Work experience is one of the most significant aspects of an MBA application. GMAT scores, academic success and well-written essays can go a long way toward getting you into business school, but there is no substitute for life experience or professional achievements.
Do I Need a Finance or Corporate Management Background?
MBA programs look for meaningful life and work experience rather than achievement in a specific field. While a typical applicant might have a few years of experience in investment banking or corporate marketing, admissions committees also keep their eyes open for outliers who will bring diversity to their school.
Matthew Borenstein worked as a sports reporter before being accepted into Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Management. Tashni-Ann Dubroy was accepted into the MBA program at Rutgers with a doctorate in chemistry and a few years of experience in her field. While these individuals did not have the backgrounds most often associated with MBA students, they did possess particular qualities which admissions committees look for.
What Do Admissions Committees Look For?
What factors convince admissions committees that applicants will become tomorrow’s business leaders? Admissions committees look for evidence of leadership skills, industry knowledge and the ability to innovate.
Borenstein reports on his blog that, for his admissions interviewr, he demonstrated how to use Twitter effectively, which pertains directly to his career goal of reviving struggling media institutions. Dubroy had a business plan to exploit a niche market for high quality natural hair products designed specifically for women of color. Each of these applicants also had significant interactions with the business end of their respective operations, although they were originally hired for other jobs.
The most important thing for an applicant to bring to the table is not years of experience with a reputable financial firm or even experience in a particularly business-like occupation; it is a much more subjectively defined set of qualities that admissions committees interpret as the potential to succeed in business.
How To Frame Your Work Experience
The traditional MBA applicant will have at least two years of experience (the average applicant has four to five) in an occupation such as finance or corporate management. However, students frequently come from other backgrounds including the military, Teach for America fellowships and nonprofit work. Students with traditional backgrounds and more circuitous routes to the MBA will need to reflect carefully on their life experience and career goals in order to convince admissions committees to accept them.
Focusing on concrete achievements and personal lessons learned, as well as demonstrating a body of knowledge specific to your industry, will cast your experience in a positive light. Although your life path may not appear obvious at first glance, you want admissions committees to understand that a series of thoughtful, deliberate steps have led you to their doorstep.