Step 1: Commence MBA. Step 2: Change jobs.

By Carla Harris, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

C_HarrisSound familiar? Call it a coincidence, but there seems to me a positive correlation between starting your MBA and shortly after getting a new job. Sure this makes complete sense –  we’re meeting new people and making new connections. Combined with being in a point in our lives where we’re clearly after a change in our careers in some way, it’s a bit of a no brainer. As Hugh discussed in his recent blog, the MBA provides you with a suite of skills that manifest their benefits prior to your MBA’s completion. Still, I find it amusing.

People are often fascinated by my career. Let me re-phrase; they’re not so much interested in my actual jobs (I’ve seen many a pair of eyes glaze over when explaining what I do, or did, for a living) but more when they find out my career path that there’s always further intrigue. I’m what you might call a ‘branding challenge’. I started my career as a scientist – I have a “PhD in weeds” – and in one foul swoop ended up an Executive Manager for the Federal Government at the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. There’s often immense interest as to how I went from chopping down trees to talking to triple j about the gender pay gap.

Admittedly, there is a considerable disconnect between plants and gender, so making the jump was very considered and required a lot of soul searching. Given that changing jobs seems to be such a feature of the MBA experience, here’s how it happened:

  1. Get real with where you’re at: First, I had to recognise that I needed to make a change, and a big one. Not just moving to another research lab within the university, or another university elsewhere, but something BIG. This was one of the most challenging parts because so much of my identity was wrapped up in what I did, and walking away from a decade of research made me feel I had failed.
  2. Work out what you don’t want: Next, I figured out what it was that I didn’t like about my job. Once I realised that these things wouldn’t be remedied by moving to another organization, but actually a seismic shift in job type was required, I could then focus on the next step.
  3. Work out what you do want: I then identified what it was that I did like about my job – what do I want to use from the skills I currently have? This was a great help in narrowing the kinds of jobs and industries that might be a better fit.
  4. Think laterally: Often we have a narrow field of vision about what we can do with our skills. So I had to be a bit out of the box with how could transfer my skills to a new area.

And the result? I’ve never looked back, my work is engaging, tangible and a perfect match for me. It was a scary thing to do, but the benefits have well have been well and truly realised.

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