Staying Positive When Your Coworker is Also Going for an MBA

coworker is also going for an MBA

Getting into a top MBA program is challenging, especially for professionals from over-represented buckets like consulting and banking. It gets even more worrisome when you know your coworker is also going for an MBA and you’re applying to some of the same schools.

Although it’s natural to feel competitive, remember that business schools want diverse, well-rounded candidates—and everyone has something unique about them. So, even if you feel like you’re a clone of your coworkers, these tips can help you stand out and succeed in the elite MBA admissions process.

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Every business school has its own culture, strengths, and values. As you finish your list of target schools, take time to study each program so you can tailor your application to reflect their stated ethos. Explain how your career goals and values align with theirs, making a compelling case for why you are the perfect fit.

Also, keep in mind that top MBA programs vary in their selectivity and acceptance rates. Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, consider applying to a range of schools, including some with varying acceptance rates. This diversifies your options and increases your chances of securing a spot in a top MBA program.

Self-Assessment and Differentiation

First, remember that MBA admissions committees are not looking for cookie-cutter candidates with identical experiences and backgrounds. They seek diversity, both in terms of industries and personal stories.

Before you dive into your applications, step back and do a thorough self-assessment. Reflect on your journey, the challenges you’ve faced, and the valuable experiences you’ve gained. Your primary goal is to emphasize your strengths and achievements in your application essays and interviews.

What skills and perspectives do you bring to the table that set you apart from your colleagues? Coming from consulting or banking might be an advantage if you leverage your industry expertise. You can emphasize how your current role has equipped you with skills that will directly transfer to the business world. Also, make sure to highlight your project management, financial analysis, and client engagement skills to prove your potential as a future MBA student and business leader.

Admissions committees like candidates who understand specific sectors because these folks bring valuable insights to classroom conversations. In your MBA essays, discuss how your professional experiences relate to your longer-term career goals. Show how you plan to apply your industry knowledge in innovative and meaningful ways after graduation.

Another way to stand out from your coworker who’s also going for an MBA is by demonstrating your commitment to continuous learning and personal development. Consider taking on extra responsibilities at work or acquiring new skills outside your current job scope. This will not only set you apart from your peers but also prepare you for the academic rigor of an MBA program.

Bonus tip: You can also reach out to mentors or alums who have successfully navigated the MBA admissions process for advice. Their insights can be invaluable in shaping your application strategy. They can help you refine your career goals, guide school selection, and offer tips for effective application writing.

Showcase Your Leadership and Teamwork Skills

Like MBA students, consultants and bankers often work in teams. Focus on your leadership and teamwork accomplishments and your successful management and collaboration with teammates. Use concrete examples that underscore your capacity for working in harmony with others, a sought-after trait in MBA candidates. Be sure to share how you’ve made a difference at work through your leadership and unique contributions.

Remember to emphasize your soft skills, too. In the competitive world of consulting and banking, technical skills often take the spotlight. Yet, MBA programs also value candidates with good communication, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. Highlight your people skills and ability to work well with others in and outside your field.

Letters of recommendation

Next, it’s time to get laser-focused on your recommendation letters. Since you share similar skills with your coworker who is also going for an MBA, these letters must show off your professional and personal qualities. Remind them that the most critical thing they can do is include examples to back up any claims they’ve made about your strengths or personality traits.

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Sharing details of how you contributed to projects or giving specific examples of how you interact with others or went above and beyond (including funny anecdotes or quips that give insight into your personality) — these are the things that make for a great recommendation letter.

Focus on extracurriculars

Admissions committees understand that it’s tough for some people to have meaningful involvement in an organization outside of work. Consultants and bankers often fall into this category, as do some military applicants.

Take a Deeper Dive With The Scoop on MBA Extracurriculars

Still, they look for accomplished individuals not solely focused on their professional lives. Taking part in extracurricular activities can help bolster your leadership, teamwork, and commitment to community engagement. Show that you’re not just a workaholic but also someone who contributes to their community.

Flickr image by: Joshua B Pitch Please A Cappella (CC BY-ND 2.0)

But don’t think you need to spend hundreds of hours helping in a soup kitchen to make a good impression on the AdCom. Find something you’re passionate about instead.

“Overall, we are looking for the quality of your involvement and leadership roles, NOT quantity,” the UCLA Anderson admissions team stresses. Your prior involvement is a good indicator of how you’ll be on campus as an MBA student.

Rethinking the Competition When Your Coworker is Also Going for an MBA

Instead of viewing your coworkers as rivals, try seeing them as potential allies. The MBA admissions process is a massive undertaking. Why not collaborate and exchange insights, experiences, and strategies to get through the slog together? Forming a GMAT or GRE study group or support network with your fellow applicants can help you all improve. In addition, sharing knowledge and giving helpful feedback can improve your MBA applications.

Top MBA programs vary in their selectivity and acceptance rates. Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, consider applying to a range of schools, including some with varying acceptance rates. This diversifies your options and increases your chances of securing a spot in a top MBA program.

The process of getting admitted can be stressful, especially when some of your office peers are going through it too. Remember to manage your stress levels and maintain a positive attitude. Focus on what you can control, such as the quality of your application, and let go of the rest. Your journey might be shared with coworkers, but your individual path to success lies in your distinct qualities and experiences.


Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs. From our All-In Partnership to interview prep, essay editing, resume review, and much more, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant. 

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