All over the U.S., there's a fresh new crop of MBA graduates leaving behind their books and case studies, and in some cases, preparing to rediscover their families after several years of their noses buried in books and their fingers glued to their keyboards. A key question on their minds is, "What's next?"
Putting aside for this post any thoughts you might have of the value of the degree in or you belief that MBAs might fit nicely in line with the lawyers singled out by Shakespeare, these individuals have worked hard and invested a great deal of time and someone's money in achieving this milestone.
Their expectation (realistic or not) is that the degree will mean something in the workforce. They are looking for it to help open doors, remove career barriers and lead down new paths.
The Reality: "Congratulations, Now, Let's Get Back to Work!"
There will be ceremonies and speeches and parties, and perhaps even a few rounds offered up by coworkers at local watering holes. Bosses will congratulate the new graduates, and then work life will return to normal and June will melt into July, and in many cases, not much will change for the now former students.
A common question people ask of students nearing their degree completion is, "What are you going to do?" There's almost an implied understanding that the now pedigreed professional will look for a new position in or out of their company, as a means of monetizing or at least leveraging the degree. Some do just this, and view the end of school as a phase-gate leading to something beyond what they've been doing thus far. Others hope/expect their organizations will recognize their new enhanced value and offer an increased challenge as a means of knocking down their sudden career wanderlust.
In too many cases, there's a lot of hoping, false expectations and plotting to leave that adds some toxicity into the celebratory waters of June. An alternative might well be for everyone to adjust their attitudes and expectations just a bit, and for the MBA graduates to recognize the need to ramp up for the next round of professional development.
7 Ideas for New MBAs following Graduation:
1. Keep your feet grounded in reality. Accept that there's no immediate mantle of legitimacy or wisdom bestowed upon you as you shake hands and grab the diploma. You're a work in process, just like the rest of us.
2. Do congratulate yourself for having the intestinal fortitude it takes to complete your degree while working, balancing family responsibilities and all of the other challenges of life. Believe it or not, your current and many future bosses will view your accomplishment not so much as remarkable or rare, but rather as a sign of your tenacity and ability to stay-the-course.
3. Don't expect a promotion just because of the degree. I've heard of this happening, but degree-triggered promotions are rare. In the case where they occur, its usually more due to a good on-going professional development plan than anything prompted out of response to your graduation.
4. Speaking of professional development plans… . Do sit down with your boss and refresh your professional development plan. If your plan is clear, good…conduct a status update and reiterate your willingness to take on more. If there is no plan, it is reasonable at any point to show interest in doing more, however, the MBA milestone is a nice discussion prompter. Do use the occasion to very professionally indicate how excited you are to have completed the degree and how motivated you are to have the extra time, insights and tools to dedicate to helping the firm.
5. Don't even remotely hint that unless you are promoted you are gone. Especially in this economy, where regardless of degree, buyers hold all of the power.
6. Do accept that the completion of your MBA is the beginning of your next apprenticeship as a leader and a professional. Grad school doesn't teach you how to lead, nor does it turn you into a great strategist, a future CEO or a management innovator. You've apprenticed on the tools…mostly the science of management (hey, no jokes about the dismal science, please!), and you've got a license to begin applying them. The real work of learning to lead and learning how to create value for your stakeholders has just begun.
7. Do recognize that your primary task is how to make yourself more valuable to everyone around you. Now that you are no longer distracted by school, it's time to answer, "What have you done for us lately?"
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Congratulations! I'll buy the first round and then tomorrow, we've got to figure out how to thump competitors and survive and thrive in this incredibly complex and fast-moving world. Sure hope you paid attention during that class.
Thanks to Art Petty And Strategy & Management-Innovations, LLC