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How to ensure that your MBA will be a real career booster

June 07, 2019

How to use your MBA the right way

An MBA can help you make that long-desired career step, increase your responsibilities and take home a bigger paycheck. Provided you know how to tap into its career-boosting potential. In the following, Kerstin Knapp, Chief Human Resources Officer at oil company Puma Energy and a graduate of the Global Executive MBA, and Andreas Landgrebe, Managing Partner of Boyden Executive Search, explain what really matters when it comes to ensuring that your MBA will give your career that desired boost.

A MBA graduate flying away on an office chair
Kerstin Knapp and Andreas Landgrebe explain how to really ignite the career booster with an MBA.

From the president of a Kazakh energy business to the general manager of a paper-processing industrial group to the cancer researcher of a pharmaceutical company in Austria: The résumés of the students of the current class of the WU Executive Academy's Global Executive MBA are as varied as their provenances. Participants attend the program for various motives—because they want to deepen their understanding of business administration and management, because they are eager to foster their personal development, because they hope to be able to use the MBA as a career booster.

“The WU Executive Academy's Global Executive MBA has provided me with the necessary backbone,” explains Kerstin Knapp, Chief Human Resources Officer at oil company Puma Energy, on the sidelines of a panel discussion on the topic of “MBA & Career”, which was held at the WU Executive Academy a short while ago. According to her, she is well-suited for a career in HR given that she is a university-trained psychologist, but “the higher up you get in the corporate hierarchy, the more you are required to understand how your company works as far as the business-administration side of things is concerned.” She says that studying for her MBA degree has helped her gain a holistic appreciation of the big corporate picture: “I now have a better understanding of many of the interconnections in my company.”

Exaggerated expectations

However: Those who think they are in with an excellent chance of getting a senior management job or a breathtaking pay raise just because they have earned an MBA degree often end up being proved wrong.

Portrait Kerstin Knapp

Kerstin Knapp

  • Human Resources Manager at Puma Energy and Global Executive MBA alumna

People frequently have exaggerated expectations. Many study for an MBA degree because they are stuck in their careers and expect their training to result in a bigger paycheck or the next career step. But: An MBA does not automatically lead to better market opportunities, nor does it automatically increase your market value.

She goes on to explain that, as an HR specialist, she generally regards an MBA degree as indicative of other, more important assets: “As an MBA participant, you benefit from so many things, including, above all else, personal development and a priceless professional network. In my opinion, an MBA degree shows that you are full of stamina and determination. And: that you want to make change happen.” According to Kerstin Knapp, it is always the overall package that matters from an HR point of view: “When interviewing candidates, I want to know from them: What drives them, what are they passionate about and what are their visions? Candidates should know what they want.”

Trend scouting for your career

Andreas Landgrebe, Managing Partner of Boyden Executive Search, has a similar take on this. “An MBA degree is a nice extra but no guarantee that an employer will pay you an additional 10,000 or 20,000 euro annually. Your MBA has to be a real asset to your company, for instance when it comes to its innovative potential. The main motivation for attending an MBA program should never be to get a degree but to “broaden your horizons”.

Portrait Andreas Landgrebe

Andreas Landgrebe

  • Managing Partner at Boyden Executive Search

My personal tip: You should do trend scouting for your career. In this context, and provided you go about it the right way, your MBA can help you focus on and develop an in-depth understanding of the trends in your industry. As a bank manager, you can, for instance, write a master's thesis on digital banking and innovative business models, thereby creating value for your company.

Kerstin Knapp, too, recommends that students take conscious advantage of the MBA experience to foster their personal development, to reflect, to gain greater clarity regarding career-related questions, to work on their behavior patterns and, not least, to collect feedback - both as individuals and as executives - from their peers.

Pic of the silhouettes of 3 MBA students
The MBA program should also be used for personality development and reflection.

The best way to take immediate advantage of the know-how acquired in the course of an MBA program is to apply it to your job while still studying. And that’s not the only benefit to look forward to: The unique international network and the exciting career contacts that MBA participants build up in the course of their training are immensely valuable long-term assets, as another Global Executive MBA graduate, Andreas Huber, Chief Operating Officer at 3TS Capital Partners, confirms by saying: “In the first year after graduating, I still knew what we had learned during the statistics module. In the second year, I knew there had been a statistics module. But today, what matters to me is with whom I attended the statistics module.”

For more information about the MBA programs of the WU Executive Academy, please click here.

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