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Taking Charge of Your Career: Advance Your Marketability

Joyce RussellBy Joyce E. A. Russell, Ph.D., Dean, Villanova School of Business

You’ve heard it many times before: it is critical for women to personally take charge of their careers. Indeed, getting mentoring and sponsorship from others is crucial to your success. But taking ownership for your future is also really important.

How can you do this and at the same time enhance your own marketability? No matter what job you currently hold or what field you are in, gaining additional knowledge and skills can help your career progress. This is true if you want to advance in your job field, break into a different career field or start your own business as an entrepreneur. You need something to propel you forward or to get others to see you differently. And you need to see yourself and the world differently, too.

Move Up—Faster

I have coached hundreds of executives over the past three decades. In my coaching, I have often told individuals that getting a business degree, particularly an M.B.A., is an excellent way to further your success.

Why business in particular? Gaining an advanced business degree can put you on the fast track to higher-level positions. Why? You’ll know how business works, how to speak the financial language, how to showcase stronger leadership or teamwork skills, the list goes on and on. It’s a degree that allows you to immediately transfer knowledge to your current job, which enables others to see that you understand how the firm works and know how to potentially bring more business into the company. The Graduate Management Admissions Council found that 70 percent of recent M.B.A. graduates felt that they could not have obtained their current job without the skills, knowledge and abilities they gained through their graduate management education.

Change Industries—Smoothly

I have seen with my clients that an M.B.A. is especially helpful if you are thinking of switching career fields. That’s why I call it the great equalizing degree. It takes people from very different backgrounds and provides them with the extensive coursework, applied experiences and professional development that puts them on a similar playing field. It gives opportunities to individuals coming from the humanities or arts or sciences to move into the business world or to move up in their own field.

Launch a Startup—Successfully

Additionally, an M.B.A. can certainly help individuals who want to start their own business. Coming up with ideas, going to market, getting funding, hiring staff, growing your business—you can learn all of this by trial and error, or you can use an advanced degree to speed up the process. Not only will you learn the fundamentals of business to help when starting your firm, but you’ll also be able to tap the guidance and mentorship of professors (some of whom have real-world entrepreneurial experience) and a powerful network of classmates and other advocates.

I have watched so many people form companies who have been aided by having the business knowledge to do the necessary research, seek funding, determine who they should (and shouldn’t) hire and find customers for their products and services. A lot of people have creative ideas, yet very few of them are able to start a firm and grow it in a successful way. You’ve heard of the high failure rate of new companies; well, I think part of the reason is that these entrepreneurs don’t know the language and practice of business.

Choose Your Business School—Wisely

Gaining a network of other M.B.A.s and alumni, many of whom may be successful executives, is what often sells individuals on the benefits of getting an advanced management degree. I have seen it firsthand—I am fortunate to be leading a school with a very powerful alumni network who truly believe in “paying it forward” and helping others reach their career goals and success.

Because, in the end, that’s what you need: to be in a program where the current students and alumni are collaborative and will cheer on your success and pull you up when you experience challenges and difficulties. It’s hard enough for women to succeed in business when outnumbered by men; make sure that when you do go back to school that the culture encourages your success and enables you to enhance your skills to do good for yourself and for the world.

We desperately need more women business leaders today!

Joyce E. A. Russell will be speaking at the 2018 PA Conference for Women on October 12.

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