MBA faculty members routinely assign cases as a way to help MBA students develop problem-solving and analytic skills. Therefore, most MBA students are very familiar with the case study as a tool for learning. Unfortunately, many of these same MBA students fail to see how case studies can benefit them beyond the classroom. While it may not be obvious, I believe MBA students can use case studies for career development and professional advancement—for example, in preparing for a job interview.
Two individuals, unknown to each other and unaware that I am comingling their thoughts, are the reason I am writing this article. Both contacted me earlier this year for two different reasons: Richard McCracken, Director of ecch sent an email suggesting a possible topic for a MyeEMBA article. His suggestion related to MBA students using case studies as a way to prepare for a job interview. Also, Bill Lins, CEO and Co-Founder of jobs4allnow.com contacted me to brainstorm on ways his organization could expand their higher education customer base. About half way through the conversation with Bill, I recalled Richard’s suggestion, whereupon I began making notes tying their ideas together. The result is MBA students using case studies as part of an overall job search and placement methodology.
Let me begin by briefly describing the services/products both men’s organizations provide. Richard’s organization, ecch, is a non-profit group whose “mission is to promote the case method in management education by raising awareness, increasing usage and developing the skills of case teachers and authors.” The searchable ecch database is available to everyone; however, registered students can order items for instant e-delivery. The database includes more than 38,000 cases; 7,900 articles; 1,300 book chapters; 100 multimedia items; and 800 DVDs. In addition, ecch also provides access to case method resources, such as Robert Bruner’s “Note to the Student: How to Study and Discuss Cases.”
Bill’s organization, jobs4allnow.com, provides online consulting to job seekers via an interactive, 10-step process that they follow while searching for a job. Although not explicitly included as an action item for any of the steps, Step 7, “Prepping for the Interview” provides an opportunity for MBA students to use cases as part of their preparation process.
Job interview preparation involves both intelligence gathering and skill-development activities. Placement offices and organizations like Bill’s are good resources for skill development and learning how to approach the job search process. At the same time, Richard’s organization can play a significant role in the intelligence gathering. Let me illustrate.
Assume a soon-to-be MBA graduate has an upcoming interview with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The objective is to learn as much as possible about the pharmaceutical industry and GSK. A search of eech’s database for GSK-related materials results in 88 cases, articles, etc. addressing a wide range of topics, including growth strategy, branding, sales force compensation, emerging markets, and the pharmaceutical industry. After scanning the list of items, two cases and one article are selected and purchased. Within a matter of minutes, all three purchases are available for reading on an electronic device.
Two things are noteworthy. One is the ease with which relevant materials are found. Second is that the MBA student is able to use case study skills learned during the MBA program to prepare for the job interview.
I refer to this opportunity as an MBA twofer, which is deriving at least one additional benefit from a class assignment. In this context, case study skills developed during the MBA program are used as part of a job search process and interview preparation.
Perhaps you have experience using the case study skills you developed during your MBA program in other ways. If so, please share the experience with us by adding a comment below.
Rodney G. Alsup, D.B.A., CPA, CITP
Image from ecch website