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If you are looking to take your career to the next level, either by getting your dream job or starting a business of your own, getting your MBA can be a great way to make yourself stand out from the crowd and show that you are an expert in your field.

More and more universities are offering online MBA programs, meaning that you can study at a pace that fits in with your life and current responsibilities and meaning that getting your MBA doesn’t have to be a distant dream, it’s something that is becoming more and more possible to turn into a reality.

However, an MBA is also an expensive undertaking and one that you will need to put a lot of time into. When you are looking at online MBA programs it’s important to understand exactly what you are likely to get out of the program, and whether what an MBA can provide is in line with your career goals. It’s all about return on investment, you need to be sure that the time and money you invest in getting an MBA now will be worth your investment in career advancement later on.

The first step is to have a clear idea of what your career goals are. Take the time to think about how you want your career to look, and what skills you will need to get yourself there. Then you can look at online MBA programs critically to see whether what they offer is the right thing for you.

Mentorship in Industry

Possibly one of the most valuable things that online MBA programs offer is mentorship in industry, which is why it’s important to have an idea of the direction you want your career to take when you embark on your program of study as this will help you to know which mentor will be the most useful to you.

A mentor will be able to give you real-life guidance on how to move your business or career forwards, based on what worked for them and what didn’t work for them. They will also know how to communicate in the business world. A lot of the people running the show are from the ‘baby boomer’ generation, and they communicate quite differently to millennials and gen z. A mentor will be able to help you to bridge that gap so that you can present your ideas in such a way that they will be heard. They may even have business contacts that they can share with you to help you on your way.

A good mentor is also a fantastic source of support, they can help to keep you motivated when you’re feeling unsure of yourself.

When you are looking at online MBA programs you can use the availability of mentorship as a way of narrowing down your selection. Be sure to ask about what kinds of mentors are available. When choosing your potential mentor some things to consider are:

  • Compatibility – you will be working closely with this person over a long period of time, so it’s important that the relationship doesn’t feel strained. Obviously it takes some time to get to know someone, but be sure to look out for any cues that you may clash, and don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel the relationship isn’t working. A good institution should be able to find you a more compatible mentor.
  • Challenge – although it’s important to get along with your mentor, you should also be looking for someone who differs to you. Being challenged is the best way to encourage you to look at your own beliefs and behaviors, and to inspire personal growth.
  • Expertise – this doesn’t necessarily mean years of experience or job title. A mentor who has faced the same challenges that you are facing, or are likely to face, can be immeasurably more valuable than one who has an impressive job title.
  • Trust – you will likely be discussing things that you would like to be kept in confidence with your mentor, so be sure that they are someone that you can trust. If you feel that you can’t trust them, this is reasonable grounds to cut the mentoring relationship short.

Data Analytics

Depending on which online MBA programs you are looking at, the specific disciplines that you can learn may differ, but many of the ‘soft’ skills will be the same.

A great number of online MBA programs will include modules on data analytics, which is a discipline that is becoming increasingly important in our digital world.

Even if you don’t plan to pursue a career in data science, data analytics is a valuable skill to have. Essentially data analytics is gathering large quantities of data, storing it in such a way that it can be interrogated later, and then using that data to predict trends. Every business has a use for data analytics because it can help to predict what their customers will like and what they won’t.

A great example of the use of data analytics is Netflix. They collect data on their users which they use to create a profile of each viewer. From this, they have been able to create models for which shows are likely to be a hit with each individual user. They even keep track of when a show is paused, if people begin watching again after they have paused it, and if there are TV shows that viewers never finish. They use this information not only to recommend shows to its viewers that they know they will enjoy but to greenlight their own productions.

Management

Whether you plan to start your own business or make a career working for someone else, management skills are absolutely essential. Any business is only as good as the people that they have working for them, and a good manager is a key to ensuring that a business recruits and retains good people, and works with them in a way that encourages them to perform at their very best.

Online MBA programs will include modules on management, covering topics such as motivation, conflict management and resolution, groups and teams, and communication. You will explore the practical application of behavioral science theories to help you to resolve problems and keep your team motivated.

Marketing

Whether you are working for a government body, a non-profit organization, or a multinational corporation, marketing is vital. Marketing is the way that you let your potential customers, clients or donators know that you exist, and without them, you don’t have a business! Online MBA programs will teach you how to apply marketing strategies in a way that is relevant to you.

Marketing is important both to your business and your personal reputation for a number of reasons:

  • It helps you to engage with prospective customers. This doesn’t mean selling to them, but engaging them in a conversation, which helps them to feel as though they and your business are part of the same community.
  • Building and maintaining reputation – using communication, PR, and branding strategies you can build a reputation for your business that is in line with its values, and you can maintain that reputation by keeping your customers informed about all of the great things that you are doing.
  • Building relationships – a good marketing strategy will help to build and maintain a relationship with individual customers. The market is competitive, and people will often make choices based on which business they feel an affinity with.
  • Keep customers informed – tell your client base about what you are doing, keep them in the loop and get them excited!
  • Boosts sales – of course boosting sales is generally the desired result of a marketing campaign. By building relationships and your reputation the natural by-product will be an increase in sales.
  • Helping with strategy decisions – by paying close attention to your marketing campaigns, what works and what doesn’t, you can make informed decisions about the direction that your company takes in the future.

Business Ethics

Consumers are increasingly concerned about the impact that businesses are having on the planet, and on the people and animals living on it.

A 2015 survey of 30,000 people found that 66% of consumers would agree to pay more for products that came from sustainable sources. The same survey showed that when the millennial age group was questioned, this percentage jumped up to 77%. It is essential that businesses demonstrate that being green is part of their mission and their culture.

Online MBA programs will help you to analyze trends in ethics to identify which issues are important to consumers, and how to apply your findings to your business strategy while still maintaining a profitable and successful business. Business is a powerful way to shape how the planet is treated, an ethical business can do a huge amount of good because they have influence over consumer behavior, which ultimately dictates how human beings behave en masse.

Financial Strategy

Finance is key to the success of any organization. Online MBA programs can furnish you with the skills that you need to carve out a successful career in strategic finance, but also with the financial insight that you will need to steer any business.

Financial strategy in business is concerned with the procurement and utilization of funds. The basic goal is to ensure that you have enough money to run your business, pay your staff, and continue to grow.

Online MBA programs will teach you how to use financial analysis techniques to ascertain the current financial state of your organization, and how to utilize financial models to predict the future financial state of your organization based on your own performance and taking into account global factors. You will then apply your findings to the formation of your business goals, and strategize about how best to achieve them based on your financial status.

Specific topics that are covered are likely to include financial statement analysis, pro forma analysis, operating budgets, capital budgeting, insourcing and outsourcing, capital structure, and cost of capital.

Community

Sometimes when you are trying to forge your own path and succeed, it can feel quite lonely. It may be that you are the only one in your family and friendship circle that is considering taking that all-important next step, and that feeling can encourage you to doubt yourself. Online MBA programs come with a community of like-minded people who are trying to achieve similar goals to you, which can really help you to stay on track.

You’ll be able to rely on your peers for support and advice not only while you are studying, but once you begin to forge your way out in the world as well. This network will serve you not only personally, but in unforeseen ways in the professional world. You never know what your classmates might go on to do and what opportunities that might open for you, if you make the effort to maintain the relationship. You’ll also have a group of people out in the business world who are rooting for you, as you care for them. This can create immeasurable opportunities for your business.

Career Strategy

It’s all well and good having career goals, but how do you actually reach them? Who do you try to connect with if you want to get an interview at a particular company? Are there skills that you should be developing to land your dream job? Are there things that you need to address how you are presenting yourself in order to give people the desired impression of you?

These questions are important, as are the hundreds of other questions that you will ask yourself as you are forming your career strategy. Online MBA programs offer you the knowledge and experience of people who are successful in the business world, and who can help you to find the answers to your questions and to create your strategy rather than going through a painful process of trial and error.