The global Find MBA Online publication recently highlighted the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business for its ability to promote online MBA post-degree success. The editorial team conferred with Maryland Smith Office of Career Services assistant directors and career consultants Erika Harrigan and Julie Neill.
The following is an excerpt from their discussion.
Q: Do online MBA programs prepare people well for the increasingly digital future of work?
A: An online MBA program is an excellent way to prepare for the future of work which is not only increasingly digital and remote, but also project-based and collaborative. Online MBA students have the opportunity to work within global, digital classrooms that incorporate the use of collaborative online workspaces and integrated multimedia, as well as the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working to solve real-world business problems in project-based teams.
Q: Online MBA students are considered to be career-accelerators. How can the degree help students switch careers to another function, country or geography?
A: Making a functional career switch can be very challenging. Acquiring specific functional area knowledge and skills is absolutely essential in making the transition. However, oftentimes, employers also want to see how candidates have been able to apply their knowledge and skills. That’s why the experiential learning opportunities facilitated by our world-renowned faculty offer a distinct advantage to career switchers. Networking is critically important in making a successful career switch, and so joining a robust alumni community is a huge value add. Online MBA students gain access to Smith’s 66,000-plus alumni network, in addition to the University of Maryland’s global network of over 377,000 alumni.
For people wanting to relocate outside the United States, in-country experience and in-depth cultural knowledge of a desired location are key. The Smith MBA provides global business courses. While traveling abroad with a faculty member, students gain critical global experience, applying their knowledge and skills to solve a cross-border, cross-cultural business challenge, thus enhancing their candidacy for an international role.
Q: How has the coronavirus impacted the job market for online MBA candidates?
A: In today’s job market, online MBA graduates have a distinct advantage in that they can prove to employers that they can succeed in a remote work environment. The pandemic has caused notable shifts in the economy – for example, severely impacting certain industries, like hospitality and travel, and significantly benefiting others, like tech and pharma. But across the entire job market, it has underscored the critical and increasing importance of skills such as complex problem-solving, adaptability and creativity. It has increased demand for candidates who are both “poets and quants,” i.e. individuals who possess strong technical and analytical skills, while also possessing a high degree of emotional intelligence and strong interpersonal and other so-called soft skills.
Moreover, the way to land new jobs in this market has shifted. The vast majority of interviews are now virtual, and networking is by and large virtual as well. To thrive in this new job market, online MBA candidates should not only analyze the current state of their target industry and location, but they also should focus on mastering the art of presenting on video conferencing tools.
Q: What skills do online MBA students need for a successful long-term career, and how can they develop them on their course?
A: As mentioned above, now more than ever, organizations need business leaders who can think critically, solve problems creatively, make data-informed decisions and manage diverse, global teams. Smith’s curriculum helps students develop and hone all of these skills, and along with its diverse community, Smith MBA graduates leave equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous economy. Students can further develop these skills by becoming actively involved outside the classroom and engaging in co-curricular activities.
A successful long-term career also requires professionals to have a deep understanding of themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and to effectively communicate their personal brands and build and maintain strong networks. Students who proactively cultivate their professional development and take advantage of Career Services offerings will undoubtedly have a distinct advantage.
Q: What career support do you offer online MBA students, and is it on a par with the offering for full-time students?
A: Online MBA students have access to career coaches who are dedicated to meeting them wherever they are in their career journey and helping them facilitate their way forward to achieve their professional goals. Coaching is not limited to those seeking new jobs. In addition to assisting with career advancement and career transition, coaches are available to assist any issue related to career and professional development.
In addition to one-on-one coaching, Smith online MBAs are able to participate in career-related programming and events throughout the year, including professional development webinars, virtual career panels and networking events. Students also have access to online career resources and an asynchronous career course that has been strategically designed to help working professionals build their career portfolio and practice storytelling, networking and interviewing techniques.