourself: where am I in my career? Would you qualify for an MBA? More specifically, would you contribute and benefit more from building a foundation of business concepts, or from being thrown straight into the water to discuss them?

Outcomes

Being a shorter and more recently introduced program, the MiM almost always costs less than an MBA within the same school. As a natural result, it will often be the case that an MBA grad will be compensated much more generously for their subsequent role. Similarly, MiMs will usually have an entry level or graduate role after they graduate, rather than a managerial role as the name of the program might imply.

Where to do it?

Going back to our first point – that is, MBAs and MiMs are more social than academic – it goes without saying that the choice of business school to attend is much more crucial than the program you decide to enrol in. You might find that you qualify for MBAs at hundreds of good schools, but only a MiM at the top-ranked one you want, and the best decision for your professional future might be to go for the less senior program at the more prestigious school. A lot of the importance and status of your degree will come from getting into a top school rather than what you did there, so the name of the university will make all the difference in the world. Your degree will represent a stamp of approval on your CV, increasing your employability and potential salary. The bigger the school, the bigger the stamp.

However, this isn’t the only reason it’s important to put a lot of thought into the school you attend. Effectively, both of the programs we are discussing are more about the people than anything else, and the choice of school is the choice of people to spend the next one to two years with, to refer and be referred by, to be inspired by, to start ventures with, and even to go sailing with, which means it will have a greater impact on the kind of experience you will have. Whether you decide on a MiM or an MBA, you will have access to the same student body at the same time, and to the same network of alumni later, so similarly to our previous point, you might have gotten into two top schools, but you might want to go for the school with a slightly lower ranking, but a reputation for a great culture which will increase the odds of your time there being enjoyable and of being a beneficial investment in the long run.

It is then clear that there are a lot of factors to consider before making a decision; Do you have the necessary work experience? Can you afford it? Will the name of the school help you progress faster and get more interviews when you start looking for a job? The list goes on, but the best way to help yourself decide is to figure out your strategy. Where do you want to go? Will a business-related master’s degree be helpful at all in getting you there? Which one would get you closer? And keep in mind that, yes, these programs are intended to help you change your career or progress more quickly, but there is more out there and if they are not perfect for you, there are countless more or less technical programs to choose from, and which will only make you stand out more.

Sarah Yakzan is a Master’s in Management candidate at London Business School. Before moving to London, she got a BA in English Literature from the American University of Beirut, and worked for a year as Marketing and PR manager, External Relations Coordinator, and Blogger. She will start her next role at Facebook in August.

Image: Pexels

Finding the One: A Job-hunter’s Fallacy

In today’s world, the lives of fresh grads are meant to revolve around their careers and professional advancement, and so it is obviously no surprise that so many of us struggle to commit to a specific field, out of fear that it’s not THE perfect job for us.

Much like dating, job-hunting is a game of statistics. And since we concede that it is impossible to know who we will end up with, why do we still insist on knowing exactly what our dream job is before we even enter the job market? Perhaps the key to finding a good fit is to broaden our search scope, apply a few necessary filters, be willing to experiment, and maybe even admit that there may be more than just one right job for you.

Experience

One misconception of recent grads is that their first real job will be great. Most jobs will require years of experience, so you’ll likely start at an entry level position. You should expect that it will be one of, if not the, most demanding job you will have, that the pay will be less than dreamy, and that you will often have to prove yourself. Conversely, this is also the upside of being a new entrant to the job market: you’re competing on equal grounds with people who have just as much experience as you, and you have the chance and energy to prove yourself. So look at it this way: you’re not looking for a job right now, you’re looking for an opportunity.

Company Maturity

You probably already know that there are countless firms out there, big and small, in need of brainpower. As a newcomer, your priority should be to learn as much as you can, as fast as you can. If you have the luxury of working at a startup, go for it, because it will push you to work in different capacities and give you loads of responsibility early on, and you will end up learning more than you could have anywhere else. If you would rather go for one of the major players, you might want to opt for graduate schemes that are much more general but give you a glimpse of different roles through rotations that will allow you to have a better understanding of what you do and don’t want in a job. Companies like Heineken, AB InBev and countless others offer such programs, which are quite competitive to get into, but will help you grow by offering resources, support, and even mentors to help you orient your career in a way that works for you.

Field

This is the most important point of the three. Whatever you do, you will be accumulating experience and connections that will help you land your next, and hopefully better, job. However, if they’re not relevant to what you want your next role to be, you might have some regrets.

This is probably why so many people want to go into consulting: it is general enough to be non-committal, but the learning curve is still sufficiently impressive to get you anywhere you want to go next.

The issue with consulting is that there are only so many roles available, and it’s just not for everyone. Luckily, it’s not the only option out there. Some good starting roles are in sales, since you will master the art of pitching and acquire soft skills that are transferable to any industry. Major players in tech like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft offer some impressive graduate schemes centered around sales roles and with a high intake, which means you will be among several peers who will start at the same time, experience similar obstacles, and make your experience a lot more interesting. Alternatively, you could take a different route by choosing to go for a highly specific role that showcases your work ethic and skills, such as Investment Banking, and hence also act as an open ticket.

Ultimately, finding a job is about selling yourself, so find your unique selling point, whether it’s a language (spoken or coded), a degree, a reference, or anything else, and start applying – not to roles that you think will get you closer to your dream job (even if you don’t know what it is yet), but to ones that will teach you more; at startups, in unique domains, and even abroad. There is no right way to figure out what you want to be doing, but my advice is to try different things, and even if you don’t love what you end up choosing for your first job, by selecting demanding roles, you will at least learn and be challenged until you move on to your next job.

Sarah Yakzan is a Master’s in Management candidate at London Business School. Before moving to London, she got a BA in English Literature from the American University of Beirut, and worked for a year as Marketing and PR manager, External Relations Coordinator, and Blogger. She will start her next role at Facebook in August.

Image: Unsplash

The Consulting Myth

The first piece of advice I was given when I started my Master’s in Management at London Business School was to beware of the mirage of consulting. On the first day of orientation, we were told that we should start applying yesterday, especially if we wanted to get into consulting – but not to put all our eggs in one basket because it was so competitive – and so we all polished our resumes and contrived our cover letters and sent them out left and right to anyone with an inbox.

As the rejections began to come through and most of us partook in a collective sigh of “oh well!”, applying to consulting began to seem like more of a rite of passage than a genuine attempt at forging a professional path. It was at this time, about two months into the program, that I began to wonder: Is consulting really the holy grail of careers?

Consultants will tell you that yes, it’s the best type of role you could hope to land; the learning curve is incredibly steep, it’s a free pass into any industry you want after a few years, and if that’s not enough for you, the benefits will make you come around. But what few of them admit is how demanding the job really is. The hours are ridiculous, the work is tedious, and you will probably be living out of your suitcase for weeks at a time. A classmate who accepted an offer from McKinsey & Company described his concerns about starting by saying “I will have all this money, and no time to spend it”.

Consulting is almost the business equivalent of being a doctor: your job is to diagnose and fix problems within companies and sometimes even industries, and you will always be on call. Does that mean you shouldn’t apply? Absolutely not, but what it does mean is that you should make sure you want the job. Not the benefits, not the travel, not the prestige. The research, endless calls, early meetings, and long hours painstakingly putting together beautiful slides instead of meeting your friends for drinks or going on a weekend getaway.

It’s not a matter of having what it takes for the job. It’s a matter of whether or not you will be happy doing it. In other words, would you do it for free? A good method to test how well you would fit into consulting is to prepare for interviews. Apply to whatever roles you want, do your online assessments, and while you wait to hear back about whether you have an interview, start doing cases as often as you can, with as many people as you can, for as long as you can. If you continue to find some fun in the challenge of solving cases and crunching data, then congratulations, you have found your calling! If you are like me, and you get bored a few days into it, maybe it’s not the right choice right now.

Consulting prep isn’t actually “boring”, but it does require a certain ability to memorize detailed frameworks and apply them to case after case, which can become tiring because of the effort of trying to impose a logical structure onto your thinking process. There is nothing wrong with these frameworks; in fact they are a highly sophisticated method of tackling problems, but I personally found them frustrating because they didn’t always fit with a certain case, they limited how creative you could get in trying to find a solution, and they seemed too perfect to be applicable to the real world as more than an initial structure, which made it difficult to see the point of being interviewed on the basis of how well I could transpose frameworks onto a case. Nonetheless, this is not a general truth, and consulting applications are not only about frameworks, they are also about your personal fit with a certain firm, how well you pitch your solution, etc., and so there is plenty to like in both the interview process and the roles themselves, as long as you really want them.

After I realized that it was not the right time for consulting, I started looking at what else was out there, and believe me, there’s a lot. I was lucky enough to find something perfect for me in Tech, and can’t wait to start, but it’s only because I questioned whether or not I really wanted to be a consultant that I figured out what my next step would be. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t want the same thing as everyone else. In fact, it’s a good way to start looking elsewhere and find a field where you can make a real impact and be happy doing it.

Sarah Yakzan is a Master’s in Management candidate at London Business School. Before moving to London, she got a BA in English Literature from the American University of Beirut, and worked for a year as Marketing and PR manager, External Relations Coordinator, and Blogger. She will start her next role at Facebook in August.

Image: Flickr