Time for a career change. How does this work?
September 5, 2016 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Feeling like my first master's was a waste, I'm pursuing an MBA and considering a career change. If this sounds like something you've done, I have some questions for you below.

I've been working in administrative organizations at various public universities for eight years in progressively responsible roles. I've got an MA in Higher Ed Administration that didn't teach me how to administer much of anything, and I've enrolled in an MBA program. I'm in my first of 6 semesters.

Feeling like I'll be less pigeonholed in the future, I'm seriously considering a career change (reasons: pay that probably can never match the demanding nature of my job, general frustration with universities on the whole, quotidian workplace-specific frustrations, etc.).

Do you have experience with something like this? If so, I want to hear from you. My considerations right now include, but are not limited to, the following:

- I've never not worked at a public or private nonprofit organization. What educational credentials/experience am I going to need to emphasize? What cultural differences should I expect between workplaces?

- How do other people find jobs at... not-colleges? I know exactly where to find jobs at universities, but in other industries... LinkedIn?

- How do I decide where I want to work? I mean, if you asked me as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wouldn't have said (just examples), "I want to analyze datasets for Procter & Gamble," or "I want to manage operations for a luxury furniture brand," yet the jobs are available, and people wind up in them. Do I find a job description and benefits I like and roll the dice on the company? Or should I have a specific company in mind?

- Bonus question: as I'm looking for jobs outside higher education, should I remove my first master's from my resume in order to appear slightly less locked into a single work environment?
posted by schooley to Work & Money (3 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've done a career change but, with the warning that I've not done an MBA, I'd suggest the following.

First, congrats on starting a new degree. You've now got six semesters to network the hell out of your fellow students and any other people you might meet via workshops, seminars, and whatever it is that business people do. I suggest having a really well polished LinkedIn profile and business cards at the ready for when you meet people. Networking and recruiting events is where, I suspect, the majority of job finding takes place these days.

Second, I wouldn't erase parts of your background, especially an entire degree. Your power lies in what makes you unique, including your education, experiences and skills you've learned at various jobs, and your life experiences. I think your goal should be to stand out in some way rather than trying to perfectly fit the mold of an idealized MBA student.

Third, I'd think about what things you can do in the context of your current job to prepare you for a new job. It might be as simple as trying to get certain relevant or otherwise useful assignments, taking advantage of training opportunities, and so on. You've got some time and, since you work for a big organization, you've probably got access to some good resources as well.

Best wishes to you.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 10:22 AM on September 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

FWIW, most people I know who have an MBA said it didn't teach them much about administration either. It was mostly finance and economics, and the emphasis was on people working for consulting or financial firms. If that's what you want to do, great! If not, maybe talk with some alumni to make sure the program is going to meet your career needs before getting deeper in it.

Non-education sector jobs are primarily (at least in my area) found through networking. If you do pursue an MBA, view it as an opportunity to network as much as humanly possible. If you do very well, consider transferring to a top-tier MBA school (Wharton, Haas, MIT, Duke etc) to really maximize the benefits of your degree. The connections you make there will have a huge effect on the rest of your career. LinkedIn is helpful, but a strong alumni network and solid internships are just as important.

The open jobs that you qualify for upon graduation (or wanting to switch jobs) are going to limit what companies you can choose from. Waiting around for that perfect spot to open up in Amazing Company X is not a good way to job search, though technically you could stay in your current field until that opens up, but having actual experience in the new field will make you a more appealing candidate. You can have your dream list, and check periodically to see if they are hiring for someone like you, but don't limit yourself to only that list or you will have an even harder time job hunting. Do not leave off your MA. That's a huge asset, not a bug.

Keep in mind that public job listings are a last resort for most companies. They will prioritize internal hires and referrals from current employees before seeking a recruiter or listing the job anywhere. Often the job listing is merely lip service to demonstrate their "equal opportunity hiring" policies. Hence, the more robust your network, the more likely you will be one of the referred candidates.

Best of luck!
posted by ananci at 2:06 PM on September 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Whenever I look for jobs, I pick a keyword for something that I'm interested in, add "jobs" to the end of it, and throw it into Google. This will typically round up the usual job search websites (Monster, Indeed, and yes, LinkedIn to a degree) but may also turn up some local search engines or organizations that specialize in finding a more specific type of job or a local place that's currently hiring for a job with those parameters.

This could be a good way to get started, but if you're doing an MBA program, DEFINITELY network like crazy. If nothing else, you'll learn more about the prominent companies that might be hiring MBAs and you can seek opening specifically through their job portals.

Way to go on the career change! Good luck!
posted by helloimjennsco at 10:16 AM on September 6, 2016

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