So many professional advice gurus will tell you that going for that MBA is the one and only way to guarantee your advancement in the ranks of a corporate career. Going for that next degree, however, is a big decision. It usually means taking a hiatus from your job; and the cost for that tuition will take a big bite out of your savings, if you have them. Many young people don’t.
As well as potentially having to spend two years concentrating on getting the degree – with no income during this time – you will also be looking at paying anywhere from SGD 50,000 on upwards for study fees. The more prestigious MBA schools charge closer to SGD 90,000. Of course, you’d expect to earn more in the future with an MBA, but if you look at it purely from a financial point of view, you can see that it isn’t all that straightforward a decision.
So, what else could you do to acquire skills that turn out to be more advantageous for your career advancement than anything that further education could provide?
Real Life Skills #1: Learn a Second Language
The effort of learning a second language is significant. In fact, you could end up studying it for longer than you might spend on a professional qualification such as an MBA. Having said that, it could be a much more enjoyable process, particularly if you learn through travel, music, TV or books.
This is a skill that you can pick up while working, so there is nothing to stop you earning money while you do it. Even if you take a few trips abroad to practise your new language, it should work out to be a lot cheaper than studying for an MBA.
What kind of career advantage might you enjoy with a second language under your belt? The truth is that there are many different careers available to people who are bilingual, or pretty close to it. We tend to think of translation and teaching as being the main avenues to earn money using a second language. However, you could also work in the import and export business, as a consultant to companies around the world, in tourism, as a private secretary in a global firm or in many other roles.
When it comes to choosing a language to learn, it’s important that you find one that interests you, and that will hold your enthusiasm over a long period of study and use. You also need to find one that is marketable and will open up new career options for you. A good example is Mandarin Chinese. This is an increasingly popular choice of second language due to the huge economic prospects that China offers.
You could also consider other widely spoken languages such as Spanish. In this case, there are over 400 million native speakers spread across the globe. Learning Spanish would give you access to the massive job market in Spain and almost all of Latin America.
Real Life Skills #2: Learn how to Sell
An exceptional ability in sales is a top skill that is always in demand. If you learn how to be an effective salesperson, that can give you an edge in just about any career. For example, if you can successfully sell cars, then you can probably sell houses, computers, gym memberships or almost anything else.
Just about every company in the world needs top-class salespeople, and if you have a track record of persuading people to buy from you, this is going to make you a very attractive potential employee.
Selling doesn’t always have to mean handing over a product in exchange for a bundle of money. Your sales skills are useful to persuade managers, partners or clients to buy into ideas, or to attract investment or new staff.
Sales skills are notoriously difficult to teach, and many MBA programs don’t even try very hard. While you can learn some of the best sales tactics and scripts, some people will tell you that you are either a natural-born salesperson or you’re not. If you have a feeling that selling is in your blood, then why not put capitalise on it right away and perfect your powers of persuasion to earn you serious money?
Real Life Skills #3: Learn to Tell a Good Story
At first, it might not seem like much of a skill for the business world, but learning how to tell a good story can help you to reach out to your customers. People want to know what you are all about, what you offer and how you can help improve their lives.
Learning how to connect with others through the power of a good narrative is an invaluable skill for anyone who wants to work in communication or advertising. It can also be useful for team leaders who need to create strong bonds and get people to buy into, say, a company vision.
This is a business skill that very people actually seem to possess. If you’ve got it, it can really set you apart from the rest.
Learn Computer Code
Learning how to write computer code can give your career and earning potential a tremendous boost. For a start, when you study this subject you will see that it forces you to think in a logical and organised manner.
This makes it a great way to start thinking in a different manner and perhaps sharpen your efficiency and effectiveness too. With this sort of benefit, you can make better use of your time and advance more quickly along your career path.
On a more practical level, you might need to understand the code to work out exactly how your company’s system operates or to identify flaws in the current set-up. Finally, working as a developer can be an excellent and rewarding career in its own right.
As you’ve seen, developing your skills can be far more lucrative than pursuing an advanced degree. It’s simply a question of sitting down and thinking about what you’d like to do with your life and how to use your skills and abilities to achieve the best outcome.
She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen).
Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).
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