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Today is the third year anniversary of the Lehman collapse, which sent a ripple of unemployment through the financial sector. In the past, unemployment was a red flag that required conscious mitigation. Now, business schools realize that even the best employees may have gone through a period without work over the last three years.
Christian wasn’t hit personally by the financial crisis, but he was an analyst at a large social media website that ultimately couldn’t compete with facebook. Due to the credit crunch, the parent corporation no longer had the patience to withstand huge losses from this website in 2009, and decided to lay off 50% of the workforce.
Other than his unemployment, Christian was a strong candidate with a 3.7 GPA from Emory and a 740 GMAT score. His work experience showed progression in the form of a promotion from Analyst to Sr. Analyst at his company in only 18 months. He had spent another two years at the social networking site before the round of layoffs.
When we started working with Christian he was still unemployed and had decided to use his time to start his own business. He was working on a niche retail website in his spare time, and volunteering with an organization called Taproot to keep his strategy skills fresh. Christian wanted to pursue his MBA to give him a basis in Marketing and Accounting that would help him operate his own company. He wanted to stay in the bay area and was only applying to Haas and Stanford.
The key aspect that helped us shape Christian’s profile was that he had remained busy and optimistic. Christian saw the layoff as an opportunity to pursue a dream of entrepreneurship. This was a story that could be told easily in his applications, and we focused one essay on how he wrote a business plan for his retail site, and the networking he did to understand the overall industry and the market size for his target audience. This story showed that he was determined, hard working, and able to use his people skills to expand his network.
The volunteer work that Christian was heavily involved in gave him an opportunity to cite recent teamwork. He also showed that he was interested in giving back, even while he went through tough times himself. We used the optional essay and his recommendations to show that he was a top performer who simply ended up at an unprofitable company. In his essays about work he was able to show that he had learned a lot about business from being part of a failed company. Overall, Christian showed that he had the grit to persevere through a difficult experience – a quality that is in high demand within MBA programs.
Despite his unemployment Christian was admitted to Haas where he made the most of the opportunity to become an expert on Marketing and Accounting for his start-up.
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