In recent years, many prominent universities have developed graduate level programs in supply chain, procurement, and logistics. Many go after an Masters of Business Administration (MBA) or other masters level designation in hopes of being promoted to managing people. And yet, that doesn't always happen. A master's degree is a great tool, but you have to make sure it's the right tool for the problem you are hoping to solve.
To get the most out of a graduate degree, you have to understand how to both the problem you are trying to solve and how to apply the degree to address the problem. Ask yourself:
- What is the problem am I trying to solve?
- What does the solution look like?
For example, rather than aiming at becoming a people manager, create a goal of climbing the corporate ladder through promotion. Then you have to consider what you need to do to capture that promotion. Just getting a degree isn't enough. You need to add value to your employer, solve a major problem that your employer is having. You need to work closely with the decision makers within the organization to really understand the challenges. Of course, simply solving the problem isn't enough. You need to get recognition for those accomplishments from your peers and your leadership team. You need a strategy to make it happen.
You need to start this conversation well in advance—Ideally before you begin your graduate studies. You need to start with your end in mind. What is end goal for you in getting your MBA? Is it more money or a promotion or something else? Let's assume you want a promotion, which will come with more money. Talk to your boss and get help laying out a path to promotion. Tell your boss that you are considering going back to school if it will help. Any boss worth his or her salt will encourage employees to grow and learn. If that's not the case, you may be in the wrong organization.
Next, make sure you consider what might be in it for your boss to promote you. Ask yourself: What is in it for him? What is in it for the company? What is the overall corporate strategy? You need to be able to articulate how promoting will further the corporate goals that your organization is pursing in the next several years. Think about what you can offer that others can't.
Analyze your strengths. Perhaps you are originally from India or China, and your company is pursing outsourcing relationships in one of those countries. Your understanding of the geography, the culture, and more may be imperative to success. Maybe your company is cash strapped and there's a major project that needs to be done. If you could propose an execution model that would let you manage the project and hire freelance resources at a tenth the cost, you would get plenty of attention. Also think about what you are willing to do to be promoted. Would you be willing to move to another country? Keep in mind that multi cultural experience will broaden your perspective and open many more doors in the future.
Once you understand all this and prepare a strategy, create a plan for the next six to 18 months,
- I am going to do this project and make this client a great referenceable client
- Then I am going to help accomplish this corporate goal
- Then I will make this other project a huge success (and help my group make its numbers of make my boss look good)
- Then I am also going to facilitate some product development initiatives through my relationships with my past clients
- Then I am also going to develop a couple of leaders under me who are going to deliver these training classes under my stewardship
- Then I am going to show all this to my boss and peers and make my case for promotion
In that timeframe, you may have completed or almost completed your graduate work. You'll be in a position to demonstrate your growth and your value to the organization.
Share your wisdom with those who are coming up the corporate ladder. What have you done early in your career that proved valuable? What would you have done differently? What has worked best as you have tried to get your career on track? Let us know in the comments section below.