My Mid-MBA Career Transition

Support from my team was crucial to help ease my transition at work

Undertaking a Duke MBA while working full-time is a serious commitment in itself, but over the course of the 20 months you’re in the program…life still happens! Many of my classmates had children born; some of them got married and a few of them (like me) changed jobs. Life has a funny way of presenting good opportunities at inopportune times.

When you first get into the program and update your LinkedIn profile to reflect your status as a Duke MBA student, you might see an immediate up-tick in profile views like I did. Make no mistake; these are recruiters searching for profile keywords such as “Duke MBA” or “Fuqua.” I had a solid job as a Program Manager for Avaya when I started the program, and about six months in I received an email through LinkedIn from a MetLife recruiter. He had paired my experience to a specific position and saw that I was also enrolled in the MBA program at Duke. Long and the short of it, five interviews later I was offered the position of Director of Collaboration Engineering at MetLife, which I accepted. Once I was with MetLife, I asked the recruiter specifically how he found me on LinkedIn. He told me he was searching profiles using three keywords in quotes: collaboration, manager and duke. My profile showed up and the rest is history.

Matt - Career Transitions 3
The CMC supports students and among other times, is usually available to chat at lunch on the Friday of residencies

That is how the job transition came about, but let me take a moment to tell you about the impact this had on me and the program. Changing jobs at any point in your life is stressful. If you think about it, most professionals change jobs less than ten times in their entire life. The Duke MBA program is also stressful, so combining two stressful, life-changing events at one time in your life is really not something I would recommend. But as I said when I started, missing a golden opportunity is, in my opinion, even worse. So I took the plunge! Thankfully, most of this took place over the Christmas holiday period (which was a slight break in the program between terms 2 and 3 for me). When Term 3 started, I was in my new director position and had a whole new workload from Duke coming. I made sure my team was aware and they stepped up and covered for me during my transition. I made sure to pay it back in full as we got towards the end of the term, but they helped ease my workload at school while I made a strong initial impact at work. It is things like this that can be hard to find outside of Duke—a true, in-depth understanding that life happens, and when it does a team needs to come together and support one another.

The last thing I will say is that if you do change jobs during the program make sure to secure time off support to attend classes, but more importantly negotiate your pay to include consideration for your schooling or have the new company pick up where your last company left off. Almost all Fortune 500 companies have a set compensation plan for masters programs and likewise almost all of them have a buy-out period or retention period (so that if you do change jobs, they don’t get stuck holding the bill). In my case I was actually able to get more compensation towards school than I was receiving prior. Sure, I wish I would have knowledge from the Negotiations elective I’m now taking in Term 6 before making this move…but hey, like I said—when the opportunity presents itself, don’t miss it!

 

weekend mba student

Matt Sumner

Weekend Executive MBA, Class of 2014

I work in the Durham area as Director of Global Video at MetLife focusing on communications. Back at home, I own a small hobby farm that fits in with the simple and relaxing lifestyle that I enjoy. Attending Fuqua will provide an opportunity to learn innovative ways to energize teams I lead, and I look forward to the MBA journey.

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