Producing some 15000 words for your dissertation based upon a company based Consultancy Project can seem a daunting when contemplating your MBA. However, this presents huge opportunities to explore future career options, and many students find it is the most challenging but satisfying part of their MBA, as it offers the chance to really explore an issue in depth and test out alternative solutions and scenarios.
If you are being financially sponsored or time supported by your current employer, the Consultancy Project presents an ideal way to apply your MBA studies to a current issue facing the organisation to demonstrate an immediate return on their investment.
Internal discussions to explore the focus of your Consultancy Project, also offer you the opportunity to negotiate access to other areas of the business, to talk to a wider range of stakeholder and to raise your profile internally. The dissemination of your recommendations across the organisation can help to showcase your newly acquired ‘strategic thinking’ and pave the way for internal promotions or enhanced responsibilities. Your MBA should be a transformational experience and the Consultancy Project allows you to demonstrate how you can now see an issue from a range of perspectives, proving the MBA is not just of personal benefit but has real value to the organisation too.
For many of course, their aim post MBA, is to make a career transition and your Consultancy Project can also be used to help gain insight into new sectors, functions or industries and can be a great way to develop your networking skills.
According to Herminia Ibarra, Professor of Leadership and author of ‘Working Identity’, there are two approaches to Career Planning-the ‘plan and implement’ approach and the ‘test and learn’ approach. The first approach is far more widely practiced especially amongst those earlier on in their careers...spending some time really trying to understand one’s strengths, values, interests and passions and using this information to choose a career path. Then follows a period of intensive company research followed by the application process.
For those who are looking for a career transition, to change function and/or sector, you may be at a crossroads in your life or career but not quite sure what road to take and it may be difficult to move from the plan to the implement phase, with some finding they get stuck in the planning phase doing a myriad of self-assessment tests. In these cases, the ‘test & learn’ approach is far more effective ....stepping forward and experimenting, either in the form of a work based project, secondment or internship.
We encourage students to use their Consultancy Project and Dissertation as an excuse to network. Your ‘implicit’ end goal with networking may of course be to ultimately identify new opportunities but when you are cultivating new relationships, being immediately explicit about that is unlikely to bring rewards, with people very unlikely to want to shower you straight away with job offers. Also, if your intent is that you are looking for a job, even though you don’t say it, it can affect your behaviour with a tendency to try and over sell yourself rather than seeing the networking conversation as an information gathering exercise.
If the intent is to find a suitable Consultancy Project and Dissertation topic, it changes your whole networking mind-set as you are looking for a win-win scenario. It is relatively easy to reach out to people in your network who are working in your target job areas and ask for 15 mins of their time online or face to face to “discuss current hot topics in their field as you are interested in doing your Consultancy Project and Dissertation in that area” or asking the question “What are the areas in your work which you wish you had more time to research, but you can never find the time in your busy day job?”.
In this way, you can network with a wide range of individuals, being open and honest about the fact that you are talking to lots of different people and if you choose to go elsewhere with the project, that you will be happy to share the results of your research as long as it does not break any confidentiality issues.
Showcase your ability
Choosing a Consultancy Project and Dissertation that involves interviewing a wide range of people as part of the project can also be a great way to increase your network. For example, an Executive MBA student working in Compliance in an overseas bank wanted to move to the banking sector in London. Her chosen project and Dissertation topic was focused on looking at the attitude of senior management to compliance in London banks, which involved a number of interviews with CEOs of British banks, with each interview giving her the opportunity to showcase her abilities to those prominent decision-makers and ultimately resulting in discussions that lead to her current position.
Don’t be daunted - network your way to success, using your Consultancy Project as the perfect vehicle to get there!