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Delve Into the Nuances of the MBA Resume

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com Most MBA programs require a resume submission as part of the written application. This single-page document should highlight important aspects of an individual …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com

Most MBA programs require a resume submission as part of the written application. This single-page document should highlight important aspects of an individual and often is an untapped opportunity for an applicant to stand out.

Resume details can serve as icebreakers, or fuel the conversation during a business school interview.

“For me, the resume is just as important as your essays,” Soojin Kwon, admissions director at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, wrote on her blog last fall. Distill your experiences down to a few meaningful lines of text, regardless of whether you submit a stand-alone CV or transfer that information to the application.

When crafting this version of your resume, keep in mind this audience is unique. The reader of your MBA resume will be different than the person hiring you for an investment banking job or an engineering position.

Rather than focus on specifics, admissions representatives want individuals who will become successful leaders in highly collaborative work environments. They want to see skills that are transferable to almost any industry. Revise your resume to highlight the aspects that are important to an MBA program.

For instance, a typical resume for a lead engineering role would need to show proficiency in JavaScript – an essential skill to this specific job. But an MBA interviewer at Harvard Business School doesn’t care if you can write code. That skill won’t help you excel at leading organizations, build great companies or create innovative products and services.

Likewise, when interviewing for a transactional banking role, many candidates will list out specific deal names with dollar amounts. However, this type of detail won’t be useful to the admissions committee at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Kellogg will be much more interested in understanding how you worked with a team to close these deals.

Schools want to verify your overall quantitative skills. Beyond that, the fact that you collaborated with an international team, or developed and trained others on a new analysis technique will be much more relevant.

Avoid a resume chock-full of jargon. Speak the same language as the admissions committee and don’t expect them to be experts in your particular niche.

Many applicants include an objective at the top of their resume. However, in the context of the MBA application process, everyone has the same objective: to go to business school. Thus, the mission statement is irrelevant and a waste of valuable real estate.

When considering which details to emphasize, remember the general qualities that most business school programs are looking for. In addition to telling the chronological story of your academic and professional career, focus on supporting three things: demonstrating growth and progression, showcasing leadership and highlighting other “MBA relevant” skills. These include traits like strong teamwork, collaboration and innovation.

Applicants who have been in the workforce for a number of years, possibly at various companies, may need to be selective in detailing professional progress. When deciding which experiences to include and which to ax, ask yourself if the work was meaningful and if it can be used to illustrate a specific skill set or important accomplishment. Consider if it supports your career path as well as your future goals, and include it only if it makes sense for your overall story.

Demonstrate that over the course of your career, you have picked up new skills, assumed new responsibilities and developed as an individual. Emphasize that this growth has been recognized by others.

If done effectively, the resume reviewer can develop a good grasp of your abilities and responsibilities and understand how you have progressed in your career.

Sometimes, you can illustrate your leadership or other important skills through examples that are tangential to your basic job responsibilities. As you consider how to describe a certain job, don’t forget to think about some of the following activities, which are all important even if they were not part of your core job.

It’s important to note if you manage one or more people. Even if you informally supervise and mentor someone, it’s worth including on the resume. Mention if you’ve taken a lead in recruiting, as it means you’re acting as the face of your company. This demonstrates that leaders at your company respect you and trust that you will represent them well.

Perhaps you spearheaded that new filing system, created a template for a new and essential report, facilitated relationships with an important partner or streamlined routine processes. Anything that illustrates how you identified an opportunity and took initiative is a great thing to include. All of these examples highlight the skills that MBA programs value.

Don’t underestimate the power of a well-executed resume. As the Ross admissions director puts it, “How you describe your experiences matters. What you choose to highlight matters. Think of it as a trailer for the movie about you.”

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Move From Family Business to B-School

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com Applicants who have worked in a family business sometimes worry that their professional profile won’t measure up when compared with other MBA hopefuls …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com

Applicants who have worked in a family business sometimes worry that their professional profile won’t measure up when compared with other MBA hopefuls with more traditional employment paths. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Every year, top schools accept students who will go back to work for the family business. In fact, 9 percent of the applicants accepted into the Harvard Business School class of 2014 had worked for, or planned to work for, their family-owned company.

Business schools strive to compose a cohort of diverse personalities and backgrounds to guarantee lively discussions, so depending on your role in the company and the type of business itself, your experiences would likely add a unique perspective to the class.

Family business management has emerged as an important discipline at business schools as second- and third-generation family members realize the need for specialized skills in order to take over the reins and create a more corporate work environment. Over the past decade, schools have introduced courses and clubs on family business, founded centers dedicated to the subject or launched concentrations in this area.

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has a Center for Family Enterprises. Columbia Business School, stating that 80 percent of businesses worldwide are classified as family businesses, offered a course this spring on Family Business Management. And students and alumni of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School can participate in the Wharton Family Business Club.

Part of your school selection research should focus on what types of resources and support for family businesses are offered by your target programs. For many applicants, a one-year MBA program is ideal since you won’t need the internship and recruiting opportunities that job-switching students in two-year programs rely on.

I advise applying to the best schools that you think you can get into because they will offer a great education as well as the best networking opportunities. Also, think about whether the school’s geographic location will help you build a network which would directly help your family business.

If the school offers a student club focused on this group, reaching out to current members for their insight on the program’s benefits might prove invaluable in your decision-making process.

As with any winning application, the strategy in this case is to show in detail how an MBA degree will help you further your professional goals. Explain with specifics what you need to learn in order to grow the family business.

Paint a clear picture of your vision for the company’s future, and leave no doubt as to how an MBA will help you make an impact on the business after graduation. That way, the admissions committee understands why business school is the logical next step.

For your essays, start brainstorming some of the challenges your business has faced, and come up with examples that show how you as a family worked to overcome those obstacles. Business schools place a high value on teamwork, and what better way to show commitment and follow-through than by demonstrating you know how to work well with others to achieve a common goal?

As many applicants know, the ideal recommender for an MBA application is the manager to whom you report directly. However, if your immediate supervisors are relatives, you’ll need to get creative since you cannot have a family member write your recommendation letter.

Can you approach a supervisor or manager from a company you’ve previously worked for? Or have you worked closely with any clients or vendors that can speak to your managerial or leadership abilities?

Our client Bill had been working for the family business, a manufacturing company in Baltimore, for three years after college.

[Get more MBA application advice from the trenches.]

After brainstorming for recommenders he could approach outside the business, Bill hit upon a retail vendor that had been supplied by his company for more than a decade with whom he’d built a strong relationship. Since this vendor was evaluating Bill on many similar criteria as a direct supervisor and was an objective, outside source, he turned out to be the perfect choice.

In the end, Bill’s family business-based application fared well next to candidates coming from a corporate background. He was ultimately admitted to Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and chose Darden to be a little closer to home.

Alberto Gimeno, director of Esade Business School‘s International Family Business Lab, recently noted in the Financial Times that “Concepts such as honesty, pride, loyalty and long-term commitment … are everyday practices of successful family businesses around the world.”

If you’re planning on pursuing an MBA to learn how to take your family business to the next level, take pride in your professional circumstances and know that business schools will value your accomplishments and responsibilities, whether acquired at a Fortune 500 company or under Mom and Dad’s tutelage.

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Ask Yourself 4 Questions Before Applying to B-School

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com As a prospective MBA, you’ll benefit enormously from taking time at the beginning of your application process to contemplate the path you’re about to …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com

As a prospective MBA, you’ll benefit enormously from taking time at the beginning of your application process to contemplate the path you’re about to take. This is a great time to ask yourself critical questions, as self-evaluation and reflection are crucial to any MBA application journey. Setting aside some time for heavy thinking before you start writing your essays will prepare you for a solid and strategic application.

Question 1: What are your career goals? As you contemplate applying to MBA programs, the very first step in your self-evaluation process is to consider where you want to be in your career. Ask yourself what you would do if you didn’t need to work for money and what your core values are.

If your career goals are not immediately revealed, ask your friends and family what they see you doing. This process should reveal good ideas and a spark of passion for your career path.

If you are in a field where MBAs are not traditionally required, you may still benefit if your career goals include rising to senior management within your company or starting your own company. As a first step, look around at the people you most admire and want to be like within your target company or industry. Read their bios to see their skill set and educational background.

Talking to people who are pursuing your target career, at any level, is also a great way to understand what you need to do to accomplish your goals.

Question 2: Why do you want an MBA? While an MBA is a great experience, ultimately it’s a tool to advance your professional aims. The degree is highly focused on practical business applications, not intellectual curiosity.

Preferably when you answer the question of your career goals it will be clear why an MBA is the right degree for you. If your career path doesn’t immediately reveal the need for an MBA, yet you know you want one, you may want to delve into your motivations.

Consider your expectations for the degree and critically evaluate whether your hopes match the reality of an MBA program. If you know current MBA students or alumni, sounding them out first is a great way to start your research and make sure you are committed to the MBA application process.

Question 3: Is an MBA the right degree for you? Evaluating your professional goals might reveal that a different type of graduate degree would be useful.

Those interested in finance might also consider a master’s in finance, which typically prepares students more specifically for a career in corporate finance, financial analysis or investment management. That degree may prepare you to be the chief financial officer of a company, but may not be the ideal degree for a general manager or CEO.

If you’re interested in public policy work or managing in the nonprofit sector, you might look into a law degree, a master’s in public policy or master’s in public administration. On top of those options, you could pursue a joint J.D./MBA or a joint M.P.P./MBA or M.P.A./MBA.

While any one of these degrees can help you achieve your goals, you may want to consider the environment of each school, the academic focus, the time you will spend pursuing the degree and what works best for you personally.

Question 4: Are you competitive in the MBA applicant pool? As you think about entering an MBA program, you should be aware of the competitive pool of candidates who apply every year. Evaluate yourself against successful candidates to the schools you are considering.

The easiest first step is to see what the mean GMAT and GPA is for a successful applicant to your target programs.

If your “numbers” are much lower than the mean at your dream schools, you may want to consider taking classes to build an alternative transcript or retaking the GMAT. While no candidate is perfect, minimizing any red flags in your application will ensure that you have a strong chance at admission.

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How to Cope With B-School Rejections

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com This is the time of year when final business school decisions are being released, and unfortunately there isn’t always good news. After pouring your heart …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com

This is the time of year when final business school decisions are being released, and unfortunately there isn’t always good news. After pouring your heart and soul into the arduous MBA application process, if your status changes from hoping and waiting to officially denied, it can seem like the end of the world.

For those of you feeling disillusioned by a rejection from your dream school, remember this: a mere 6 percent of applicants became members of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business class of 2014, and just 13 percent were offered a spot at Harvard Business School last fall. Getting into a top MBA program is no easy feat.

The process of recovering from a b-school rejection has three main phases: disbelief and devastation, soul-searching for reasons why and actively striving to improve. When the news comes in, the disappointment can feel overwhelming, especially when other friends you’ve made during this process seem to be receiving acceptances left and right.

Step back and give yourself a break. Starting over without taking a breather only sets you up for failure since you’ll be mentally fried before you even begin. Take time to regroup emotionally and focus on friends and family, hobbies or other interests that got placed on the back burner over the past several months.

Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that you won’t be going to business school in the fall, it’s time to swallow your pride and cast a critical eye on your initial application to find out why it was rejected.

Go through every component to suss out any weak elements. Is your work experience too limited? Did you clearly demonstrate why an MBA makes sense at this point in your career? Have you shown why you “fit” with a particular school, and what you would contribute to the class?

Though it’s rarely one thing that rings a warning bell, frequent red flags include a lack of leadership skills and experience, less than stellar recommendations and low GMAT test scores or undergraduate grade point averages.

[Learn what matters most in MBA admissions.]

Whether given intentionally or not, a lukewarm endorsement of a candidate is a definite warning sign for admissions committees. Since you usually won’t see the finished letter, it’s important to guide your recommenders by reminding them of concrete examples of your leadership skills and accomplishments.

I suggest saying something like, “I want you to feel comfortable, but I also want to make it as easy as possible for you, so I put together this list of accomplishments.” If you have doubts about whether your supervisors would be willing to write you an outstanding letter of recommendation, then you may need to postpone applying to business school until you do feel confident of their support.

Feedback on your weaknesses directly from the schools is, unfortunately, hard to come by. If you do have the opportunity to speak with a member of the admissions committee, take advantage by asking for details about each area of your application and make sure you walk away from any feedback session with action items for next year.

[Stand out as a b-school applicant with these tips.]

Also, make sure you applied to the right school. Some people apply to the wrong places for them, and they’ll need to do some soul-searching before they reapply. If your scores don’t come close to those of an average student at the school, it’s not likely you’ll get in next time unless you make tremendous strides on your GMAT and have other extremely impressive qualifications, too.

Finally, many schools include an additional essay question directed at candidates reapplying so that they might better understand what’s changed in your situation to make you a stronger candidate this time around. Of course you should stress your new accomplishments, but I encourage applicants to also address any weaknesses they may have.

Be aware of your failures and address them, and be humble. Admissions committees know there’s no such thing as a “perfect” candidate, and one of the best ways to show how self-aware you are is by acknowledging your shortcomings.

[Follow these tips when reapplying to b-school.]

Sometimes though, business school just isn’t in the cards. And that’s ok, too. Earlier this week, I came across a blog post titled, “Why I’m Glad I Got Rejected From Chicago Business School.” In it, entrepreneur Joseph Misiti explains how not getting into the University of Chicago Booth School of Business three years ago changed his life by spurring him to pursue his dream job on his own terms.

“Everything that happens to you in life can be turned into an opportunity – even rejection,” he writes. While at the time, not getting accepted into business school seemed like the worst thing that could have happened, it turned out to be one of the best.

“Success and happiness can be found in places you never thought to look,” he writes.

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Weigh Fit to Choose Between Multiple B-School Admissions Offers

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com Round Two business school decisions are pouring in and some MBA applicants face not just two, but three or more offers of admission from their …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com

Round Two business school decisions are pouring in and some MBA applicants face not just two, but three or more offers of admission from their target schools. While the adage is “There’s never too much of a good thing,” the reality is that a bounty of b-school acceptances can produce a lot of anxiety in many candidates.

“How do I decide, and what if I make the wrong choice?” they wonder. If you find yourself with this enviable problem, consider the following when weighing multiple admissions offers.

Forget about rankings and reputation and think long and hard about the other particulars of each school, such as size, academics or location.

Does your desire to live in an urban setting outweigh a preference for a smaller class size? Is there a financial incentive that puts one school in the lead? Is the diversity of the student body important? Is the academic focus on case studies, or more experiential?

You might not have had a strong preference before, but you should tally up the different characteristics to see which way the wind really blows.

If you haven’t already visited the campus as part of your application process, now’s the time to do so. Sit in on a class, chat with students and professors, hang out on campus and generally soak up the atmosphere. This is where you’ll be spending the next two years of your life, so making sure the program is a good fit for you academically and socially is imperative.

Even if you have already toured the school, consider visiting again to attend events designed for admitted students so you can scope out your potential classmates. These people will become a part of your future network, and test driving your comfort level with them prior to committing makes sense.

“Fit is so important,” says Michael Andolina, who chronicles his MBA application journey on the blog MBA: My Break Away? “If you don’t get along with people from the school, how do you ever expect to make the kinds of relationships that will further your career?”

Andolina recently found himself torn between an offer from the Yale University School of Management and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and ultimately joined Yale’s class of 2015. Given his nonprofit background, it was important that his choice have a proven track record of training leaders for the public sector.

“When I’ve talked to people I’ve emphasized how important it is to talk to alumni,” says Andolina via email, when asked what advice he would give a friend deciding between two or more great programs.

MBA candidates should make sure that the school graduates people who work in your target industry, possess your ideal job within that industry and are willing to share their wisdom and advice with current students, he says.

Whatever your goal, Andolina says to make sure the school can provide both the personal support (alumni) and the infrastructure (career center, classes and clubs with clear connections to your area of interest) to help you meet those goals.

An MBA blogger who goes by Cheetarah1980, a member of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business class of 2014 who was also offered admission to University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School as well as Kellogg, questions whether finding the so-called “perfect fit” is really necessary.

“Just because a school doesn’t feel like a perfect fit doesn’t mean that it’s not the right school,” she writes.

Just as stretching in exercise often feels uncomfortable but is actually good for you, she writes, “I encourage admits with multiple offers to evaluate schools in terms of this stretch test. Is a school in your comfort zone? Is it at the point in the exercise where everything still feels good and is comfortable? Or does the school feel a bit past your comfort zone? I encourage you to stay away from schools that are so much of a stretch you’re pulling a muscle.”

The decision of where to pursue an MBA is a weighty one, so do your homework and understand the strengths and potential drawbacks of each of your options.

Whether you end up choosing a place that feels like home, or, like Cheetarah, want to go to a school that “takes you past your safe place a bit to help you stretch your boundaries and perspectives,” it may provide some peace of mind to know that in these cases, there’s rarely a “wrong” choice to be made.

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Get MBA Application Advice From the Trenches

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com As one group of nervous MBA candidates becomes enrolled business school students, another group gets ready to apply. Why not learn from the …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com

As one group of nervous MBA candidates becomes enrolled business school students, another group gets ready to apply. Why not learn from the successes, failures, and decisions of those who came before you?

Here, you’ll find advice culled from past clients who reflected on their own experiences to provide insights that could help future applicants.

1. What is the biggest potential mistake applicants make in the b-school admissions process?

Procrastination and a lack of organization and planning are the biggest mistakes applicants make. Don’t underestimate the amount of time various aspects of the process take, such as writing and rewriting your essays. Plan ahead.

Also, don’t miss the forest for the trees. When you first decide to apply to business school, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details and focus only on the many tasks at hand. However, it’s important to look at the bigger picture and start thinking about other aspects of applying to business school, such as how you’re going to fund your education, as well as researching the many scholarship and fellowship opportunities available.

2. How did you select and prepare your recommenders?

Your best bet is to select recommenders who know you on both a professional and personal level. People who know the quality of your work, your strengths and weaknesses, and various contributions can cite very specific examples to support their points. Choosing recommenders with whom you have a personal relationship almost guarantees they will put forth great effort while working on your recommendations.

Provide your recommenders with a package that includes an overview of your career goals and a statement about why you want to attend business school, a résumé, a copy of your application essays, and deadlines for recommendation submissions. You should also include a document outlining your work experience, accomplishments, volunteer work, interests, hobbies, etc.

[Try these tips to organize the MBA recommendation process.]

3. What was most helpful in your interview preparations?

Opting for alumni interviews whenever possible is a great strategy. Some may consider this a bit of a risk, as you never know what you’ll get when interviewing with alumni, but this type of interview can often feel more casual and relaxed.

One truth of interviews is that people hire others that they like on a personal level. If you can develop a good rapport with your interviewer and get him or her to like you as a person, you stand a much better chance of getting hired. The same holds true for business school interviews.

Consider doing a thorough Google search of your interviewers and see what you can find out about them online. The more information you come armed with, the better you’ll be able to develop a good rapport.

Also, go over your entire application, including essays and résumé. Finally, compile a list of potential interview questions from various sources and think about examples and stories you can use in your responses.

[Prepare for MBA interviews with these tips.]

4. What might applicants find especially challenging?

For most applicants, it’s not easy staying on top of everything while juggling a huge project at work and somehow keeping up your involvement with extracurricular activities. Applying to business school while working long hours and maintaining hobbies is no easy feat, but you’ll need to be able to prioritize responsibilities in business school and beyond””so you may as well learn now.

It’s often difficult to stay motivated because the process is so long. You’ll likely encounter many frustrations and stumbling blocks along the way, so it’s important to remind yourself why you’re applying to business school, what you hope to get out of the experience, and how an MBA will ultimately help you achieve your goals.

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