Use your MBA before you graduate: how to put your learning into practice

Some degrees involve playing the long game with the benefits coming only upon completion. The practical nature of a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with Deakin University means you can implement what you learn straight away. And more often than not, this leads to tangible career shifts.

So what do you learn in a Deakin MBA that will improve the way you work? We spoke to two students who have been able to enhance their careers while still studying.

Broadening your career perspective

Lauren Kiley is a buying manager for JB Hi-Fi, working with her team and suppliers to develop and implement the range, floor plan, pricing, marketing and store fixtures and point of sale strategy for the small appliances section of 200 stores.

Amidst a successful career in retail, Kiley decided it was time to invest in her own personal development. She says an MBA seemed like the logical first step. ‘Having grown up in retail and interacted mostly with retailers, I realised the first part of my professional career post my bachelor degree has been quite sheltered,’ she says. ‘I have built great relationships in retail but hadn’t really engaged with professionals outside the industry and I believed that undertaking my MBA would enable me to broaden my perspective.’

Kiley says the relationships she has built have definitely been one of the benefits of doing an MBA. ‘This is not just the cohort but includes the Deakin staff, who were always contactable, happy to help and really made the effort to get to know me,’ she says.

Dr Andrea North-Samardzic, MBA director and senior lecturer in Deakin Business School, says professional networking is an integral part of the course. ‘You're working in syndicate and project teams with people from vastly different industries or occupational roles and that helps you think differently and be more innovative in the way you collaborate and address organisational problems,’ she says.

Deakin’s MBA offers a personalised experience

Just as she hoped, studying the MBA has helped Kiley address key areas that she wanted to improve upon before taking the next step in her career. ‘I’ve increased my confidence in my own ability,’ she says. ‘I can now see my future potential and career path into a director’s role and know what I need to do to get there.’

Kiley’s experience of finding career clarity is a common one: professional development is baked into the culture of Deakin’s MBA. Dr North-Samardzic says students are encouraged to start their study with the unit The Deakin Advantage: Leadership and Professional Development which involves a 360-degree evaluation. ‘By surveying your peers, the people that report to you, and the people you report to, you get a 360-degree evaluation of your leadership and management capability,’ she says. ‘You then have a 45-minute debrief with an organisational psychologist and executive coach where you set your professional development goals for your degree and you start working on enhancing your skills and abilities.’

Throughout all of the units you're able to work on your own organisation's problems. ‘You are enhancing your business or organisation through your assignment work every step of the way,’ Dr North-Samardzic says.

Developing business expertise for a healthcare context

Diana Poole is the manager of the Prosthetic and Orthotic Department at St Vincent’s Hospital. Having come from highly specialised clinical background, Poole wanted to study a more general degree this time around. ‘I chose a generalist MBA and I'm really glad I did that because I feel like it gave me insight into a whole lot of industries and into business as a whole with a much wider focus than doing something health specific,’ she says.

Poole says that while a management qualification wasn’t essential to her position, she knew it would be advantageous now and into the future. ‘I wanted a bit of longevity in terms of my career, not knowing whether I'd always stay in the industry or not,’ she says.

Poole found that the MBA gave her a shift in perspective, helping her to better understand the decisions made by the executives she worked with. ‘I think as a clinician, it's very easy to look through a very narrow scope,’ she says. ‘It gave me that wider appreciation and understanding of how things worked on a much bigger scale. That different perspective certainly helped me in my role and gave me practice and confidence to interact with people in upper management.’

In addition to this shift in perspective, Poole has had practical gains too. When confronted with the large project of implementing the National Disability Insurance Scheme at her workplace she felt well equipped to step into action. ‘I was just able to take that and run with it and have the confidence that I wouldn't have had otherwise,’ she says.

A flexible study schedule to help you succeed

The immediate value of your study increases when you can adjust your schedule to suit changing professional and family demands. Dr North-Samardzic says it’s important to note that not all MBA programs are designed with full-time workers in mind. ‘At Deakin, we're particularly geared towards students who want flexibility in the design and delivery of their MBA,’ she says. ‘We have students who are very dedicated and very driven because they are balancing a full-time career alongside family responsibilities and study commitments as well.’

Poole say this was a big factor for her in choosing Deakin. ‘I knew that working full time and trying to do this fairly intensive course was going to be difficult so I needed as much flexibility as I could get and it was wonderful,’ she says. ‘It couldn't have been more flexible. I was able to condense my studies when I needed to because of work and add a little more to my load when I had the capacity.’

Who is suited to an MBA?

The Deakin MBA is tailored to both emerging leaders and those already in leadership positions. There is a diversity of ages amongst the students with the common factor being that everyone is looking for frameworks to help them make sense of their world. ‘Students have often been managing and leading according to instinct, which is a fantastic teacher, but it can mean that you're not exploring different ways of enhancing your management and leadership practice,’ Dr North-Samardzic says. ‘Further education can be a valuable way to expand your ways of leading and managing a business.’

Interested in career growth? Learn more about Deakin's MBA.