For the past few years, there has been an onslaught of articles questioning the worth of higher education. Many of these have been examining the return on investment for MBA programs as well. Yet for all of the number crunching and statistics (hint: almost every major study confirms that education pays off), I found very little resources on the types of options available that new graduates can take, especially the widely discussed MBA, other than types of careers that can be pursued.
So what can you do after graduation? It turns out, a whole lot.
It's been a little over six months after I graduated from my MBA program at Marylhurst University. During that time, I wrote/published a book, delivered a TEDx talk, gave workshops/speeches in several major universities and conferences, continued my education with additional classes, got a new job, filed a law brief, and started developing a new digital marketing program for a local college (in addition to touring with my band).
As MBA graduates, we have amazing opportunities and choices available, even if we don't realize it. All we have to do is take some of that entrepreneurship and research ability learned in the program and apply it to our own lives as if it were a startup.
Here are some of the things that you can do with your new degree:
1. Teach at a college: Now that you have a Master's degree, you can begin applying for adjunct positions at local colleges and universities, especially in areas where you have great experience. Of course, these institutions prefer someone with experience, so find as many opportunities to speak, deliver workshops or panels, or mentor as possible. If you have a hobby (such as cooking, dancing, or tattooing), you could teach a community education class.
2. Contact your alumni network: One of the biggest benefits to an MBA program is getting to know your cohort. Hopefully, you've developed relationships with classmates along the way. Continue building those relationships through your school's alumni network so you can learn about career and business opportunities.
3. Apply for conferences: The biggest requirement to presenting at any conference is a great idea. Learn how to develop a pitch for your ideas/lessons, then work on your presentation skills (try joining Toastmasters). Create an account at ExpertFile. Update your Linkedin. Look for industry gatherings in your area and contact them about speaking. It's great for your resume and it expands your network.
4. Learn more skills: Now that you've received some broad business training with your degree, you can refine it by developing new skills. Try taking courses through a MOOC or community college. With so many inexpensive and flexible programs, time and affordability are no longer valid excuses.
5. Explore career options: Now that you have a new degree, see if you have opportunities to advance in your organization. If you feel limited there, you might consider looking at available jobs - after you've updated your resume, of course.
6. Start a business or nonprofit: If you are passionate about a cause or a hobby, you might consider applying that business knowledge to create a sustainable career option for yourself. Talk to instructors or classmates that you're still in touch with; they can help refine your idea or maybe even know some possible investors.
7. Take time off: Graduate school is tough. You might reward yourself with a self-discovery process such as traveling. It's good to refresh and get your bearings. It might even help you refine your future goals.
8. Volunteer or join a board: One of the best ways to keep your skills up to date is simply using them. Nonprofit organizations are always looking for skilled volunteers and board members. They can also be a great place to network while helping a cause that you value. If you're unsure where to volunteer your time, try using a site like Volunteermatch or contact the foundation of your alma mater.
9. Travel abroad: Consider working or volunteering for an organization abroad. It can be a fantastic way to learn about another culture, developing new skills, and creating some incredible memories.
10. Freelance work: You can take some of those specialized skills and experiences and do some freelance work as a consultant, mentor, coach, or one-off contract jobs. Not only will you get some extra income, but it's a good way to experience multiple industries, types of organizations, and working styles while honing your talent.
11. Rotary/civc organizations: Rotary International is always looking for great members, speakers, and people who want to contribute. Local chapters are often comprised of business leaders who are also passionate about solving major world issues. If you Rotary doesn't appeal to you, there are many other member-driven civic organizations to join and get involved in.
Graduate school is a large investment of your time and money. If you really want to get the most out of it, you should be exploring all possible options and not just waiting for opportunities to come to you. Use the same kind of resourcefulness and dedication that you applied for your capstone project or thesis. In MBA programs, we're trained to turn around businesses, look for new opportunities, increase brand visibility, and create stable sources of funding.
Sometimes, the best approach is to treat yourself like a brand/business. If your career was a business, how would you create opportunities? Begin today -- that way, you can begin paying down those student loans!
Follow Simon Tam on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SimonTheTam