Your career aspirations upon graduating may point you toward one program type or another. Once you’ve figured out what type of program is best for you, you’ll be able to narrow your search to the schools that offer the type of programs that you are looking for. From there, you can begin to create a target list of MBA programs by identifying the schools that will best prepare you for the specific Career Action Plan you developed in the previous MBA Prep Step.
In this unit, we’ll briefly cover the questions that you should ask and answer when selecting the schools that are the best match with your career goals.
- Are closest to where you want to work after graduating?
- Are located nearest to the industry hub(s) for your field?
- Have the most resources specifically targeted at your career goals?
- Have the strongest brand in your field?
- Have the most extensive alumni presence in your field?
- Offer the best career placement support and placement results in your field?
Which schools are closest to where you want to work after graduating?
Geography is the first factor to consider. Assuming you have some degree of flexibility about where you can go to school, you should be thinking about where you intend to build your career once school is over. Location matters because recruiting opportunities tend to be the best in the region in which the school is located.
If you plan to work in the United States upon graduation, then a U.S. business school is probably your best choice. By the same token, if your goal is to work in Europe or Asia, you should be considering the best programs in those regions. There are, of course, schools that have such a strong international reputation that you’ll have the credentials to go wherever your career takes you.
Which schools are located nearest to the industry hub(s) for your field?
Proximity to the industry hub of your field of interest is another important factor when it comes to choosing the best location to go to school. Going to school close to the hub of your future industry means it will be easier to build important industry connections during school, participate in field studies and master classes in that industry, and have the CEO of the 800-lb gorilla in your field swing by campus for a keynote address. Moreover, schools tend to develop a symbiotic relationship with the firms closest to them and that kinship will be an advantage to you when recruiting season rolls around.
Which schools have the most resources specifically targeted at your career goals?
Return to the Capabilities Inventory you created in the last unit. Your knowledge of the field you want to work in and the skills and knowledge that you’ll need to succeed in your future career is one of the best guides to selecting the schools that will best prepare you for that future.
You need to determine which schools have the most resources specifically targeted to your career goals. Business schools cannot be all things to all students; so they tend to specialize in certain areas – entrepreneurship, marketing, finance, and so on.
Where do the thought-leaders in your future field teach? Which schools offer courses that appear tailor-made for your career? Which have dedicated research centers, clubs, conferences, and field study opportunities specifically targeting your career goals?
Which schools have the strongest brand in your field?
In addition to the people you interviewed when you were defining your career goals, talk to as many people in your future field as you can and ask them what they perceive to be the schools with the strongest MBA brand.
While we caution MBA Prep School students about over-reliance on magazine rankings, if magazines have ranked schools according to the strength of their offerings by industry-area, those rankings are also good indicators of the brand-strength of the school in the field. You should still do your research to figure out why those schools hit the top of the charts in your field.
Which schools have the most extensive alumni presence in your field?
Another excellent way to determine a school’s match with your career goals is to find out which schools have the most extensive alumni presence in your field. A strong alumni showing is a signal that the degree is valued and that the skills and knowledge acquired by graduates correlates to long-term success. From a more practical standpoint, alumni strength also means that by attending that school you will be opening doors that may lead to job opportunities in the field.
Which schools offer the best career placement support and placement results?
Speaking of generating job offers, an important consideration is which schools will offer you the best career placement support. A proactive placement office that offers career planning resources and that has cultivated relationships with recruiters in your field is invaluable. On a related note, you want to find out which schools have the best placement results in your field. None of the other factors matter much if you can’t get a job when you graduate.
Unit Review: Select Schools that Fit Your Career Goals
- Review your Career Action Plan and select schools that are the best point of departure for your path.
- Select schools that will enable you to close the most gaps in your Career Capabilities Inventory.
- Where you want to live and work is a key consideration in school selection.
- Schools can’t be all things to all students; so choose a program that has classes, resources, and clubs tailor-made for someone with your career aspirations.