Career Growth Through Higher Education

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Nick VanDerWalt
Academic Dean
Hult International Business School

Managers seeking to enhance their careers, or even simply stay in employment, are faced by challenges no other generation has faced. The rudimentary human requirements of self fulfilment and even ensuring the continued ability to provide families with a basic standard of living have become far more complex than ever before.

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Not only are managers encountering some of the most rapid and radical change in the history of humanity but they are facing some of the greatest global financial instability. This has arisen from the last century of fundamental change ranging from simple flight to the destructive power of nuclear weapons and on to space technology. Recent advances in such areas as genetic engineering and scientific technology as well as the true globalisation of markets only serve to highlight this challenge.

Social, business and political structures have reflected this change and we can no longer look at the precedents set by the previous generation. For the first time managers are facing a level of ambiguity in all they encounter from the organizational structures to the skills they must possess and the technologies they must use in their day to day activities – office technologies that were not even dreamed of a decade ago.

By avoiding or failing to participate in further education, such managers are simply ruling themselves out of the career market at a time of increasing competitiveness for jobs resulting from the global financial crisis. However, simply taking a few courses to provide some relevant skills is not sufficient.

Such skills become rapidly redundant in today’s environment – sometimes in as little as six months Rather, aspiring business leaders must learn how to manage ambiguity resulting from change. Global organizations take familiarity with basic skills for granted. What they look for first and foremost is the ability to manage in a changing environment. Associated with this, they look for people of integrity and principle who can also operate in a global business environment and then finally, they look for the skills.

Perhaps the greatest reflection of this is the level of investment people are prepared to put into their own education and the depth and breadth of the education they seek. Such leading US business schools as Harvard, Hult, Stanford and others that are in the top rankings of such publications as the Financial Times and the Economist attempt to provide this. Hult through its global staff drawn from the faculty of the world’s leading universities, its rotation of students through its campuses in the US, Dubai, London and Shanghai builds on it students’ cognitive abilities to lead through change, to build global relationships and operate in an environment that will create huge opportunities for them.

For those who wish to be competitive in today’s job market, there is an imperative for continuing education. Without it people will sink below the waves of turmoil created by change and the continuing instability of the global markets. Career management and continuing education is today’s imperative for managers to retain their jobs and realize their aspirations for themselves and their families.

Mr. Nick van der Walt is the Academic Dean at Hult International Business School in Dubai. He has held senior positions in industry, academia and the community as chief executive, director of companies in the energy and services sectors, and trustee of charitable trusts. Having served in these roles, he has extensive corporate and educational experience in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Australasia. Professor van der Walt has also consulted to the boards and senior management of some of the world’s leading companies. His research has been published extensively in leading international academic journals and he has also served as the Honorary Consul for South Africa in New Zealand appointed by President Mandela. Professor van der Walt’s outside interests include sailing and squash.

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