By Eigen Escario
For early-bird planners and those who have invested a lot of time and energy to master one particular field, the thought of attempting to find a new career might seem daunting and impractical. However, there are rational ways to explore new experiences to satisfy these intellectual curiosities and potentially provide a greater sense of fulfillment in your career trajectory. Amanda Fend, Vanderbilt Director of MBA Recruiting, walks through the best practices to lay the foundation needed to switch careers if it makes sense to your professional and personal path.
Continuous Reframing to Find a New Career
The winding path to a fulfilling career is best navigated with proactive steps as you continue advancing through the professional world. Ten-year plans should have the flexibility to be scrutinized and readjusted as needed to account for shifting passions and priorities.
“It’s important to evaluate what excites you throughout every role you take. The more you raise your hand for projects and new experiences at work, the more opportunities you’ll have to determine what you’d like to pursue or not,” Fend said. “This process can help you narrow down over time the functions and industries you want to align your career with.”
The next step is figuring out avenues of transition with experiences that bolster your skill set in a way that accelerates your pivot to a new career.
“An important question to ask throughout that continual process is whether business school, an MBA or another specific degree, will help you move toward that path that you find yourself most excited about,” Fend said. “An MBA is a platform that provides both a foundation and a launch pad into that new area, which is beneficial when switching to something that’s further outside of what you’re currently doing.”
Strategic Stepping Stones to Switch Careers
Regardless of what stage of your career you are in, there are some essential keys to success that aid in your reflection process and eventually your career switch.
“The most important part is narrowing down your opportunities to the path you are most interested in. Make a hypothesis on what you think you might gain fulfillment from, then test that hypothesis through an internship or networking with contacts working in that role.” Fend said. “For example, you might think you would enjoy investment management because of a class you’ve taken or information you’ve heard about, but actually gaining some immersive experience is invaluable information.”
Networking is an important component in cross-referencing and contextualizing any personal reflections about the realities of working in a new career without extensive experience within it.
“Every conversation and experience should be a piece of feedback for yourself on whether you want to move toward something or away from something,” Fend said. “When it comes to the MBA, there is nothing as valuable as speaking with people who have done it, learning about their experiences and the path that the MBA opened for them. Take it a step further by visiting a business school and experiencing a class and a ‘day in the life’ of a student.”
Can an MBA Help You Make the Switch?
While not all end-goal careers entail more years of studying at a university, graduate programs like the Vanderbilt MBA are applicable to a broad range of careers that you might want to transition into.
“For many career paths, an MBA is a required degree to move forward,” Fend explained. “If you want to pursue one of those paths, then the decision to pursue an MBA is easy. For other roles, an MBA might not be required but can be a huge differentiator. It signals a deep foundation in business knowledge and strategy, an enhanced set of skills, both general and specialized, and an invaluable network that an MBA graduate has built.”
If you do decide to take the MBA route, be sure to precisely determine how you will use this experience to leverage yourself in the workplace of a new career—the earlier in your business school journey, the better.
“For MBA students, the career resources and support they experience is indispensable,” Fend said. “The entire degree is about advancement, both professional and personal, and helping MBAs reach their leadership potential. Organizations will recognize that in candidates who have pursued their MBA.”
If you are trying to determine if now is the right time for you to switch careers, learn more about how the Vanderbilt MBA can help.