Making a career change after the MBA
Is an MBA good for a career change? Many UQ alumni would say so. Suzanne Wood is one of them.
Despite a distinguished career as a registered nurse, Suzanne started to feel constrained in her ability to contribute to influential decision-making to improve the healthcare sector. So, she enrolled in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at The University of Queensland.
Suzanne had worked in both private and public sectors, from general medical to acute stroke, neuroscience and aged care, progressing from frontline nursing to clinical education and health management roles.
“I felt like I was at a crossroads, both professionally and personally,” she says.
“I’d reached a point of minimal returns for effort. I needed some way to jump the ladder and have more influence. There are limited pathways in nursing with how far you can go in terms of progression past the mid-management level and truly becoming an influential decision-maker."
"I really wanted to at least contribute my opinion in a way that affected and improved patient outcomes.”
So, the single mother of one enrolled in the UQ MBA – one of the best MBA programs in Australia – to begin her journey towards an MBA career change.
Overcoming self-doubt and building confidence with the UQ MBA
Despite being excited about the program, Suzanne initially found herself struggling with feelings of self-doubt.
“I didn’t feel like I had the business acumen I assumed all the other MBA candidates did,” she says.
“Much of this fear was because I came from an industry that was not a standard pathway to the MBA. There were some students in the program who were CEOs, and I wasn’t coming from that standard business background.”
“I felt like at any moment someone would turn around and tell me they had made an admissions mistake and I didn’t belong there.”
However, once enrolled, Suzanne learned it wasn’t necessary to have a business background to excel in the UQ MBA program. In fact, having students with a diverse range of professional experience in the program is one of the reasons the UQ MBA has ranked #1 in the world for student quality year after year (The Economist, 2022).
She also found that peers in more traditional business careers weren’t immune to imposter syndrome when starting the program either, and the MBA gave her the tools to manage these common feelings.
“It was great to grow our skills and confidence together and learn how to articulate our value,” says Suzanne.
“A big part of the UQ MBA is teamwork, and a reason for that is to share the learning experience with other students. There’s enormous professional and personal value in learning from the people you’re studying with. Once I embraced the experience, I knew I belonged because I had something to offer them too.”
How Suzanne felt empowered to make a career change after the MBA
During her studies, Suzanne also learned that using the UQ MBA to transition or pivot careers was more common than she first thought.
In fact, UQ MBA Director Associate Professor Nicole Hartley has revealed 80% of UQ MBA students transition careers during their studies or shortly after graduation. This mirrors the wider national trend that has found as many as 3.3 million Australians rethinking their careers post-pandemic (ING Future Focus Report, 2020).
After completing the UQ MBA, Suzanne used her skills and experience in the health industry to begin her consulting career via a 12-month project with the Royal Flying Doctors Service, Queensland Transformation Program.
“The UQ MBA was an amazing opportunity to take my health background and apply it in a new way,” she says.
“It gave me a plethora of new skills, knowledge and a level of comfort I didn’t have previously, as I moved into this new world.”
Since then, Suzanne has accelerated her career progression, joining management consulting firm BDO Australia in mid-2021, leveraging what Suzanne calls her “first career evolution” as a healthcare SME alongside her MBA.
“It’s overwhelming how much the UQ MBA can expand your horizons and so quickly”, she says.
“The MBA gave me new skills and greater self-awareness to design and craft the rest of my life.”