Consider programme’s longer-term benefits
An MBA is a long-term investment. Apart from the short-term returns on investment (ROIs), such as an immediate graduating job title or salary increment, you should consider whether an MBA will help sustain your competitiveness in your career path over a lifetime. While most MBAs generally provide students with business management knowledge, how programme equips students with the necessary soft skills for personal development can distinguish it from its many rivals.
Case competition is one of the most effective training methods in boosting students’ capability in analysis, problem-solving and presentation within an intensive period. Some business schools sponsor their students to compete in global competitions against other top MBAs worldwide. Students should not miss out on such opportunities.
In these competitions, students will analyse a business case problem in a group and present their solutions to judges from various backgrounds who possess relevant experience or knowledge of the business. They will also be challenged over their ideas, enabling them to hone effective Q&A skills. This kind of experience cannot be measured in monetary value but it will definitely boost students’ international exposure and open up their minds, enabling them to think from wider perspectives.
The programme curriculum might change according to market trends, but only those that meet students’ practical needs stand out. To take an example from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), with feedback collected from graduates and recruiters, effective communication, problem-solving and logical presentations skills were found to be critical to MBA graduates in sustaining a good performance in various management positions.
A pilot elective course, “Enhancing Professional Skills”, was recently launched to sharpen participants’ relevant skill sets. The elective five-day intensive course was developed jointly by five experienced faculty members from different disciplines. It covered topics in business problem-solving, presentation of marketing and financial data, design and delivery and Q&A sessions.
In a small class of around 30 students, participants worked in groups of about five to create and deliver thoughtful, effective and persuasive business presentations. Its impact was reflected in the prizes HKUST MBA students won in several case competitions where they were competing against counterparts from top global business schools. Students appreciated the initiative and provided very positive feedback.
For those who are interested in studying for an MBA, my advice is to not focus only on immediate ROIs. Certain elements in the design of the programme that facilitate professional skills enhancement should also be seriously considered.
Chris Tsang is the executive director of MBA and MSc programmes at the HKUST Business School