As you progress through your career, you might feel pressured to supplement your qualifications with a Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree. This is especially relevant if you work in certain trades or industries like finance/banking, pharmaceuticals, construction/real estate, and professional services.
An MBA graduate is assumed to possess superior business skills that is expected from the upper management level. However, as much as an MBA degree can be beneficial to you and your career, it is not the only way to enter upper management levels.
If you find yourself in a position where pursuing an MBA degree is not possible, here are other alternative choices you can take to help advance your career.
Take Certificates instead of MBA
If you want to be known as an ‘expert’ in a particular business skill, getting yourself certified in a specific, niche area can be an extremely powerful move. There are many certifications available in many types of business skills, including accounting, human resources, operations and marketing. Certificates are a lot more cost-effective and less time consuming to get than an MBA degree.
For example, in Singapore you can get an Advanced Certificate in Training and Assessment from here, a Professional Certificate in Business Management from here, or a Certificate in Logistics and Supply Chain Management from here. There are many other options not listed. Furthermore, you can also opt to take long-distance or online learning, which may work better for your schedule.
Work in an SME (Small and medium enterprises)
Singaporeans like brand names, even for jobs – many people will pick the chance to work in a famous multi-national corporation (MNCs) over an SME.
However, the nature of SMEs allows an exceptional, often-overlooked benefit to your career – because it is smaller than MNCs, chances are you will be exposed and involved in many aspects of the business. It is not uncommon for SME staff to take on different roles and wear many hats. For example, an event coordinator might have to work on other aspects such as the marketing, advertising, designing, budgeting, recruiting, and more.
Furthermore, the small nature of SMEs means that it is easier to talk to the upper management, including the CEO. In our opinion, the upper management in a successful SME is a force to be reckoned with – they have faced many challenges and accumulated a treasure of experience during the process. They also tend to be very determined individuals who possess unique and complex problem-solving skills – and may be willing to share those with you.
Start Part-time or Freelance work
Having a part-time or freelance work can have many benefits to your life. Besides the obvious benefit of having an extra source of income (always a great thing), having part-time or freelance work can help you develop skills that you can only learn outside the classroom and in real life.
Yes, we are talking about a drastic self-improvement methodology, but a great one if executed well. In order to be a juggle your full-time job and a part-time/freelance career, you need to be extremely efficient with your time management. Furthermore, you will find that you need to improve your communication skills, networking skills, marketing skills, sales skills, research skills, stress management skills, hiring skills, public relation skills, and many more in order to be a successful part-timer/freelancer. Like jumping straight into the deep end of the pool, it is up to you to rise up to these challenges and come out better.
All these skills can be applied in your normal job to advance your career. Better networking skills? Rub shoulders with the upper management to be remembered, come next promotion period. Better hiring skills? Get better quality candidates during job interviews. The applicability of your upgraded skill set will know no limit.
Want to go down this path? To start off, here are some tips for better time management skills.
Join your Company’s In-house Employee Development Program
Some companies have excellent in-house employee development programs. There are many different types of development programs – we do not claim this article to be exhaustive, but rather a generalisation and starting point.
One type of program usually offered are ‘fast-track’ leadership development programs for high-potential employees. These types of programs are usually highly competitive, however if you persevere, you may have a decent chance to be promoted into senior management in due time.
Your company may also provide support for you to attend trainings, seminars, conferences and courses related your field. It is not uncommon to hear employees sponsored on an all-expense paid trip, especially if you work for a larger company.
Another type of in-house development program (that is usually not advertised as such) is cross-training programs to different departments. Exposure to different departments can be extremely beneficial to your career as it shows great initiative on your part to know the bigger picture of the business. Furthermore, this program allows yourself to get yourself known in different departments – a great networking opportunity.
As you can see, an MBA degree is not the only way to advance your career. If you are not in the position to pursue it, you have many other options that are equally (or in some cases, better) than going to a business school.
Try to see your available options – sometimes the advice you are looking for will come in the unlikeliest of places. Seeking qualifications is important, but so are the right mindset (here are success mindset guide and tips for women).
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).