Wednesday 22 October 2014 8:06 pm

Why an MBA can help change your career

It's not unusual to change your career these days. A 2012 survey by Future Workplace found that 91 per cent of millennials (those born between 1977 and 1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years. And if you are looking to make a career pivot – changing your role radically, taking it up a notch, or even starting your own business – an MBA course could be a good move.
Most people, says Alexander Cross of Cass Business School, come to an MBA seeking a “transformational” experience. Here are three ways an MBA could help you pull off a radical career pivot.
Many successful entrepreneurs haven’t done an MBA. After all, courses can cost around £50,000 a year, and if you need to bootstrap your company, that additional expenditure is hardly ideal. But at the same time, going down the MBA route is an increasingly popular options for budding entrepreneurs. 
A recent Graduate Management Admissions Council survey found that 11 per cent of MBA alumni (graduating between 1959 and 2013) now run their own companies. And increasing numbers of business schools are cashing in on the trend, tailoring programmes to ensure they cover the skills you need to start your own business. 
London Business School (LBS), for instance, has a portfolio of eight different courses that take students through the whole life-cycle of a startup. Meanwhile, Cass Business School’s Centre for Entrepreneurship offers alumni access to a venture fund. And although there’s no guarantee that you’ll have a light bulb moment while sitting in a lecture hall, Conrad Chua of Cambridge’s Judge Business School stresses that the MBA will give those that want to start a business “the time to develop and refine a business plan”. Indeed, an aim of Cambridge’s course is to get the entrepreneurs among the students trading by the end of a one-year course. 
Traditionally, MBAs are considered ideal for the individual looking to accelerate career advancement within their current function and industry sector. But according to Cross, each year sees a stream of students “seeking to make the ‘triple jump’ – changing role, industry and location.” 
And while the holistic approach most programmes offer will ensure you’re supported across the board, there’s ample opportunity to build up a new specialism. MBA students at LBS, for example, can choose 10 to 12 electives from an enormous range. Someone wishing to switch from a compliance role at a bank to a new role in a strategy consultancy could, for instance, take the Achieving Strategic Agility and Strategic Innovation courses. Of LBS’s most recent cohort, 23 per cent moved from finance into consulting, with 19 per cent moving in the opposite direction.
And the opportunity to study abroad, says Sotirios Paroutis, assistant dean for the Warwick MBA, will provide great exposure to different industries and ways of doing business.
But not all rapid career change is about pivoting to a different sector. Chua says that because the MBA is a general management degree combining academic and practical learning, it’s ideal for helping students “move to the next level, beyond their functional expertise, learning how different aspects of a business come together.”
The added level of insight the MBA offers will also distinguish you from colleagues, says Paroutis. “Many professions don’t have large chunks of MBAs working in them.” And elective modules looking at behavioural sciences and management decision-making will “help drill down into what is needed to become a successful manager,” he adds.