SBC Scoop: Explaining Career Setbacks

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

MBA programs want to admit applicants who they believe will make optimal use of the degree to achieve their professional goals. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to show in all aspects of your application that an MBA will take your career to the next level. Most candidates understand the need to explain why an MBA makes sense in the context of overall career goals, but how do you explain the career stumbling blocks and setbacks that are often part of working life?

Our client Dwayne had performed incredibly well in his work as a marketing professional. He had been promoted rapidly to Manager at his agency, and was sponsored by management for a leadership program. About a year before Dwayne wanted to apply to MBA programs his company went through substantial layoffs, and Dwayne decided to take a voluntary separation agreement and remain on as a contractor for a few months. In the meantime, he took the opportunity to pursue his long-term career goal in non-profit management and decided to focus his time on his volunteer activities and applying to school.

Right before applying to UCLA, Kellogg, Darden and Yale, Dwayne landed a position that was a reduction in title to Coordinator, but which allowed him to gain experience at a large national non-profit organization. Dwayne was excited about the opportunity, yet concerned about how the move would look to MBA programs.

We focused on how Dwayne responded to the layoffs at his agency with optimism and goal orientation. He was able to highlight his volunteer experience and what it taught him about his goals and working with others, and also we briefly mentioned the new position. Most importantly we explained the step back in title in detail and why this was the right move for Dwayne despite his five years of work experience in Marketing.

When Dwayne received his results he was excited to be admitted to Kellogg and Yale, and only faced the tough decision about which top tier program he wanted to attend.

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