Talk to people!
I cannot emphasize this enough. If you think there is a career or role you want, whether short- or long-term, talk to as many people as you possibly can who are in or have done the job. Chances are you will learn some very important pieces of information, such as:
a.) you don’t actually want that job
b.) you want that job and now you have a better sense of what you need to do to get there
c.) you don’t actually need an MBA to get the job and you’ve just saved yourself a lot of money
d.) you do need an MBA / the MBA is the best way for you to get into the role and now you need to figure out which MBA!
Who do I talk to?
Social and professional networking sites make it easier than ever before to find and reach out to people you both do and don’t know. You could do all of your research on LinkedIn if you wanted. But no matter how you go about it, the goal is to talk to people who have worked in the field. If you don’t know where to find those people, here are some ideas:
- If the job is at your organization, set up a time to talk to the person who is currently in the job.
- Talk to friends, family, and colleagues. They may know someone they can introduce you to.
- Use your secondary school, undergraduate, and other alumni networks. An alumni connection can be a great way to start a conversation with someone you don’t know.
- Try to find networking events or meet-up groups in your city in the area you are interested in.
- Cold call. I know it’s scary, but if there is a company with a role you’re interested in, call or email to see if you can set up 15 minutes to speak to the person in that role.
- Ask for more connections. Never leave a networking meeting without asking that person if there are one or two other people you should speak with.
Most people are happy to chat and tell you their stories. Just remember to be respectful in how you go about it. And to be clear, this is not an informational or informal interview. It shouldn’t be a high-pressure situation. You’re just gathering information, picking someone’s brain. Of course it doesn’t hurt to get out there and meet new people and express your interests. You never know what might happen.
I know it can be painful to solicit strangers, but if you’re thinking about business school, you might as well start practicing your networking skills now!
Some questions to ask in an informal career conversation:
-Why did you choose this role/field/industry/company/etc.?
-How did you get to this point in your career and what have been the most critical steps along the way?
-What experience do you need to have to do the job?
-Is there a personality type that is best suited to this role?
-What are the key characteristics and skills needed to do the job successfully?
-Is an MBA helpful in the role?
-Would an MBA be a worthwhile investment if this is the career/role I’m considering?
-What do you do most days? How do you spend the majority of your time at the office?
-What are the pros and cons of the job?
-What do you love about what you do?