Advice for MBA Applicants with Employment Gaps

employment gaps

So, you’re gunning for a spot in a top-tier business school, but there’s a glaring gap on your resume when you were unemployed. Maybe you took a break to travel the world, pursue a personal passion, or weathered a layoff during a tough job market. No need to panic. Addressing employment gaps when applying to a prestigious B-school isn’t a dead-end street; it’s a detour with potential for success. Learn how to handle these gaps like a pro, showcasing the valuable experiences that can turn what seems like a blemish into a badge of honor.

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Be Upfront about Any Employment Gaps

First things first—honesty is your best policy. When addressing employment gaps in your MBA application, candor is essential. Admission committees appreciate authenticity and understand when applicants have encountered roadblocks in the past.

For example, in the wake of the tech layoffs last winter, many schools actively courted unemployed workers with application fee and test waivers. So, there’s no need to concoct elaborate tales or hide behind vague explanations. If you were unemployed, just say it, and then follow up with a description of how you utilized that time.

Business schools seek students who are proactive and resourceful. If you were unemployed, demonstrate how you made the most of that time. Did you embark on a personal project, volunteer work, online courses, or even launch a small business? Highlight these activities to show that you were actively working on self-improvement or contributing to your community.

employment gaps unemployed

You might not have held a formal job during your time off, but you likely gained skills and experiences relevant to your business school goals. Maybe you improved your leadership abilities by leading a volunteer project or enhanced your analytical skills through self-study. Be sure to underscore these transferable skills and tie them back to your aspirations in business school.

Also, think of ways to communicate how your employment gap aligns with your future career objectives. You may have dedicated time to expanding your professional network or developing new skills relevant to your future career.  Maybe the time off clarified your professional direction or allowed you to explore a different industry.

Mention any networking events, conferences, or skill-building activities that you engaged in during your unemployment period. Share how your experiences have influenced your decision to pursue an MBA and how they will benefit your post-MBA career.

Listen to B-Schooled Podcast #162: Candidacy Question Marks Part 2

Employment Gaps and the Optional Essay

Many business school applications include an optional essay. Use this space wisely to provide context and showcase your growth and readiness for business school. Keep it concise and focused on the key points. While addressing the gap is essential, don’t dwell on it. Instead, focus on what you’re doing now and what you plan to do in the future. Talk about how the skills and experiences gained during your unemployment have prepared you for success in the MBA program and beyond.

Unemployment or gaps in employment need not be the Achilles’ heel of your business school application. When handled with transparency, reflection, and a forward-looking approach, you can reframe them into assets that highlight your resilience, resourcefulness, and commitment to personal and professional growth.

Everyone’s journey is unique, and admissions committees appreciate diverse experiences. Embrace your past, celebrate your journey, and make a compelling case for your future in a top business school. Your story is a part of what makes you a standout candidate.


Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your needs, from our All-In Partnership to test prep to hourly help with targeted tasks. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant. Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team:


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