Tag Archives: why an MBA
April 20, 2017
Every spring, many prospective MBA applicants start seriously considering whether this is the year to apply for business school. Before deciding what type of program you will attend, selecting your school, and determining your application strategy, you need to make the crucial decision of whether an MBA is the right next step for your life and career. Think about the reasons why you want an MBA, and what your alternatives are.
Reasons for Pursuing an MBA
Are you seeking an MBA for career advancement, personal development, or a career switch? While your MBA could be a transformational experience changing everything about your life, it’s more typically a tool to polish existing skills, build your network or expose you to new industries.
1. You’ve learned as much as you can in your current role and crave something more. If you find yourself stagnating in your present role or that you’ve plateaued in your job and there’s no room for upward mobility, an MBA can help you navigate and leverage your next career step. The business school experience will show you how to integrate your skills, passions and goals against the backdrop of current global market conditions.
2. You have a new professional goal. Ask yourself what you plan to accomplish after your MBA. If you know what your long-term goal is, that’s a great way to start. What do you need to know to accomplish that goal? How does your resume need to look? What skills do you need to build? And who do you need to know? Think about the aspects of that future that will be developed through your MBA and your short-term post MBA career.
If you are not someone with a clear long-term goal, critically consider what you think the MBA will do for you. Business school offers clear skill building in teamwork, leadership and practical skills like accounting and finance. There is also a strong professional network you will build with classmates and alumni.
3. You need the degree to move up the ladder. If you are seeking advancement in a career where an MBA is valued, it may be an important next step. If you are simply looking for a larger salary or a change of pace, make sure that an MBA is the right professional degree for you to pursue. Applying for business school is an expensive and time consuming activity, and that’s before you even start school! Dedication and passion for the path you are embarking upon are crucial.
4. You’re missing key skills that an MBA program can provide. Business school provides a safe space to experiment and hone those skills in a variety of situations. For applicants with strong technical expertise but who are light on general management skills or anyone looking to bridge the gap between the liberal arts and business, an MBA will catapult you to the next level.
5. You want to significantly expand your professional network. Your alumni network helps you stay connected to the university and to countless professional opportunities beyond graduation. While the quality of the education at the most elite programs is guaranteed across the board, when you’re spending two years of your life and paying more than $100K, keep in mind the network of contacts you build during your MBA experience truly is priceless.
Having a Plan B
While considering your reasons for pursuing an MBA, it will be useful to consider a common b-school interview question: “What will you do if you are not admitted this year?”
Sometimes the answer to the “Plan B” question can be revealing. If you think that you would give up your pursuit of an MBA and either return to a prior career path or pursue a completely different goal, it may not be time for you to dedicate this spring and summer to applying to MBA programs.
When you consider plan B and you find yourself answering that you will spend the year preparing to reapply and continuing to develop yourself for your future career, you are likely a dedicated prospective MBA. If you were not admitted, you might find yourself thinking that you would volunteer more, and build your knowledge and skill set in your chosen career path.
Once you have decided to pursue an MBA, the next steps are to consider your school options, develop your strategy and refine your goals as you plan for beginning your essays in a few months.
Photo credit: Eric at Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
April 5, 2017
This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News. Many prospective business school students confront whether now is the right time to get an MBA, particularly when they become bored or frustrated …
This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.
Many prospective business school students confront whether now is the right time to get an MBA, particularly when they become bored or frustrated with their current professional trajectory. But how do you know whether you’re really ready to tackle the intense demands of a full-time MBA program?
There’s often a tendency to rush into it, but the decision to pursue an MBA requires serious thought. Before you start preparing to apply, take a critical look at your reasons for pursuing the degree and make sure it’s the right decision for you.
Motivations for earning an MBA vary by person, but prospective students who decide to embark on the journey should first make sure they’ve identified gaps in their professional development, have clear career goals and feel ready to contribute to the MBA experience.
Review these five signs to determine whether you’re ready to apply to business school.
1. You’ve maxed out professional development: Do you feel like your current position isn’t allowing you to maximize your skills or that your supervisors don’t value your contributions?
If you find yourself stagnating in your present role or that you’ve plateaued in your job and there’s no room for upward mobility, an MBA can help you navigate and leverage your next career step. The business school experience will show you how to integrate your skills, passions and goals against the backdrop of current global market conditions.
2. You want pursue a new professional goal: If you’re looking for the fast track to gain skills and build a network to launch your career in a new direction, an MBA will definitely expand your options.
Once you’re in business school, you have the opportunity to see how you fit in that new industry through coursework, student groups, internships or networking with alumni. Self-reflection and exploration are key components of the MBA experience, giving students a chance to sample various fields and functions without making any firm commitments.
3. You need an MBA to move ahead in your current job: Unlike career switchers, career enhancers can use the MBA as a way to move up the proverbial ladder in their current company or industry.
Earning an MBA can reassure supervisors who seem reluctant about promoting you because of your age or limited years of work experience. It shows that you’re a go-getter who will do whatever it takes to continue growing and developing personally and professionally.
In some industries – such as finance, marketing, IT or international business – employers often require an MBA for an individual to advance to certain upper management positions.
4. You want to gain specific skills that are taught in business school: In an MBA program, you’ll learn how to think strategically, analyze problems and broaden your leadership skills.
Business school provides a safe space to experiment and hone those skills in a variety of situations. For applicants with strong technical expertise but who are light on general management skills or anyone looking to bridge the gap between the liberal arts and business, an MBA will catapult you to the next level.
5. You feel you have a lot to contribute to a diverse MBA class: If you’ve been in the job for a few years, tackled multiple real-world business problems and been tested and challenged professionally and personally, you’re already equipped to bring a unique and valuable perspective to an MBA class of equally driven and talented peers.
When students from diverse backgrounds and industries come together and share their experiences and skills, all participants learn valuable lessons they would have never otherwise encountered. Remember, the admissions team wants to see how much you’ll contribute to the class in addition to finding out what you’ll gain from the MBA.
As we’ve seen countless times, business school enables students to develop the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities that can help organizations launch new products, improve the lives of consumers and help society as a whole. But only you can determine when the time is right to take that next step.
December 27, 2016
The GMAT. It’s an acronym that strikes fear in the hearts of many a prospective MBA student. And for good reason: while your GMAT score is just one data point out of your entire package for the AdCom to consider, it’s often viewed as proof of academic prowess. A strong performance on the GMAT is a key component of the MBA application to most top business schools. But what can you do if your score isn’t where you want or need it to be?
Whether your lower-than-desired score is a result of illness, test anxiety, or just plain insufficient prep time, don’t let it throw you off your game. Make peace with the fact that it’s totally normal to take the GMAT more than once. In fact, I typically advise clients to plan for two attempts at the GMAT, leaving a buffer for a retake if needed.
There’s really no harm in taking the test several times, and unless you score well right out of the gate, you often will do better the second time—you’ll have fewer nerves, more familiarity with the process, and no big surprises. There’s no such thing as a bad test, just opportunities to build on and learn from.
If you didn’t prepare enough, then ramp up your studying, take a class, or consider hiring a tutor who can help you streamline your efforts and teach you the best methods for answering the various question types.
Also, don’t worry about how the schools will perceive those multiple tests. Admissions committee members often interpret this dedication to improving your score as a sign that you’ll do whatever it takes to prove you’re ready for business school.
While it’s natural to become hung up on achieving the highest score possible, or fixate on the average GMAT score reported by the schools, I urge test-challenged clients to focus instead on aligning their scores within the 80 percent range. Many schools list this information directly within their class profiles.
Keep in mind that this high number is primarily for those targeting a top-tier MBA program. For example, the 80 percent range for the MBA class entering UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in fall 2016 is 680-750. Columbia Business School had a similar 80 percent range this year of 680-760, and University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School listed the 80 percent range as 700-770 for the class of 2017.
If you scored a 680, think carefully about whether a retake would significantly improve your overall candidacy. You may decide your energies should instead go toward focusing on your essays, or coaching recommenders.
Targeting these numbers at the lower end, rather than at the out-of-reach average, may keep your application viable. However, if you’re 50 points away, it’s time to rethink your selected programs and consider adding options in the top 20 or 30.
You can still leave the highest-ranked options on the table, but these have officially become what we call “reach” schools. Applicants looking at programs in the top 20 or 50 should check the average scores of admitted students to determine their personal target GMAT score.
If your score hasn’t improved significantly despite two or more attempts, don’t beat yourself up over it. Turn your focus to taking a broader look at your entire application strategy. The GMAT score foretells how well one would do in the core academic courses of an MBA program, but isn’t a predictor of success throughout the entire b-school experience. This is why most schools have a holistic approach to considering each application.
It’s entirely possible to offset a low GMAT score with a proven track record in a quantitative job, a high GPA from a respected undergraduate school, and compelling leadership activities. Put your energies toward boosting your candidacy in the areas of your application you can control, namely the essays, extracurriculars, and to some extent, the recommendation letters, where your recommenders can highlight your quantitative skills.
Although you may feel tempted to use the optional essay to explain a low test score, try to resist, as this will likely come across as making excuses rather than providing additional information.
Business school hopefuls can be incredibly hard on themselves when they make mistakes on the GMAT, but should actually think of each error as a learning opportunity and a chance to improve. So don’t become discouraged if your first score isn’t where you’d hoped.
The admissions process is a complex one, so after you’ve done the best you can on the GMAT, it’s time to focus on developing your personal brand by packaging your goals, passions, work experience and “why business school, why now” into a compelling case for your admission. In the end, your exceptional accomplishments will likely shine through despite some academic challenges.
December 2, 2016
While other business school applicants have to work hard to demonstrate that they can handle classes such as finance, accounting and statistics, if you hail from finance, the admissions committee already knows you can excel …
While other business school applicants have to work hard to demonstrate that they can handle classes such as finance, accounting and statistics, if you hail from finance, the admissions committee already knows you can excel in the core classes, and that gives you one less thing to worry about as you craft your killer MBA application. But don’t rest on your laurels!
Because applicants from finance are overrepresented in the admissions pool, your goal is to stand out as much as possible from peers with similar backgrounds. As we pointed out in our previous posts (part 1 and part 2) highlighting the Top 10 list of common MBA application mistakes, there’s a right way and a wrong way to attract the admission committee’s attention. We’ll wrap up today with the final things to avoid to make yours a successful MBA application.
Mistake #8: Not thinking through the “Why an MBA?” question
Many firms expect analysts or other junior bankers to leave for an MBA at approximately the two-year mark. Other possible options for you are to join a PE firm or hedge fund, or find a job in industry. If you’re at this crossroads in your career and now is the expected time to apply to MBA programs, you will need to actively counteract any impression that your MBA is simply to “check a box” before the next level in your career.
It’s time to step back from your practical brain and access your creative side to come up with your ideal career vision statement. You have amazing skills –there is no doubt an MBA will add to your overall skill set. The hope is that you will arrive on your MBA campus with a burning desire to make the world a better place. Passion and vision are critical to MBA admissions committee evaluation because they are both essential elements of effective leadership.
Mistake #9: Thinking you’re too busy for extracurricular activities
The reality for finance professionals is that a demanding work schedule rarely allows time for meaningful extracurriculars. What can you do if your work really is your life? If your 80-hour work week didn’t allow time for community involvement, realize that not every extracurricular has to be literally outside of work. Take some time to look inside your office building for those leadership opportunities that may have nothing to do with your day-to-day responsibilities.
And remember, not all volunteering requires a time commitment every week. With your schedule you’ll need to be creative to find flexible opportunities to contribute. Look for activities that are not face-time based, but that focus on impact or a small amount of time on weekends. A track record of volunteering and community service—no matter how big or small—adds a lot of strength to your candidacy.
Mistake #10: Not letting your personality shine through
An MBA application is a hybrid between a business communication and a personal essay. While it’s important to keep the focus and precision of a business writing exercise, you don’t need to sacrifice the color of a personal essay. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, even if that means injecting humor, fear or humility. You are not expected to be a perfect robot; that is not an appealing quality for an MBA student. Using your emotions effectively will help your essays come alive and show that you are more than a list of your accomplishments.
You already knew that your work experience is impressive and a key selling point for your candidacy. But now you also know it’s very important to highlight those extra-curricular activities, hobbies, or interesting personal stories in your application, and demonstrate you’ve made a deep personal connection to the programs on your list. Avoid these 10 mistakes commonly made by finance applicants, and you’ll offer the admissions committee a truly holistic picture of your candidacy. Best of luck!
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November 28, 2016
These days, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who stays with one company or even one industry throughout his or her entire professional life. If you’re looking for the fast track to gain the skills and network to launch your career in a new direction, a popular way to do so is through an MBA program. In fact, by some estimates, two-thirds or more of graduating MBAs use the degree as a means of switching careers.
While students often set their sights on a job in finance or consulting, the skills typically strengthened during business school—leadership, intellectual creativity, analysis and critical thinking, cross-cultural awareness, communication, even greater IT mastery—will serve you well as you find your way toward your ultimate career goal.
So-called career switchers look upon the degree as a way to expand international job opportunities, develop the right connections for future employment, and establish the potential for long-term income and financial stability. I personally went to business school because I wanted to transition from finance to marketing. While I did achieve this, I also found that the MBA experience in and of itself opened up my mind to an array of new possibilities. I ended up in a career with a marketing focus, but it unfolded in a way I never would have considered pre-MBA.
Since application season is in full swing, I have a few words of advice for those applying to an MBA program now or in the near future. Business school demands a huge investment of your time, energy and finances, so make an airtight case to the admissions committee for why you want to go into this new field. Show that you know what the industry requires, the challenges you expect to face, and convey all previous experiences that demonstrate you have the transferable skills to make this switch.
One former SBC client, Sheila, worked as a real estate attorney focused on commercial transactions when she decided that she found working with the financial details more interesting than the legal intricacies. She passed the first level of the Certified Financial Analyst exam, but had a very limited understanding of other areas of business management. Though the CFA program is a tremendous resource, she had enough experience to know that she needed to develop the skills best provided by earning an MBA. Going to business school became the next logical step toward Sheila’s objective of working in real estate banking at a Wall Street firm.
If your undergraduate degree or work experience falls into the non-traditional category, make sure you clearly convey your long-term career goals within your application and essays, and explain in detail how you arrived at the conclusion that an MBA would help you further your professional aspirations. Know that the elite business schools welcome applicants from the humanities, but, unlike their business major peers, these candidates will need to prove to the admissions committee that their relatively minimal academic experience in quantitative subjects won’t be a hindrance once they hit those core courses.
Your GMAT or GRE score is the first and most obvious piece of the puzzle that indicates your ability to handle MBA-level course work, so allow yourself plenty of time to study for the exam. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT, the average amount of study needed to achieve a score between 600 and 690 is 92 hours, and getting above that brass ring score of 700 is 102 hours. If you find your score has settled at the lower end of the spectrum, find other ways to demonstrate your quantitative competence, such as taking a college-level calculus class with a score of a B-plus or better.
Once you’re in b-school, opportunities abound to try out that new industry through coursework, student groups, internships, or networking with alumni. Self-reflection and exploration are key components of the MBA experience, giving students a chance to sample various fields and functions without making any firm commitments.
Embarking on a new career path with a freshly-minted MBA tucked under your arm isn’t just about new knowledge acquired in the classroom. It’s about leveraging your existing experience with enhanced skills, and even more so, it’s about making the most of personal relationships. All of the people, classes, activities, etc. in an MBA program catapult you into a whole new sphere, and you may come out with completely new ideas which help facilitate career change in ways you would not have thought of before. For me, this is the best part and the real opportunity business school provides.
The article originally appeared as a guest post for our partners at MBA Insight.