Advancing in Your Career



I was sitting in the Executive MBA lounge in Chicago recently and the small tables were filled with lively conversations about travel, family, and, of course, career. While there were a few first year students in attendance, the majority of the people in the room were second years about to graduate in a few short months. I was sitting off to one side ready to answer any career questions the students might have, although I didn’t expect to have many takers given that it was finals week.

Much to my surprise, second year students kept dropping by to discuss a variety of things - from getting past the application screener to evaluating an offer. Some were just beginning to think about career moves - either inside or outside of their companies as the time to graduation ticks down. In about 100 days, they will all be alumni and so their desire to leverage their soon-to-be-an-MBA status was palpable.

When the table finally cleared out, one of the students sat down and asked, “Where is the urgency with the next career move? Haven’t they been managing their careers all along - before and during their MBA program at Booth?” Of course, this student is absolutely correct - each of us should be developing career goals, establishing a strategy for advancement (with appropriate, tested, and efficacious tactics), and building relevant relationships all along the way.

This is a great idea - in theory. Yet in practice, individuals rarely do any of this. Career development, and guidance to support it, usually becomes a priority at a time of transition - from completing a degree to losing a job to having an epiphany about what’s most important in work and life. The reasons for this are often a scarcity of time, and while it is in short supply and precious, carving out a sliver of time each week for your career development can yield a broadened perspective, a more powerful network, and opportunities before you are looking for them.

We can all learn a lot from the student who was perplexed by his classmates’ behavior. He views career development as something he does as regularly as checking his email, updating his status on Facebook, and putting gas in his car. He makes a “date” to think about his career, puts it on his calendar, and defends that time vehemently.

More next time,