How does one choose career specialization? This article provides helpful advice on choosing a career specialization after doing an MBA based on the segmentation of recruiters and industry.
Segmentation allows us to slice and dice the general population according to their capability to buy and according to their needs and wants. Needless to say, creativity in segmentation allows us to get massive gains. It allows us to create demand where supply is less, commanding higher prices. Segmentation allows us to focus our sales and marketing strategy, but the narrow focus may seem too restricting to some strategists.
We segment the recruiters in the basis of the specialisation. Another way of looking at it, we specialise based on this segmentation of our recruiters.
Horizontals become verticals
All specialisations can be treated as horizontal specialisations, wherein a person, performing a specific function, can be employed in any industry . That means that any company running operations, be it BPO or manufacturing, can employ an Operations MBA. Any company having an HR department will hire an HR MBA and any company having an in-house IT department would hire such an IT MBA.
Since companies outsource their internal functions, each of these outsourced functions are set up as organisations providing such services. Therefore a horizontal becomes an industry vertical. For example, HR recruitment firms help their clients recruit – which, earlier, was an in-house function. So a person specialising in HR can join any company in their HR department, or a company in the HR industry, providing HR services.
The same goes for Operations and Marketing.
Broad segments can be sub-segmented. Male Shavers can be sub-segment by age groups. All specialisations have sub-specialisations. HR can have Human Relations and Industrial Relations (factory or production set-up focussing on labour and wages, not knowledge workers and salaries). Another way of segmenting HR is by sub-processes like recruitment, payroll processing, policy design, policy implementation, appraisal implementation, downsizing (“Up in the Air” movie) and so on.
Operations can be segmented as manufacturing / product based operations or services based operations. In product operations you can have FMCG operations or Consumer Durables operations. Again, functionally, it can be Purchases, Supply chain, Distribution chain, Inventory management, Logistics…
Marketing can be segmented by Product category, Services category and by Sub-processes.
Finance has even more ramifications. You can have Corporate Finance which is Financial management in an organisation (typically done by the CAs), and related functions like Costing, audit etc. You can have sub-industries like Corporate Brokerage, Retail Brokerage, Investment Banking, Commercial Banking, Corporate Banking, Retail Banking, Rural Banking. You can have operations processes like Sales and Relationship Management, Front office Operations, Back office Operations, Risk and Middle office Function, Settlement, Cash Management, Custody, Reconciliation, Treasury Management etc.
IT was and still is a horizontal function, and has slowly got outsourced into the huge IT industry. This can be segmented into software and hardware. Within software, you have services – low end services like body shopping firms hiring out programmers, project based programming. You can have software product development and sales and implementation support.
In hardware / networks you can have design and development of products, implementation and support. You can sell boxes like PCs etc, or infrastructure, or services like storage services and so on. The various modes of segmentation is left to the imagination.
You can have higher-end services like design of IT services, Business Process Modelling, setting of ERP, CRM-type enterprise level software. You can act as interfaces between the users and the developers both to gather requirements and to test the applications. As MBAs, since you have knowledge of business functions, you should know more than the average programmer.
You may get involved in high end consulting, preparing a company for the internet world, set up internet marketing, blogs, websites etc.
How do we decide what is the right specialisation for us?
Most MBA students, even those graduating from the best b-schools in India ask: where do I get the most money, the best growth prospects and a branded company my parents can be proud of. Seniors, alumni and well-wishing relatives and uncles / aunts abound, justifying their existence and their specialisations. Some give good, thoughtful advice, the rest shoot from the hip.
The other way is to look at your traits and determine what is the right specialisation. “I am a peoples’ person, so I should do marketing or HR”. “Most women go for HR.” “I am good at numbers so I should do finance” – so is a cheap calculator good at numbers.
Another way is to ask what it takes to succeed in an industry? What traits and what skills? Find out an ideal candidate profile for each type of a job in terms of attitude, transferable skills and subject matter expertise. Then determine whether you have them, or can you acquire them. The subject matter expertise determines your specialisation. The others you need to acquire assiduously through other means.
Prof. Chandra Kant, is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and currently, a senior professor at Indus Business Academy, one of the top MBA colleges in Bangalore, India. He teaches, change management, business leadership and Self Management.This author has published 9 articles so far.