How to Use Your MBA to Boost Your Career

Getting a Masters of Business Administration Degree online is a great way to add value to yourself and your career prospects. Unfortunately, it does not guarantee your future career will flourish.  You have to work out how to put into practice what you have learned, and then display some clever teamwork skills and mediation to demonstrate your true worth.

I learned the hard way that joining a company and conforming to the status quo quickly can lead to your downfall. You become invisible, and if you aren’t then you will be noticed for not delivering to meet expectations of a MBA graduate.  I am going to share my experiences with you so that you don’t make the same mistakes and take for granted that your MBA will get you to keep your dream job once you get it.

So What do You Have to do?

You have to relate to customers and other staff, understand what is important to them, and then see which problems you can solve to make their lives so much easier. You then have to make sure that somebody of relevance becomes aware of what you are doing, and it is so much better if others sing your praises as well as just you. There is an art to growing your virtual team of colleagues though, and it requires observation, analysis and action using those all important skills you developed on your MBA. The hard part is working out how.

Demonstrating Value

It’s all about making life easier for others. By doing so you demonstrate value and make a difference that will be rewarded as long as the right people notice the importance of what you ave achieved.

Although I have a Masters Degree in electronic engineering with business administration, it didn’t answer my questions about how to get from where a company is to where it needs to be. I just kept being told by “experts” that you just have to implement the framework. I even encountered consultants getting paid huge amounts of money to sell template quality assurance documentation that never actually reflected the company it was for. The very company I was in was highly embarrassed by buying one of these schemes and then failing all subsequent quality audits from external bodies. Even to this day I see a lot of frameworks detailing how a company should operate, but not providing a roadmap for how to transform a company from where they are to become that idealistic model. Working this out and demonstrating the value of changes I had successfully instigated was the path to developing my career to the benefit of myself and my company.

Be Adaptable and Solve Company Efficiency Issues

Santander UK Chairman says Adaptability is key to using your MBA.
Photo credit: University of Salford

I learned a lot about working in industry from both direct experience and observation of what happened to colleagues. Whilst working for a bespoke computer manufacturer, a new production manager was employed specifically because he had a degree in production management. The current production supervisor was sidelined, which immediately caused friction. Unfortunately for the graduate, he had no practical experience in running a technology manufacturing operation. He began making changes according to what he had learned in his degree to make it the same as the model he was taught. He made several key mistakes that led to his dismissal a few months later:

  1. He didn’t take time to observe and understand current working practices. This meant that he had no sight of the impact his changes would make. He also didn’t measure the before and after.
  2. He used his authority to boss staff about without earning their respect. Working out what makes people want to do things for you is critical in business and life.
  3. He seek to understand the expertise and skills that his staff had. It is vital that you find out what your team is good at and what roles suit individuals.

Make a Difference for Staff Before You Blow Your Own Trumpet

In that very same company, I observed that there was a huge waste of time and money in the various historical business processes. I began to ask those stupid questions that everyone doesn’t ask that relate to why things are done the way they are.

For example, the stores staff hated the production staff because they were always being hassled to pick parts for the next production run without any prior notice.  After a bit of investigation into the business process, I suggested to the production staff that perhaps the reason the stores staff were so unbelievably grumpy and obstructive was because they weren’t given enough notice of what parts were needed and when.  The production supervisor went off to the business administrator to get the parts pick lists given to the stores staff a week ahead of when they were needed.

Suddenly, the stores staff became a lot happier, parts appeared when they were needed, and production teams were able to build products quicker.  Also, faulty or missing parts were identified in advance and the issues resolved in good time.

I kept facilitating these “tweaks” to the business processes, and without claiming credit, the Financial Director came to find out why productivity had suddenly improved and overhead costs due to replacing faulty or damaged parts had reduced.  He asked me to put a plan together to see how much of the “Cost of Quality” I could reduce.  After gaining the company ISO9001 accredited by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), I received a nice little handshake from the Finance Director and Chief Executive.  It certainly pays to demonstrate that your ideas are impacting company profits in a positive and visible way.

How to Make That Difference Using Your MBA

So, how do you use your MBA to make that difference?  You will have learned about various aspects of business during your MBA and now you have to work out how to use them to good effect.

Before you make any changes, you need to  understand the current situation, what works well and what doesn’t.  Talk to staff to find out what their jobs entail.  If you show genuine interest in their roles, before you know it they will be moaning about the issues they face.  By using the 5 Whys technique (asking why to each response to elicit the root cause of the problem), you can work out the key issue they are facing.  By talking to a variety of staff you can quickly identify areas where change can have a positive impact.  This is where your intelligence and skill comes into play.  You have to work out a solution and artfully implement it.  It works particularly well if you use Dale Carnegie’s techniques for getting the other person to believe they came up with the idea.  They will be only too eager to get on with things.  You have to be seen to be observing the outcomes.  If it works, congratulate your team.  They will know it was you who facilitated it, and this will pay dividends in the future.

You have to learn by your mistakes as to when is best to claim credit for what you have done and when to keep quiet.  It is all about using your emotional intelligence and using the key characteristics for leading effective teams, but more of that another time.


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