Have A Question About MBA Career Strategy? Ask Ivan, Our Resident Expert

Ivan Kerbel

Ivan Kerbel

How helpful is an MBA degree to someone who wants to switch careers? What’s the best way to know if you could make a go of it at McKinsey or Google? How can you land the ideal internship that ends with a job offer nearly a full year before you get your MBA? What do you need to do before you arrive on campus to make sure you’re able to take advantage of the full MBA experience?

These are among the questions Ivan Kerbel will help to answer as Poets&Quant’s new resident expert on MBA career strategy – along with any and all questions you might have on what MBA careers look like in different industries and companies. Ivan is uniquely qualified for the job.

As the former MBA Career Director at Yale SOM and Sr. Associate Director at Wharton, Ivan has deep experience in the key success factors for students pursuing competitive MBA internship and full-time jobs. Ivan also gained broad industry experience working for Katzenbach Partners, a NYC-based strategy consulting boutique, for GE’s Office of Litigation & Legal Policy, for a Silicon Valley start-up, and for a molecular medicine journal, The FASEB Journal. He is a Wharton MBA alumnus, a graduate of Master’s programs in International Relations at Johns Hopkins SAIS and at Auckland University (where he was a Fulbright Fellow), and an undergraduate alum of Yale. He’s also one of the most generous and kind-hearted people you will ever meet.

Ivan currently serves as CEO of Practice MBA, which offers intensive, personalized training for newly-admitted MBAs on topics related to career strategy and maximizing return on a student’s overall investment in business school. Ivan provides one-on-one coaching on successful career-switching and the pursuit of pre-MBA internships, on networking and effective outreach in the American business context (for international students), and on extracurricular leadership and academic preparation via guided online self-study.

In 2016, Ivan teamed up with MBA Prep School to provide a focused Career Coaching curriculum for both MBA and non-MBA job-seekers, a partnership that offers expert guidance designed to accelerate career progress and provide end-to-end service to MBA applicants as well as current MBAs.

Ivan also partners with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) to offer 7-day outdoor Wilderness Skills courses in Washington’s Central Cascades Mountains … an opportunity for rising MBAs to socialize with classmates at peer institutions while gaining leadership experience and enjoying time in the monumental glacier-carved landscape and evergreen forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Ivan has agreed to serve as a sounding board and source of advice at Poets&Quants for all MBA career-related questions. No question is out of bounds. … If you have questions about being a career-switcher, about the MBA recruiting strategies of key employers you’re interested in, about conducting an off-campus / ‘enterprise’ job-search, about understanding differences between various industries and functions, about assessing your own skills and interests and creating an ‘elevator pitch’ for use in interviews, and/or about leveraging the unique resources, relationships, and geographic advantages of the MBA programs you’re applying to, fire away in the comments section below! Ivan will do his best to answer your queries.



  • Dineo Musambi

    Hi Ivan,

    Thanks or your help on this blog.

    I’m trying to get into Goldman IBD. I plan to gain roughly 3 yrs experience there and then to transition to Emerging Market (esp. Africa) venture capital.

    I’m torn b/w and MBA and and MSF. As an international student I think MSF (MIT, Vandy, & WashU) > MBA because those degrees grant me STEM designation, which makes me more attractive to employers. No point graduating top of my class at HSW (assuming I even get in 🙂 ) if few employers are willing to go through the madness that is the h1b process. I also don’t like the uncertainty of guessing where I’ll be a year out of my MBA, depending on whether I am successful in the h1b lottery or not. I really really want the MBA; I’m really excited by some the classes available as top schools (e.g. Touchy-Feely etc. 🙂 ). I think it may make economical sense for me to go with the MSF given my post-MBA goal (IBD, and then VC). What’s your take on this?


    2010-2014 BSc. Computational Physics (US News Rank College 100+)
    GPA: 3.1
    2 summers worth of experimental physics lab experience
    1 summer internship in corporate science research

    2014-2016 BSc. Finance (US News Rank College 100+)
    GPA: 3.78
    Summer 2015: internship in PWC deal advisory Kenya
    Won 2 stock picking competitions in college
    Won 1 IB case competitions in college
    Interviewed at 2 US BBs, and 1 US EB, but no luck

    June 2016- February 2017: Wealth Management Analyst at small wealth management firm in NY

    *visa issues: h1b visa prospects look bleak, so I decide to move back home to Kenya*

    Feb. 2017 – Aug 2017: Wealth Management Analyst at rapidly-growing wealth management firm in Kenya

    Aug 2017 – Present: Strategy Consultant @ Deloitte Kenya
    Currently a generalist, but plan to move into Financial Services
    Honestly, I sought out the Deloitte consulting role because BB IB barely exists in Kenya and I didn’t want to get stuck in wealth management.

    Decent leadership and extracurricular experience

    GRE: 65th % quant, 90th% verbal, 5 written

    23 yr old black woman (don’t know if this info is useful…)

    Please advise me on your thoughts on whether an MSF or MBA will get me into Goldman IB given my profile and my status as a foreigner. Do I gain more experience and then matriculate into a top MBA in a few years, or do I matriculate into a top STEM-designated MSF program next year?

    Thank you!

  • ABhatia

    Hi Ivan,

    Thank you for giving deep insights to us lost souls. By education I am an Electronics engineer, however, presently, I am working as a Government Officer with the Parliament of India. My work involves providing strategic and financial recommendations to one of the most important Ministries of the Government of India as part of ensuring Parliamentary oversight of the government. During my stint here I have realised the kind of work I love to do and it heavily correlates with strategy/management consulting. Most of my 6 years workex has been in the Government/public policy sector and therefore I am skeptic about my chances of making a switch to the Management Consulting Industry. While public sector consulting is also an option for me, I am deeply interested in working with the private industries. My questions for you are the following:
    1. Your views on whether my background will be a bane or boon in getting a top 20 Bschool and making a shift to a management consulting company preferably an MBB and whether MBBs focus more on the specialist knowledge or the analytical skills acquired during the past workex?
    2. My long term goal is to make an impact on the Government consulting and bring the best practices of private industries to the Government sector. How relevant, do you think, will be my decision of trying to make a transition to management consulting?
    3. Any suggestions that you can give to help tweak my future goals and also to help weave a strong and connected story for my Bschool application.

  • Eric Hamilton

    Hello, I am a prospective MBA student and I have an initial question.

    I intend to focus on HR while pursuing my MBA. I have been active duty military for the past eight years. I am now looking at a career change. My question is: Would a potential employer prefer an earned MBA from a full-time, on campus, yet non-top 100 school or an online/hybrid MBA from a top 50 school?

    I know that there are many variables when it comes to what employers look for in a potential employee. In my specific case, I can either choose to go to school full-time, on campus at a school like Portland State University, or I can apply to an online/hybrid MBA program such as the program at UC-Berkeley of University of Washington. Which of these schools/situations would attract more potential employers?

    Thank you in advance,

  • Priyanshu NA

    I am an MBA aspirant from India. I have worked with a leading Government owned bank in India for the last 5 years in a managerial capacity. I have a Masters’ in Economics from a fairly reputed school in India. My GMAT score is 710. I want to pursue the strategy and leadership specialization. Please let me know how suitable is my profile for my chosen career path.

  • Eric

    Hello Ivan,
    I will be applying to an MBA program soon. I am a career-changer. I’ve spent the past 8 years in the military, and will be exiting next year. I wish to be near my wife, since we’re living apart currently. The issue is that the schools that are near my wife are not top-50 schools. I have an option of pursuing a MBA with a top-50 school that is farther away, but it would be their part-time program. My question is: would it be more advantageous for my career/hiring prospects to go to the top-50 school part-time, or to go full-time to the non-top-50 school?
    I greatly appreciate your time.

  • Vivek

    Hi Ivan,

    I’m an Indian male working in Oil & Gas sector in India. I don’t know whether I should ask this question at this level, but frankly speaking I really need your advise on this. I’m unable to judge suitable career opportunities in energy sector in post-MBA scenario.
    Schools generally ask applicants to cite their short term goal mentioning specific company name and post. I don’t have any dream company. How can I bo so specific?
    Say, I wish to change my career to consulting or entrepreneurship, then in that case how can I link my work ex with the new career? Is it advisable to change career from energy sector to any other industry?


  • Supreet virk

    Hello Ivan,
    Thank you for answering our questions.Little bit about my background- I am a MBA marketing graduate from a top 10 university in India who has completed a year working with Vodafone India. I was always attracted towards the Entertainment sector but never knew how to go about making a career in it. Entertainment industry in India is known to be quite unorganised and unstructured (with small production houses and 3-4 big family run production houses) unlike the US where you have studios and a corporate environment, this was also somewhere responsible for the delay in my switch to the entertainment sector and I ended going for a safe job in a great corporate like Vodafone.I have nevertheless decided to switch and would be joining my new job in the entertainment industry in a month’s time.
    My question- I have always wanted to experience a global MBA program and get the opportunity to interact with candidates from across the world and great faculty . And especially after switching my job now I want to work in the US entertainment business in a leadership role and get the opportunity to work in the biggest entertainment industries of the world. I did a little research about placements of US bschools and came to know that NYU stern (6 to 7 recruiters)and Columbia business school(1 to 2 recruiters) attract some recruiters from this sector. I would like to get guidance on how to increase my application pool atleast 5 universities that can get me placed in such a niche sector as the entertainment industry.

    Thank you,
    – Supreet

  • Matt B

    Hi Ivan,

    Quick question: any experience with MBAs from top b-schools going into sales? I have enterprise tech sales experience (5 years) and am in-between my 1st and 2nd year at a “Top 10” school. I know that most MBAs don’t go into sales: it’s risky and there’s no guarentee of a salary/upward mobility, but it’s lucrative and challenging and rewarding. I was trying to figure out what companies would value having an MBA (a lot of jobs say “MBA preferred” but few seem to really care). Was curious about specific employers (IBM and Microsoft come to mind as companies that value the MBA) that you might consider targeting.


  • MCT261419

    Appreciate you taking the time to answer everyone’s questions on here. Hoping you can lend some insight.

    I am looking for some input on the relative value of (part time) MBA programs to someone mid-career.

    BC, BU, Babson, Isenberg, Northeastern, and Bentley all have part time programs near me. I suspect I will probably get in to any of them I apply to based on GPA, GMAT, and experience (4.0/740/10+ years). The Isenberg program costs $30-$50 thousand less than the others, and I will be paying for this 100% myself. Obviously BC and BU have stronger reputations, especially nationally.

    I am 38 and currently the controller at a small company (annual revenues ≈ 10mm). I have a BBA in accounting from a reputable public university (top 35 overall/top 15 for publics). Graduated summa. My ten year plan is to transition from my current position into an equivalent position at a larger firm in the next two to three years. Ideally that would be a CFO/VP Finance track position, otherwise change firms again into a CFO/VP Finance position somewhere in years 5-10.

    This in mind, the MBA is valuable for me both as a resume credential and as a practical skills builder. Having spent my whole career in accounting, MBA will help develop and demonstrate the wider skill-set and perspective required of CFO/VP Finance type positions. However, I am not sure at my current age and salary (around $110), if the return on a more expensive program even worth it, or do I just go to the least expensive (non-garbage) program available to me.

  • jhd311

    Hi Ivan,

    I am very interested in Infrastructure private equity in the long term, however my background is in construction engineering and project operations consulting.In terms of my immediate post-mba goals, should I be targeting more of a project finance/m&a advisory role to then pivot into PE? I’ve been told that PE really requires previous experience.

    Appreciate any feedback!


  • Carol Reyes

    Dear Ivan,

    I’m in the very beginning stages of preparing to apply for my MBA (I plan to apply in Round 1 in Fall 2018, so over the next year I’ll be studying for the GMAT, taking two quantitative-focused courses at a local university and continuing my work and community engagement).

    To give you some context on my background, I was born and raised in Latin America (half Guatemalan/half Cuban), speak five languages (Spanish and including Mandarin Chinese), am the Director of Global Programs at the largest higher education institution in the U.S., am a former Fulbright scholar (Taiwan, 2009-2011) and have a Master’s in International Education from NYU. I have lived, studied or worked in Taiwan, Ireland, Brazil, Ghana and Mexico. My work revolves around international program and exchange development, foreign partnerships and agreements, grant writing and grant management, and other special initiatives. In the past, I managed the Fulbright Program for the Western Hemisphere region, and interned at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and Taipei (both focused on education and public diplomacy). I am very involved in the community (on topics of cultural diplomacy, education and homelessness) and I’ve been named a national Diversity Impact Scholar because of my work with underrepresented populations. This is partly why I’m applying for MBA programs through The Consortium merit-scholarship program (the nation’s largest diversity network).

    Given my 5-6 years of work experience in higher education/non-profit/government work, I’m interested in potentially going into a career in public sector consulting after an MBA. However, I’m afraid that including that in my MBA application (even though I have a quite a bit of experience and knowledge to support it), will likely make me sound like thousands of other applicants who also want to become consultants, especially since many applicants are already coming from consulting firms.

    Considering your expertise, do you have a sense of what types of jobs might be available to someone with my background after an MBA (whether it’s consulting or not)? Knowing myself, I think I definitely need to be in an organization that is innovative, mission driven and international, where I can make money but also have some impact on the community (either through corporate social responsibility or some other mechanism). Also, in all honesty, since the “business world” is still quite new to me, I have a sense there is a whole world out there in terms of jobs that I’m just not aware of and am, therefore, not considering as an option.

    Do you have any thoughts or feedback on this? Please enlighten me!

    Thanks so much!

  • Rohit Sharma

    Hi Ivan,

    I am a career services professional currently working with a new Indian University, I would like to pick your brain on what are some of the best practices on Employer Engagement and how to build a university brand on the corporate side and ensure superb employment opportunities for students? Thanks in advance.



  • Abir98

    Hello Mr. Kerbel,
    I am an Indian by nationality. I am completing my first year in an University in India where I study Geology as an undergraduate. The University is quite popular in our country and its department of geology is the oldest in India. My score in first year is 80%. As of now, I am learning French and working in a NGO (Mother Teresa Missionary of Charity) as a volunteer. I am also the class representative in my University. I have sat for a GMAT and scored 720 in that. I know I have to improve that. But considering my education and nationality background what do you think I should improve on to be a probable candidate in B-Schools like Wharton, Harvard, MIT, Tuck, Chicago, Stanford, Duke. It will be great if you can also mention a few extra-curricular work which will define me as an ideal international student.
    My goal is to be an Impact Investor.
    Also, before applying to a college, which kind of job will you advise me to do? Will, the job of an Environmental Consultant be perfect?
    Kind Regards

  • navyfinance,

    I think this is a very interesting question to explore in the current business environment; I hope the following thoughts will help you navigate the field and current trends as you explore your next career steps and the possibility of pursuing an MBA …

    In the traditional MBA context, ‘analytics’ has meant some version of the following: looking at financial statements; crunching numbers on financial forecasts, on M&A activity, on budget data; parsing operational information (e.g., inventory turn); and anything else that involves numbers (rather than brand strategy, for example) and relies on Excel. Candidates with a strong affinity for math and spreadsheets, specific academic training (e.g., engineering) and experience in operational environments that require exactitude and accountability (audit functions, military operations) have tended to constitute the natural talent pool for both MBA admissions and for consultancies that have operational practice areas. The majority of MBA analytics work has traditionally been related to financial information.

    The depiction above has been / is now undergoing what I expect will be a massive and fundamental change (one which business schools are trying to capitalize on by virtue of introducing the types of ‘majors’ and pathways you referred to). It’s not just that “software is eating the world” (and that most businesses now depend heavily on the strength of their digital capabilities), but that ‘analytics’ has blossomed from a niche activity carried out by a specific department or function within a larger company into a pervasive element of how all aspects of business are carried out, by every business unit in a given enterprise … from product design and development to consumer relationships and growth strategy. The big question for business schools is can they provide talent, on par with Engineering and CS programs, to take on the big opportunities being opened up in the world of data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence as a whole.

    Given this context and evolving landscape, I think that strength in analytics counts for a lot, and whether it would be valuable in a consulting setting largely depends on the extent to which the consulting firm is being asked to look at problems involving data science on behalf of its clients.

    My personal sense is that the big, well-known strategy firms are lagging a bit behind in this brave new world (consultants tend to be business strategists, operators, people with specific industry domain expertise … rather than PhDs in machine learning, for example), and that the highly heterogeneous marketplace of niche data analytics firms has not yet matured to produce a few, notable industry leaders. Check out http://www.kdnuggets.com/companies/consulting.html for a sense of how vast and varied this ecosystem is. (Quora also has some interesting point-counterpoints for you to consider as well: https://www.quora.com/Why-dont-big-management-consulting-firms-McKinsey-Bain-BCG-Deloitte-et-al-heavily-invest-in-data-science-expertise-especially-after-the-talk-from-Philip-Evans-from-BCG-and-all-the-Big-Data-hype)

    The above being said, you will find that there are significant data and knowledge ‘Analytics’ practice areas at the leading consulting firms that hire MBAs, and the question for you is whether these are the right focus for you given you career aspirations, and what skills and experience you need to acquire (both inside and outside of b-school) to become a successful job candidate and future leader in the field.

    In short, my answer to your question is “Yes”!

  • Betancurj,

    In your position, I would try not to be disappointed, and I would work very hard to avoid the natural instinct of trying to find meaning in the outcome … of thinking that being dinged by the schools you applied to is somehow a statement on you as a candidate or on the intrinsic worth of your career goals, ambitions, and expectations. If you’re in this business for long enough (and I have been), there are years and inevitably instances of a great candidate falling short in his / her efforts, and, conversely, of candidates who have only a half-baked notion of why they’re pursuing an MBA (and who somehow magically get in).

    So, to look objectively at the details you’ve presented: strong. industry-specific work experience in enterprise and family business; undergraduate business training and good, but not stellar, academic metrics and GMAT score; a natural ‘story; and progression to the next level of responsibility in your field focus. Without insight into your application essays and references, I would still say that you’re “in play” for pursuing a highly-ranked MBA degree in the U.S., and I think being a re-applicant is not something you should be afraid of, if you re-consider focusing on CBS, NYU, and Wharton.

    That being said, I think you might benefit from working with an admissions consultant (and I can help you navigate the available choices, if you message me directly), to make sure you’re capturing the most valuable elements of your credentials as well as shaping the most thoughtful message possible about your personal and career aspirations. In addition, I would recommend opening the gauge of your target schools to include additional MBA programs whose academic and other offerings are in range / on similar par with the programs you applied to, but whose selectivity may not entail turning away thousands of incredibly qualified candidates per year (there are also great European, Canadian, other Latin American programs you may want to add to the mix).

    Last, you’re not too old to embark on a FT MBA program, but you are in the upper age range of MBA candidates … this simply means that, in your application, you are more likely to pitch your greater level of business experience and maturity, and the positive effect that has not only on your ability to pursue a next, meaningful post-MBA role, to represent the school’s brand, and to serve as a good classmate and study group teammate, improving the overall learning environment. (If you were in your mid-30s, I would perhaps nudge you towards considering Exec MBA programs, but I think you’re still ‘in range’ at moment and have another 1-2 years before you’ve graduated beyond the stereotypical FT MBA demographic).

    So, my overall recommendation is to review your intent and dream of pursuing an MBA (including at top schools in the U.S.), to seek expert help to the extent that it’s useful and affordable, and to redouble your efforts in the coming year (rather than apply in rounds 3 or 4). Please let me know if I can help make an introduction or two to folks who might be able to assist you directly!

  • Hi Saurabh,

    I think the answer to your question depends on a few variables, and requires a set of choices on your part.

    Whether the transition from EA consulting to strategy consulting is difficult or easy largely depends on the desirability, brand-strength of the companies you are pursuing, on the degree to which you’re capitalizing on the strength of existing marketplace, client, industry knowledge on your part, and on whether you are pursuing work in KL, or in a new city, elsewhere in Asia or farther afield.

    Since you are using your current work as the primary vehicle for a next transition, I would try to focus on (and seek out project assignments related to) any aspect of your current consulting work that is ‘upstream’ of the actual execution and operations … and closer to questions of whether and why a specific enterprise app should be pursued and adopted, how that fits into a client company’s competitive strategy, what the expected gains are, etc. (since this is more akin to the types of questions asked of strategy consultants). Having more experiences of that sort should allow you to make the argument that you are focusing on the strategic value of enterprise apps, not just their installation, and that you could therefore be successful in a purely strategic capacity.

    I think the fact that you have an Operations MBA and work for one of the leading firms in the field puts you in a strong position to create a step-wise path to your ideal company and role. I would also consider it a success if you incrementally make your way to your desired goal … for example, by taking on a functional role that fits the ‘strategy’ criteria, even if it’s not at a top-brand company, as a way to boost the functional skill variable, before then attempting to “trade up” in terms of brand of consultancy you’re working for.

    As an MBA professor of mine once said, “There are always way more interesting problems (and firms that are tackling those problems), then there are smart MBAs to help take them on”. My own experience leads me to believe that that’s true, and a good perspective to take, especially if one puts aside company brand considerations and focuses on finding the right manager in a well-run company working on an interesting problem… the sort of thing not immediately obvious if one concentrates only on the most written-about and popular employers.

    Good luck!

  • Hello G.,

    I think this is an important question, and one faced by many people in circumstances similar to yours.

    Enlightenment (and classmate network) aside, I do agree that looking closely at exec MBA programs’ ability to function as ‘market makers’ for new job opportunities is critical. Here are some ways to go about testing the potential for a good fit…

    First, I think you would be helped by focusing on the true barriers to your next / desired career step. Is it that the companies or roles you intend to seek out require a higher level of credential? Or is there a specific skill-set that you need to layer over your current experience to make that transition possible? … Or is it simply that having access to an alumni network and a b-school community might help create the right introductions and open doors for you?

    Focusing on that next company, or next job, then figuring out what gap exists in your knowledge, experience, and resume, and then finally working backward to figure out if a b-school can fill that gap, is a critical exercise. … As an aside, I strongly recommend using Career Leader (https://www.careerleader.com/), an instrument created by faculty members at HBS, to create structure and develop a framework for what you’re seeking (including matching your own interests, motivations, and skills to company culture).

    With regard to researching specific EMBA programs, including online/blended programs, you can do much leg-work to obtain the schools’ Career Reports, to find out which companies have hired their Exec MBAs and for what types of positions, to match your profile against that of other students in the program (to figure out if you would be competitive, and to make sure that the ratio of ‘sponsored’ to non-sponsored students isn’t tipped too heavily towards students who are returning to their pre-EMBA employers, and thus don’t need a strong career services office and MBA recruiting function), and, last, to meet and find out from graduates of the program if the degree has helped them make the transition they desired.

    Exec MBA programs tend to be a bit more open to communication and solicitous about the prospects and welfare of potential admits (than FT MBA programs, which face a much higher applicant volume and would be too stretched to handle in-depth individual inquiries). Don’t be afraid to seek out people in the career services function at a select set of schools to see if your assumptions about your next career steps are on target.

    Last but not least, Exec MBA programs for working professionals are a good way to not leave your current work and roll the dice completely on succeeding in a brand new job search. If you can manage the workload of school and work at the same time, it’s a good way to minimize risk, and also lighten the financial burden of pursuing a degree.

    To summarize, I think your question can best be answered by doing extensive research on both your own career trajectory and plans, and on specific MBA programs’ value-add and ability to help you make the next leap. On the latter front, I can’t stress enough how important it is to speak directly with people … including administrators, faculty, current students, alumni, and even prospective employers. The question I would pose, both to yourself and to prospective employers, is: “Would you be more likely to hire me if I had a degree from ‘X’? How much more likely? And, is there any other way — e.g. work experience, online coursework, etc. — for me to become a stronger candidate?

    I hope that helps!


    Hi ivan,

    Do you still reply back to queries here?

  • Hi Sam,

    I think the best advice I can offer is to recommend that you seek out one additional work experience, along the lines of the interests you’ve expressed, prior to attending business school … this will likely increase your overall chances of admission (though it sounds like your profile is already strong), bring you closer in age to most of your MBA peers, and, most importantly, allow you to make the best use of the MBA investment by testing your assumptions and gaining direct work experience in the fields you’re interested in transition into.

    On the topic of what kind of role / position you might seek, I think you should steer away from trying to figure out specific job titles, candidate profiles, opportunities you might apply to, and instead work backward from thinking about products, companies, and markets.

    Let’s take fast-moving consumer goods products and companies, as an example (you can do the same with technology, financial services, management consulting, etc.). If you use a ‘top 50’ or ‘top 100’ list of employers in any industry (here is an example:
    http://www.consultancy.uk/news/2453/50-largest-consumer-goods-fmcg-firms-of-the-globe ), you have a starting point for a set of orgs you can then explore further, narrowing down to the products the companies sell, the markets they sell to and hope to expand in, and any other competitive strategy news … simply by looking up the companies’ websites, Wikipedia entries, latest news in financial publications, and related blogs and trade publications. (Asking a reference librarian at a business library for help is not a bad idea.)

    On the FMCG topic, you might come across companies whose products you’re interested in and/or use yourself, or you may find interesting scenarios to delve into further of a non-U.S. company breaking into the U.S. market, or an American company expanding in Spanish-speaking consumer markets in Latin America or Spain. Doing this “orienteering” process should ultimately lead you to set of people (use LinkedIn) who are managing these product strategy and business development efforts, and whom you can reach out to in order to learn more, come to understand their hiring and talent models, and, ultimately, figure out if there is a fit for a pre-MBA role for a coupe of years’ time that you can pursue.

    I realize I’ve tackled your question # 4 first, but this is also a roundabout way to get to your first question … I think a future commercial, biz dev role might work well to augment your communications, marketing, media strengths, and would inform what working in strategy (whether for a consulting firm or directly for a company) might entail. You can do all of this, of course, as part of your schoolwork and learning process in business school, and potentially as you progress from an MBA summer internship to post-MBA FT work.

    To cover your additional questions, I don’t think that going to school in Spain is critical to working for an American company that seeks bilingual (Spanish-English) talent, and/or that markets to Spanish or other Latin communities, but I do think that going to a fantastic business school like IESE would offer you a distinct advantage if you wanted to live and work in Europe / Spain, and particularly if you wanted to work for a Spanish company. Here is a list of prominent Spanish companies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companies_of_Spain.

    There are, of course, many offices of American and other companies in Spain as well. At your stage of career, I think I would worry less about what makes the most sense in terms of long-term career positioning, and would instead simply think about whether or not its compelling to you personally to go live, study, and work in Spain. If your find that your heart and mind is in a place like Barcelona … then just go.

    I hope those perspectives are of use. Please let me know if you have follow-on questions (and my humble apologies for the delay in responding).

  • grudged@gmail.com

    Hello Ivan,

    I am 37 and do not have a great GPA and have 9 years of project management experience and 6 year of operations in the Oilfield sector.
    I would like to know what are the prospects of opening career doors by doing an EMBA or Online MBA from a top 10 international MBA school. I have not done my GMAT yet but I skeptical of opportunities after an self financed expensive MBA.
    I do understand the value in networking and learning through interactions with faculty and colleagues but in the end if the opportunities do not show up then the MBA is as good as garbage (keeping enlightenment aside).
    Your thoughts on EMBA / Online-Hybrid MBA’s and prospects there after please.



  • Saurabh

    Hi Ivan,

    I have recently completed my MBA from a top-5 Indian B-School and have got a position as an Enterprise Applications Consultant in one of the Big 4s in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. But I would want to move to a strategy role in a years. Since EA consulting is mostly tech, how easy or difficult is it to move to strategy consulting. I have an Operations Management MBA. Thanks in advance.

  • betancurj

    Hi Ivan,
    Thanks for clearing doubts in this space, it helps a lot to read other people stories. I would like to know your opinion on my profile and current status:


    Colombian, Age 29, 7 years of working experience (3.5 in capital markets – 3.5 in reinsurance
    broking at a major American insurance and consulting company (currently)), co-founded two family companies (International trade and fitness), 4 years of experience as an assistant professor of a capital markets course at a top local university, BBA from a top Colombian University (GPA: 3.88/5), TOEFL 107, GMAT 690 (86% V35 Q49) (I have taken the exam 7 times).

    Post-MBA Goal:

    Capital markets and entrepreneurship.

    Schools applied:

    CBS (Round 2 01/05), Wharton (Round 2 01/05), NYU (Round 3 01/15).

    *I believe I have decent essays and recommendations.


    International student, financial aid, test scores and GPA.


    Frustrated, I got dinged from all three schools (No interview invitation). At this point I really don’t know what to do. As you, I am not a fan of applying in round 3 or 4 to other schools but to be honest I feel that given my goals, my age would be a significant weakness in my application next year.

    I really want to pursue a top MBA education at an American university, it is something I have always dreamed of but given the result, I am not sure I have the profile. I am thinking about applying to the same schools next year in round 1 but I have the feeling that once you get rejected from a school, it is very difficult to be accepted later.
    Am I too old to pursue an MBA degree next year? What are your recommendations?

  • navyfinance


    Have you noticed MBAs that “major/focus” on analytics place into certain industries more than others? Booth has analytic finance and analytic management as concentrations, Kellogg has a data analytics pathway, and I’m sure there are others.

    I think that I’d like to pursue a career in consulting, and I think many of the consulting companies want people who are savvy with data. Would it make sense to talk about my previous analytical work as preparation for a career in consulting?


  • miguelramirez003@gmail.com

    Hi Ivan,

    I am a Civil Engineer making a transition to business management. I am applying at NYU Stern for the 2017 fall semester. I need some help answering the following questions:

    1) What is the downside of getting your MBA through a part-time program?
    2) Do part-time MBA’s receive less job offers and less attractive compensation packages than full-time MBA’s do?
    3) Considering my Civil Engineering background, will employers from other industries (finance, consulting, tech, etc) prefer to go with graduates whose backgrounds align more with the industries their companies serve?

    Thank you for your help!



  • JJ,

    My personal opinion is that the educational content, in and of itself (and, to some extent, minus the experience of group learning and problem-solving) can be acquired without even going to school.

    The merit of being part of an MBA program is the cross-fertilization that comes from the back-and-forth dynamic of great lectures, team assignments, solo learning, thinking and rethinking, living in proximity to, and enjoying informal communication with great faculty and great classmates … not to mention benefiting from the nurturing relationships and friendships that result from joining a network of ambitious, capable, like-minded MBAs in an alumni community that spans cities, industries, functions.

    I do think that graduates of elite programs (let’s say ~ top 25, however you choose to rank them) do experience a different post-MBA dynamic than graduates of 90+ ranked programs, primarily as a derivation of the differences in levels of influence, leadership, and interconnectedness of a program’s alumni … all things that influence your own career options (e.g., job leads, and even such things as investment in your future new venture business efforts). On the other hand, if the 90-something ranked school is a strong regional player in the city, country where you are based, or where you know you want to live long-term, the school’s local network effects may in fact trump an ‘elite’ program that is far off and may not enjoy the same local presence.

    I know that business school is expensive, and that not having a mountain of student loan debt offers a significantly higher degree of freedom of choice in your career path (meaning, you don’t have to limit yourself to the most highly-compensated career paths). That being said, I’d feel more comfortable taking the “full scholarship” option at a school that is at least within the range of reputation of a school where you would pay full fare. Remember that if you are successful in your career, and earn money in the manner that MBAs can (especially in professional services and technology), then your loans could be paid off within a matter of just a few years after graduation, assuming prudence and a degree of frugal living. I generally advise my students / clients to ignore and not make the decision to attend one school over another based on differences in scholarship / cost in the $20-$40K range, but rather choose the school based on fit, community, reputation, location. When the cost difference becomes one of $80K-$150K, that’s a different story, and one worthy of careful reflection.

    All in all, the goal should be to gain entry into an elite MBA program, whose “market power” especially vis-a-vis on-campus recruiting and alumni, employer engagement can help facilitate your next, great career leap. If that sense of business community and the market-making function do not exist at the program you’re considering, then I would think a lot about the extent to which you can forego school, learn on the job, and take online courses, read books, attend conferences, etc. that broaden your business acumen. Going to school “for free” may not be a bad lifestyle choice and way to spend 1-2 years, but it may not be the most assertive, accelerated way for you to pursue the next phase of your career. I hope that helps!

  • Nikita,

    My personal hunch is that your application would be competitive in many / most of the programs you apply to (considering the range you mentioned), given your work background.

    That being said, if you can nudge the GMAT score upward, even to 680, and especially if you can get it to 700 and/or above, this would offset the stringent GPA from St. Xaviers that you can no longer influence, and would also then make your qualifications and personal essays stand out on par with a higher level of candidate. My personal take (and please note that I’m a former career services director, not admissions director) is that you compete on intangible and qualitative factors with people in similar tranches of grade point average and standardized test outcomes … I would wager that the folks with the highest ‘scores’ are considered first and foremost, with movement down the list of quantitative marks, as a new class of admits is filled up. I hope that thinking makes sense, and good luck in evaluating whether you want to and can re-take the exam.

    With regard to a Master of Finance vs. an MBA, I think your decision should be led foremost by the degree of career focus you foresee for yourself in the years to come. Since you are already in a finance vertical, if you enjoy that and if being a technical expert and someone who remains in treasury / corp. finance roles for the duration of your career seems like a good outcome, then the MFin may be a great way to get to the next stage of that career more quickly, cost-effectively, and with potentially a lower competitive bar for admissions. If, on the other hand, you want a career that is more general, and you could see yourself switching functions / industries, being a general manager in different contexts in the future, then the MBA is more likely a better all-purpose vehicle.

    So, the choice of degree really comes down to whether you want your business career to be exclusively functionally focused within finance roles (in which case MFin works well), or broader and more flexible (in which case the MBA is perhaps the better hedge). Last but not least, there are folks who pursue a Masters in Finance (especially when switching countries), work in IB / finance roles for some time, and then decide to pursue an MBA later on (or even an Exec MBA if enough time has passed). That’s a lot of schooling, and not inexpensive, but can be a good way to build a solid foundation in one career vertical, and then broaden your experience, as you rise through the ranks, gain responsibility, and build a track record of success.

    Good luck in your applications!

  • Chris

    Hi Ivan, thank you so much for doing this; I really appreciate you taking the time to answer questions!

    I just graduated a couple of years ago, so I still have about 2-3 more years before I apply for an MBA program. My dream is to get into an M7, and while parts of my application read well (double major at an Ivy League undergrad, award-winning debater regionally, nationally, and internationally, held a leadership role in large organization on campus, I haven’t taken an official GMAT but got a 730 on initial assessment – hoping to bring this up to a 750 by the time I apply), I know I definitely have some significant blemishes. The two main road blocks are 1. my GPA is pretty low (3.1) and 2. while I’ve been doing good work in my current role (was hired full-time out of an internship, promoted once, and on track for another promotion within a year from now), it’s also at a fairly unrecognizable mid-sized investment firm. Is there a way that I could position myself to be competitive (even if it’s still a long shot) for HBS, Stanford, Wharton? (I’m of course not putting all my eggs in one basket, but if I shoot for the moon, maybe I’ll land amongst the stars?)

    Specifically in terms of work experience, I’ve heard that it’s good to work at a more prestigious, recognizable firm, but I’ve also heard that MBA programs value consistency and growth. I’m currently pursuing the CFA charter and hope to finish by June 2018, but is it better for me to continue trying to rise in my current firm all the way through to when I apply for an MBA program, or should I go for a position at a more prestigious/recognizable firm during the 2 years after I (hopefully) complete Level III of the CFA program and before I intend to apply for an MBA program?

    I also know that leadership is important in applications. I have some leadership experience from college, but my team in my current role is very small and there isn’t really a way for me to rise to a leadership position if I stay here. Given that it’s a small team, I do have a lot of responsibility and will be “leading” a pretty major project soon, but it’s still not really a “leadership” position. Outside of my full-time job, I tutor high school students for about 10 hours of my week right now; could that be considered “mentorship”/”leadership” of some sort? Should I be looking for leadership roles at other firms? Is there a particular way you would suggest finding leadership positions outside of my current job?

    Really, I’m just looking for advice on the best way to spend the next 2-3 years. Thank you so much for your help!

  • patodia.nikita@gmail.com

    Hi Ivan,

    Request your views/advice.

    I am a Chartered Accountant from India currently working in a private sector bank in Commercial Banking role. I have ~3 .5 years of work ex including Statutory Audit ( 1.5 years), Corporate Credit Rating (1 year) and Corporate Banking (1 year). Prior to CA, I have also done 3 years of articleship (internship i.e. a part of CA curriculum) at a Big Four firm in Statutory Audit.

    my GMAT score is 650.

    I have completed graduation from St. Xaviers College, Kolkata (India) with 61%. Many colleges in India grade/score very stringently, hence, this score if converted to GPA would appear extremely low.

    I want to work in roles like Investment Banking /Private equity/ Corporate Finance/ Credit ratings etc preferably in London or Singapore. I aspire to do MBA from places such HEC Paris, LBS, NUS, Insead among others.

    With my profile and GMAT score do I stand chances in any of the above mentioned institutes ?

    Further, considering the much lower cost in terms of time and money required for Mfin (LBS) – if I apply for this course – Will I be able to get access to opportunities in the financial sector that I desire ?

    Please advise !


  • JJ

    Hi Ivan-
    What do you think of an opportunity to attend a lower (90 something) ranked business school for free vs pursuing higher ranked programs at full pay?

  • Dave

    I am a licensed psychotherapist with over 20 years experience in the field. Graduating with my MBA 3 years ago, endeavoring to modify my career, I find myself stuck, remaining in my counseling field as before. I imagined an entrepreneurial and independent direction for myself, consulting small family-owned businesses on best practices while helping with ever-present conflict typical of that environment. I also was attracted to being an HR facilitator for acquisitions and mergers, being strong in soft skills.

    My MBA program didn’t require an internship for graduation, and now I am without specific business experience. What effective and creative strategies to you recommend I can follow to be the next few steps I could realistically make to break into a fresh new career, making a similar income ($70k/yr).

    Thanks for your help! What a great resource for us.


  • Josh

    Hello Ivan,

    I know you would’ve heard this statement a zillion times, but in my case it is most definitely very very true. I am a very bad test taker and although I can master the quantitative concepts and do all the practice questions very well, I still have been unable to get a highly competitive GMAT score despite numerous attempts. Unfortunately, my work is also not very quantitative in nature so that doesn’t help. Having said that, I cleared the CFA Level 1 exam a couple of years back and did very well in key modules which go very much in depth and of course are very quantitative in nature like Accounting, Corporate Finance and Investments etc. I am not sure if I will be able to crack the GMAT and get a higher score in future (given my numerous previous attempts), so in this case what do you recommend I should do to improve my candidacy as far as allaying the concerns of the Adcom with regards to my quantitative skills ? Should I try to clear CFA Level II exam ? Do you know of any MOOCs that I should go for ? Or for that matter, should I enrol in the HBX core and try to do well in that ? Your response will be highly appreciated.

  • Sam Petersen

    Hi Ivan,

    I’m looking forward to applying to business schools this fall, at which time I will have about two years of full time work experience at a high-growth, medium-size tech company. I landed the job I currently have when I was still an undergrad. An internship turned into a full time position and I was even promoted about a year after full time hire. The role primarily focuses on product and content marketing, a good fit considering my public relations undergrad degree. However, I feel conflicted because I would prefer a career that valued not just my creative and soft skills, but also my knack for strategy and trends. (I got a 710 on the GMAT, so I know I’ve got more to offer!) I would also love to have my future career path involve my bilingual abilities (I lived in Central America for 2+ years, so I speak Spanish). One of the primary reasons I want to get an MBA is because I feel like my PR undergrad degree will continue to limit me to soft skill jobs, and, like I said, I’m interested in more than just writing and messaging. But every time I think about what I would rather do, or what kind of career I might succeed at, I get overwhelmed because there are so many options, and most of them I don’t even know about. I think I would really enjoy being on a team that handled international business expansion (e.g., helping a company expand its business into Latin America). But I don’t know what such a position is called, or who to talk to about it, or how to get exposed to that kind of work.

    After that preamble, my questions are these: (1) What recommendations do you have for me as I’m looking for ways to use the MBA to shift my career to involve more strategy? (2) Would attending a school like IESE make me a more desirable job candidate for bilingual positions than if I stayed stateside for school? (3) If I attended school in Spain, would that make me more or less attractive to US businesses? (4) What kind of jobs would involve international business expansion as I’ve described it?

    Thank you in advance!

  • Hi Ivan,
    I have been selected to Olin Business School (Full Scholarship), Kelley Business School (20k Scholarship and 35k Graduate Assistantship), Mcdonough School of Business (20k Scholarship), and Jones Business School- Rice University (56k Scholarship). My tentative Post-MBA goal is to become a healthcare consultant. These goals may change during the course of an MBA. Which school would be best suited for me as an international student? My decision has to factor in the post-MBA salary, employment rate, cost of education, international prestige and the number of opportunities offered by the school. I am having a tough time deciding the B-school that I should choose. Can you please help me out?

  • I’m earning over $7k monthly at work parttime . I kept hearing some individuals advise me what kind of money these people can easily earn on the web hence I made the decision to take a look at it . Actually , it seemed all accurate so has revolutionized my lifetime . This is where i started>>> FL-Y.COM/3m09

  • Hi Nicholas,

    My apologies for the long response time! Your question has led me to do a bit of research and thinking about my own experiences as a consultant and a higher ed administrator.

    I think that the best, short answer is that consulting is probably not the right career path for exploring this interest in-depth. While I do think that a range of consulting firms offer excellent counsel regarding culture, change, organizational design and dynamics, and people strategy, I don’t think there are any at scale that deliver those services as part of a methodology or mental model that is as specific as what Bolman and Deals wrote about. Some firms have historically based their work on a few, defining paradigms (think Porter’s “five forces”), but most don’t rely on a single, or even a few, overarching analytical models, and instead offer strategic advice based on frameworks, in part, but also on industry expertise, competitive benchmarking, data and economic analysis, etc.

    If you are inclined towards research and an academic career, I think that is a valid way to pursue and perhaps further this model, and there is room certainly within business schools for this type of “pushing-the-envelope”. Whether or not you want to make a career of being an academic is a separate, and, I think, difficult question, especially if you’ve already established yourself in another career path.

    If you want to simply study, research, and publish on this topic … well, all you need is time and a laptop (it is useful to be able to belong to an org that might fund and provide resources for your efforts, but it’s hard to envision many that would be able to justify it as part of revenue-generating activity).

    Last, here is the best bit of wisdom I’ve gained about work and corporate culture, via Jon Katzenbach: culture is not something you can change (in the near term, as a consultant), you must simply work with what you have instead. Here’s a relatively recent article from Jon and colleagues … http://www.strategy-business.com/feature/10-Principles-of-Organizational-Culture?gko=3e299

  • Hi Karan,

    I’m somewhat surprised that this question has not come up earlier.

    You’ll be interested to know that there are a few MBAs each year (at top programs in the U.S.) who already have an MBA degree, most often from another country, and most often prior to gaining work experience, as is the case for you. (One of my classmates at Wharton, back in the day, fits this description.)

    That being said, this remains an unusual and rare circumstance, and I think, from the applicant’s perspective, a solid case needs to be made for why the second MBA would not be redundant, and not just from an ‘upleveling’ your career options perspective.

    For example, if you’re applying to a school that has a comprehensive ‘MBA core’ set of courses, the likes of which you already took, and if you can’t waive those courses in favor of more advanced topics, then aren’t you spending at least a year and thousands of dollars to acquire something you already know and own? If, on the other hand, the MBA program you’re applying to has a great deal of flexible, in-depth coursework in a topic that may not have been comprehensively covered in your past MBA (I think this could also work for marketing consulting), then it might be easier to make the case.

    From your brief description, I think your logic for pursuing another MBA degree makes sense; I think you probably do need to change some of the big parameters (new country, different industry, etc.) in terms of formulating and presenting your plans. I would say that the greatest difficulty in getting into a top MBA program is not the fact that you already have one, but the extraordinarily high level of competition for admissions offers at top schools.

    Whether it’s worth the investment can perhaps be answered by resolving the following: do you have a shot at the career path, roles, challenges, opportunities you’re seeking without an additional MBA? Of the people you find on LinkedIn, and via your own network, who have the roles you see yourself in in the future, how many are MBA grads and from which schools, and does their success seem to stem from those credentials, or from work experience an achievements outside of grad school?

    As usual, I’m recommending that you reach out to and talk to people whom you might want to work for, and whom you might want to “be” (in the professional sense) in the future. I hope that effort will give you useful further guidance!

  • Ashika,

    It’s a good question, and your high-level choices can be categorized as follows (at the graduate level, with a focus on U.S. programs):

    1) Joint-Degree programs, offering both an MBA degree and an MPA or MPP (Master of Public Administration or Master of Public Policy). A joint-program usually entails greater cost and more time in school, but I think it’s the most powerful combination (in essence, providing an intensive industry domain focus to your general MBA education).
    Here is a list of some of the leading joint-degree programs:

    2) Public Management programs, whether the focus is public policy, public administration, or public affairs (they are tending to merge into one and the same thing, though some programs have distinctive strengths, and particular histories to be mindful of). You can research those here:

    3) International Relations programs. You didn’t ask about this, but it’s worth mentioning, if the following applies. … *If* you’re an international student, finding a job opportunity in the public sector in the U.S. (or any other country) may be too big a hurdle unless you’re already a citizen or permanent resident there. IR Masters degree grads, on the other hand, can find work across a range of multilateral orgs, NGOs, the public sector in their home countries, and/or the private sector. The student bodies at IR programs in the U.S. tend, on the whole, to be more international, whereas public policy (and law) degree programs, tend to be more “American”.

    With regard to the job market, earning an MBA degree tends to make you eminently more “hire-able”, across a range of industries and functions, than any other Master’s program. This is not true, of course, for roles that require highly-technical, specialized knowledge (e.g., you studied submarine warfare in graduate school, and want to go work for Navy Intelligence), or for roles in which MBAs may be competing with PhDs for roles that require a similarly high levels of domain expertise (e.g., being a PhD grad in ‘machine learning’ or ‘AI’ at present tends to trump all other types of degree candidates at tech firm).

    For public policy programs, the best course of action is to request the career reports and any other ‘outcomes’ data for the schools you’re interested in. You should have a sense not only of the organizations / departments that grads went to work for, but what their pre-graduate school work and academic experiences were, so that you can benchmark your own competitiveness. Speaking with current students and alumni is recommended.

    Last, the best thing to do about a “not so impressive GPA” is to spend another year, or two, or three, working for a great organization and doing an outstanding job … your work record should then, in essence, “overshadow” your earlier academic efforts, from the perspective of admissions committees.

    I hope that makes sense. Good luck in your explorations!!

  • T.,

    I hope you’ve had a great holiday, and a truly peaceful transition into 2017 … congratulations, not least, on your admissions successes!

    I’m not sure that I would give either MBA program the edge, in terms of pure academic offering and experience. The fact that HBS has a bigger alumni network, and one that tends to be more dispersed (less concentrated in the Valley, as Stanford’s alumni population tends to be) may help in terms of future connections in Atlanta, Houston, or elsewhere in the South. On the other hand, being at Stanford may make you more competitive in terms of seeking start-up / VC opportunities directly out of school, and most likely in California.

    So, that’s perhaps the only broad-brush-stroke generalization I might allow: Stanford as greater value for your role immediately post-MBA, and especially in California, and Harvard as greater value in the long-term, and especially outside of the west coast.

    Beyond this generalization, I think the answer comes down to what your instincts and intuition say about which program feels more “right”. A good thing to do is to connect with current students, alumni, and faculty at both programs (just do it!), and to try to go a level deeper as well … are you thinking about investing and entrepreneurship in the health care / medical devices / biotech space (perhaps Cambridge has the edge, then?), or in cleantech, social media, and/or other online technologies (in which case, Silicon Valley might have the edge)? If you have an ideal post-MBA employer, even if that’s 5-7 years away from now, beyond which you yourself would become a founder, what is that organization? Or, where are those leading organizations, and are they Harvard or Stanford-“heavy” in terms of their leadership? (You should also make a special list on relatively non MBA-rich orgs … yes, I’m thinking of you, Elon Musk … and contact folks who might offer perspective on career paths into those realms.)

    It’s a lucky problem to have. Let me know what you decide!


  • T.

    Hi Ivan, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions.

    Quick one for you.. I was recently accepted to both Harvard and Stanford, and am interested in working for a mid/late stage startup (or in VC) immediately post graduation. My mid-term goal (5-7 years out) is to start my own company. Ideally, I would like to live in the South (strange, I know) post-graduation.

    Is Stanford’s location in the Bay Area truly THAT much of an edge over Boston for my near/mid term goals? I know HBS has been throwing a lot of money towards their tech/entrepreneurship/VC programs, so I’m interested how much (if at all) they’ve closed this gap w/ Stanford. Thanks for your help!

    – T.

  • ashikaverma13@gmail.com

    Hi Ivan,

    I have a pretty specific query. I am law undergrad with a not so impressive GPA. I wish to pursue MBA in public policy and/or administration but do not have enough info on the same. I am presently preparing for my GMAT and I have a total of 2 years of experience. (3 by the time I take admission)

    Can you inform me about the public policy courses and colleges which provide good courses on the same. If you could give me an insight on the dual degree programmes provided by some of the colleges, that would be great. Also, please shed a little info on how public policy graduates perform in recruitment terms.

  • Karan

    Hi Ivan,

    Am currently working as a Brand Manager for a Two-Wheeler manufacturing company for Global Markets. I have a 6.5 years experience in various profiles including Sales, Corporate Marketing and latest being Brand Management. Though I have done an MBA right after my Graduation (Bachelors of Technology) without any corporate experience, I now feel that having earned a degree from a Tier 2 college has limited my career growth to a certain extent.

    Having earned a valuable experience in different field of marketing and relevant global exposure I now want to move to a field of Marketing Consulting. I am planning to do a full time MBA program again from an top league college only this time ensuring it gives me the right platform to make the correct switch. My question to you is how difficult is it to get into top B-schools for a second MBA program and is it the right move to invest such a huge amount to make this switch ?

    Thanks for your reply in advance.

    Karan Dua

  • Nicholas Trigg

    Hi Ivan, I really appreciate any time you can give to this. While I was studying my MBA, I was very impressed by the views presented in Bolman and Deals: Reframing Organisations; especially the symbolic frame. This frame uses various techniques (some from the Jungian Analytical Psychological school) to understand organisations from a cultural even thematic sense. I would like to working in this area but I am not sure if I will need to go into research or can do this in a consulting capacity. Can you also give some hints on how I may progress towards this kind of work in either capacities?

  • EdTechGoals

    Hi Ivan,

    Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to help us out 🙂
    I am an early career candidate with under 2 years of work experience in Tech, but It’s been fairly significant in terms of quality and responsibilities handled and I worked a lot during undergrad in internships, etc. (I was featured in one of the previous P&Q posts and based on the feedback I’ve received I am targeting M-7 Schools to enter Fall 2017.)

    My short term goal is Product Management in Tech. My plan was to head to B-School, and post-MBA land a product management role. In the long term, I am considering going into social entrepreneurship in Ed Tech. I did a pro bono project during undergrad in Ed Tech in a developing nation and I loved it! I think the work experience I can gain as a product manager in a successful Tech company would help me develop the technical expertise needed to start my own Ed Tech company, possibly 10 years down the line. (Since I am on the lower side of work experience right now.)

    Based on your experience, Am I being realistic with my goals? Do B-schools prefer that candidates start businesses right out of B-school, if they mention entrepreneurship in their interests? Should I mention the long term goal in my application, or should I just mention my short term goal for now and decide after entering B-School the more practical path to achieve the long term goal?


  • Hi Veepul,

    Normally, answering this sort of question requires a conversation, more questions and answers in a dialogue format, and a fair bit of “scenario planning” on your part. (Hence, please feel free to contact me directly.)

    What I would say (in an effort to be generally useful to P&Q readers as well) is that there are a few key variables that someone in your situation should consider:

    1) How many years of work experience have you had subsequent to your undergraduate education? If it’s 1-3, then you have have more time to continue in the exciting work you’re doing prior to an MBA; if it’s 5-7, then you may be nearing the upper end of the range of ages of most of the students who apply to full-time MBA programs, and it might make sense to go now.

    2) Is the work you’re doing more advanced, at a better compensation point, and/or on a faster promotion trajectory than the roles you would be vying for as an MBA job candidate? If the answer is “yes”, or close to “yes”, you may in fact be decelerating your current career by going to b-school; that may not in itself be a bad thing, especially to the extent that graduate education is a long term investment in your abilities and your social capital, and not just a vehicle for a one time ‘bump up’ in your job title and compensation.

    3) Related to #2, if the current work your doing is not on a path for the type of work you want to be doing in the future (even if you’re successful at it), then business school may offer a needed inflection point and training you need to make that career switch.

    In your case, it sounds like the type of work you’re doing is capturing your interest, attention, and energy, and, at the same time, you’re achieving good things, gaining additional exposure and experience, and having your work be noticed exactly by the sorts of folks from whom you’d want a recommendation (e.g., the Fuqua alumnus/alumna you’re working with).

    With regard to whether you should refocus on American MBA programs vs. Canadian ones, I think you should focus less on which country you’re attending business school in, and more on the particular education, culture, and career outcomes of each of the schools in your target list. If you’re confident that you want to work in Canada after graduation, it might make sense to stay in the northern half of the U.S., and consider programs in the Northeast, the Chicago schools, or those in the Pacific Northwest, or northern Midwest (this will simply make networking and going to interviews easier). Let me know if you have any additional questions!


  • Veepul

    Hi Ivan,
    Thanks for taking out time for this.
    Earlier this year, I got waitlisted for an MBA program at top Canadian b-school (think Rotman, Queens, Ivey) in July and left my job. However, I was admitted in the Jan 17 program, so I took a freelance job at a company thinking it will be a great value add, till the time I joined college. I ended up taking some major responsibilities as my boss, a duke alumni, was quite impressed with me and I formed a good rapport with him.

    In my current role, I majorly engage with startups in IoT field and I almost know the overall IoT landscape in India.
    I also deal with the India heads of companies like BOSCH, Cisco, Intel, etc. I’m involved in certain key IT/IoT events in India.The organization is one of most recognized trade body across the globe. We recently worked on sending 10 Indian IoT startups to Japan, a fully funded trip by our organization to showcase their products. Eariler this year we did similar gig for sending startups to Silicon Valley. I think my profile is unique as I have worked with startups, enterprises, and government working towards IoT industry and I have some deep insights on how IoT is going to tranform businesses.

    Although, my past has been pretty average – graduated from Mumbai University with average GPA, worked for two years at an MNC as an engineer, tried my hands at a startup, and worked at a non-profit.

    Do you think spending a year or two at this job would help me get into top notch US b-schools?
    Or should I go ahead and do my MBA right now from Canada?

  • Hi Prayank,

    Thank you for your question (and for your patience in awaiting this response!).

    First, I think you have the right kind of background and combination of “pre-requisites” to be considering business school, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere abroad. And, on a certain level, it’s tempting to suggest that you’ll be fine, given your career focus and current hiring trends for strategy consulting, regardless of which one of those 10-15 top business schools you attend … the employers you are likely going to be targeting will be present in the MBA recruiting process for all of those leading schools.

    That being said, choosing a business school that’s right for you, including one that gives you the solid finance / strategic management platform you’re seeking, is somewhat akin to choosing what car you should to buy. There are high-level differences of course — such as whether teaching is delivered via the case method versus a quant and calculation-centric approach — and you can think of those differences as akin to the difference between an 4×4 SUV versus a family sedan, vs. a two-seat convertible … all of those cars will get you where you need to go, in their own fashion, but some have advantages that others don’t, and a lot depends on your intended “use” of the degree / vehicle.

    I’m going to be super-nerdy for a moment and suggest that you think of all the constituent pieces of the business school experience that are of value to you (from social life to teaching quality, to recruiting landscape and so on), and then evaluate / weigh them in your own back-of-the-envelope hedonic pricing or hedonic regression model, in order to figure out the total worth of the composite MBA products you’re considering.
    … Much in the same way that a car’s color, its wheel rim options, or availability of heated seats or a panoramic moonroof, are all things that represent different amounts of value to different people, you should come up with your own list of what matters to you, and then assign a rating for each category for all the schools you’re considering.

    As obsessive as such an exercise might seem, simply forcing yourself to disaggregate what you care about, and then exploring the quality of each of those pieces for the schools you’re looking at might help you bring into sharper focus how schools truly differ and which ones are likely to be a better fit for you.

    I apologize that I’ve given you homework, rather than merely saying, “How about Kellogg, Haas, or Sloan?,” but I hope you will appreciate the point I’m trying to make, and the reality that school choice is often as highly personal to your needs and wants as selecting a car, even though all cars do by and large the same thing, and are bought for by and large the same reasons (the hope is that your purchase of an MBA degree, unlike a car, will appreciate over time rather than the other way around, of course).

    There is *a lot* you can read on Poets&Quants and elsewhere to inform your thinking and selection of target schools. Good luck!

    PS – I couldn’t resist: go for the MBA degree that does this! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d7cb8adc071ae0db4869aa5e357bfef2d34584c5a69d9a97a904eb5863265ae6.jpg

  • prayank4@gmail.com

    Hi Ivan,

    Thank you for doing this. I am engineer from India currently working for a Big 4 technology consulting firm and have almost 4 years of work experience. I have also completed Level 2 of the CFA Program and want to pursue a career post MBA in strategy consulting (specifically in financial services domain).

    I am currently looking at top 10-15 US business schools that can help me build a strong platform in finance and consulting, such as Chicago Booth, Wharton and Columbia.

    What would you recommend? Any other school suggestion is also welcome.


  • Lee

    Hi Ivan,

    Thanks for your help with answering all our questions. I was wondering if my career experience and/or career direction would hurt my chances of getting into a top ten MBA program.

    I’m an Asian American ordained Presbyterian minister approaching 30. My undergraduate GPA of 3.62 was in a humanities subject from a top tier public university. I’m also averaging a 3.7 from my two masters degrees in divinity and theology (with two short academic publications). All of my career experience has been working/volunteering for churches and startup non-profits as a department head or director with a lot of leadership and overseas experience. I want to start my own non-profit to work with refugees in East Asia a few years from now and maximize my service by pursuing an MBA. My GMAT score averages between 700-730 in practice exams. I’m confident my academic achievements and test scores are adequate, but my career experience clearly doesn’t fit the usual “consulting” or tech mold.

    Your thoughts? Thank you in advance.

  • Hi adegokeoduntatn,

    Thank you for sharing your background and question. I think it’s somewhat more difficult to narrow down the range of MBA options only given your background, rather than your intended direction.

    As you likely know there are a number of schools which enjoy either geographic proximity or industrial / employer ties with oil and gas companies (being anywhere near Houston in the U.S. tends to help, for example). If you specifically don’t want a career in the oil and gas sector, then your options are many. Perhaps narrowing down a field (both industry and function), especially one that leverages your technical knowledge and work experience, is the right next step?

    And/or, if you’re not sure about what path to pursue, then focus on programs that have a good reputation for offering a strong, general management education. There is a *lot* of information online about business schools in the U.S.), and I encourage you to read the many posts on P&Q, on other blogs and news media sites, and, of course, the websites of the schools themselves. I hope that’s helpful. Please let me know if you have more specific follow-on questions!

  • adegokeoduntan@gmail.com

    Hi Ivan,

    I am a Nigerian/ Senior Field engineer with 5 years experience in the world’s leading oil and gas service company . My undergraduate CGPA was : 4.1/5.0 (BSc. Electrical and Electronics Engineering) . I am currently preparing for GMAT but I will like to know the MBA program or specialization that will expand my horizon and give me the highest chances of employment in the US , as i don’t want to limit my career to the oil/gas sector.

  • Prince S Ali

    Hi Ivan,
    This will be an interesting one:
    I have been working with a Top Japanese Automobile Manufacturer for 5 years now, as a Senior Engineer. I took TOEFL (112) , GRE(329) and have a UG GPA of over 3.5. I wish to steer my career towards the booming technology field of Autonomous and Electric Vehicles – Teslas and Faradays – with a clear eye on Product Planning and Market Study. Ultimately, I see myself in a position wherein I can take decision about a company’s product portfolio and the pricing strategy for a market.

    1. Which B-Schools do you think can serve my purpose the best? Please sight multiple options.
    2. What do you think of plan? Is it too ambitious?

  • Hi Tom,

    Without having a greater depth of detail into your decision (such as whether relocation would be a good thing or a so-so thing, in your opinion), I would offer the following thoughts about the possibility of doing an MBA …

    In the short term, it does seem that you are giving up the chance to smoothly accelerate (both in terms of compensation and responsibility) in your current role and organization. If you’re enjoying the work, and can see yourself satisfied as a more senior manager in your firm, then it would make sense to stay the course.

    At the same time, while the MBA might put you “offline” for some amount of time, the degree — both academic training and social experience — can be a good way to enhance / improve your long-term, overall career. Thus, the experience and earnings you’d forego in the coming few years would be (should be) more than made up for by greater opportunities in the future, and the chance to be on the CEO path, whether in asset management or in another line of work.

    Given that you’re only three years into the current experience, and not feeling “stuck” per se, perhaps it makes sense to continue working, to broaden your knowledge and contacts in your industry, and to re-evaluate the prospect of doing an MBA in a year or two? … It may also be that you decide to commit to your current work and organization for a 5-7+ year period, and then consider the utility and attractiveness of pursuing an Exec MBA?

    There is a lot to be said for the differences between FT MBA programs and Exec MBA programs, but the most useful guidance I can offer based on your question is that if you feel you are on an ascendent, soaring path at the moment, don’t feel pressure to put the brakes on that, at least in the short term, and even if pursuing an MBA is being pitched to you as a universally “right” thing to do!

  • Tom

    Hi Ivan,

    I am having the debate on if I want to pursue an MBA or not. I am concerned about taking myself off my career path, I am currently an associate with 3 years experience at one of the worlds largest asset managers. My salary is in the low six figures and has the potential to greatly increase (3-4x) in a few years but would force relocation.

    I am wondering if you think that taking time off of my career to get an elite MBA is worth it?

  • WorthIt?


    Greatly appreciate the help. I wanted to inquire if, in your opinion, it would be worth it for me to get a full-time MBA. As background, I majored in business at a major state school and have an accounting master’s degree from a top ranked program in the US. I received a ~700 when I took the GMAT over five years ago and would target a higher score prior to applying for MBA. I have four years of work experience including investment banking (near-bulge bracket) and mezzanine lending. I very much like the work I am currently doing, and would only consider getting an MBA if I was accepted to a top 12 program.

    I currently make less than 75% of the average base salary of top MBA graduates; do you believe the investment in the program cost and lost salary would be worth it if I returned to the investment management/private equity industry post-MBA?

    In your opinion, would an MBA benefit my career long term? My fear is that, given my industry focus, I may be less competitive down the line if I do not have an MBA, however I understand this dynamic is changing. It is not uncommon for employees at my firm to be promoted without an MBA.

    I currently work in the South and would prefer to stay here long term. Additionally, I intend to return to the investment management or the private equity industry after completing my MBA, however it appears that the industry placement, even for top MBA programs, in these industries is fairly slim. From my research, it seems programs ranked roughly 7 to 15 only place around 5% in these industries and it doesn’t really increase meaningfully until you get to the most prestigious schools. My concern is that a post-MBA position in these industries in the South may be a relative long shot, but I am curious to get your thoughts.

    I live in proximity to a relatively well ranked EMBA program. Is this a viable option as it effects my career or does this have a stigma?


  • Somnath Mukherjee

    Hello Ivan,
    Here’s a brief about myself.

    Indian, 33 years old, Electrical Engineer, project co ordinator for a renowned Indian firm in the Electrical Infrastructure sector.

    What I do : Liaise with the client, our procurement department and the site execution teams in all aspects of the project. From engineering drawing approvals, material quality inspections to commercial aspects – spot loopholes in our processes and take corrective measures. Facilitate faster deliveries and client approvals on a day to day basis. Right now, I am responsible for closing the projects since execution is complete. My clients are government bodies and in India, liaising with them is a skill in itself.

    On a personal scale, I have an intense interest in the stock markets. I have spent years teaching myself the study of stock charts and do some technical analysis for clients all over the globe on an online platform.

    What I intend to do : I am passionate about spotting process leakages and devising methods to correct them. Whether its a personal habit or a business process, I find it exciting to think about how something can be improved upon, automated and can lead to a benefit. My skills in this territory are limited since my organization does not provide adequate training in analytics tools. I do believe that I would enjoy a career in Business Analytics.

    My drawbacks : After my schooling, I had to join my family business due to personal reasons. This lasted 4 years and then I took up Engineering. Because of the gap, I found it difficult to fetch a job and hand to join the already declining business again. However, after a year I found my current job in which I have been for 5 years.

    What I need from you : Some insight into whether my belief about my career choice in analytics. How an MBA could help me achieve this and what could be my career path. I have scored a 710 on the GMAT. What schools and specializations would suit me best.

    Thank you so much for your time.

    best regards,

  • vivekkv2@gmail.com

    Hi Ivan,
    Thanks for being patient with so many questions here. I am looking for some post MBA career advice. I am an Electrical Engineer Working for a south Korean behemoth in Semi conductor R&D (memory chip design) for the past 10 years. And I see my career plateau in this role. I am thinking of doing an MBA to boost my career in the technology field I am working in right now. Recently I got a decent GMAT score (730) and looking for the right MBA program which helps me in my career aspirations in technology industry. Now, my question is, what kind of careers do I envision post MBA for a person with my kind of background. I am not sure where can I meet people who went for an MBA with a similar background and career interests as mine. Any help in that direction would be invaluable.

  • lks.aiesec@gmail.com

    Hello Ivan,

    Thank you for doing this.
    I am 2013 Engineering graduate and since then I have been working with several non profit organisations and at present I am running my own NGO for rural development.

    I want to take the next step and therefore I am planing to do my masters/MBA with some kind of specialization in Social entrepreneurship and Sustainability. What will you suggest a specialized masters course in sustainability or a MBA ? I want to make a career in non profit sectors.


  • LucasC,

    To take both of your questions together, I think the differences between Cornell, Dartmouth, and Yale with respect to employment opportunities and career development are simply not great enough for you to be able to say definitively that one school is better than the others, and it’s always difficult to predict how the schools’ relative merits will be viewed by MBA employers in the years to come.

    I tend to be favorably biased towards Yale SOM because I’ve worked there and had a chance to understand first-hand all of the ways in which a Yale MBA can be leveraged for professional success. At the same time, I’m aware of the strong work of Cynthia Saunders-Cheatham’s team at Johnson as well as Jonathan Masland’s team at Tuck.

    For a consulting or general management career, you simply can’t go wrong at either of the three, and I would select the school that appeals to you most on a spectrum of variables … your planned academic path, extracurricular interests, geographic preference, and, of course, MBA recruiting strategy. Good luck on conducting your further due diligence!

  • Neel

    Thank you very much Ivan for taking the time and effort to post such a nuanced and elaborate answer to my question.

    As you explained, I have indeed asked myself the two questions. First, if I would be able to progress to a career with just my current graduate degree. The answer seems to be a mixed yes/no. A lot of companies do not make it easy for people to transition from technical to business roles and vice-versa. I am in a 100% technical role and for me to shift to a business/management role would almost be starting all over again. And there is still a bias among reputed companies to favor MBA grads to lead the company or a division rather than hand over the reins to a senior techie, and that is sometimes for good reasons. So, there are a very few avenues to get into a product management-ish role and then start from there with my current degree. But that involves learning the ropes and proving myself again, though that is actually a good thing!

    For the second question – if I am looking at the big picture for a greater long-term success and satisfaction? Yes, absolutely! Earning my graduate degree in engineering taught me a great deal of life lessons apart from purely technical skills. And from what I see, there is a tremendous opportunity for personal and professional development through an MBA. And having an MBA from a premier b-school is definitely a great ticket into the business side of an organization. And I can still get the ball rolling in terms of my transition within my company or in a different one in the 2-3 years that I am slogging through for the MBA. That is the main reason for me leaning towards a part-time MBA.

    My main questions were about the perception of the b-schools and companies about a part-time MBA student and I think you answered my questions.

    Thanks again.

  • LucasC

    Yale’s improvement during the previous 2 years has created some doubtse. In my opinion, Tuck is historically better than Cornell and Yale, but I’m afraid both Yale and Cornell may gain momentum over the next coming years and surpass Tuck. What do you think?

  • LucasC

    Hi, Ivan! Thank you for your time!
    My short term goal is to work either with Consulting or General Management. Given that, which school do you believe would bring me the best employment opportunities and career perspectives: Yale SOM, Tuck or Cornell Johnson?
    P.S: Cornell offered a 25% tuition merit scholarship. Do you think that is enough to choose it no matter what?
    P.S2: Please consider there is perfect fit with all three schools.

  • saki r

    wow its really good to know about wonderful opportunity

  • mailneelk,

    I think this is a very important question, though also not an easy one to answer. Here is my take on the primary difference between the recruiting experiences for full-time MBA students as opposed to part-time MBA students …

    In both types of programs, you can expect to have full access to the school’s career development resources, to career coaching, and to all of the alumni and employer relationships that can lead to being hired for a new opportunity. That being said, many companies, especially large organizations that have a ‘constant’ need to refresh their work force with MBA talent, have developed formal recruiting programs, timetables, and events/activities geared exclusively towards full-time MBAs (including MBA internship recruiting as well as full-time MBA recruiting). As a full-time MBA, you experience the full “market-making” power of your school’s brand and talent pool in the form of on-campus recruiting, which for the larger programs, can involve a level of complexity and gamesmanship not too far afield from what you see in the NFL draft.

    For most schools, the part-time MBA students are not able to participate in this full-time, on-campus MBA recruiting process. In part because they are more experienced and at a greater variety of career stages and levels of technical expertise, part-time MBAs fall into the “experienced hire” candidate pool for most hiring organizations. This can mean that the recruiting interface for a given company — the people who evaluate and screen new candidates — is likely to be a different set of individuals for the part-time MBA than for the full-time MBA candidate.

    However, and despite this distinction in the formal mechanisms for MBA recruiting, as a part-time MBA you nonetheless have what I think is a sizable advantage over other at-large, experienced hire candidates. Foremost, you are leveraging the academic training you receive (the quality of which tends not to vary much, or at all, based on whether you’re a full-time, part-time, or exec MBA). At the same time, you’re able to utilize all of the points of interconnection and all of the relationships and the positive reputation of your school in the form of a powerful community and social network … and this often does help you stand out from the crowd and lead to being considered and hired for a role you’re pursuing. You would not be the first part-time MBA student to make the leap into a management or strategic role from a more technical background … thousands of people have accomplished this exact feat, and for similar reasons.

    Overall, and despite the fact that full-time MBA programs are often seen as the flagship-product and most traditional and mainstream recruiting ground for new MBA talent, I don’t think there is a rigid ‘sweet spot’ regarding age / experience from the companies’ perspective (meaning, they seek both “young, energetic, willing to live or travel anywhere” types of candidates, as well as those who have might have more experience managing people and P&L, or possess in-depth marketplace or product knowledge).

    In your instance, I think the best way to get to an answer regarding the “is it worth it?” question is to concentrate on two things. First, can you get the type of job you’re seeking without additional education? (Trying to do so in the coming months might help resolve the question of whether it’s possible or not without another degree.) Or, assume that you will not be able to attain the job you’re seeking, even given additional graduate study … will the education and experience nonetheless lead to greater long-term success and satisfaction for you as a professional, even if your immediate goals are not met? (It might therefore still be worth it.)

    As I mentioned, this is a challenging problem to resolve. I would encourage you to seek out friends, family members, and colleagues for additional advice. Triangulating all of the disparate points of information and opinions should help you decide what is right for you.

  • Hi Mav,

    Thank you for your patience during the time it has taken me to circle back to your questions!

    As you no doubt have already done, I’d place Stanford’s MSx program in the context of the legacy and background of the Sloan Fellows programs originally founded by grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at MIT, Stanford, and London Business School. As mid-career master’s degrees in general management and leadership, these exec MBA programs tend to be more selective in terms of the achievement profiles as well as pure ‘stats’ of their admitted students, compared to the general pool of executive MBA students.

    Wharton’s EMBA program in San Francisco is outstanding (same faculty and high quality of instruction as Wharton’s home campus in Philadelphia, plus a great facility in downtown SF overlooking the Bay Bridge). The primary difference of being at a school’s home campus as opposed to a satellite outpost is the degree to which you desire all of the informal connections and touch-points with faculty, and administrators, and classmates (beyond your coursework study teams). It should be noted that Stanford’s MSx Fellows (and their families) reside full-time at Stanford’s campus in Palo Alto, which is unusual for an executive MBA course. This residential aspect may or may not be what you’re looking for, and many Exec MBAs I know manage to accomplish a fair bit of commuting between distant cities in order to complete their degrees (and somehow manage to stay sane and have fun too).

    With regard to the global and partner-school exec MBA offerings, I think they can be a powerful way to immerse yourself in different cultures and business practices, and they’re a great way to test and perhaps shake up some of your assumptions about what you want to be working on in the years ahead. Keep in mind that the composition of many Executive MBA classes tends to be very international, even for those based purely in the U.S., and perhaps make your decision regarding location of program based on what marketplace / city / region / country you think you’ll most likely want to remain and work in after you graduate (and years down the road, when you’ll still want to be crossing paths with old schoolmates in all sorts of contexts, such as Board leadership).

    One other factor I would consider is the ratio of company-sponsored versus self-funded students at the programs you’re considering. This ratio has moved at many schools in recent years away from company-sponsored students, and I think this is worthwhile for you to keep in mind because it would be potentially more fruitful to be in a program where there are larger numbers of students who, like you, are thinking about and working on new career directions, rather than simply absorbing more skills and know-how as they ascend into the leadership ranks in their sponsoring companies.

    Last but not least, I think you have a very interesting background, and I think you’ll gain a great deal from the academic work and relationships you’ll form in business school. Please stay in touch and let me know how it’s going!

  • Pranshu,

    Thank you for your question. I think the best course of action, with regard to whether your prior schoolwork and experience satisfy the admissions requirements for the graduate programs you’re considering, is to read the application information and other admissions FAQs on those schools’ websites, and to follow up with any specific questions via e-mail to the schools’ administrators (thus saving yourself the time and cost of applying and then finding out that you’re not ‘eligible’!).

    Deciding whether more professional experience or another Master’s degree is a good intermediate step is a more difficult question. Both are valuable, and I think your decision can be guided, in part, by what you learn as you examine the admissions requirements for your target schools.

    I also think that it can be helpful to try to identify other students who have followed a similar path to yours … using LinkedIn as a research resource, can you identify people who have pursued an MBA in the U.S. and who have a similar undergraduate background or work experience as you? Their words of wisdom and advice would probably be most useful. Seeking out colleagues at Grant Thornton for advice might be helpful as well.

    Good luck on your continued research and due diligence, and keep doing food work in your professional endeavors … given the average age of many MBAs upon matriculation, you have at least a couple of years to organize and plan your MBA application campaign!

  • dlvryby93,

    I think serving a year in Peace Corps and then changing course will not adversely affect you (in terms of graduate school applications), provided that you’ve made a good transition and that you’re able to identify what the experience has taught you, how you’ve grown and gained new perspective, and how Peace Corps has shaped your thoughts about what to pursue next in your life and career.

    My one hunch regarding heading straight into business school or another type of grad program, is to avoid doing so unless and until you have a clear vision for what that will accomplish in terms of those career plans and your other personal goals in the coming years. I suspect, even from your brief message, that working for another period of time, whether in the private sector, nonprofit world, or some other form of public service, will allow you to continue calibrate your ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’, and would make any future grad school endeavor that much more tangible and worthwhile for you.

    In general, I recommend this sort of “learning by doing”, as well as any accompanying soul-searching, as something that should take place before you invest time and money in an advanced degree. In many, or most professional degree programs, the competition for post-graduate job offers begins almost as soon as the start of school itself; hence, grad-school (unlike college) can be a costly, and at times random, mechanism for “discovering yourself”.

    I hope that doesn’t sound overly gloomy. The key point is to know what you’re getting yourself into and why. Good luck!

  • dlvryby93

    Hi Ivan,

    3.9 prominent Liberal Arts College Graduate Double Major in American Studies and Psychology who is 6 months into his Peace Corps Education service in a Sub-Saharan African country. 730 GMAT (V 96% Q 66%) looking into GRE. Service isn’t what was expected; do you think adcoms will look adversely to me leaving the Corps after only 1 year service? Not sure what industry I would work in when I got back.

  • Pranshu Gupta

    hi Ivan

    i am an aspiring MBA candidate for an ivy league from India.i did my chartered accountancy(kind of a US CPA) right after my high school and due to that my undergrad(I have an undergrad in finance and commerce) was not regular as the code of indian chartered accounts does not allow a regular under-graduation with chartered accountancy.Now i came to know that the ivy league colleges do not accept correspondence (distant learning) undergrad.i would like to seek your advice on how to proceed so that i do not face a straight rejection at the top B-Schools should i go for a regular masters(Masters in financial management with one year specialisation in corporate finance is available here in Amity university) or should i go in for some work experience at some Big 4 firm(I have done my 3 year CA Articleship in Grant Thornton India LLP)??
    (For reference only i am 21 years old right now)

  • mailneelk@gmail.com

    Hi Ivan,

    I am seriously considering the option of taking up a part-time MBA option in one of the top 10 schools. As you would know, this is not a cheap or easy decision. I have a graduate degree in engineering from a good school here in the US and an undergraduate degree from a top-10 school in India. Combined, have almost 7 years of experience and a graduate degree. For various personal and other reasons, going full-time is ruled out, even though I would love to do it. I have been with my current company(Blue Chip MNC) as a software/automation/R&D engineer for the past 5+ years and also have almost 2 years of manufacturing/consulting services experience in India. I definitely love my current career/job, but getting into consulting (Management/Technology) for primarily engineering businesses has always been my long term career goal.

    My biggest concern now is if a part time MBA is worth the investment in terms of time, money and effort, especially if I want to make a career change at this stage. I still want to work for tech/engineering firm, but on the business side. Some of the admission officers I talked to in schools such as Kellogg/Ross/Tepper (Tech/consulting heavy schools) etc are promising that part time students enjoy almost the same benefits as full-time students in terms of career opportunities. I talked to a few current students and they also seem to give a positive opinion about these part-time programs.

    Given that I would be around 34 with some 10 years experience by the time I graduate, do you still think it is still a good idea?

    Thank you very much.

  • Hi Nikunj,

    In my experience, the decision between an MBA and an MSF rests on two main criteria, one of which you’ve alluded to.

    First, the Masters in Finance implies, and is a more pure, focused vehicle for careers in Finance (whether that means banking or any other form of financial service). It tends to be less useful if, sooner rather than later, you decide to focus your career on Digital Media, CPG, Health Care, etc. The MBA program, on the other hand, will give you a more well-rounded education that can be applied in a diverse set of work roles. Think of the MSF as taking what would be the equivalent of “majoring in Finance” at an MBA program, and then expanding that topic to fill out an entire curriculum (crowding out other topics, such as Management of Technology, for example). For you, having a career focus on investment banking will be helped to a greater extent, at least in the short term, by a greater educational focus on finance.

    The second variable that I find influences the decision between an MBA and MSF is the stage of your career. For “early career” grad student candidates, the MSF often services as a technical skills-building bridge into careers in finance (students attending those programs often come directly out of undergraduate programs, or have roughly 1-2 years of work experience before the MSF). Some Masters in Finance graduates then pursue an MBA later in their careers, when they are focused more holistically on becoming managers and leaders in organizations that require a more diverse array of executive skills.

    If you are pursing admission to MBA programs, it’s more likely that you will have 5+ years of post-undergraduate experience, usually at two or more different employers. The MBA then functions less as an instrument of “entry” into a chosen career field, but as a mechanism for making the leap onto the next level of responsibility (becoming a manager). This is true even for MBAs who are career-switching and/or who must spend some amount of “dues-paying” time as an MBA associate without direct reports (people to manage) and profit and loss responsibility.

    Another way for you to consider the two options is to realize that you can utilize the Master in Finance less as an “industry”-focused degree, and more as a “function”-focused degree … meaning, that you are training yourself to fulfill a financial / audit / treasury-related function for companies that can span a range of industries. Thus, you may start out in investment banking, but then find yourself serving in a Finance function for a company making medical devices (or anything else). If you’re doing well and making good progress in such a career path, you might want to skip the MBA (meaning, don’t get an MSF and then pursue an MBA some years after that).

    With regard to “essential courses” to help an engineer transition into work as an investment banker, I would think hard about the many different things one can do as a banker (from sales and trading to risk management) and then choose electives that help you become better-prepared for that specific work. In addition, I would make sure to focus on “soft skills” (e..g, courses in negotiation) and to take on school- or student club-related activities that help prepare you for the social and client service aspects of banking work … a dimension not to be underestimated even for a career path that is though of as being essentially “quant”-oriented.

    Good luck!

  • Jus,

    Thank you for your question, and my apologies for the holiday-time hiatus!

    My overarching recommendation to you is to not try to look too far down the field (meaning decades from now) as you consider the relative strengths and effects of your chosen MBA program’s alumni network, career services office, and academic curriculum.

    I think both of your options, LBS and Wharton+Lauder, are fantastic and represent rough parity for the variables you’re considering. All that being said, and as I continue to age with my own cohort of fellow MBAs (Class of 2005), I find that geography (the location of your school) does matter in ways that I used to value less earlier in my career, and that I value more now that I’m roughly a decade out of school. …

    Specifically, in that earlier time frame, I was mostly focused, as I know you must be, on the market-making power of my MBA program, both in terms of attracting employers (from both near and far) to actively engage in MBA recruiting, and in having a strong enough brand and reputation for me to go to cities and countries farther afield (than Philadelphia, in my case), and to still be a viable, competitive job candidate. For both Wharton and LBS, you will find name-recognition, and door-opening regardless of your career focus and the employer organizations that you’re targeting, across the globe.

    As you get older, and if your experience is like mine, what tends to come more into play is not some much the immediate marketability of your MBA degree, but the proximity and density of fellow alumni from the program you attended … which result in chance encounters with classmates you did not previously get to know so well, or take the form of steady relationships and friendships that you established with your MBA cohort that can then lead to new business relationships, good peer counsel, and simply a sense of “company” and “belonging” as you and your fellow MBAs progress deeper, further (better, faster, stronger?) in your chosen career paths.

    Some of my own closest friends from Wharton now live in Mumbai, Moscow, Singapore (as well as in big cities in the U.S.), and I miss them. It’s relatively harder to compare notes, and to track and offer input on each other’s careers when the time zone differences are that big. (I should add that having a family also makes one much less likely to hop on a plane to go visit friends in Melbourne now than in years past.)

    So, to circle back, I agree that going for your gut feeling and for “fit” is likely the wisest strategy. It will make you happier in the more tangible, foreseeable future, rather than the more distant, unforeseeable future (should that be considered “time value of happiness”?). If you plan to work in Europe immediately after business school, it may also be simpler and more efficient to do so from London. At the minimum, it will give you more time to be engaged with schoolwork and school activities, and require you to spend less time on planes flying overseas for 2nd round interviews.

    Last, a couple of personal, subjective plugs: the Lauder students at Wharton were and are among the most amazing people I’ve ever met (you’d be in good company in that crowd), and both Wharton’s MBA Career Management Office, and LBS’s Career Centre are led by capable, charismatic, and very experienced leaders (Maryellen Reilly Lamb and Lara Berkowitz, respectively); they have built effective teams, and their reach is global.

    Please let me know if I can be of help in any other way, and congratulations again!!

  • jus

    Hi Ivan,

    I’m looking to go into international business or global expansion strategy after obtaining an MBA. Immediately after graduation I will likely look to work in Europe, but want to get the MBA that will set me up for success globally.

    I’m fortunate to have been offered a place at both London Business School and Wharton, for the Lauder Program with a dual degree in international studies. While I would strongly prefer to be in London for the two years, I know that the Wharton career services and name can open a lot of doors. My question for you – do you believe there is a significant difference between the two programs in terms of recruitment for international opportunities? Will the Wharton name be better in the long term? Or do you believe that opportunities will be similar enough that the decision comes down to fit?

    Thank you in advance for your help!

  • Nikunj Patel

    hi ivan,
    i am going to enroll for MBA in Spring-2016 and i have chosen finance as my concentration as my ultimate goal is to be an successful investment banker but i did my undergraduate in Computer Engineering from INDIA

    as i am confused between MBA and MSF(M.S in Finance) which course should i opt in order to seek my goal and what will be the essential courses for an engineer to be an successful investment banker

    thank you

  • Hi Siddhartha,

    I do recommend that you take the GMAT, and I think you have alluded to a good combination of solid test scores and substantive work experience.

    With regard to which universities / MBA programs to pursue, I think it would make most sense to consider what career path you intend to pursue beyond graduate school. Can you get there without earning a degree? And if not, which programs will provide the academic training, professional network, and recruiting experiences to boost your chances of success in making your next career step?

    I hope that brief perspective helps, and that it makes sense to you to work on envisioning your long-term career path and working backwards from there to arrive at a decision regarding business schools. Good luck!

  • sjiit007

    Hi Ivan

    I am 26 years old working as a Chemical Engineer at a UK Based company in India. I have given GRE before once and I scored 149 in Verbal , 164 in maths and 3 in AWA. I want to do an MBA seriously from a good institute. Am i too late for the course?

    How much weightage do colleges give to work experience.

    I really believe i can score upto >720 in GMATs. Are there any colleges willing to take me?

    Siddhartha Jain

  • Mav

    Hi Ivan,

    Thanks so much for all the help you’re providing here.

    I’m curious for your thoughts on the best programs for which I should I apply. In particular I’m interested to learn of your perspective on the value of the Stanford MSx (Master of Science in Management) versus Wharton San Francisco EMBA. Also what do you think about the value of international programs like INSEAD and joint EMBAs in comparison, and if there’s any program I’m leaving out that I should be seriously considering?

    I’m 33, 2006 industrial engineering grad from mid-tier major state university in midwest with 3.83 GPA. Haven’t taken GMAT but confident I’ll get a 700+ based on practice tests. Currently residential project developer in LA. at leading global solar energy provider, 5th year in solar. Previous experience includes:

    – Industrial engineering at major aerospace and defense contractor

    – Co-founding in 2006 and since then leading profitable microbusiness providing software to tourism industry

    – Handful of volunteer experiences around the world

    Looking for a business program to help open the doors to bigger things (upper management, entrepreneurship, etc) that will be highly valued both in USA and globally. Interested in advancing in my current industry but open to others as well and interested in both short- and long-term benefits of the degree. Harvard or Stanford MBA would be amazing to have, but I realize I’m too old for their MBA program, so looking for best options for my situation.

    Thanks again Ivan for any help you can provide — I’d highly value your input.


  • I appreciate that! I’m very much enjoying the questions, and am grateful for your feedback as well!

  • MBAba

    Hi Ivan,

    Thank you for your time and insight in this response! Looking down this thread, at the counsel you’ve provided to dozens of aspiring MBA students looking for that great fit, it’s really remarkable.

  • Fidelis Eguaoje

    Hello Ivan,
    Many thanks for this forum. I am a Nigerian, 35 years, planning to enroll for full time mba next year in a good business school. I presently have about 7 years of work experience in the construction industry and I have the vision to go into real estate development as soon as I complete my mba.
    My question is: what are the option of schools you would recommend to me because I want a school whose mba program has real estate development as one of its areas of concentrations?
    Kindly help me.

  • Dewey

    Hi Ivan,

    Not sure if you’re still checking this thread… but hopefully you are 🙂

    I have a question regarding FT MBA vs Exec MBA, specifically for those looking to utilise the 3 letters for a career change.

    First, some background; I have a BEng in aerospace, but worked for an Investment Bank (Risk Mgmt) straight out of university, I also have a MSc in Finance (part-time) which I obtained a few years into my now 9 years stint. On top of this I have 6 years’ experience managing a small team, ~5 pple.
    Second, the goal; Corporate strategy or Acquisition analysis for the mgmt. team of a mid/large corporate (preferable back on the engineering side).

    From my research and the way I see it, experience wise, I’m a border line case between the two but I tend to favour the FT MBA.
    1. FT MBA will allow more dedication and focus to study. I didn’t feel I could get full value for money from my MSc due to the demands of my job.
    2. eMBA seems more suited for people wanting to advance within their current career/industry.
    3. I feel there’s more upside potential to my network and peer learning experience/class interaction with the eMBA. My classmates would have more experience and a more impactful network – potentially – than I.

    The detraction of point 2 negates the benefits of point 3 for me leaving me with point 1, which I feel is important – time to focus!

    Which do you think would give a candidate like me the most value/chance of success?

    Would appreciate your experience and insight, Thanks in advance!

    PS – I like this analogy you made to a fellow poster. Very True!

    “…the MBA has become something like a universal, graduate liberal arts degree in business that allows people to trust you…”

  • Greekmyth

    Hi Ivan,

    I worked for a small healthcare company in marketing and sales for 3 years and recently switched to a real estate finance job ( small company as well).

    I have a 710 gmat
    A 3.0 GPA from a top 3 liberal arts school
    I was a 4 time all american, national champion, and captain of the varsity mens team that won the championship.

    I would like to one day work for a reit or hedge fund and I’ve heard that its extremely difficult to get to the buyside ( especially if you arent at a top 10 school). I will most likely have to do IB post MBA before being able to make a transition,

    I was rejected from columbia and wharton but have 2 interviews for schools ranked 11-15

    Would I be better off doing a masters in finance, working at a more prestigious company for a year or two, raising my gmat to a 730, and then reapplying for a top 10 MBA?

    Will doing internships during my MBA summers be enough to get me into IB?

    Or do you think that even with those adjustments getting into a top ten school with that gpa will be too difficult and I’m better off going to one of the schools ranked 10-15 provided I get in?

    Thank you for any information you can provide.

  • Jack

    Hello Ivan,

    I am a 32 yo pharmacist who launched a distribution company 7 years ago now. Coming from a non-business-education background, I have had troubles at the beginning of my venture that forced me to learn the basics of business and how to read all kinds of financial reports in order to solve my problems. My medium size business is very healthy now.

    I was accepted at an excellent 16 months european MBA program for September. Now I am tormented and lost to decided if I should accept to go for the MBA.
    My concerns: what if the MBA is a waste of time and money for me: instead of wasting my savings on the MBA, can I invest in a better way, since when I finish my MBA i will be returning to my company (not the usual salary and position increase like other MBAs). I know that pursuing an MBA has its benefits (network, education, exposure ,…) but i cant decide what to choose.

    Thanks for any advice you might give me!

  • PS – Here are a couple of additional articles that you might find useful: http://onforb.es/1FxBWMY and http://bit.ly/1Gd4rKL

  • Derrick,

    Thank you for that great question, although I confess that it’s also a truly difficult one to answer. I’m glad that you already have a focus on product line / brand management and an initial set of companies you’re interested in (not least because sports management can mean so many different things, from university sports administration to new product design and development).

    The advantage that established MBA programs have in terms of core management teaching, breadth of electives, corporate relationships, and alumni networks is, I agree, hard to ignore … but, all of that may not be necessary or as valuable as the focused education offered by a purely sport management-focused program, and the University of Oregon degree seems outstanding, not least from the perspective of gaining deep insight and experience into the product management life-cycle.

    Here are a few ways in which I think you can continue to inform your decision …

    First, for all of the MBA programs that have sports management electives, majors, or faculty members who have produced distinctive research and writing on the topic, go ahead and acquire the syllabi for these courses. and try to envision how they would be bolstered and complemented by the core MBA classes and other skills and areas of knowledge you’d develop there. Then, compare those curricula to the subjects and course load of a specialized sports Master’s program.

    Second, find people whom you admire and who are working in the sorts of positions and for the sorts of companies you envision joining after graduation. Go ahead and contact a number of them and ask them about their own career paths, about their preferences as hiring managers, and about the future talent needs of their organizations. This is abundantly easy to do in the age of LinkedIn, and should help illuminate the key question of whether the MBA is “necessary”.

    Third, contact staff members of the career services offices at the schools you are considering attending, and ask them for an overview of the recruiting landscape, given your interests, and an assessment of what steps you will need to take to be successful. While I think the career question would be answered in a much more comprehensive manner, related to your interests, by the specialized sports management programs, doing so with both types of programs might give you insights on how, for example, you would fare in a very self-driven, and generally off-campus, job search in an otherwise traditional MBA program.

    On that latter topic, don’t despair… sometimes, going against the grain and having a very individualized set of career goals, apart from what everyone else is doing, can also to help you to stand out form among your peers. Being at a top MBA program might carry as much weight, and train you just as well, for a very focused, niche career in sports management.

    In all, I think it’s a very personal decision, and though I would argue that traditional MBA programs still lend you the most “market power”, in general, and offer you the greatest flexibility in terms of a range of career options, there is a lot to be said for carving out a niche in which you are truly an expert and in which you’ve acquired comprehensive training (rather than just having been able to take an elective or two).

    Personal story: long before I went to business school (and before I even knew I wanted to be a “business guy”), I worked in retail at the Patagonia store in San Francisco. One of my tasks there was to answer the phone, which I did by saying, “Patagonia, this is Ivan,” … a greeting which was sometimes met with awed silence by callers who assumed that I was, in fact, Yvon Chouinard, the founder of the company. (The French Canadian “Yvon” and Eastern European “Ivan” are pronounced the same way). “Yvon, what are you doing there!?!” the amazed caller would sometimes say. To which I would respond, “You know, working the cash registers, helping customers fit new backpacks, that sort of thing … .”

    So, here’s a picture of the “real” Yvon … maybe give him a call and ask him what graduate degree program you should pursue?

  • Jay,

    I think there is simply no reasonable way to answer that question, given the many different variables involved in what/where one studies, the individual candidate’s profile and abilities, and the particular hedge fund(s) one wants to work for.

    That being said, a university that has strong departments in math, finance, accounting, and economics should provide a good platform for any student interested in pursuing a hedge fund career. Good luck!

  • Antonia,

    It’s a great question, and while a few firms come immediately to mind (Kurt Salmon, OC&C Strategy Consultants, The Cambridge Group, The Grayson Company), it’s perhaps more useful for me to offer a framework that will help you identify additional firms, including ones that focus on hiring MBA talent. There are really three ways, or three categories, that you should consider as a comprehensive way to search for consulting firms focused on this area.

    The first is to think of the ‘practice groups’ within the larger firms (including Bain, BCG, and McKinsey) as stand-alone entities, and to thoroughly research the practice leaders and partners, the office locations / cities where those practice areas have ‘critical mass’ both in terms of the firms’ consultants and clients, and, last, the type of work / solutions that they offer in the space (from branding to supply chain management). Start with the firms’ own websites, and then move on to the white papers and other industry trade publications that might help you absorb the particular type or style of work at each firm related to CPG.

    … I like using Kellogg Consulting Club’s list of firms, including boutiques, not only because of that program’s involvement and reputation for excellence in the field, but because they’re nice enough to add hyperlinks! http://kellogg.campusgroups.com/ptconsulting/firms-list/

    Vault.com also publishes a ranking of consulting firms, related to retail consulting: http://bit.ly/1LKoPcc

    I also tend to look at lists of “best firms to work for”; here are a couple that might point you to good leads: http://bit.ly/1L0C6N9 and http://bit.ly/1KOxfeF. Last but not least, there are also blog entries that will provide perspective on the tiers and ranking of all firms (not a bad thing to be aware of): http://bit.ly/1RbTLm8

    The second is to look at boutique firms that focus specifically on a particular aspect or consumer products (firms focused on fashion & luxury, for example, or the beverage industry, or digital marketing). I think the best method for doing this is to do some independent Google searching, to look at industry / trade publications related to a specific sub-sector (or the American Marketing Association publications, for a broad view), and/or even LinkedIn profiles of firms and people who are leaders in the sector. (I also like reading Adweek! … http://www.adweek.com/)

    The third category is to focus on industry and the clients themselves, and, by contacting and connecting with people working in those industries (as well as by Googling), to figure out who does the best consulting work for the types of client companies you’re most excited about. … Here are the largest 50 FMCG companies in the world: http://bit.ly/1iFoax5

    This is also not a bad strategy if you’re considering a future move from consulting back into industry, and that brings me to the second part of your question: it’s both easy and almost expected for consultants to transition into the type of client and/or industry where they have focused most of their client service efforts. One caveat to draw your attention to: spending a couple of years as an MBA associate at a strategy consulting firm (especially if the firm has a ‘generalist’ model in which you rotate across different industry and function practice areas) usually does not translate into sufficient employee “market power” to move into a position of leadership (managing teams, P&L) at a client company, and if you make that switch relatively early, there is likely more project management and “dues paying” before one is granted true leadership responsibilities.

    Spending 3-5, or better still 5+ years, at a consulting firm, on the other hand, truly does give you both the depth of knowledge in a particular client service area, as well as the valuable breadth (both in terms of understanding competition and competitors in a given industry, and in terms of being able to recognize patterns and successful business strategies across industries) required to take on important roles, such as as leading a business unit for a consumer goods company. … It helps, of course, to be truly interested in consulting and client service along the way. Consulting is not the “easy” career choice, by any stretch. I hope that helps!

  • MBAba,

    Thank you for your question, and for sharing your background! I think you’ll enjoy business school tremendously (and I feel you’ll be a great, and sought-after, candidate as well!).

    With regard to researching, preparing for, and pursuing social sector roles, there are many great resources out there. I recommend ‘Net Impact’ (https://netimpact.org/), ‘More Than Money Careers’ (http://www.mtmc.co/), ‘Idealist.org’ (http://idealistcareers.org/), ‘MBA Nonprofit Connection’ (http://mnconnection.org/), and other sites that you can identify by Googling specific sub-topics (e.g., “social impact investing”, “sustainable supply chain management”). Many of the established sites, such as the ones above, include advice on career development for MBAs in this sector, and offer job boards and other opportunities to network and learn about the space.

    With regard to summer internships, and especially given your interest in social impact work, I would think hard about how important it is to you to keep the geography variable stable. Social impact jobs, in all their variety, tend not to be focused in a particular place, or even in particular industries. I would even add that there are minimal, formal MBA internships in this space … most of the MBAs I know who’ve found great jobs in social impact work have done so by finding a particular leader (via LinkedIn, alumni networks, etc.) in a specific organization who is willing to tailor a specific project or initiative to the interests of that MBA, and that has often led to the creation of a full-time role, or to the MBA’s successful pursuit of a similar position at another org. (Finding a specific person you want to work with, and an industry or company where you want to create change, and “creating” something that may not have been there to begin with is, I’m increasingly convinced, the best way for MBAs to go about building careers in social impact.)

    Back to the geography question: if you’re able to narrow down your focus to a more specific area (e.g., cleantech), then you may be able to envision a connection between where you go to school and where you will likely work for your summer internship and/or FT position, but even then, your career trajectory will never let you have quite the ease, of, say, someone moving to New York City to work on Wall Street. If you’re not keen on toting your family to a new city for just 8-10 weeks of summer work, I would consider having them stay in the one place you will live in throughout your MBA program while you potentially “go away” for the summer; not an ideal scenario, in terms of both cost and sacrifice to family life, but I have experiences MBAs taking this approach more often than not. (I should add that, given your list of schools, Stanford may be the easiest location to both be at school and to find work, given the rich diversity of opportunities in the Bay Area.)

    With regard to your UW Foster MBA question, one option I would consider is contacting the MBA career services office (which is excellent) to inquire about alumni who have chosen to work in social impact, and/or about organizations who are seeking to hire MBAs in CSR-related roles. Schools will often compile information of this sort; here is one example from Berkeley Haas: http://responsiblebusiness.haas.berkeley.edu/cp_socialimpact_09.pdf

    Last, my take on living in New Haven is that it can often be a more attractive proposition for families than, for example, 20-somethings who want to spend lots of time in NYC. New Haven has good schools, decent cost of living, fantastic pizza, stellar arts and cultural activities, and just an all-around amazing aggregation of people, whether students, faculty, or administrators, and intellectual life all clustered in one very walkable, architecturally-unique town center. I’m a bit biased in this regard, but perhaps it would be fairer to say that New Haven’s occasional woes are shared to no lesser extent by most east coast cities, and I’d be hard-pressed to find other similar towns that outshine it (Providence? Baltimore?).

    As you think about school, career, and city, maybe it would make sense to conduct a family exercise in which those three variables are rated by you and your spouse for ‘level of attractiveness’, and that matrix is then analyzed for hidden stand-outs? Perhaps there are other schools you should be considering as well? Why not add Michigan, Cornell, or Haas to your list? I’m leaving out many additional great schools, and I continue to be a champion of all things Yale SOM, and of the bucolic campus settings and equally amazing programs at Tuck and Darden. I’m happy to discuss further … and to connect, if you’re ever in Seattle!

    PS – Speaking of Seattle, here’s what the super blood moon lunar eclipse looked like from our house last night …

  • MBAba

    Hi Ivan, Thanks for sharing your insight. I’ve been in China for 10 years, with successful managerial positions in media / creative services / PR, all bilingual English/Mandarin teams and customers, and am applying to MBA programs for 2016 (GSB, Tuck, Darden, and Foster). GPA is 3.8 from UCLA, interdisciplinary degree with international political economy, poli sci minor, languages (Hindi and German), research in history and economic geography. GMAT is 740. I will be attending with my wife and our two young children, and I want to remain close to them through internships and work.

    My career goal is to be a leader in the social benefit space, helping companies and agencies to collaborate with communities toward social and environmental objectives. I’m not sure which track I will want to pursue – my background is heavy in marketing, but my impact has been in organizational development and change management, building teams, forming strategic partnerships, and finding support for major projects.

    I have three questions – first, what kind of Summer internships would you recommend I think of to support these goals, and are there likely to be suitable opportunities close to the schools I have mentioned?

    Second, I see graduates from GSB, Tuck, and Darden who are engaged in projects that I would love to work on, but I haven’t found the same information about Foster – it looks like you’re in Seattle quite a bit, do you have any insight on outcomes for that program? (I was actually aiming at Evans for an MPA before deciding that an MBA would be more in line with my goals.)

    Finally, Yale’s programs look fantastic, but the information out there about living in New Haven has put me off taking my family there. Is there newer information that I should consider (especially given my goals), or is that likely to remain a trade-off in the next few years?

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  • Antonia

    Hi Ivan,

    I currently have 7 years experience in marketing retail consumer goods (women’s fashion shoes, tile retail & trade, liquor) and I want to use an MBA to switch into management consulting for retail. Could you please advise which consulting firms would have a strong retail focus aside from MBB? Also what would be potential career next steps after management consulting if I wanted to go back into industry?

    Thanks heaps!

  • Marketer

    FMCG is a challenge to get into if you haven’t had prior experience in the industry. If you start off with a position in retail and consumer goods in a different organisation, it might make it easier to get in.

  • Jay

    If you want to work for Hedge Fund, which university would be the best bet?

  • Derrick OBrien


    I am currently a programmer/analyst working for a public utility. I am looking to leverage a graduate degree to pivot careers. My goal is work as a product line or brand manager for a major outdoor company(Patagonia, VF, Trek). Should I get an MBA and take mostly marketing electives or enroll in a specialized masters program? The University of Oregon has a new degree in Sports Product Management that looks tailored exactly to my goals. Since it is a new program I have no data or alumni to consult. The University of Washington is the school I am considering for my MBA. Which do you recommend? Other school recommendations are also welcome.I am looking to supplement my passion for sport with a rigorous academic background. Either degree option will be pursued full time.



  • HigherEdtoBiz?

    Hi Ivan –

    I have an undergraduate degree in International Affairs from CU-Boulder with a 3.4 GPA, and have now worked in international higher education (fundraising, building alumni chapters in the U.S., student recruitment, all with a top American university in the Middle East) for 4 years but am looking to make a career change to business.

    Do you have any thoughts on which careers would make sense for someone with my non-traditional background looking to get an MBA? I very much value having real impact through my work, prefer meeting people to sitting at a desk all day, but am unsure how to focus my passions and previous experience into business. Account management and business development come to mind as reasonable transitions, but I haven’t found anything that really gets me excited in my research.

    Thanks so much!

  • John

    unfortunately, I think it is indicative of your potential

  • kgam

    Dear Ivan,

    I went to dental school, but always wanted to be in marketing. I have
    read a fair share of marketing and business administration books. I have
    worked in marketing for a medical software company, but left after 5
    months as the company culture was too risk-averse.

    What I want
    now is a career in FMCG brand management, and I have tried applying for
    that position at P&G for years, without luck. I decided to pursue a
    MSc in marketing, but I’m not sure whether I’m being realistic. I’m 26,
    so I’m afraid by the time I’m done I would be too old to be accepted
    into an entry-level position, and I don’t have experience to skip
    entry-level. I would really appreciate your help.

  • Felipe Cadavid

    Hi Ivan,

    I am a computer science engineer from a latin american university ranked 1, country wide, top 5 latin america and 240 world wide. I work at a big international bank with 3+ years of experience in my dream job, however is a dead end job, i need get moving. Simultaneously, last year I developed a free App and published it. “Tomapp” is the startup project with my brother which has been pretty successful.

    Even thou this looks quite good, my GPA is not stellar, as most of my fellow classmates had full scholarships and competition was fierce for top grades (as always). Now I have allocated 3 months for GMAT preparation through paid courses, I know a good GMAT score will balance my sloppy GPA of around 3.0-3.1 (in american GPA ratio).

    My stress levels have been high lately due to the fact that getting a 700+ score on GMAT is highly unlikely (one must never give up completely) given my background as hispanic/latino, preparation time and financial situation coming from a developing nation; I have ruled out top-tier business schools such as HBS, Yale, MIT Sloan etc…

    With this in mind I have several questions:

    1. How much would you recommend dirt cheap MBA in an south-eastern european nation with a well ranked MBAs but present a delicate political/financial situation?

    2. Most of the best ranked business schools recruit C-level executives, which I’m far from it. Top-Tier BSchools aren’t for me now and I know it. My 3-year experience (4- year eventually) is below average for most well ranked MBA Programs. Where/how can i find MBA programs that suit my early-career stage but are well ranked that will help me grow as a professional in the years to come?

    3. Based on your experience, do you know a program that you recommend given my background? MBA and similar programs have been crazy for the last years with an avalanche of offerings each trying to differentiate themselves. Any advice, I´ll look at it an consider it deeply.

    Thanks, and sorry for the long read. Cheers from Colombia.

  • Umair

    Hi Ivan,
    While outlining the goals for a MBA how specific ones needs to be? I understand the industry of interest needs to pinpointed, similarly the kind of position in the industry one wants to return in needs to be told as well.

    But does one need to go in further granularity? as in what exactly one will do in the industry, what kind of products one wants to work on or launch?

  • May

    Hi Ivan,

    Thank you for your help here. I am currently on the business/analytics side at a tech company looking to move into product management after MBA. I understand an MBA is not required for PM roles, but would like an MBA to benefit my career in the long term.

    Should I try to move into a PM position in my company before applying to/going to MBA? I’ve had 3 years of total work experience at this point and have an urge to go back to school and apply this fall. It’s possible to move into a PM position in my company with my background, but it could take months and require waiting until next year to apply for MBA. Would it make it significantly easier to find a PM role post-MBA, that it’s worth delaying my MBA applications another year?

    If it helps to understand my background, I’ve spent 2 years in management consulting previously and have a quantitative, but non-technical background. Both companies I’ve worked for and my undergraduate school are strong names, but not at the top (e.g. not Google, MBB, or Ivy League).

    Also, if you can comment on how applying this year in my current role, or waiting until next year after a move into a PM role would affect my admissions chances at a top school, that would be helpful too, though I understand the career side is more your focus.

    Thanks again,

  • Lalit Mathur

    Dear Ivan,

    Many thanks! As suggested, will visit the suggested sites.

    With regards,


  • Hi Lalit,

    At this stage of your search (which seems to be a high-level focus on the leading programs), there are almost too many resources to iterate; the good news is that there is much online, from articles that consider business schools based on their strengths in particular areas, such as research (see http://poetsandquants.com/2013/04/15/ranking-business-schools-on-research/ ), to school snapshots, such as those offered by Clear Admit (see http://t.co/AnjQlDsC98 ), to the websites of the MBA programs themselves.

    There are so many things to consider (and I am easily drawn into lengthy responses, but I will spare you). My suggestion is that you find the websites that seem to have the most detailed information, and then weigh your own academic, professional, and extracurricular interests against the range of MBA offerings as you explore the options. It also always helps to ask for the opinions and advice of your colleagues, family members, and friends and peers, especially those that have graduated from business schools. Good luck!

  • Dear MBineer,

    Those are all good questions. with regard to (part-time) business programs near Philadelphia, I would also consider both UPenn Wharton and Drexel, in addition to Temple and Villanova. You may also think about online MBA offerings for which your geographic location is not a limiting factor, and which your employer might also subsidize.

    See the following link: http://business-schools.startclass.com/d/a/Pennsylvania
    With part-time filter … http://business-schools.startclass.com/d/a/Pennsylvania

    In terms of what is the “better” program from among the two you identified, I would posit that what is better for you versus for me, or for another MBA candidate, might be quite different. Here’s what to focus on, as you conduct your due diligence: what are the core requirements and electives you are most likely to take at either program (who teaches them, and how compelling do you find those professors; searching lectures on youtube and elsewhere can be illuminating)? What are the career outcomes for part-time cohorts, and especially for engineers with backgrounds similar to yours (locate the career services employment reports)? What are the opinions of current students and graduates whom you can identify via LinkedIn and contact / converse with? Ultimately, your choice may not come down to stats or “rank”, but to cultural fit (including peer-alumni network). Good luck in your continued research!

    With respect to career path, it has been my experience that the vast majority of MBAs (the full-time variety more so than the part-time variety) have not settled on a concentration or career path before they enroll in a program and potentially begin to challenge their educational and career assumptions. A good reason for going to business school is, in fact, to career-switch, and you will find graduates with pre-MBA engineering backgrounds distributed far and wide across all industries and functions, including finance, technology, consulting, etc. There is no one “best” track, or even one path that is the most well-worn for engineers. Finance is a good option, of course, for anyone with strong mathematics / quant skills, but you should not feel constrained by that.

    Graduating with an MBA *is* a good way to move from a technical role to a managerial / leadership role in any organization. I hope that’s helpful, and I wish you a smooth process as you research and pursue the right degree program for you.

  • mbineer

    Hi Ivan,

    I am an engineer with about 7-8 years of experience preparing to study for the GMAT and start applying to part-time MBA programs. I will be doing a part-time program because my current employer will reimburse some of the tuition. I plan on applying to Temple University and Villanova University. I see that you spent some time at Wharton so I am assuming you are somewhat familiar with the other local schools. Between the 2 schools, which would you say is a better program? It looks like they are both ranked but not by the same ranking institution.

    I decided to go for an MBA because the business side of a company has been interesting me (finance, strategy). I am still uncertain of the path I want to take but am hoping my experience completing an MBA will shed some light on what my passions/interest may be and may end up doing a career change. If not a career change, I am hoping that the MBA will help me get into a manager position within engineering. In your experience, what concentration do engineers that go for an MBA focus on? Do most of them go to Wall St. after graduation or are there plenty of engineers with an MBA that makes a career change into finance, operations, etc. in smaller cities like Philadelphia? Do most stay in engineering and move into management? What MBA career strategy would you recommend for an engineer?


  • Lalit Mathur

    Dear Ivan,

    Need your guidance, really really need it. But first
    let me share my profile with you. I have done engineering (B.Tech in
    Electronics & Instrumentation) from Uttar Pradesh Technical
    University, India then did my MBA in Marketing & Operations from Lal
    Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management, Delhi, India. For the past 2
    years I am employed with a leading Automobile company in India. For
    enhancement in my career, I wish to pursue a course in the USA,
    preferably in Stanford, Harvard, Wharton…or any other that you may
    recommend. Kindly suggest what course I should target and in which



  • PrestigiousHopeful

    Hi Ivan,

    I’ll start off with a little of my background, experience, and interests. I am currently a consultant at a major firm (think Accenture/Deloitte/IBM) and majored in Industrial Engineering from a Large State University ( ~60-70 U.S. News Undergrad Ranking). My scores (GPA/GMAT) are above all of the M7 elite schools’ averages. I chose Industrial engineering because it is a mix of engineering and business, both of which interested me. However, I learned during my undergrad experience that I was more interested in business, but it was too late to switch majors or pursue any of the top business careers. Therefore, I went into consulting. I interned in the tech group but moved into the firm’s management consulting group when I was hired full-time to learn what area of business interested me most. This entire time I have been working in financial services and I think that finance is the best path for me.

    As I saw you mentioned in your previous posts, I have done a few personality tests and the CareerLeader test, and I get a lot of very prestigious and difficult to enter career fields, such as Private Equity, Investment Management, and Venture Capital.

    I grew up playing ice hockey (Junior A/semi-professional) and have always liked sports and entertainment. Based on my competitive nature, I’ve noticed a few trends in my path/experiences – when considering Stanford’s essay, “what matters most,” I always think of a few things:
    1. To be successful
    2. Never be Average
    3. Enjoying the spotlight.

    When I consider my interests, I think my dream job would be to work in a prestigious field, such as PE/VC or a hedge fund, in sports/media/entertainment. I think that would be the perfect match of all of my interests and goals. At this point it is still pretty open ended, so, at a high-level, I am interested in Finance in sports/media/entertainment.

    However, these fields are very, very difficult to enter – and I’m hoping an MBA can help me get there. Since entry is very difficult, I am hoping to get accepted this Fall to a M7 Elite MBA, and then switch jobs to do a “pre-MBA” internship in PE/VC/hedgefund so that I can test my interest as well as gain the experience to improve my competitiveness for MBA internships/full-time recruiting.

    So I have two main questions:
    1. Is this possible to achieve this lofty goal with my background and an MBA, and if so, how?
    2. I know MBA admissions do not like to see unrealistic post-MBA goals because they realize it is impossible/difficult for a lack of experience to change to a specific career, and I could only tell them I plan to do a “pre-MBA” internship to gain additional experience, for what that is worth. Therefore, do you think this is too lofty of a goal for my application?

  • Lalit Mathur

    Dear Ivan,

    Need your guidance, really really need it. But first let me share my profile with you. I have done engineering (B.Tech in Electronics & Instrumentation) from Uttar Pradesh Technical University, India then did my MBA in Marketing & Operations from Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management, Delhi, India. For the past 2 years I am employed with a leading Automobile company in India. For enhancement in my career, I wish to pursue a course in the USA, preferably in Stanford, Harvard, Wharton…or any other that you may recommend. Kindly suggest what course I should target and in which School.



  • Ibrahima

    Hello Ivan. Thank you for doing this.I have concerns regarding the way top U.S business school evaluate foreign grading system. In Senegal, like in France grades vary from 0/20 to 20/20 : my 1st and 2nd years’s GPA were pretty low (around 10/20), I really hated that school so I managed to get into the best business school of my country where I got a Bachelor and finished 2nd of my promotion with a GPA of 15/20.

    My questions is : how would a top tier mba program evaluate these GPAs ?

    Additonal info : I’m currently doing a 6 months internship at the senegalese office of a Big 4 and plan on doing audit for a couple years before doing an MBA.

  • Vinay

    Hello Ivan,
    I have 9 yrs exp. in the field of aerostructure. I have done Masters in Mechanical Engineering. I am planning to do MBA in canada next year 2016. Now i am preparing for GMAT exams. I have bit knowledge about operation management. Other Specializations are new to me.
    Please suggest which specialization (with respect to career growth & jobs) is suitable for my experience.

  • Sushant

    hey Ivan,

    Let me get straight to it. I am 29, from India, and have been a professional athlete for the last 15 years and have played at the highest level of my sport (cricket, sort of baseball in case u arent aware of it).. I am looking at doing an mba which will help me have a complete career change. I recently gave the gmat and got a 710 and my undergrad grades have been good throughout. If I had to convert it into a GPA, i think it would approximately be a 4 i suppose. Anyway, i wanted to know what my career options are after doing the mba. I do not have any specific industrty in mind and am open to exploring all the options.
    Also, i have been hearing people talk about a certain uni being a good ‘fit’. How do I decide on which one would be a good choice for me? And based on my basic info, which uni do u think fits me??

    Anything from u on this would be of immense help..

  • Otavio


    First of all, I’d like to say that I’m pursuing an MBA to increase my chances of working at a huge multinational such as Ab-Inbev, Procter & Gamble and so on… And later, more experienced, I would like to run my own business….

    I have applied to NYU Stern (where I got waitlisted 2 months ago) and London Business School (was interviewed last week). I am also willing to apply to the Columbia’s J term MBA Program. In my view, such a program is not as competitive as the August intake because a lot of friends of mine were accepted with a 680 GMAT (around 45 in the Quant session)…


    a) I’m a 30 years old Brazilian lawyer with a 7-year work experience:

    a.1) 3 years working as a lawyer; and

    a.2) 4 years working in the Brazilian O&G sector both as a CEO (anual revenue: USD4million) and as a Board Member (Anual revenue: USD100million).

    b) 700 on the GMAT (43Q/42V). Btw, in order to show that I can handle Quant subjects on the MBA Program, I completed an online Math course called MBA Math.

    c) 106 on the TOEFL exam.

    d) GPA of 78/100 – Top 3 Brazilian Law School.

    e) Specializaion with major in business – GPA of 90/100 – Top Brazilian B-School

    1st question: Do you think that my goal is indeed a career change?? I’m asking this because I have never worked in a huge multination company…..

    2nd question: Having my career goals in mind, do you think that said programs are a good fit for me?? If yes, which one is the best among LBS, Stern and CBS???

    3rd question: What is your candid opinion about my chances of receiving a great job offer in the US with a LBS MBA degree?

    I’m turning 31 next July and therefore I need to enroll as soon as possible….

    Thank you very much!!!!


  • Hi Clark,

    I’m glad that you’re conducting a good amount of early research and formulating a career plan before plunging into the application process, and I think that business school itself will shape and change some of your initial assumptions and expected goals for your next career steps (especially vis-à-vis working for a large company as opposed to a start-up).

    One resource that I recommend for MBAs, at any stage of career, is HBS Professor Tim Butler’s ‘Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Discovering Your Next Career Path’ — http://amzn.to/1DqvwHi . This is an especially useful work to read in combination with taking the CareerLeader self-assessment instrument (also developed by Dr. Butler and Prof. Jim Waldroop at Harvard): http://bit.ly/1DO0sC3

    I often rely on Career Leader (as well as on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, MBTI) in working on students’ career visioning process, but I’m also a big believer in not letting oneself become too bogged down in theory and methodologies. … Much of what you yourself come to believe and think is worthwhile to pursue professionally will be derived from your conversations with friends, colleagues, and family (a process that you’ve already initiated).

    One suggestion I would offer is to try to integrate your past experiences, both academic and professional, in electrical engineering and law as you focus on a ‘third’ career phase, rather than cleave too far in a new direction. Your ability to offer value and insight in any new position, and to find job roles that offer challenges appropriately tuned to your skill-set and temperament, will depend largely on translating and migrating your past experiences to a new context, rather than breaking from that past.

    One good way to continue your process of due diligence is to find MBA alumni who are electrical engineers and lawyers (preferably both), and to query their own choices and experiences in pursuing a business degree and potentially more commercially-oriented work. Perhaps one category of the above should include “entrepreneurs” and another “company men and women”?

    Incidentally, students with professionally-diverse backgrounds such as yours are increasingly being admitted to the world’s leading MBA programs (this is my personal sense, rather than a fact derived from hard data), a trend that I believe matches schools’ increasing efforts to offer multi-disciplinary modes of study, and to supply MBA talent to industries beyond the traditional professional services and large industrial firms that rely on MBA hiring.

    I hope that you’ll stay in touch and let me know what direction you’ve decided to take.

  • Dear Matt,

    Thank you for your question, and for sharing your background with me. Please also feel free to read Jon Fuller’s MBA admissions Q&A posts here on Poets&Quants, and direct MBA admissions-specific questions to him.

    With regard to your career plans, I think continuing at Deloitte post-MBA and pursuing ways to ultimately focus on energy issues in Poland, and Eastern Europe as a whole, is a great strategy. My only bit of advice is to give yourself a lot of time to do a good job in the application process (high GMAT score, strong editing of essays, learning a great deal about the schools in order to perform well during interviews and, ultimately, to select the right school for you).

    I think your background doesn’t have any obvious ‘gaps’ that you need to address in the coming months/year. You will likely have the option to pursue either a pre-MBA or during-MBA internship outside of the consulting field (a luxury sometimes afforded to sponsored students who know they are returning to their pre-MBA employers full-time). This is a great way to try something risky and pursue work outside of your comfort zone (e.g., in an industry that you may know little about).

    Good luck in all of your efforts, and please let me know if you ultimately become a fellow Whartonite!

  • Hi Jordan,

    I thought that Blaine Farr’s LI post was quite good, especially because it promotes the notion that one should carefully consider the costs and benefits of graduate study and test one’s assumptions about career, lifestyle, and ultimate personal goals … and, not least, because it helps dispel the notion that a business degree is a universal “must have” or, even worse, a “no-brainer” (there really is no situation in life in which it makes sense to not use your brain).

    I think the real crux of Blaine’s argument (and it seems that you yourself are in a similar position) is that if you can engineer the sort of ascendant career path and access the sorts of opportunities for which one would normally need to pursue an MBA, then the reasons for going migrate into the realm of personal preference (learning for its own sake, socializing, travel, etc.). I think that very few people are fortunate enough to be able to compete for and garner the sorts of opportunities that students at Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton (and other esteemed programs) compete for; therefore, I always tend to focus on how attending business school can help an individual student “bridge the gap” (for example, by switching into a new industry or working in a new country). … If there is no gap to bridge, then the educational experience can be viewed as “consumption” rather than “investment”, as one of my former Wharton professors used to say.

    With regard to the opportunity cost of attending business school if one would otherwise start a new venture in the near term, there is no one, simple answer. If one already possesses the industry / functional expertise and technical know-how required to launch and manage a new business, the strong personal network (and client base or ready customers), the initial capital and/or ready access to investor funding needed to get up and running, and the time and willing team members and partners needed to build the business, then time is probably a-wasting and business school would likely constitute an expensive diversion from launching the enterprise.

    On the other hand, I’ve known many savvy MBA candidates who have figured out how to utilize business school as a platform or incubator for new venture formation (and as the source for any/all of the start-up ingredients listed above, not least those “things that you don’t know you don’t know”, until you learn about them in b-school).

    My preferred strategy — and with apologies to any university administrators and faculty who would otherwise counsel students to explore entrepreneurial opportunities closer to the end of their time in business school — is as follows: enroll in a two-year MBA program and do everything in your power to shape the first-year MBA experience (beyond core class requirements) to generate the momentum, acquire seed capital, build prototypes, etc. needed for you to launch your business in the summer after your first year of school. If in 2-3 months, the business appears to be gaining momentum, then take a leave of absence from school (most programs will give you at least a couple of years of leave before requiring you to reapply). …

    If the business truly takes off, then keep going, and if it tanks, as it statistically is likely to do, then simply return for your second year of business school and compete alongside a later generation of MBA classmates for post-MBA, full-time positions, utilizing all of your schools’ market-making power in generating opportunities for you to pursue after you graduate. And lest protecting the down-side seems too much like the sort of “insurance policy” mindset that Blaine questions, at least consider whether you want to trade on your experience with a “first failed start-up” alone, or whether “first failed start-up”, plus MBA degree, might not be a stronger position to be in, career-wise, assuming one can afford both financially.

    A last thought: we are all going to be alive (and working) for a very long time, barring accident and unexpected illness, and our membership in a community of fellow business graduates, not to mention faculty members, is something that should pay dividends not just in the near-term 3-5 year window in which one feels the pinch of money invested and salary foregone, but over the future course of as-yet-unknown twists and turns, successes and failures. Having an additional “tribe” to which one belongs, especially in a crowded global talent market in which recognized credentials tend to serve more, rather than less, of a gateway function, can be instrumental in making one’s long-term career path more rewarding, less lonely, and, yes, more successful.

    I don’t think the decision is a simple one, and it should always be a case-specific one. Attending business school might prove to be a terrible idea for you while it remains a terrific one for me, and vice versa. Good luck, and let me know if you have any additional questions!

  • Hi Asad,

    My sincere apologies for not being able to get to your question sooner, and though you will likely have made your decision by now, I hope the following two perspectives are useful.

    First, I think that differences between schools are a relatively less influential driving force of candidate success in the recruiting process, assuming that the programs are peers and roughly within each others’ realms (as all of the programs you mentioned are). Far more important is the seriousness of purpose and time investment that characterize the individual MBA candidate’s job search efforts, and, within that category, how early the candidate starts to explore/pursue opportunities and how quickly he or she learns the ins and outs of the MBA recruiting process as well as employers’ needs.

    Second, and on a personal note, I have extremely positive feelings about Cornell’s MBA program, and I’m equally impressed by the “value proposition” of the Yale, Duke, and Michigan Ross degrees. You simply can’t go wrong at any of these schools, and please remember that, in any given year’s MBA recruiting cycle, all MBA candidates compete across schools for the available positions at any hiring organization. … Your chances of success depend primarily on your efforts, relative to those of your peers across MBA programs, rather than on the specific program you are attending. (This would not be the case if a specific employer conducted recruiting efforts at one or some, but not the other, of these schools.)

    Last, in some instances, I’ve known students to choose which MBA program to attend by doing the opposite of capitalizing on the school’s positive brand reputation in a specific industry, instead choosing to be one of the few standout students pursuing a role for which the school is not generally known (for example, by pursuing a career in marketing/advertising at a school otherwise known for finance and banking). In the end, I’m not sure that this “counter to the grain” strategy is more effective than pursuing a career path for which one’s school is generally known. Though it may be easier to be selected for first-round interviews at a specific school if you’re in a relatively smaller candidate / applicant pool, you’re ultimately evaluated (for second-round interviews and job offers) against all of the candidates from other schools who have also progressed to that stage of the interview process.

    Congratulations on your scholarship, not least, and good luck starting business school this fall. Please let me know where you’ve decided to matriculate!

  • Hello Nate,

    Thank you for your kind words! I’m going to answer your question from the perspective of an American considering an MBA abroad (please let me know if that’s not the perspective you intended!).

    To take your middle question first: overseas MBA programs are very much “in the mix” with respect to how they rank relative to programs in the U.S.. According to the Financial Times’ Global MBA Ranking (the 2015 version is available in magazine format here: http://bit.ly/1bq2Xna ), LBS ranks second, INSEAD is fourth, IESE places 7th, and so on. To generalize, American schools still have the lead as a whole, followed by European schools, and then ones in Asia and the rest of the world, a fact that reflects the historical origins of business education and research, as well as “management as a discipline”, here in the U.S.

    I think the advantages and disadvantages of attending a program overseas rely largely on one’s career goals. For example, is the MBA candidate pursuing work that will utilize his/her facility with multiple languages, and/or is the intent to manage operations that span multiple geographies and countries (including for those businesses and industries that have sprawling supply chains)? Or, is the MBA candidate interested in highlighting his/her ability to function in a truly multinational setting, and thus a school that is extremely heterogeneous (in terms of students’ nations of origin), as most European programs are, provides good training for a multicultural/-national managerial setting?

    In general, and as business becomes more global, and whether or not one targets business programs that have a focus on international business (as reflected in the curriculum as well as in the demographics of the student body and faculty), the ability to understand and work in ‘foreign’ environments is increasingly prized.

    As far as how American employers view overseas programs, I think the most salient variable is whether or not the hiring business is a multinational … for professional services firms, is the office footprint truly global; are the companies consumers and markets increasingly overseas; and/or are its raw inputs (including talent) something primarily sourced from abroad? If the answer is yes, then an American student who has experience, marketplace knowledge, and/or language skills in a particular overseas market may have an advantage over another American MBA candidate who lacks those qualities … if the goal is to work abroad.

    With respect to disadvantages, I believe that it remains relatively more difficult to recruit for specific city/office opportunities in one country if one is attending business school in another (an exception to this is studying in Europe, where everything is relatively “close by”). Thus, if an MBA is seeking a job in Silicon Valley, for example, it’s marginally more difficult to do so while located on the east coast, and even more so if one is overseas. These hurdles can be overcome, depending on the role and the candidate, but lack of proximity to MBA recruiters, to alumni who work at the employer org and can meet up with a candidate to offer advice, to interviewing teams, to companies’ senior leaders, etc. can all compound the problem of distance (and, at minimum, add greater travel burdens and logistics requirements).

    As a side note, in most countries, MBA employers’ recruiting timelines and the majority of MBA programs’ academic calendars tend to be coordinated, and this synchronization tends to break down across borders. For example, you may find yourself in an academic exam period in one country during peak MBA recruiting season in another.

    One additional idea for you to consider: many MBA programs have exchange agreements for “semesters abroad” at peer institutions in other countries. I think this is a wonderful way to both capture some of the positive aspects of attending school overseas, while also capitalizing on the market-making power and recruiting relationships of a program based in the U.S. I hope all of that is useful to you!

  • Matt

    Hi Ivan,

    I would greatly appreciate your perspectives on my chances at top schools and where I should focus in the coming months to improve my chances of admissions.

    – 25-year-old white male
    – Bilingual dual-citizen who is US-born and raised in Poland (16 yrs)
    – Undergraduate degree in Economics from “Little Ivy” (Amherst, Williams, Wesleyan)
    – GPA:3.7
    – 3 years of Strategy & Operations consulting experience at Deloitte Consulting; top ratings and promotion after two years; MBA sponsorship likely
    – MGMAT CAT of 690 (aiming for 720 when I take the test in May)

    Undergrad EC
    – Founded a pro-bono consulting group during undergrad
    – General Manager of 100+ student sub-division of the undergrad IT department
    – Psychology research lab; lead multiple studies
    – Internships in asset management (Dodge & Cox) and economic consulting (Brattle Group)

    Post-Grad EC
    – Volunteering with Junior Achievement of NY (3yrs)
    – Pro Bono consulting volunteer trip to Panama
    – Co-founded social impact group/initiative at Deloitte
    – Deloitte networking co-lead for NY office (1 yr)

    Short Term: Rejoin Deloitte to focus on market entry/growth strategy and build the emerging market practice
    Long Term: Return to Poland and Eastern Europe to help renewable energy and smart grid technology penetrate the eastern European market which is currently dominated by shale fracking and “dirty” energy (energy experience from Deloitte and both undergraduate internships)

    Target Schools: HBS, Wharton, Kellogg, Columbia, Tuck, MIT, Haas

    I would greatly appreciate your perspectives on my chances at top schools and where I should focus in the coming months to improve my chances of admissions.

    Thank you in advance!

  • Clark

    Hi Ivan,

    I have two questions for you: 1) How clear of a plan do I need to have before actually applying to business school and going through the interviews? and 2) Are there any resources that you’d recommend to help me develop a plan?

    Right now, I’m in the beginning of the process, i.e. taking a diagnostic exam and researching different careers and schools. My undergraduate degree is in Electrical Engineering, and then I went to law school and have been a patent attorney for the past two years. I’ve never taken any “business” type classes, but after reading some reviews for different classes that are typically offered and talking to recent MBA graduates, I think that I’d really enjoy learning strategic management, data analysis, and taking classes that are geared toward entrepreneurship. I could see myself working for a large company or running start-ups…I really think that I’d love both, I just don’t have a clear vision or plan yet. I’d really appreciate any advice.


  • Tim

    Hi Ivan,

    I am an engineer in Silicon Valley with an MS in CS and about 12 years of total work experience. I am doing good career-wise but I am not a super achiever by any means,
    both in terms of rank and salary. I make about $150K annually, and I suspect as an engineer I am probably getting close to the ceiling. I often have to work pretty long hours (on an average about 50-60 hours a week). Is it possible for me to do an MBA at this stage to change tracks or at least advance my career? To be honest, my motivation is earning more money and doing less tedious work. I am a smart, driven and hard working individual, who is always ready to accept a new challenge. I’m also single with no kids, which allows me more time and freedom to follow my goals. If it was at all possible, I would switch to finance and work in a Wall St type job, but I am open to other options too where I have a chance to make more than what I do now (at least after 2-3 years post graduation).

    I realize age (I am on the wrong side of 30s) and the long work experience will probably not make it easy to get into a top school. Also worth noting is that I have a speech impediment problem. I usually do OK speaking to a single person or a small group of people (most times it’s barely even noticeable), but not so well while doing
    a presentation, when my speech gets stuttery and jittery. So I am concerned if this will affect my performance in the program and later in the job (as an engineer, it has not been a problem when talking about work related stuff with my co-workers).

    Any advice on whether it will be a good move to get an MBA (in terms of cost vs benefit)? What are my chances of getting in a top 10 school? I am hoping for a 700+ GMAT score, but don’t have a lot of extra curricular activities to show on my resume. Any recommended area/specialization? Thanks!

  • WolfOfTheWest

    Hello Ivan,

    Thank you for your detailed response.

    Consider a candidate who has buy-side PE experience, albeit at a small fund (size: ~$400M AUM) – would getting an MBA allow the candidate to “scale” up to work at larger PE funds ($800-900M or $1B+)? Assuming, of course, the nature of the candidate’s work is aligned – He was on the M&A team and will be trying to get into a larger fund’s M&A team.

    I’ve heard from recruiters that there is “more” to PE recruiting than relevant principal investing experience. She told me that PE shops are essentially telling them: “We want candidates who have a perfect SAT score (which to me is ludicrous to think that a score from upwards of 10 years ago still matters), 4.0 GPA in college from a target/semi-target school, bulge bracket IB experience AND PE experience…” With your comment earlier, this approach checks in with the “stars need to be aligned” analogy. What are your thoughts on this statement from the recruiter?

    With that comment being said, if PE recruiters are really looking for candidates to meet upwards of 5 very specific criteria like a checklist, does it REALLY matter if you get an MBA at a top-5, top-10, top-15 school as long as you “check off the other boxes”? In terms of getting a job in PE post-MBA, I’m not sure I see as much value in an MBA as opposed to some other career path (i.e. strategy management consulting). With consulting, it seems like you can go to a few MBA programs with diverse (and sometimes unrelated) backgrounds and still manage to get interviews, summer internships, etc.

    What are your thoughts/insights? Am I far off the mark here? Do you notice anything changing?

  • Matt


    I am in the process of building my long and short term goals.

    – Liberal arts undergrad with major in Econ
    – Undergrad internships in investment management (covering energy equities) and at an energy division of a econ consulting firm (focused on renewable energy and smart grid)
    – 3+ year in Deloitte consulting, focusing on strategy and energy
    – Plan to focus on core business skills and strategy during MBA program
    – Goal to return to Deloitte (using sponsorship) to focus on market entry strategy and build the renewable energy practice
    – Longer term goal is to return to Poland and eastern Europe (where I grew up) to help renewable energy and smart grid technology penetrate the eastern European market which is currently dominated by shale fracking and “dirty” energy

    I would greatly appreciate your insight into any non-sequitur or gaps in this narrative.

    Additionally, I would appreciate your perspective on whether my story is weaker at a school like Wharton/Kellogg/Booth that does not have a deep energy program like those of Haas and McCombs?

    Is my long term goal weakened by not stating a specifics (e.g., work in company XYZ in a corporate strategy role…)?



  • Mark

    Hi Ivan,
    Thanks for the insights thus far. I’m currently working in the Oil and Gas industry in East Africa and looking to make a move soon due to the downturn that the sector is currently experiencing. I grew up in Africa and did my undergrad in the states but I hold an African as well as an American passport. Do you think blue-chip companies and top-tier MBA programs want to see prior career experience in the “developed” world? or would working for somewhere like McKinsey in Africa be perceived better than a lesser company/role in a more competitive market such as New York City?
    I appreciate the help,

  • Serge E

    Hi Ivan, I am going to be attending a top 10 MBA program in the fall. I come from a non traditional background (public policy lobbyist for a corporation) and am worried about my quantitative, financial, and Excel skills. Alongside taking part in the Practice Summer Forum (which I look forward to attending), I would also like to take a longer-term online course. Two that I have been considering are HBX CORe and MBAIQ. Do you have any experience with students taking either of these programs and whether they were successful? Are there other online course you would recommend to an MBA candidate looking to bone up on quant and Excel before starting b-school? Thanks! Serge

  • Duke or Michigan

    Hi Ivan,

    I would like to work for a top MC firm. I’m a career changer. Which school do you think is better Ross or Fuqua?

  • Tina


    I’m a first generation Caribbean American and the first in my family to go to college. I have a 3.1 GPA with a major in Accounting from a state school. My low GPA is due to me struggling to balance working full-time and going to school full-time. After graduation I spent 3 years at a big 4 public accounting firm, 3 years at Morgan Stanley in Fed Reporting and the past 2 years working directly for the CFO at a midsized Foundation (non-profit). I also have my CPA and I’m working towards my CFA level 1 in Dec. I’m hoping that will make up for the low GPA. I’m also hoping to score around 680-700 on the GMAT.

    I would like get accepted to a top MBA program, that will eventually lead to a role in either investment management, asset management or PWM. I’m not exactly sure but I do know I want to be a CIO of a foundation (long-term goal). I’m a bit older than the traditional MBA student, as I’ll be 32 entering class in 2016. Do you think I have a chance in PE or VC? What should I be doing now to increase my chances of a full-time job or summer internship in those areas?

  • sam

    Hi Ivan,

    Not sure if you are still responding to comments here but thought it was worth a shot. I have a liberal arts/law background but fell in love with finance after taking a corporate finance class in law school. I worked overseas on the project finance team (mostly derivative trade documentation, some M&A, some offshore entity formation, some secured lending, etc.) of a reputable middle eastern law firm for slightly over a year, but I realized even more than ever I wanted to be on the finance side (rather than the legal side) of the deals I was working on. After some research I realized my 2 biggest hurdles to making such a transition were: (1) improving quant skills (i.e., financial modeling, pricing/valuing deals/products, etc.); (2) increasing industry contacts. The MBA seems like a good way to address those needs. I took the GMAT and applied to some b-schools. I currently have a full-ride offer from a top 50 USNWR, and top 65 FT US school, and for personal reasons (and financial when considering the scholarship) it is a better fit then some of the higher ranked schools I got into. My question is, can I make the transition I want with an MBA from this b-school? I know big time firms like Goldman don’t recruit that low down the rankings, but with the proper tenacity and networking approach, are jobs at maybe smaller boutique firms feasible?

  • WorriedEngineer

    Hi Ivan,
    Thank you SO much for this, your very detailed response really gave me a break of my worries! I re-read it every time I feel nervous about my bit of carrer-change plan (which I am very passionate about). Two quick things: I got promoted, so that should help me with the fact that I plan on changing with just 1.5 yrs! Second, my country is in Lat. America and borders de U.S. That should do haha I don’t want to give myself up!
    I’ll keep you posted and thanks again for this amazing advice!

  • Hi Felipe,

    Congratulations on your acceptances; I hope this reply is in time to still be of use in your decision!

    I think much of the difference, and the added value, in attending a two-year program (and thus having the opportunity to compete for a consulting internship and then again for a full-time consulting role, if needed) depends on your pre-MBA experience and credentials, on the overall competitiveness of the candidate pool that year, across schools, and on the overall hiring needs among consulting firms.

    I believe that the most instructive factor in your decision is your own background and qualifications (which play a role even though you’ve not been a consultant before). If you have a solid, business-relevant academic background (pre-MBA), and if your corporate finance and business development work occurred in a demanding setting, for one of the industry leaders in its space, then you may not need the first-year / second-year recruiting format of the two-year MBA program. If you feel that your experience, on the other hand, might not be considered sufficiently ‘elite’ for the employers you are targeting, and that you are a “non-traditional” career switcher, then the two-year format gives you an added opportunity to learn and absorb more business school educational content, as well have more time and a less steep learning curve in terms of shaping your candidacy, practicing for interviews, researching firms, networking with alumni, etc.

    The two other factors (competitiveness of candidate pool and market timing / hiring need for target firms) is more difficult to predict and address, but if you do foresee a down-turn in a specific industry, and you think consulting hiring is a trailing indicator that will also dip (but will take more than a year to do so), then going for a one-year MBA program might make more sense.

    Last but not least, choosing between the two business schools you’ve been accepted to entails, I’m sure, many more differences and trade-offs than whether the program has a 1-yr. or 2-yr. course. What city will you be in; what classes and electives do you plan to take; what faculty members, alumni, or administrators do you most want to cultivate as mentors, friends, and lifelong peers; and what is the prevailing student life and student culture of your prospective school? In addition, what is the recruiting landscape like, how strong is the career services office, and what are the key employer relationships that you’ll be able to access as a student of a specific MBA program?

    All of these variables might also be influenced by the program format and duration, of course, but I would encourage you to think of that difference (and the career strategy that goes with it) as part of a larger picture rather than as the most critical variable. Please let me know if you have any additional questions; I’m spending a fair bit of time at moment with students who have the terrific predicament of having to choose between schools!

  • khushi

    Hi Sir

    I have completed my MBA in finance and i am looking for a job from a very long time and i am not getting a proper profile. I am unemployed since 2 years. I am getting opportunities in banking and that too in sales. Should i go for it as i am financially very poor and this is the last option i have. My major doubt is if i work in sales now for time being then later in future is it possible for me to switch into some finance profile in some other companies. Please advice.

    Thank u

  • Asad Ali Khan

    Hi Ivan,

    I have been admitted to Cornell 2 years MBA program with 20k scholarship and waitlisted at Yale and Ross with interview & at Duke without interview. I want to pursue management consulting right after MBA. I paid the initial deposit at Cornell but really looking forward to get acceptance from Yale at least. I am a little confused as the prospects for consultants are not as good as they are at Duke or Ross but the other two are great schools. Even between Yale and Cornell, I feel Yale has slightly more to offer over all than Cornell as far as preparation for my career goal is concerned.

    Just wanted to ask you what should be my strategy. Should I really try to convert those waitlist into acceptances? Or I should be happy going to Cornell and remove myself from the waitlists of other schools. Secondly “if” i get an invite from Yale, from consulting and brand name perspective, is the difference from Cornell significant so that I matriculate from Yale?

  • Nate

    Hi Ivan,

    Again, thank you for taking the time and effort to answer our questions. I’ve already gotten a lot out of the answers you’ve written. I haven’t gone through them all, so I don’t know if you’ve written on this or not, but I’ve been strongly considering some overseas MBA programs. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to American business schools? How do they rank compared to US MBA programs? And, how do American employers view these programs?


  • Hi Abishekh,

    The dilemma and trade-off you’re considering is a common one, across industries, and having the end-goal in mind (growth strategy for a multinational oil company), as well as considering the quality/characteristics of your work to date, can greatly help you evaluate whether an interim stint in consulting would be helpful or not.

    The first, most obvious parameter, as you’ve already hinted, is that undertaking a consulting internship (rather than committing to a full-time, post-MBA role) is the best way to test out whether that experience will succeed in broadening your industry perspectives, professional network, and skill-set (leading to greater potential growth in your future roles/responsibilities in the energy sector), vs. whether that consulting experience might instead dilute and slow down your progression and depth of know-how / track record purely within the energy sector. Hence, the quick answer to your question is that an internship is the best, low future-commitment method for testing out the variables your care about, and will help you make a better full-time selection, knowing what you’re turning down based on experience in both industries, rather than just one.

    In my experience, it’s otherwise generally impossible to answer the question — is an interim stint in consulting necessary/worth it, or not? — in anything but a case by case basis. If your past seven years of work experience have involved multiple roles, projects, partners-suppliers-clients (in other words, if your experience has functioned as something akin to a “management rotation program”), then pursuing consulting work may offer less of a value-add to you than if your pre-MBA experience involved a less diverse set of professional experiences (e.g., you performed technical analysis on one topic, within a single business vertical, etc.).

    It may be, on the other hand, that your time in business school is helping you to acquire a new, different skill-set (let’s say “marketing”), than what you’ve concentrated on and developed in the past, and, hence, a further experience in consulting may help complete that knowledge and skills-based transition (understanding how to market to different customer segments, in different countries, across different product/service lines, etc.).

    There are other ways in which your question is case specific: if the oil companies that you intend to recruit with for full-time roles use MBA internships as the primary MBA talent pipeline, then you may find relatively fewer opportunities in the full-time process (because a certain number of MBA interns will already be coming back full-time). However, in my experience, this tends not to be the case for the energy sector, as a broad generalization, and you may find that, instead, your 10-week summer internship at consulting firm X, especially if it’s a prestigious, competitive role, may be even more highly valued by an industry employer than the equivalent 10 weeks spent at an oil company. Again, if the context is internships, the diversity/difference of a consulting role may trump the energy sector equivalent (not least, because consulting firms are, as a matter of organizational necessity, so heavily focused on professional development for their consultants).

    The question becomes more difficult to resolve, of course, when the comparison is between 2-3 years of post-MBA consulting vs. 2-3 years of post-MBA oil/energy work. There is a third variable to consider — in addition to the quality/characteristics of your pre-MBA work and the future quality/characteristics of your expected post-MBA work — and that is the current marketplace conditions and trends within the field you’re about to enter. If you feel that the oil business is entering a phase of incredible growth, change, and opportunity, then perhaps it’s better to jump on that wagon and to build your reputation and track record at a time when you can do so (as opposed to when the sector is in a period of retrenchment, replete with layoffs and business closures … in which case, consulting may be a better vehicle for gaining valuable experience and avoiding the hardship and suffering in industry).

    Hence, your task is a broad one: assess how competitive and diverse your current skill-set and knowledge-base are; scope out the professional requirements (broadly defined) for true leadership in your sector in the future long-run; and take on the role of marketplace prognosticator, trying to time your point of graduation with an upswing in business for the industry you’re joining. If all of that still leaves you stumped, than merely go with your gut. … Do you feel you would simply miss out too much if you didn’t have the life/career opportunity to jump on that plane every Sunday or Monday with your fellow consultants to go tackle some as yet-unsolved client business problem? Or do you feel as though doing so would merely satisfy a perceived credential-boosting requirement, and your true passion is instead to get your hands on the one problem, the one company, and one career path you were destined for, without diverting for a time into another sector?

    The good news, if you’re a first-year MBA, is that it’s possible to recruit both for consulting and energy, since the timing of consulting internship recruiting tends to occur from the late fall to Jan.-February, while energy internship recruiting will pick up pace in the springtime and peak during March-May. (I’m using northern hemisphere, two-year MBA programs as my model). If you don’t land your absolute dream consulting summer internship, then there is time, tactically, to re-position for energy summer internship roles.

    I realize I’ve ranged quite broadly in answering your question, and that some of these pointers may be more valid to your circumstance than others. I find that having good coaching at each stage of progression in your MBA recruiting process is important, and I’d encourage you to seek out your favorite MBA career services adviser (or even someone like me, who works across schools) to test your assumptions and explore your best opportunities and most likely trade-offs. Good luck!!!

  • Hi Ben,

    Thank you for your patience, and my apologies for the delay in getting to your question! First, your career transition goal is doable and not unrealistic, though it will take a bit of extra leg work to figure out in which part of the consulting talent pipeline you will fit in for each firm that you’re targeting.

    When consulting firms, including Bain, BCG, and McKinsey, recruit at their core business programs (for full-time MBA candidates), they usually have a dedicated team, per school, that includes recruiting staff, alumni of that school, and a “school captain” to manage the overall effort (attract applications, oversee yield, etc.) This more standardized process, usually involving one universal process for on-campus presentations, coffee chats, case prep, applications, interviews, and offers, usually means that all candidates in that applicant pool are being recruited for one type of “associate” position (or its equivalent; some firms use different nomenclature), regardless of the candidates’ years of professional experience, work background, and pre-MBA level of responsibility/seniority.

    This means that someone with your level of experience enrolled in a full-time MBA program would be offered a role that is still in the early-middle portion of the consulting apprenticeship model ladder (your would not be managing a team or leading client engagements at the outset). In my experience, experienced professionals (8-10+ years of pre-MBA work experience) who are in a full-time MBA program often try to seek out roles that are a level above associate, and usually find it difficult to do so (often settling for a period of apprenticeship, or dues paying, that ensures that they can manage client service as a project and job function, before they accelerate to a management role).

    In your case, I realize that the questions is whether you can do the reverse (enter the “associate” candidate pool as a distance-learning MBA). However, when an Exec MBA or Distance/Part-time MBA candidate wants to recruit for strategy consulting, the recruiting pipeline is usually via the consulting firm’s “experienced hire” recruiting function (which oversees a candidate pool that can include everyone from PhD candidates to people working in industry). And, while most candidates pursuing consulting roles while undertaking Part-time or Exec MBA programs assume that it’s to their advantage to try to enter the recruiting pipeline with the full-time MBAs at their school (it simply appears to be the most vibrant recruiting ‘marketplace’ and to offer the most opportunities for engagement with consulting firm leaders), in my experience, that usually is a mistake and works to the candidates’ detriment, for a variety of reasons (the full-time MBA candidate pool can be more competitive, especially at the academic/technical skill level; one’s relatively greater level of work experience is undervalued and canceled out because the role being recruited for is “associate”; the timelines for the candidates’ academic year calendar, vacations, and internship windows may be different than that of the full-time MBAs, precluding effective participation, etc.).

    What this means for you as a Warwick Distance-Learning MBA is that whether or not Warwick is a core/target recruiting school for a particular consulting firm simply affects how you go about making contact with that firm, not the recruiting process itself (since you are most likely going to be part of the experienced hire recruiting pipeline).

    If Warwick is a core school for a particular consulting firm (representatives coming to campus, a history of past/recent hiring, etc.), then you can reach out to those campus recruiting lead contacts simply as a way to then be directed to the experienced hire recruiters. If not, then you may have to do a bit of independent research (contacting firms to find out who oversees experienced hire recruiting from industry, and particularly from software/technology). Your Warwick Career Services team can be of great help in this regard, and it’s a good idea to seek out their advice and counsel about whom you should reach out to (in some cases, a well-placed Warwick alumnus/alumna can set the recruiting wheels in motion faster than a recruiting staff member can).

    And, if you’re still in doubt about whether you should be an “associate” or “experienced hire” candidate, and I have not dissuaded you from the former, you can always simply ask the firms … it’s possible that you may be one type of candidate for one firm, and another type for another firm. In either scenario, it *does* make sense for you to leverage the full-time/on-campus resources that exist for Warwick students pursuing consulting roles. This can include participating in career services and consulting club case prep sessions, in consulting conferences and symposia, and in networking events with recruiters, consultants, and alumni (ask your career services team whether or not you can participate in the full-time MBA recruiting events and/or even join in the interview schedules for consulting … that’s sometimes possible, depending on whether the interviewers have the capacity to vet experienced hire candidates at the same time as FT MBAs; seek out your school’s specific policies on this topic; it can be a sensitive topic, on occasion, because the full-time MBAs generally do not relish having to compete, in the same time-frame and context, with other degree candidates who have more years of experience).

    Regardless again of whether Warwick is a core/target school for a particular consulting firm, you should think of your job search less as a “campus-based, grad student candidate” recruiting effort, and more as a “real-world, accomplished professional (who also happens to be in grad school)” job search effort. It’s an important mental distinction that you should make not only as you research roles and prepare for interviews, but as you pitch your potential contribution to any consulting firm.

    In your case, the foundation of your candidacy is that you are subject matter expert, with deep and transferable knowledge of the tech sector (and, in addition, that you are rounding out your professional/managerial skill-set by undertaking an MBA). This is quite different from a full-time MBA candidate who may have 2-5 years of work experience (and for whom being an MBA student is the foundation of his/her candidacy, with prior work experience being more of an accessory to that academic qualification, rather than the primary reason for being hired). I encourage you to seek out both the geographic/office location and practice leadership (the actual people) of consulting firms’ practice areas that overlaps with the sectors and functions you are most familiar with … your transition to consulting is most likely to be successful if you leverage your software development expertise and seek out scenarios in which you can serve clients that are akin to the companies you’ve worked for. Warwick alumni (regardless of degree program) can be of huge help to you as you navigate the possibilities, and, as I mentioned before, career services and fellow students can be an invaluable part of your training and preparation for applications and interviews.

    Last, since your program lasts three years, the opportunity to undertake a consulting internship that is engineered to potentially lead to a full-time offer at that firm may only exist in your second summer (before your last, third year of school), and/or that internship possibility may not exist at all if you’re working full-time while studying. Yet more reasons to be in the experienced-hire candidate pool …

    I would feel encouraged and hopeful about your prospects, and I would work hard to engage with the appropriate recruiting functions at the consulting firms you’re seeking out! Please let me know if you have additional questions!

  • D

    Hello Ivan, what would be your advice to an attorney looking to pursue another career avenue?

  • Merlin

    Hi ivan,
    Am merlin doing my final year BCA, and am planing to do MBA in airline and airport management in abroad can you suggest me any univercities in philippines. thanks in advance

  • FC

    Hello Ivan,

    I just got admitted into 2 of the top 3 (in my opinion) MBA pograms in Europe. One is a 1 year program (with no summer internship and the other is a 2 yr program. I have a background in corporate finance and business development and am looking to move into strategy consulting.

    How important would an internship be for that career switch?

    Thanks in advance.


  • Hi Steve,

    I think I’m in danger of answering your question in one of many possible wrong ways (especially with respect to the “stats” you’re seeking); hence, please feel free to clarify your question if I’m off the mark, and please accept the answer below as both a personal perspective and as a bit of a ‘meditation’.

    With respect to MBA graduates, both recent grads and ones who’ve been out in the workplace for a while, I think the social / media backlash that you speak of tends to be a generalized phenomenon; in my experience, it’s rarely, if ever, in evidence among the people who rely on and continue to seek to hire MBAs to fill their companies’ professional ranks (MBAs are still in need.)

    In addition, as stand-alone credentials, the PMP and CFA qualifications serve purposes that are more specialized and of narrower scope than the MBA. One would expect a project management professional to excel at initiating, planning, executing, etc. a project in any context, a chartered financial analyst to excel at resolving the financial analysis, investment management, etc. complexities of any business undertaking, and an MBA grad to be able to perform a substantial proportion of tasks in the above realms, perhaps with a less in-depth skill-set, but with a number of other skills and tools (marketing, competitive strategy, etc.) to offer.

    With regard to experiencing career set-backs during the most recent downturn, yes, I agree that there are very few people who have emerged unscathed from the economic crises experienced in the U.S. and Europe. The most striking aspect to me of the public mood (with regard to what the IMF has called the worst global recession since World War II) is the degree to which that crisis seems to have both dissipated and remained, simultaneously, not fully resolved.

    The best article I’ve read on the current state of economic affairs is Peter Coy’s “John Maynard Keynes Is the Economist the World Needs Now” …

    … It suggests that deflation should be among the chief worries of economists and citizens now, even as our markets reach new heights.

    Having witnessed first-hand the U.S. dot-com boom and bust cycle of the late 90’s and early 00’s, I’m reminded of something I experienced while surfing the California coast at the time … namely, the phenomenon of ocean waves arriving in sets, and the lesson that if you’ve managed to paddle over an especially large wave barreling towards shore, you were very likely to be greeted by its equally large cousin rumbling its way towards you next. Without going too far afield from your question regarding (all of our) career prospects, my thoughts reduce to this: for economies as well as oceans, there is no such thing as calm, or stasis; getting over one big wave doesn’t mean there isn’t another big wave just behind it (for better or worse); and, in general, it’s wise to keep an eye on the horizon.

    I think Keynes would have agreed.

  • Worried E.,

    I can understand your apprehension, and I hope these thoughts will help, even though I’m less of an expert on the art and science of admissions than I am on the ins and outs of the MBA job search …

    First, I don’t think you have to stay in one role / company / industry in order to prove that your are on a “consistent” career path as an MBA applicant. In fact, if you do pursue a Teach for America (TFA)-like role, it would signal that you’re truly passionate about what you’ve described as your long-term goal. You will undoubtedly have more credibility in stating that you want to pursue your own data-driven nonprofit / social enterprise in the future (using business school as invaluable training to achieve that aim) if you can highlight not only your credentials as a mechanical engineer who has private sector consulting experience, but also as someone who has front-line experience working for a social impact-oriented organization.

    The one thing I would be cautious about is spending too little time in either arena. You want to acquire more than a basic sense and appreciation for how a specific field of enterprise works, and to amass a comprehensive set of skills and achieve tangible results in any / all fields of endeavor you pursue. Being promoted within a single company or reaching the next stage of responsibility / seniority in any given line of work is a good sign (from an admissions perspective), and can certainly allay any concern that you’re merely bouncing between experiences without a clear game plan and/or without having achieved what you set out to do in any given sector.

    For professionals who are between their undergraduate years and the start of an MBA, anywhere in the range of 2-3 years spent in any one field / company is acceptable, and 1.5 years is o.k. (though on the short side), so long as you’ve completed major projects and assignments, and/or the timing of your next opportunity (e.g., the start of a new school year cycle) necessitates the timing of your transition.

    I’m curious to know what country you’re in, and hope to hear more about your decision and experiences in future posts!

  • Dear JR,

    My gut instinct is for you to select the opportunity that most appeals to you in the near-term … because I think your personal level of job satisfaction and productivity — the things you will accomplish in the coming year(s) that will someday appear as new bullet points on your resume — will be your biggest drivers of success, both in terms of admission to business school as well as pursuing strategy consulting work during and beyond business school.

    In terms of your candidacy for MBA roles at leading consulting firms, MBB or otherwise, having an energy background might be quite useful, a way for you to stand out as well as a way for you signal strong interest in and aptitude for any and all energy-related client work. (This is your best strategy, if being in the energy space, broadly defined to include many functions, including roles as a consultant as well as positions within industry, fits your long-term interests and goals.)

    At the same time, I would not worry too much about whether the economic consulting firm you’re considering joining is “prestigious” or not, but rather focus on the quality of the work, people, and clients you might encounter in that setting. Having a pre-MBA background in consulting means that you will have acquired many, if not most, of the skills you need to be successful as an MBA associate consultant (managing teams and leading projects is usually left for post-MBA work). Knowing ‘client service’ from a functional perspective will mean that you’re ready for most types of generalist consulting roles for which MBAs are hired (even if you lack a niche area of domain expertise, such as energy, and unless economic consulting in and of itself becomes your area of primary focus).

    If you’re still in a quandary, I would skew towards the job opportunity in which you can most easily imagine having a terrific professional reference (whether for b-school applications or for future job searches). Try to envision which manager(s) or supervisor(s) will likely be your closest mentors and champions at your future workplace. If your vision of that is clearly stronger at one of the current opportunities, then perhaps use that detail as the tie breaker.

    Last but not least, congratulations on completing your degree at UC Berkeley!! Let me know what you’ve decided, and please stay in touch …

  • Dear Deepak,

    I hope you won’t mind a digression before diving more deeply into your question (in an effort to provide all P&Q readers with a sound overall strategy for how to address visa / work issues).

    I feel that it makes sense to think foremost about the structure and duration of your planned MBA program (recognizing that that influences your financial obligation, of course), to then move on to considerations of different countries’ visa rules and requirements, and, last, to combine both topics and truly think about what it might mean to live and work, post-MBA and in the long-run, in countries that are as different from one another as are Germany, Spain, the U.K., and France, for example, as opposed to the U.S., Canada, India, etc.

    In my opinion, one of the better ways for international students to mitigate job-search risk, and to expand the amount of time (# of months) available to secure employment before their student visa status expires, is to pursue a two-year, rather than a one-year, MBA program … it is still the case that most of the former are located in the U.S., while most of the latter are located in Europe.

    Quickly: in the U.S. (and elsewhere, including in Europe, where there are two-year MBA programs), there are essentially two-rounds of MBA recruiting (round 1 for internships, after your first full year of school, and round 2 for full-time jobs, after you complete your second year of school and graduate). In the U.S., the F-1 visa (the most commonly-held student visa type) allows a student to utilize “CPT” (curricular practical training, for off-campus employment that is integral to one’s graduate studies and usually covers employment during an internship), and then offers up to a maximum of 12 months, or a year, of “OPT” (optional practical training, for off-campus employment after the student graduates and before he/she transitions to an employer-sponsored H-1B visa, or departs the country). That’s it, in a nutshell, but if you want to delve more deeply, feel free to also Google “H-1B and OPT Cap-Gap extensions”.

    In general, having the ability to secure a competitive internship (during year 1) that may in turn lead to a full-time offer, or, if that fails, to have a second shot at obtaining an in-country job via the full-time MBA recruiting process (during year 2) is a boon for job-seeking international students (and for two-year MBA programs), and using the U.S. as a point of reference, even while exploring MBA options in Europe, is probably a good idea for you.

    Now, on to Europe …

    Using BusinessWeek’s MBA profile data, the duration, in months, of a cross-section of leading European MBA programs is as follows: Cambridge Judge (12), HEC Paris (16), IMD (11), INSEAD (10), IE Business School (13), IESE Business School (19), ESMT Berlin (12), London Business School (21), ESADE (15), Oxford Saïd (12), Rotterdam-Erasmus (12), SDA Bocconi (12).

    While most of these programs skew towards the one-year format (LBS and IESE are the true exceptions at 21 and 19 months, respectively), it doesn’t mean that shorter-duration / one-year programs lack a summer internship option, but that each program has a tailored means of addressing the topic via ‘summer projects’, ‘corporate consulting engagements’, etc. as opposed to the more traditional, U.S.-style summer corporate internship (a stand-alone experience at an employer organization that lasts anywhere from 8 to 11 weeks).

    For each school that you explore, it makes sense to take a close look at whether the summer internship work experience is obtained via a truly competitive recruiting process (managed by companies and designed to generate a pipeline for those employers’ future MBA workforce), or something that is engineered primarily by your school and aligned to fit more closely with the educational experience and select coursework (though these projects too can often lead to employment for students who shine during the facilitated work and/or research partnerships that the schools orchestrate on behalf of companies, NGOs, start-ups, etc.).

    If you’re looking for a way to tell whether the summer internship is the former or the latter, the best method is to download the schools’ MBA career stats / employment reports, and to see if they break out an internship class from a full-time class (two separate graduating years), or simply list a single year (one graduating cohort).

    Here’s an example of Oxford’s (1-yr. MBA) Employment Report:
    And here’s an example of London Business School’s (2-yr. MBA) Employment Report:

    Now, to finally address your specific question. The best answer to give is that whatever information you may have about a country’s visa requirements, you must absolutely check with the most up-to-date official, government website resource. Visa rules can change with legislative seasons, and you should be careful not to rely on outdated information. (This is a primary reason why it makes sense to refrain from trying to identify a current “best” visa scenario for Europe.)

    Beyond countries’ government websites, there are a number of resources copied below, as well as visa information provided by schools you may be targeting. (Here’s an excellent example of the latter from LBS: http://www.london.edu/education-and-development/masters-courses/visa-requirements#.VHt12jHF-So .)

    For work permit and visa information relevant to specific European countries, see Going Global’s country profile pages (then navigate to “Work Permits/Visas”): http://www.goinglobal.com/en/country-profiles/

    Citizens of non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries most likely need to obtain a ‘Schengen Visa’. Here are links for the EU member states: http://europa.eu/about-eu/countries/index_en.htm and for information on Schengen visas: http://www.schengenvisainfo.com/student-schengen-visa/

    For scholarships (including European ones) available to students from emerging economies, please see:

    And for international scholarships available to Indian students, please see:

    Last, here are a couple of good articles (from P&Q and The New York Times) that also highlight the current state of international student migration and job-searching:

    Your task, in the end, is to consider: 1) the financial cost and duration of a target MBA program, 2) the ways in which the structure of MBA recruiting at that program will influence your job search, 3) the most up-to-date information regarding professional graduate student work visas (and path to permanent residency / citizenship, if that’s of interest), and 4) your ultimate ability to transition to and ‘fit’ in with the work culture and society of a given country.

    It goes without saying that language, and specifically the extent to which English is a primary or secondary language in a specific country’s workplace environment, will influence your decision. I know that all of the information above represents a significant amount of research and due diligence that you will need to undertake, and that you will likely need to repeat your efforts for at least 2-3 country environments…

    The best overall advice I can give you is to think long-term. Beyond merely securing a job and being allowed to stay in-country after you graduate, will you be satisfied with the social, professional, and political environment of your host country? If that’s of lesser importance, then will your skills and experience translate readily to professional opportunities and work back home, in your country of origin?

    Good luck in answering these questions, and in all of your efforts!!

  • Abishekh

    Hi Ivan,

    I have 7 years of experience in project management within the energy sector. I am pursuing an MBA to transition to growth strategy for a multinational oil company in the long term. I am curious to know whether I should pursue strategy consulting in the short term and for internship or I should pursue development leadership roles that oil companies have.

  • guest

    hey ivan,
    i am IP lawyer from india and looking to get into a good mba program in order to switch to consulting. i was wondering if you could let me know if being an IP lawyer and having mba is a combination favorbly looked upon by the big 3. i would honestly prefer being a consultant in a non profit sector asmy long term goal is to come back to india and continue my work with the special olypics organisation i am currently involeved with.
    look forward to hearing from you

  • Ben

    Hi Ivan,

    Thanks for doing this.
    I’ll keep it short.

    I am about to embark on a Distance-Learning MBA with Warwick Business School, UK.
    I am 34 now, and will be 36 when I graduate. I have 10 years solid experience in software development (team leadership), and I have a very good first class honours degree at undergrad level, with various achievement awards along the way.

    I would love to move into Management Consulting with an MBB firm upon graduation. I understand that MBB firms typically hire from “top business schools” and I am not quite sure if Warwick – although very well respected for its MBA – fits into this category.

    My question is this – given my age, experience, etc – is it realistic for me to aim for associate positions at the MBB-level firms upon graduation?

    Thanks for your time,

  • Steve Martinez

    Where are the stats on experienced professionals with MBAs and other specialties such as PMPs, CFAs, etc who have been out of school for a little while? What are the prospects for them. I think that this is very relevant because there are many who suffered a MBA backlash during the recession and experienced career set-backs.

  • WorriedEngineer

    Thanks in advance,


  • WorriedEngineer

    Hi Ivan,

    Thanks for giving this advise!!

    I am just starting my career in an engineering consulting firm in a developing country, from which I am from (I graduated about 1 year ago with a mechanical engineering degree). We do strategy and technical assessments. My country is currently going through historical political reforms, some of which greatly impact the sector I work with. Basically, I am in a privileged position where I can give a lot of strategic advise and directly impact this key sector and my country. Even though I like my job and it is really exciting right now, I have a stronger passion. I really want to transition into the public sector or to the nonprofit/social enterprise world. I intend to do an MBA to start my own data-driven nonprofit or social enterprise. I am thinking about taking 2 years and go with the TFA version of my country, which is fairly new. I plan on applying for MBA during my 1st year in TFA. Do you think that adcoms will see this jump (1.5 years consulting in exciting sector to 2 years TFA then MBA) as something negative? Would you think I would be a more valuable applicant if I stay on this firm and keep gaining experience with these reforms? I just think the story won’t piece together or that they would see my change as a mistake, that worries me. I will be applying to the top 7 MBAs.

  • JRP

    Hi Ivan,
    I’m a graduating senior at UC Berkeley. I’ve had an internship w/ a big oil and gas company and a job offer with a highly ranked (by Vault) economic consulting firm. I am wondering what would be the best option to get me into a good MBA program in 2-3 years and then into MBB consulting firms. Do you have any advice? Should I return to the big oil company (also have an offer with a big Chemical producer) or go to the economic consulting firm that isn’t necessarily very prestigious despite being highly ranked.

  • Deepak

    Hello Ivan,

    I am Deepak from India. I have 5 years of work experience and planning to go for an MBA from any european country but interested in a country which gives atleast an year for job search as I would not like to take any kind of risk which forces me to come back with a huge financial obligation. Can you please advise which european country gives a considerable time for job search after my MBA.

  • Hi Danielle,

    Thanks for your question! Most often, people working in corporate strategy either have a background in line leadership within that same organization / industry, or in management consulting (where the breadth of their experience is valued, and can make up for first-hand knowledge or deep experience within that company). In terms of MBA hiring, an additional constraint (meaning, very few hires are made) is the relatively small size of most organizations’ strategy teams … these can constitute just a handful of people, even at large companies.

    Hence, while making an immediate transition into corporate strategy from an MBA degree is not impossible, it’s normally easiest for those returning to the same or similar employer (hence, they’ve got the deep company / industry know-how) or for those who have a strong background in consulting. What I think is useful to keep in mind for you is that pursuing an MBA can be a very valuable, if not essential, step in your transition from nonprofit work into some combination of consumer goods and international market entry work. You may require one or more additional, post-MBA steps to get there, whether in industry or as a strategy consultant, but it the MBA will likely be a useful way to embark on that journey (as well as signal your intent).

    Given your interest, I would recommend those courses in business school that will provide you with the tools you will likely need in your next professional experience (e.g. competitive strategy courses, marketing, anything focused on CPG, retail, etc.). I should also add that you, like many MBAs before you who are form nonprofit backgrounds, may ultimately return to that same nonprofit field and topic … a scenario in which your MBA and strategic planning skills would likely be valuable, and which might also lead to the greatest job satisfaction for you, somewhere down the line.

    I hope that helps, and good luck!

  • Danielle

    Hey there…

    Thanks for providing me with the opportunity to ask this question. I currently work for a non-profit and am looking to switch to corporate strategy, preferably with a focus on international markets or in consumer goods. Do you know if this is a career that I can start right after obtaining my MBA? Is there things I should focus on while obtaining my MBA? Any advice would be appreciated.

  • Karan

    I have a job in the technology side of things…. think business analytics, ERP System implementation etc.

  • Karan

    Hi Ivan

    I graduated from a decent school think Drexel or Temple with a 3.6 gpa and majored in Management Information Systems and Marketing and scored a 3.94 and 3.87 gpa in my concentrations. I am currently pursuing my masters in management and systems from NYU and this is my first semester. At my undergrad school I was the Treasurer of MIS Club. VP of moot court and also have a Black Belt in TakewonDo. I have also had internships with UBS and EY while I was in Undergrad.

    I am looking to apply to HBS 2+2 Program. I already have a job in the financial services advisory (think Big 4). Please tell me my chances of getting into HBS 2+2. I am still to take my GMAT/GRE exam this summer.

  • Liberation26

    Hello Ivan. Thank you for taking our questions.

    I am currently in Sales at a software engineering services firm. Post MBA, I want to transition into a brand management role in a web commerce company. However, when I talk to current students, one fact they point out is that Brand Management is predominantly popular among CPG companies and technology firms hire marketing managers (which encapsulates branding) as opposed to bonafide brand managers. How legitimate is this view? Also, while transitioning from sales to marketing, what skills do you think are transferable?


  • Hi Jon,

    Thank you for your patience with regard to this question … it has been a busy summer!

    I think your question is among the hardest to tackle, in part because the answer is usually not the one aspiring MBAs want to hear, but I hope the following will help. From an MBA applicant’s perspective, I think the right answer to focus on and expectation to set, from the choices above, is “D”, with some qualification …

    First, here’s an important example for why one should assume a very conservative, even pessimistic view with regard to the extent to which PE firms recruit MBAs (true even for those students who are coming from investment banking / buy-side work, and equally true for middle market firms, which may have even fewer resources and bandwidth than the large, marquee PE firms to actively recruit MBAs) …

    At Harvard Business School (where, historically, a high number of graduates pursue post-MBA PE work), 10% of the class of 2013 accepted full-time, post MBA work at PE / LBO / VC firms (that figure for both the classes of 2012 and 2011 was 16%, according to HBS employment statistics). However, these high percentages are mitigated by the fact that HBS also accepts a disproportionately high number of students who worked in the industry prior to business school … the HBS class of 2016 pre-MBA profile by industry (let’s assume that figure is roughly representative of earlier classes as well) shows 17% of students coming from PE / VC backgrounds.

    And, though students coming form PE vs. those going to PE are not a 1:1 match (some leave, while others enter, the industry), experience indicates that ‘entering’ is the minority exception. Thus, unless you’re from a PE background, you should heavily discount the robust hiring numbers you may find at a range of great schools (see http://poetsandquants.com/2014/01/21/where-top-mbas-work-in-private-equity/ for additional data).

    As for other ways to think about your chances for entering the space, here’s what else counts positively (separately from whether you’re going to business school or not): working for a PE portfolio company, having principal investment experience, having a deep knowledge base in a sector of interest to financial sponsors, working on deals (as a banker) with PE firms / having them as a client, and, perhaps the most arbitrary one, “knowing someone” (preferably by marriage or close kinship ties) who is willing to help you get in the door.

    Let’s say you have some combination of these positives, and you’re going on to assess your choice of school as well as the MBA recruiting landscape. Though business schools have outstanding courses in the funding and management of private equity and venture capital, the marketplace does not view academic work as sufficient reason to hire (unless you studied these topics as an undergrad and have additional investment banking experience). And, on the recruiting side, hiring by these firms is most often limited, sporadic, and unpredictable. Even the biggest firms may have only one or two post-MBA positions, and may not hire any summer associates.

    At the end of the day, it’s accurate for schools to list a range of financial sponsors among their recruiting partners, and for those firms to say they recruit at schools X, Y, and Z. But, for any one individual student, lots of stars must become aligned for that position, and that offer, to materialize … not least, as noted above, one must prove oneself to be a better candidate for any one of the tiny number of positions than the hundreds of MBAs at leading schools who’ve already worked in PE, and for whom going to business school is merely an interruption (some have said a “social networking punch card”) in their otherwise linear leveraged buyout careers. This holds true even if you’re seeking employment with a niche investment category, middle market, regional champion.

    That was a very long wind-up to the following bit of advice: try to break into PE/LBO work before you attend business school. There are many great reasons, and lots of value, in pursuing an MBA, but taking advantage of a robust PE recruiting marketplace (as a non-PE person) is not one of them. Let me know if I can be of any additional help!

  • Kurt,

    I’m glad that John has pointed you to the Poets&Quants undergraduate site! Here are a few thoughts on how to integrate college studies (and major) with long-term career plans and a desire to go to business school …

    First, I think it’s helpful to realize that there are many MBAs whose undergraduate major was something other than ‘business’. The rough distribution, for many business school student bodies, is 1/3 undergrad business majors, 1/3 other quant-focused majors (engineering, math, science), and 1/3 humanities, liberal arts, etc. majors (a catch-all for all other categories). Here is a neat, DIY analysis by Anne Chaconas of the break-down of undegrad majors at a number of leading schools: http://www.beatthegmat.com/mba/2009/11/20/which-undergrad-major-is-most-preferred-by-the-top-mba-programs

    Something else to keep in mind, and this might seem counter-intuitive, is that undergrad business majors may actually have a more difficult time distinguishing / differentiating themselves from other applicants in the MBA admissions process. See http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-03-26/as-mba-applicants-business-majors-face-an-uphill-battle … for a perspective on the gap between the profiles of students taking the GMAT / applying to business schools and the profiles of students being sought out and selected by MBA admissions teams.

    In my experience, those MBAs who focused on a business discipline as undergrads tended to do very well (both academically and in terms of career focus) during business school, so I do think that the advantage of having been a business undergrad still holds, but it does not serve as a prerequisite for admission, as it might have in years and decades past.

    What remains important — and this may be of greatest value and relevance to Ben — is that, regardless of major, it’s important for MBA-bound undergrads to cultivate and show a capacity for taking on the sort of rigorous thinking and skills-based capabilities required of modern managers: ability to analyze data, synthesize information, make actionable recommendations, organize and lead others, achieve measurable results, etc. That may sound a bit nebulous, but I can think of many scenarios and environments that would fulfill those criteria (e.g., working in a science research lab, taking on a survey project in collaboration with a faculty member, leading an on-campus organization and creating new programs or services as part of that experience, and so on). The key thing is to be able to marry ‘hard skills’ (I agree, most easily highlighted via graded academic work, with an emphasis on quantitative work, and with a strong GPS) with an additional demonstrated capacity for working well with others, managing change and ambiguity, achieving goals, and pursuing excellence, regardless of topic and field.

    If Ben’s interest in engineering and applied science is genuine, those studies would certainly fit the bill, as far as academic experience goes, but I do think the skills and capabilities mentioned above can be developed — via a combination of work, extracurricular activities, and academic study — within the context of any major. And while I do think that undertaking an MBA without any exposure to management topics and pre-MBA commercial work experience is very challenging, it *is* possible to be an arts, history, philosophy, or ‘other’ major, so long as one is careful to learn the tools, and build the skills and strengths, that would pave the path to business school. My own undergrad academic Dean suggested years ago that college students, like Homer’s Odysseus, should focus on being “skilled in all ways of contending” … still good advice, I think.

    Of course, it helps to have parents who are both MBAs, and to plan, prepare, and even ‘market time’ one’s early career steps and undergraduate studies. I’ll be expecting an e-mail from Ben circa 2024-2025! ivan.kerbel@practicemba.com

  • JohnAByrne

    Great question. I’m sure Ivan will have some smart counsel for you. Meantime, you should know that we have an undergraduate site you might want to check out as well. It’s here: http://poetsandquantsforundergrads.com

  • Hey Ivan,

    I am actually writing on behalf of my son Ben and may be jumping the gun a bit for this blog. Ben is a junior at a college prep high school and we are just beginning to look at undergrad colleges (actually heading to U of M in a couple of weeks. Ben has always scored in the 99th percentile in standardized tests, he has a 4.675 GPA and a great background as far as sports and other extra curricular activities go. Ben’s long-term goal is to get an MBA and work in the investment banking world. As with most bright kids his age, he has a lot of interests and is good at most things he does but has no idea what to major in. He want’s to pick an undergraduate major that will give him the upper hand when applying for business school later on down the line after working for a while. My wife and I are both MBA’s with business undergrad degrees but he has such an analytical mind we thought perhaps something in engineering or applied sciences might be a better start for him. Any advice on this matter?

  • ruthi777

    Hi Ivan,

    Thank you for giving us all these tips. I graduated from India with a degree in architecture and worked on commercial design and architecture for 4 years and then I moved to the US. I could not find jobs in the positions I wanted but was offered an entry level job and I took it. I work for the facilities department in one of the bigger school district now and I wanted to move up the ladder in their facilities operations and management. Do you think MBA is something I should pursue ? And since I slid down from mid level to entry level jobs are my chances slim ?

    Thank you for your help


  • Mohammed Ishaque

    Hi Ivan,
    Here i Go. I believe that for sure i will get reply from you. Myself Mohammed Ishaque. I have around 5+ Years of Experience as a Corporate Java Trainer (Software Trainer). Now i wish to bring change in my life improving myself high. Please suggest me that what can i do. And please tell me how can i choose my next step. And suggest me through your network that, being a Trainer past these years, how can i improve and which MBA i must do!!!!
    Please suggest me.

  • Mohammed Ishaque

    Hi Ivan,
    Let me check that, do my discussion is getting posted!!!

  • Dr. 3

    Hi Ivan,
    I am currently applying to top-tier and second-tier business schools. I have a BA in theorectical Mathematics/Physics from Brandeis University but my final GPA was below a 3.0, because I failed to go to my history courses and received an F in 1997. Afterwards, I worked for one year on Wall Street and decided that was not my true ambition in life. Thus, I applied to several top business schools on the east coast, and also engineering schools in Colorado and Louisiana. I was declined admission into Yale and Darthmouth Business schools, but was gladly accepted to all engineering schools which I submitted an application.
    I received a scholarship to Tulane University School of Engineering in 1998 and completed my Master’s in Electrical Engineering in 2000 with a gpa of 3.55. In 2000, I worked at UCLA in a Neuroscience lab as a programmer/analyst on MRI and Brain Atlas data. The neuroscientist whom I worked for convinced me to get my PhD. I contacted Tulane University in 2001 and received a fellowship to complete my Doctorate in Engineering.
    This system of events centered around the tragedy of 911, and the CIA, Dept. of Defense, and the National Labs were looking for American graduate students in engineering and computer science to work on projects related to defense. I received an offer from one of the prestigious National Labs on the West Coast in agreement that I would complete my PhD research on fuel cell technology while I also worked on a clean fusion project simulateneoulsy. In 2005, I received my PhD from Tulane Univ. and was promoted to Project Manager at the National Lab. My gpa for my PhD was a 3.66. and I received numerous publications on the clean fusion project and was a receipient of the R & D 100 Award in 2008.
    During 2008 my ex-wife only got accepted into Med. School in Southern California, so I resigned from the National Lab to serve as a devoted husband. In the middle of 2008, I received a lucrative offer from another government defense agency in Los Angeles, CA.. , as a senior scientist. However after my divorce in 2010, I only to remained at the defense agency until 2011 and moved back to Louisiana to be with my mother (whom was very ill) until her death in 2013.
    In May of 2013, I moved back to the east coast to be near extended family. However, I knew I did not want to remain as a grunt engineer for the duration of my career, particularly being in my mid-thirties. Thus, I began going to MIT Sloan Business School library after church on Sundays and started reading about cybersecurity. I applied to several cybersecurity Master’s programs on the east coast and was immediately accepted from all of the universities. However, I truly knew in my heart that I wanted to receive an MBA from a top-tier school.
    Since my mother’s death in 2013, a series of events have opened some doors for me. The first was I received a book contract based on my dissertation research at the National Lab. The second was a publication in digital forensics/cybersecurity and the third was another publication in brain computer interface technology and the Hadoop Ecosystem. My gpa in the cybersecurity program is approximately a 3.5. The reason I wanted to pursue a advanced degree in cybersecurity was based on my experience working for the government for over a decade. Meaning what good is an MBA or law degree if a hacker can easily steal information from a company or agency because the executives are too busy being arrogant and deciding where to cut the budget when a security breach happens,… costing millions of dollars (i.e. Target Breach in 2014).

    Currently, I am almost finished with my second Master’s degree in cybersecurity and I am applying to top-tier Ivy league universities for my MBA.

    Therefore , based upon this post what is my likelihood of being accepted into Harvard or Cornell Business School?

  • saahil

    It’s CU Denver not CU Boulder, so does reputation of school also matters in applying for MBA.

  • Saahil

    Hi Evan,

    I have undergraduate from top engineering college in India with 3.4 GPA and Masters from University of Colorado with GPA 3.88 with few publications. I am currently working in GE’s research division. I am 28 years old. I plan to apply for MBA next year. I have GMAT 710. Good extra curricular. Getting promotion in my area of work is hard because there are too many people older than me and doing the same job and at same position. My manager told me that I cannot be promoted even if I do really good work as it will change the group dynamics. Is it a good idea to switch job? I have job offer from consulting arm (boutique) of big agency company (among top 4 in world). Is it good idea to stick at same post for next 2 years and not get promoted before applying for MBA or to get 2 year boutique consulting experience before joining school.

  • Fiona,

    I’m glad that you’re thinking about your career trajectory, post-MBA, and weighing the market conditions for the field you’re most likely to pursue, as well as considering the personal finance aspect of undertaking a grad degree.

    A few thoughts (and a number of links) that I think will help are below. But, first, the fact that you’re currently working in a financial services niche and that you have an Econometrics MSc will help to an extend both with yous baseline familiarity as well as credibility for any new finance function you consider; having spent your 20s in an “exploratory” mode is something that can be overcome (in terms of both MBA applications and MBA job-seeking), so long as you now have a very solid sense of and commitment to your post-MBA career trajectory. I would view the fact that you’re a woman as a positive, given the gender imbalance in the field, and the desire among leading firms (and schools) to attract women who are committed to business leadership in what has been one of the traditional career path for MBAs.

    With regard to some resources, I think you’ll find the following WSJ article, on top feeder schools for the asset management industry, useful (especially the top 10 list by MBA graduates scaled for school size, which offers a useful lens): http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2014/05/27/a-list-of-top-schools-feeding-the-asset-management-industry/

    Remember that much of your choice regarding school, and employment opportunities, will depend on what type of assets you’re interested in, what types of firms/banks you’d like to work for, and in what part of the world that activity will occur (important questions to answer, as you conduct further research). I think the following is as good a list as any to work from, in terms of lists of firms, and you can then research the extent to which those firms appear as employers in MBA programs’ annually published MBA Career Reports. … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_asset_management_firms

    With regard to industry trends, asset management is currently in a positive, recovery phase (assets under management growth has been led in large part by a rise in equity markets). Here are two studies that will bring you up to speed:

    I would be a little careful with regard to market-timing your degree, meaning that you should predicate your decision to attend business school in any given year based on some sense of whether the industry will be expanding or contracting when you emerge (and are seeking a job), but that your overall decision to become an MBA, and/or pursue a career in a specific field should be a bit more “timeless” … something that you intrinsically are interested in and well-suited to, for the long haul.

    I know that it’s a weighty decision overall. The good news is that you can take many of the steps necessary to explore going down this path, including even applying to MBA programs (though I know that also bears a cost and involves standardized testing), without ultimately committing to the experience. I recommend speaking with people who may have a similar background to yours and who are working in the field, or for a company, you’re interested in. Their personal stories and anecdotes can often shed light and wisdom on what can often be an intangible question … Is it worth it? … as well as help you acquire a stronger qualitative sense of the necessity or lack thereof of prior front-office financial services experience.

    Overall, I think the fact that you have a singular question … Will an MBA degree facilitate entry and a strong career path in asset management? … already places you ahead of the curve of many MBAs, for whom going to business school seems like a good idea even in the absence of a well-defined job search. It sounds like you have more work to do in terms of vetting specific degree programs (including part-time programs, I should add) for your specific goals; you will want to accomplish more of that research before you feel comfortable either pursuing or closing off the MBA option. I’m wishing you the best of luck!

  • Hi India_Pune,

    Congratulations on completing your Commerce and MBA degrees, and thank you for the question!

    With regard to the first two parts of your questions, you will be well within the mainstream of MBAs for whom undertaking the degree (in the U.S. or elsewhere) is intended to effect a “career switch”. The fact that you have studied Marketing and had both an undergraduate and graduate business education will be of help as you seek the transition to finance or consulting, and is something you should emphasize.

    Likewise, your entrepreneurial experience means that you have first-hand knowledge of the full scope of business functions, including the all-important hands-on knowledge related to business development and sales. With regard to both questions #1 and #2, please take some comfort in the fact that you won’t be considered a “fresher”, and that your new venture initiation experience will be to your advantage rather than disadvantage.

    With regard to grades, I believe that, as part of most schools’ application processes, you’ll find detailed instructions about how to convert your GPA and translate your achievements from one academic system to another. Please do pay attention to the individual schools’ instructions, as they may differ from one program to the next.

    Last, I hope you won’t mind that I refrain from recommending specific schools … if I list some programs, I will necessarily be omitting others, and I think part of the process of creating a strong MBA application involves undergoing the process of research and due diligence that ultimate leads you to a short list of specific schools … this process is in and of itself worth sharing (with admissions staff) and will give you a sense of confidence regarding the fact that you’ve both scoped out a broad field and found a program that is right for you (rather than merely taking someone else’s word for it).

    Incidentally, one great resource for researching schools and potentially working directly with an admissions consulting coach or firm to identify and target a set of programs is the AIGAC (Association of Graduate Admissions Consultants) member directory. Please see http://aigac.org as well as http://member.aigac.org/i4a/member_directory/feSearchForm.cfm?directory_id=7&pageid=3312&showTitle=1&showDebugOutput=false&widgetPreview=0&page_version=

    Good luck!!

  • GBR

    I can provide anecdotal support for undertaking pre-MBA, post-baccalaureate course work. Doing so not only bolstered my candidacy but provided invaluable background skills.

    I had a liberal arts degree from a small, regional school with a respectable but not seller GPA and 8 years of career success as a paralegal manager at a trio of class action boutiques. I undertook a 17-unit Accounting Certificate at my local State U and graduated with honors. (It doesn’t hurt that my local State U is also the nation’s top public university, but prestige probably doesn’t matter much as basic accreditation. The GAAP rules do not change from school to school.) Accounting skills also provide a critical substantive foundation on which to learn advanced finance once you metricate to B-School.

    This coursework helped immensely when I applied to several top tier PT MBA programs. I was admitted to a local top-25 PT MBA program in 2012 despite an unremarkable GMAT score and have thrived while working full time thanks in large measure to my preparatory accounting course work.

    Every candidate and admissions committee is different. Additional coursework may not be necessary for all candidates. Nonetheless, brushing up on some relevant topics and supplementing a stale or impaired undergraduate transcript with recent, relevant coursework will never hurts to overcome questions about your aptitude.

  • Enrique

    Hello Ivan,

    I´m writing to you to get some insight about whether an MBA would be the right choice to pursue a career in asset management, following a suggestion from your colleague Jon Fuller.

    I have been working for more than 3 years for a mid-sized Spanish bank, rotating through all desks at the capital markets and treasury departments. I am now focused on institutional funding, structured products and money market trading, although my tasks are extremely varied. During this time, I´ve had some experience related to asset management and now I would like to make it a full time dedication, but not as an only-focused-on-quant employee. I believe that the leadership/marketing skills that are taught in an MBA program, as well as having in mind the broader picture of the company are essential to achieve my long term goal and, in general, to suceed in any career path.

    MS in finance programs seem to be too focused on quant skills, so I decided to drop this idea and was researching schools with MBA programs that have a strong finance track. However, when Jon replied to me a few days ago the doubts about choosing the right path to achieve my goals came back. Here´s what he said:

    “You’re right that goals in asset management aren’t as common as goals in investment banking, management consulting, marketing, etc. It’s good that you evidently already have some related experience in this area, so that helps to make your direction seem well-informed and possibly more realistic. Articulating that kind of goal isn’t guaranteed to be problematic but it can be a cause for concern . . . the concern that can often crop up with goals to work in areas like asset management, private equity, hedge funds, etc. is that those roles are exceedingly difficult to come by, regardless if you have a top MBA, relevant pre-MBA work experience, etc. These kinds of firms just don’t recruit en masse like many others, and adcoms know that. You might want to pose some questions to Ivan over on P&Q’s Career Strategy forum . . . he might even tell you that an MBA might not be the best or necessary route for you to follow!”

    I´d like to get your opinion on this to make sure I am making the best decisions.

    Goals: S/T: complete a transition to the asset management industry (already with some related experience). L/T: become a portfolio manager focused on cross-asset management.

    – 700 GMAT (48Q/37V)
    – MS in banking management and financial markets (1 year).
    – Undergrad: BS in business management (4 years, majored in finance) from a public
    Spanish university.

    I´ll be happy to elaborate further on my background, I just didn´t want to make this post too long.

    Thanks in advance for your time.


  • Shishir Swaroop

    Hi Ivan,

    I am from India. Currently working with Human Resources at a leading Indian Telecom Company. Looking to switch to Human Resource consulting. CGPA at 3.5 undergrad in business management from Mumbai University. Finished one MBA degree from leading B school in India.GMAT Score of 700. I will be looking for an MBA from a European school like Said, Judge,IESE, Insead,IE and Esade in the next 4 years.I am concerned how these institutes will perceive my application considering I already have an MBA degree. Futhermore I have been an average student most of my life but have some extra curriculars to soften the blow. Can you help me with advice on how to build my profile in the next 3-4 years? Thanks!

  • Adi

    Hi Ivan,

    I should be grateful if you would kindly provide your inputs on my query. I am a bit nervous as I am aiming to be a career switcher. I am presently a lawyer working with a UK based law firm for the past three years. I am in the process of applying for a full time MBA this year. But my nervousness stems from the fact that I want to be fully honest in my application about what I want to do next. While you can appreciate this may change with time, at the moment, I cam quite keen to move into the entertainment and media industry in a corporate development role (focusing on M&A). In the longer run I wish to acquire an executive position. I am currently an M&A lawyer and sincerely believe that law provides a good foundation of skills. But I wanted to check with you how convincing is my story from an admissions committee point of view, which is turn is linked to the feasibility of my future goals.

    Thanks in advance!

  • JonesyBoston,

    My confession is that I’m not enough of an MBA admissions expert to be able to tell what your chances are, even given those impressive work experiences and overall stats, but I do think I can help offer some perspectives that will be of use to you…

    First, in any given year, there are many applicants who would have succeeded at business school X, and who would have gone on to represent the school well in all their future endeavors, who are not admitted, simply as a function of high demand and limited supply. It makes sense to apply to a portfolio of schools, with a specific reason for applying and detailed career goals for each one.

    Second, and this is more of a personal perspective, I think it makes sense to have one very cogent story and career trajectory, rather than multiple possible paths (being interested in both banking and consulting, as an MBA applicant, is almost like saying you’d like to become a professional hockey player … or a professional golfer; other than the fact that they’re both sports, or, in your case, oft-pursued MBA career paths in which one can make good money, they’re simply too different in so many other ways that deserve attention (and being equally interested in both may imply either a lack of research or indecisiveness, or both, to an admissions committee).

    Last, if your ultimate goal is to become a lawmaker, that’s a worthy and interesting objective (and perhaps the makings of a great application essay), but I’d be careful to explain how an MBA is critical/necessary for that career path (in one of a number of ways … perhaps by referencing legislators/politicians who are also MBA alumni, and by describing how you yourself intend to incorporate and utilize management education in that professional trajectory).

    My sense is that you’re at a good starting point, but that you could do more to develop exactly why and how a specific MBA program will fit your distinct interests and objectives, and why that education makes sense to pursue now… why not simply continue your successful work in Tech?

    Good job on the GMAT, by the way, and good luck in your applications!

  • Rajesh,

    This is a great question to ask, not only because it’s a shared question among other fellow engineers, as well as among other fellow prospective international students (considering a U.S. MBA degree from the stand-point of a range of countries), but because it addresses the clear risk-reward trade-offs that must be considered with regard to any educational pursuit.

    First, I know of almost no one who has gone to business school who regrets having gained the additional knowledge, skills, and expertise, or who is not better off, financially and career-wise, from the experience, but I also realize that that’s not the same thing as feeling absolutely satisfied that one’s efforts in business school have achieved all that was possible … and there are those few cases in which the immediate returns, compared to the big up-front investment, seem small and/or tenuous. As a business school professor once said to me, “You’re an MBA only once, and you can, in fact, screw up.”

    So, how to decide if going down the MBA path is right for you? First, your background (strong educational experience, with a focus on quant work/analytics) is well-suited to the MBA context, and much more so than the undergraduate liberal arts/humanities backgrounds of many of your future MBA peers). Second, your career focus — finance — is one of three industries, alongside management consulting and technology, that tends to be friendly towards international student candidates (offering sponsorship of U.S. H1-B visas). See: http://www.myvisajobs.com/Reports/2014-H1B-Visa-Sponsor.aspx

    And, third, compensation in finance tends to be high, relative to other career tracks, making it possible to pay off student loans in a shorter time frame and without undue burden on your personal finances.

    Beyond that, of course, everything depends on you. Can you get into a strong MBA program? Can you navigate the MBA recruiting process successfully, making sure to generate both U.S./domestic career options as well as options in your home country, if need be? Is business a better career path for you personally, and one you can stick with in the long-run, rather than your current trajectory as an engineer? Ultimately, your decision about whether the costs are worth it, and whether you will realize your career ambitions will depend on how much you want to succeed and make these changes, rather than how easy or difficult it is to do so.

    Right now, if I’m reading the tone of your question correctly, you’re not quite sure that this is the right path, other than the fact that other people have taken it in the past and seem to be doing well. My advice is to do a lot more research, and speak to more people, before you plunge in. One thing I feel strongly that you should do is find graduates of your B.Tech program who have gone on to study in MBA programs (whether in the U.S. or in India/Asia), to find those who have switched from roles similar to your in engineering to careers in finance, and, last, to look up the professional backgrounds of business leaders you admire (in any industry) and see if their training included an MBA or some other form of training.

    I don’t think that your lack of work experience in financial services is a barrier; after all, making that successful transition is one good reason to go to business school. … Incidentally, with your background in the steel industry, you may want to focus on banking roles in the basic materials/industrial metals sector … a great way to lever your current professional experience in the process of competing for jobs at the most coveted companies. Here is the NYSE listing directory: http://www1.nyse.com/about/listed/lc_all_industry.html
    … And here is an example of one investment bank, Morgan Stanley’s, regional and industry coverage areas:

    Good luck in conducting further research and due diligence, and be sure to speak with MBA graduates from similar backgrounds as yours in order to assess whether business school is right for you.

  • Hi N,

    Thank you for your positive words, and for the question!

    A quick comment at the outset: I think you’re doing an excellent job of thinking strategically through your MBA options, including weighing cost, brand effects, and job search leverage both immediately upon graduating as well as down the road. You’re “thinking like an MBA” … good job!

    First, I think you’re profile is excellent, and attending business school is exactly the right strategic step to take in order to transition from an internal/back-office role to front-line IB/finance work… not least, because your investment of time and money in earning the MBA is a strong signal and proof of your ambition to make that jump.

    With regard to the brand, network, and other ‘soft’ effects (beyond the technical skills) your will gain from a specific alma mater, I would think of the usefulness and power of the degree as applying to two specific time windows. The first, as you’ve pointed out, is when you’re in school and/or about to graduate … the market-making power of your institution’s on-campus recruiting process (especially vis-a-vis banking) plays a big role in the opportunities that you will have access to, both for internships and full-time roles.

    The next time period, in my opinion, when school brand tends to matter is when you’re some ~7-10 years out of business school, and success in your job function (whatever that may be) increasingly relies on your ability to sell new client work, conduct business development, create strategic partnerships, find companies to invest in / acquire, etc. … all activities for which having a broad personal and professional network and close friendships with fellow MBA alumni (who are themselves leaders at peer organizations) can make a positive difference. My assumption here is that the more competitive the school is, the more ambitious and likely to find their way to leadership roles your fellow graduates are likely to be… a broad, generalization, I know.

    In between those two time windows, of course, is a long stretch of years in which your own efforts, track record of success, and ability to be promoted and take on new challenges ‘on the job’ make all the difference. With regard to your corporate development question, I believe that experience as a banker is more important than having earned an MBA… I agree that breaking into corporate development without pre-MBA banking experience is a challenge (and an unlikely outcome), regardless of the brand and rank of school you attend, and that your best strategy is one of incremental growth, learning, and experience that keeps you on the right trajectory for the role(s) you ultimately want.

    For you, business school might be the right step in order to have the sort of investment banking career (and to gain the sort of hands-on finance experience) that would then make you a good candidate, some years hence, for corporate development roles. (Incidentally, your experiences in various electives in business school can help you realize what areas of corporate development you will ultimately find most interesting, from M&A, to securing financing, to asset divestiture, etc.).

    A last thought: one way to cancel some of the effects of school rank/brand is to spend a lot of time up-front researching the types of employers, organizations you’d like to work for, and, simultaneously, to think about what city/state you’d like to reside in long-term. All business programs enjoy strong relationships with local or regional champions (in addition to the major national/international employers), and that can be hugely advantageous, if you know you want to remain in a specific part of the country, post-MBA. … I think Stacy Blackman’s article in US News captures this concept well: http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/mba-admissions-strictly-business/2014/05/30/compare-benefits-of-regional-mbas-with-big-name-b-schools

    Of course, during that long mid-career period when you’re truly ‘earning your stripes’ and building your reputation, staying in the same place (avoiding multiple moves, and the necessary process of re-building your network, etc.) can also be a smart move, and one that also mitigates alma mater brand and network differences. There’s something to be said for having people who’ve been aware of your work, can serve as a reference, can introduce you to new business partners, etc., and that occurs with greater inefficiency if you can avoid going to school in the east coast, for example, then working post-MBA on the west coast, and then settling permanently in the mid-west (just to invent an all-American example).

    I hope that helps!

  • KK

    Hi Ivan,

    Thanks a lot for all the great advice.

    I hold a degree in engineering and have worked for an Indian IT company for more than 7 years. Out of those, for about 3.5 years I worked in UK for UK’s one of the biggest retail banks.

    When I came back to India, I couldn’t get the profile I was looking for (business analyst, that’s what I worked as in the UK). The profiles that were offered to me were mundane and unchallenging. Given my savings, I knew I could easily maintain my current lifestyle without a job for years. So I quit the job.

    I have got an OK GMAT score of 730. Would a lack of job hamper my chances of getting into a B School? I’m looking to get an admit into Indian B schools. OR should I get a job (I could get one of the roles that I don’t find challenging) before I apply?

    Thanks again.

  • Hi Experimenter,

    Allow me to tackle the second part of your question first … One way to think of the MS in Finance is to image a selection of the core Finance topics normally taught as part of an MBA degree (corporate finance, advanced corporate finance, micro/macroeconomics, perhaps also capital markets and corporate valuation), plus a much deeper dive into what would otherwise be elective courses in an MBA program (financial derivatives, fixed income securities, behavioral finance, fiscal policy, M&A/buyouts, investment/portfolio management, the funding of private equity and venture capital, etc.) … those ‘electives’ in a Finance MS supplant the remaining general management topics (e.g., Marketing, Operations, Management of Technology, Entrepreneurship, etc.) usually taught as part of an MBA program.

    The end result is evident when one lists the full course load: a person who has an MS in Finance is likely to be able to execute much more highly technical work in a finance function, but is less well able to tackle other general management topics. The industry/employer perspective on the two degrees is quite simply that there are some roles (more highly technical finance functions) for which a Finance MS grad is a better candidate, and others, requiring a range of activities, including the product marketing/management function you mentioned, that require a broader skill-set.

    Part of what makes MBA degrees so popular is their flexibility and almost universal applicability across a range of industries and functions, but, yes, there are instances in which those with quantitative gifts and innate, focused interest in financial topics are a better fit for a particular role. Most students I meet usually know which category they fall into, by virtue of personal preference, and I should add even within the narrower scope of investment banking or other financial services organizations, there are plenty of valuable roles for both MBA candidates and Masters in Finance candidates.

    With regard to your profile above and overall goals, it does sound like you are on a good trajectory to apply to and attend business school; my one suggestion is to work for a bit longer (closer to 4-5 years) before enrolling. … The extra experience will be useful to you both in terms of preparing your candidacy, and in terms of knowing what you want to get out of the MBA academically, professionally, and even socially.

    With regard to which school to target, I think you have a wealth of information at your fingertips, including the schools’ websites and the head-to-head comparisons in Poets&Quants which lend more nuance, offer better resolution to some of the differences among programs.

    Last, one document that I recommend for anyone in your position (early assessment and research) is GMAC’s ‘Understanding the Value of the MBA: A Program Type Comparison’:

    I hope that helps, and good luck!!

  • Flemming

    Hi Ivan

    Thanks a lot for guiding people and helping them to be decisive at the junctures. I have a Bachelor degree in Industrial Engineering and an Applied maths degree followed by consulting job for a year and a quant job for nearly five years in an investment bank in Zurich.Because of lot regulatory compliance the front office quant job of the investment bank (or across banks ) are no longer that fascinating.We are no longer making any fancy models for the traders.So rightnow my work more or less has been reduced to as a developer (IT) side and in the coming years I see my self a much overpaid IT analyst.So I’m considering of taking a break and go back to school.My questions are
    1.With a quant background what kind of jobs would follow post MBA(Finance) given that I DO NOT want to go back to Quant world again.In those non-quant jobs would I have to start from the very basic say Analyst role ?
    2.How much chances are that I would be able to shift to non-Finance sectors post MBA ?
    3.Finally do you have any personal opinion for a choice between INSEAD 1 year MBA vs 2 year MBA programs available in USA for people like my profile given that I ‘m willing to work either in USA or EUROPE.

    Thanks a lot in advance

  • Jon

    Hi Ivan,

    As I prepare to apply for MBA programs, I have a lingering question regarding post-MBA careers in Private Equity, primarily in M&A (i.e. excluding Business Development/Deal Origination and excluding Investor Relations opportunities within PE). I currently work in buy-side M&A advisory, and I’ve been trying to get feedback as to whether or not Private Equity (specifically Middle Market LBO firms):

    A) actively recruit MBAs,

    B) actively recruit MBAs from a top-5/top-10 school
    C) Will recruit some MBAs depending on how well they have networked

    D) Do not recruit MBAs at all, period

    I’ve been asking this question to representatives throughout MBA Tours at networking events, but I seem to get different answers from whomever I speak to. Would you be able to speak definitively about this subject? As you can imagine, the answer to this question will play a role in my decision-making process regarding which schools to target. Thank you.

    Thank you,


  • Fiona

    Hi Ivan,

    Thank you for answering questions on this forum!
    I attended a fairly prestigious undergrad institution with ties to one of the top 6 US MBAs. I am 29/F and seeking to change careers. I have spent my 20’s “exploring” and have a weak resume. Currently I work in a tax compliance role and lecture at a junior college. I have an MSc in Econometrics from a UK Uni which I do not use. I am aiming for an asset management career. I think this industry has shrunk in recent years and fear an older woman with no experience is not welcomed. While I would be delighted to embark on the MBA for academic and social reasons, my greatest obstacle in life is a prennnial scarcity of moeny and am therefore only willing to invest money in an MBA if there is a large payoff at the end.
    In your experience, what % of top tier MBAs manage to secure asset management roles?
    Of these how many had front-office financial services experience?


  • India_Pune

    Hi Ivan,
    About my past academics and work experience :-
    Ive done my undergrad in Commerce – Marketing majors post which i did an MBA – Marketing majors, from The University of Pune, India. Finished my MBA in 2009 and started a small proprietorship concern which is into trading and supplying of iron and steel. I now plan to do a double masters, MBA, from a University that will give me global exposure and experience. My questions are :-
    1) I want to make a career shift to Finance or consulting. Given my past academics(marketing) and my entrepreneurial experience, where does that place in terms of getting accepted by a good B school (i will be letting them know i will be making a career shift) and then getting a job ? Will i be considered a fresher when it comes to landing a job in Finance or consulting?
    2) Since I’ve been an entrepreneur for the last 5 years, will that work in my favour or against me while applying to B – schools? Similarly, will it work for or against me when i apply for jobs ?
    3) All throughout my academics i have faired decently i.e scored in the range of 70 – 75 %. I don’t really know how to convert that to a GPA. I have given the GMAT in 2010 and scored a 640. My academics and my GMAT score are average, keeping the above info in mind, could you suggest which schools i should apply to?

  • India_Pune

    Hi Ivan,
    About my past academics and work experience :-
    Ive done my undergrad in Commerce – Marketing majors post which i did an MBA – Marketing majors, from The University of Pune, India. Finished my MBA in 2009 and started a small proprietorship concern which is into trading and supplying of iron and steel. I now plan to do a double masters, MBA, from a University that will give me global exposure and experience. My questions are :-
    1) I want to make a career shift to Finance or consulting. Given my past academics(marketing) and my entrepreneurial experience, where does that place in terms of getting accepted by a good B school (i will be letting them know i will be making a career shift) and then getting a job ? Will i be considered a fresher when it comes to landing a job in Finance or consulting?
    2) Since I’ve been an entrepreneur for the last 5 years, will that work in my favour or against me while applying to B – schools? Similarly, will it work for or against me when i apply for jobs ?
    3) All throughout my academics i have faired decently i.e scored in the range of 70 – 75 %. I don’t really know how to convert that to a GPA. I have given the GMAT in 2010 and scored a 640. My academics and my GMAT score are average, keeping the above info in mind, could you suggest which schools i should apply to?

  • JonesyBoston

    Hi Ivan,

    Thank you for your time and expertise. My goal is to attend Harvard for my MBA (shore up leadership and analytical skills) so I can transition to Banking / Consulting. In the short-term, I want to transition from building companies to investing in them. While in the long term I want to become a lawmaker. What are my chances? Please see bio summary below:

    – 26Y.O Male Caribbean American (Immigrated from the Caribbean at 15)
    – 3.1 GPA from Boston College (Political Science, Minors in History and International Relations)
    – GMAT 700
    – 6 year of work experience (got promoted every year) internal sales / marketing strategy across 4 Tech startup
    – Most recent with + 70M raised and $500M in valuation where I manage my own team.
    – 3 / 4 years of mentoring underprivileged kids (college prep, career mapping)

    Thank you for your candor and reality check.



  • Good luck, Kurtis. It sounds like you are doing great work, and it helps that our economy is in better shape now than it was 2-3 years ago!

  • Kurtis

    Ivan, thank you for the thoughtful response. You have given me a lot to think about and consider for the future. You are correct that I am about 3 years out of undergrad so I am actively exploring my options for spending the next few years in a position that will really strengthen my resume. Thanks again!

  • Rajesh Aanand

    Dear Ivan,
    I have earned B.Tech from one of the most prestigious institute IIT of India and now working as a operation engineer in a steel industry since last 5 years. Now I want to switch my job by doing MBA. But, I am not sure how much MBA degree from US will help me to achieve my goal. I prefer to work in finance sector but I don’t have any degree related to finance and not even the work experience in this filed except few courses done in college. So, My few queries are very straight.
    1. If I go or MBA from US investing too much money, will I able to grab a good salaried job so that I can payback my loans soon.
    2. Is career switch in finance suitable for me and finance companies would provide me good job. Or should I opt the MBA in other field. If so, which filed?

    Rajesh Aanand
    New Delhi- India

  • N

    Hi Ivan,

    I was not planning on asking a question but the quality of your responses has blown me away and now I feel compelled! First, a bit of background.

    I attended a non-target undergrad/Magna Cum/740 GMAT. Work ex. is in corporate finance (back office) at a BB. While my profile would be stretch-competitive at M7 outside of HSW, I am thinking that I would be better targeting schools in the 10-15 range. I’d like your opinion on the following:

    Prestige is not important to me for either the MBA program or firm post-graduation. I am interested in IB. With my profile, I suspect that it is feasible for me to receive some sort of scholarship $ from a slightly lower-ranked school and still achieve my goals. Do you believe that there are significant career impacts based on alma mater after the first job post-graduation?

    Another question for you while I have your attention: is there any way to break into corporate development without pre-MBA IB experience? I want to work in this field in the long run. From what I have read, even with previous IB work, it is hard to break in post-MBA from anywhere outside of the M7.

    Thank you!

    – N

  • Experimenter

    Hi Ivan,

    Thank you for doing this. I am planning on moving from an Engineering role to a more business oriented role(Finance > Product Management/Marketing > Sales in preference order) by applying for an MBA for fall 2016 i.e. then I would have 2 years work exp at time of applying.

    To get an idea about my profile, please have a look :
    – Extra-currics(Numerous Leadership Positions at both school and college – Head Boy; President, Rotary Club of school; Secretary Finance,International Conference among many others )
    – Grades(distinction – top 10 of class,15%) ; Graduated from top 10 Indian Engg College(not IIT).
    Currently working in a Technical Role(Total 1 year work exp.) at an MNC(Leader in its domain). Further, I have also been involved in teaching underprivileged kids and currently planning out a fundraising campaign for the same.

    Also, I am confident in getting a 720+ on GMAT and have a lot of challenging situations to talk about based on my experience at college and past 1 year job experience.

    Based on the above information, I need your advice whether MBA could help me realise my goals and if yes, then which schools should I target? Any suggestions on how I could improve my profile for the same ?

    Also, what is your opinion about an MS in Finance? What is the industry perspective for that course as compared to an MBA ?

    Thanks in advance.

  • Hi Nikhil,

    Fortunately, for most full-time MBA programs, this answer is a fairly easy one: newly-admitted MBAs have on average about ~5 years of work experience, post-undergrad.

    In practical terms, this means that at year(s) 2-3, you will begin to think about and to research schools, to begin to prepare for the GMAT, to scope out potential recommendations, and to make a decision about whether to stay at your current employer (a good idea, especially if you are about to be promoted) or to take on a new position/assignment and have time enough to achieve something substantial in that role before departing for graduate school.

    In year ~4, post undergrad, I would try to prepare all of the materials you need to apply, and proceed from there. Of course, there are a lot of other circumstances that will influence your choice of timing, including what projects/experiences are on your horizon if you continue to work (that you might not want to miss out on), and, not least, the likely state of the economy and MBA hiring at the time that you graduate, insofar as that can be estimated.

    Of course, the “five years of pre-MBA work experience” is only a general average, and you will find (by reading MBA program reports that include demographics on each incoming class) that some schools skew towards slightly less, or slightly more, years of experience … and that, in each class, there are students straight our of undergrad, as well as those with 7, 8, 10, or more years of work experience. … I would think of the timing of you MBA applications as something that is inextricably tied with what you would like to explore, experience, and achieve in the next phase of your career, and if business school can facilitate that (and especially if business school seems like the only way to get there), then that is a good time to apply.

    Good luck in all of your efforts during these coming few years!

  • Pragmatic,

    This is a tough question. You have a great profile and background, and I think you would be an attractive candidate for any business school, not least because of your military service experience. You have reason to feel confident in your applications …

    I hesitate to recommend a top program, or even ‘top 5’ or ‘top 10’, where you have the best shot of being admitted. In part, it’s because I think one should always aim very high, even if a school, or set of schools, seems out of reach, but also because there are so many other variables (location, duration of degree program, what you plan to focus your studies on, what industries/functions you intend to pursue after school, etc.) … that influence not only how you’re viewed as a candidate but that also influence how interested and how inspired you are by a particular schools offering, culture, and professional network.

    You should think not only about where you can/will get in, but where you yourself would like to go, who you would like to study with and be surrounded by, and what your feelings and connection to your alma mater are likely going to be for all of the years past business school. It can’t hurt to start with the MBA rankings to begin to learn about a range of programs; I would then spend time on the various websites (including MBA employment reports) of each school, and even check out some of the online forums on sites such as Beat The GMAT and GMAT Club. There is no shortage of material to read, and I think, ultimately, you will end up applying to some programs that you feel you will “likely” get into, and some that you feel might be a stretch. Just the process of research and applying will yield a lot of information about not only which programs are your best shot, but which you would actually thrive in.

    On a separate note, your career objective above sounds very focused and even somewhat narrow … do you really need an MBA degree to create the financial derivative you’ve been working on, and if you did, what will you do once that has been accomplished? How will graduate business education play a broader role in your life and professional experiences in the long-run? My hunch is that you probably have a wider set of goals and interests, and that finding the right school for all of the different career paths and options (in addition to the one you described) will take a bit of due diligence and leg work, but will ultimately lead to the ‘short list’ of target schools you’re seeking. I hope that helps … I know it would have been easier to just pick a couple of schools, but, in my experience, generating that list only works if the candidate/applicant does it him- or herself.

    I think you’re going to end up attending a great business program. Good luck!

  • Hi Thakur,

    I apologize that I am more of an MBA career management, rather than MBA admissions, expert (I’m also cognizant of the fact that I have only a limited view and sense of dimension on your background, studies, and work from the brief description above). I do think that scoring well on the GMAT is an important facet and driver of MBA applicant success rates, but it is also only one of many facets that admissions officers consider.

    My suggestion is to look up (via LinkedIn) people who are MBA alumni and who are working in fields and roles that interest you, and to extrapolate backward to see what their pre-MBA academic and work experiences were, as one way of contextualizing and bench-marking your own chances. Ultimately, speaking to people and receiving some measure of informal guidance and mentoring might help you to align your interests and background with good opportunities in the MBA grad school realm.

    If you’re just starting out, there is plenty to read online, not least the articles in Poets&Quants, and much else besides across a range of publications. Doing a fair bit of reading and online research prior to conversations with MBA alumni should prove to be useful to you. Good luck!!

  • Hi adikash,

    At the risk of sounding unsophisticated, the simple answer is, “yes”, you are in a great position to apply to business school.

    Some quick thoughts on your process of putting applications together: I think it always helps not only to highlight achievements and credentials, but to focus on why you pursued the things that you’ve pursued, and how you accomplished what you’ve accomplished (a narrative sense of your underlying interests and the changes you’ve experienced over time in your life — a true story that explains where you’ve been and where you believe you’re headed). That, plus finding a true match and ‘fit’ at a small set of target business schools that are right for you (rather than merely the top ranked schools), will be helpful to you not only in terms of getting in, but also in terms of enjoying and getting as much out of the business school experience as you can.

    On the career side, my recommendation is to make sure you’ve done some in-depth thinking about the professional path you are most likely to pursue beyond business school. That doesn’t mean you have to make a decision about what path you’ll choose in advance, but narrowing the options down to 2-3 leading career tracks will prove helpful … and you can do this due diligence by speaking to MBA alumni in industries, functions, and companies that interest you.

    Last comment, somewhat off-topic: Drexel has a special place in my heart not only because one of my closest friends at Wharton was an alumna, but because I myself lived in Powelton Village in West Philly … where you and your undergraduate ilk were a constant, simultaneously insufferable and yet ultimately winning presence. Go Dragons!

  • Sky,

    The short answer is “yes”! I think the simple set of academic experiences and work qualifications you’ve enumerated would put you in a good position to seek admission to business school.

    My hunch is that, even in this day and age of ‘streamlined’ MBA application essay requirements, there might be wiggle room there for you to describe how you’ve moved beyond, and how you plan to continue to move beyond, some of the constraints (whether self- or externally-imposed) that you’ve alluded to. It sounds like you’ve been able to find interesting work, and that you’re setting your sights on ambitious goals in the future. You certainly will not be the first engineer to decide that a business degree is a sensible segue to broader professional horizons…

    Go to it!

  • Hi Rohan,

    I will admit that I’m not an admissions expert, but my sense is that you would be “in contention” for a spot at a leading MBA program, assuming that you put together a terrific application, do well on the GMAT, acquire great references … all of the pieces you will need to impress an admissions committee.

    With regard to your present / past work experience and interests, I think there is certainly merit in your seeking a graduate business education: the finance and managerial skills and knowledge you’re seeking *will* be a boost to your efforts and focus on public-private sector innovation, water/energy social impact work, and/or experiences working in the NGO realm. There is a clear value-add there to pursuing an MBA, and that in and of itself is a compelling story that you can leverage in your admissions efforts.

    I recommend that you read Jon Fuller’s Admissions Q&A column here in Poets and Quants, and perhaps ask him a follow-up question or two. I’m excited that you are setting your sights on pursuing an MBA degree … there are great options in India and elsewhere in Asia, in the U.S., of course, and in Europe as well. I would think broadly about your choices and also pay special attention to programs that have a special ‘edge’ in interdisciplinary teaching and social impact management.

    Here are a few great articles, to get you started …


  • sr229,

    First, it’s great to hear that you’ve made a successful career transition, and that you’re enjoying your current work and responsibilities!

    I think the easiest way to answer your question with regard to studying in L.A. and continuing to work vs. going abroad for business school is to consider two opposing options. Either think of your career path as one that should/must remain on its current trajectory … have a conversation with your current VC firm leadership about any degree of assurance (perhaps even sponsorship?) that you can continue with the firm even if you take time away to pursue a full-time MBA degree and then, depending on the answer, compare your MBA options. (The added value of being abroad, the intensity of a full-time program, the expansion of your professional network, and the quality of both LBS and INSEAD’s programs may comprise attractive options … to you personally, and perhaps to your firm as well.)

    Or, the alternative option (as you’ve already suggested): assume and plot out the scenario in which you will not be able to progress in your career in its current form, and that you will almost certainly need to be working for a different employer, in a different capacity, after graduation. In that scenario, it may or may not make sense to stay in L.A. …. but to continue to play devil’s advocate, let’s assume that the UCLA Anderson option might then give you the greatest leverage in terms of deepening your connections and knowledge of the L.A. marketplace, while allowing you to continue to gain experience in your current role. Your job search may be easier and you may be better ‘protected’, from a career perspective, going with the local option rather than going to school abroad.

    It’s truly hard to predict what the ‘safer’ path is, in the long-run, and I think you could make a valid argument for either staying in the U.S. or going abroad as affording you the greatest amount of long-term career insurance.

    Perhaps the best way to tip the scale in one direction or another is to try to figure out how likely you are to stay in Los Angeles permanently vs. live and work in another part of the country or the world in the future. I’ve often encountered MBA alumni who are world citizens and have world-wide career options, but who bemoan the lack of depth and close ties and communal and professional bonds that come with being from or staying in one place for a long time. At the same time, I think there are MBAs who would like to experiment and challenge themselves by living and working in a new city or country, but who simply couldn’t make that transition without “starting over” or having to pursue sub-optimal career options.

    For you, it may be that living abroad, as you already have done, is important enough to warrant maintaining a global network and looking towards an educational opportunity abroad, or it may be that you’ve already experienced enough of that, and that becoming a key player in your stable ‘home domain’ is the more attractive path. I know that you’ve likely made headway in your decision-making process since you posted the question; I hope you’ve been able to balance your long-term vision with what seems most immediately appealing to you in the coming months!

  • Hi USMBA,

    My apologies for the delayed response, and thank you so much for your question. My one caveat is that I’m less of an expert on MBA admissions … I do think that both Rochester and Vanderbilt are great options, and if speed of entry/exit is the primary concern, then I would certainly go!

    With regard to the topic of utilizing business school as “guidance for a startup”, I think that the formal education would supplement your practical experience — and I think business school can work especially well as an incubator and launch platform for a new venture — but I’m not sure I would classify the degree as a “must have” in order for you to be a successful entrepreneur, which it seems like you already are on a number of levels.

    If attending business school is more about changing location/country, or re-orienting your career trajectory … in other words, if it is about achieving change in your work and life that you could not otherwise achieve … then I don’t think your age matters, though it will likely influence your job choices during school, and you should therefore go to business school even if it takes another year or two. (I would worry less about your GMAT and the ‘rank’ of the school, and more about where you feel will have the best fit, culturally, and where the curriculum appeals the most to you.)

    My hunch is that, purely from a career progression / entrepreneurial perspective, you will be able to achieve your long-term goals without necessarily going to business school, but that if you want all of the learning, social, and personal growth experiences that business school entails, then perhaps it makes sense to put less weight on the specific career objectives, and simply go to get a great education and to become a more well-rounded person and businessperson.

    Last, I hope that you are feeling less depressed and more upbeat about the future. I know that competing in any process (graduate school admissions, the job hunt, etc.) can be stressful, and I hope you’re keeping a healthy perspectives on the things that truly matter … being able to take care of yourself (finances + health), being able to be attentive to friends and family, and, of course, finding work that challenges and interests you. I’m sending you lots of luck and best wishes, and hope that your path of action is becoming more and more clear …

  • PS – I thought you might also find this article interesting: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-01-17/among-mbas-real-estate-training-is-hot

  • Hi Avik,

    I think you’re planning a great career path, and I feel that your interests — architecture/design and RE development/sustainability — are both timely and will work well in combination.

    With regard to business school coursework, I would look for two things. First, you will benefit from a strong and broad set of ‘core’ business courses (Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Operations, Strategy) that will serve as the foundation of everything you do beyond school, and especially if you manage your own firm one day.

    The second thing I would consider is the quality/quantity of RE electives, and any additional coursework options (perhaps in the other graduate programs, from environmental studies to design) that you might take while enrolled at any given business school. Researching specific courses and professors in advance … and even seeking out their expertise and advice before you apply … can help shape your expectations and goals in business school, and can also help pave the way for good career outcomes. … Here is one ranking MBA programs’ real estate offerings: http://business-schools.findthebest.com/d/d/Real-Estate

    So, the mix I would recommend is any program with very strong foundation courses, but also with a vibrant ecosystem of specific elective, second-year courses (5-6+) that appeal to you and that address your career development needs directly. I hope that makes sense, and good luck in your applications!!

  • Dear Kurtis,

    Reading your question brought a smile to my face … I think your ability to express yourself with candor makes your post feel more “real” and less like the output of an MBA application algorithm (sooner or later, there will be such a thing). Your thinking about career progression (including the relative value of your academic experiences and current work), and your vision for the school options step-wise progression you might pursue during the coming years seem logical to me.

    A quick note on your strategy/tactics, before zooming out to the larger picture: I think the schools you have identified are all terrific, and I think any of them would be a great option as you take your next career step. My sense regarding the recruiting patterns of the leading strategy consulting firms is that there is a great emphasis on not only the performance benchmarks of interviews and your work during business school, but on prior performance/pedigree, and academic achievement. There may simply be more MBA candidates with superlative stats who are vying for these coveted roles (MBB), and while I would not rule out or refrain for applying to the most in-demand opportunities, I would also recommend having a balanced portfolio of target organizations that includes some great local firms, boutique consultancies, firms managed by alumni business leaders (from the program you attend) that might not be on the radar of thousands of MBAs across the country.

    To step back and look at the larger picture, I can’t help but think that going to business school and focusing on strategy consulting (though it certainly is a well-worn path and, for many, a necessary means to an end in terms of career progression), I can’t help but think that, for you, it may simply not be necessary, at best, and, at worst, that it might be an expensive detour from something that you already seem to be progressing well in, namely your real estate endeavors. With regard to working for a buy-out / private equity firm, or pursuing your interest in alternative assets, I think business school is in many instances not the right prerequisite for dipping your feet into that sort of work. (PE tends to be the most choosy and competitive of employment options post-MBA, and those who are successful at landing roles have either worked in the financial sponsors space prior to school or have years of extensive banking / finance experience; I think it might feel like a truly thankless uphill battle for you.)

    Of course, going to business school to broaden your skills, sharpen your mind, and learn about what it takes to succeed in a new industry or function makes a lot of sense … I simply wouldn’t assume that simply being in business school can/will unlock all of those career path / employment doors for you. In the near-term, the best thing to do is to keep working and to develop more knowledge, experiences, and skills. If I read your question correctly, I think you are about ~3 years out of undergrad; another 2-3 years, especially if you have a chance to work in investment/asset management, may make a critical difference in terms of your MBA aspirations … and it would also serve to beef up your resume and make your college experiences a smaller % of your overall track record. I would say, keep on learning about the different work options out there, and don’t assume that you “have” to go to business school!

  • Nikhil


    Thank you for helping out!
    I am a new grad and work for Cooper Tire and Rubber as a business analyst. Eventually I want to get my MBA and move onto a larger company (ex: Amazon, Starbucks, Qualcomm, McKinsey). How long should I wait to get my MBA?

  • jimismash


  • Pragmatic Veteran

    Hi Ivan,
    I need some pragmatic advice regarding MBA programs. May you give your top 5 MBA programs in which you think I’d be a realistic fit? Some basic details to aid your decision are as follows:
    Marine Corps combat veteran; rank of Sgt.
    Undergrad at Suffolk University, Boston MA; BS in Economics
    GPA: 3.7; l graduated with honors and the schools award for achievement in Economics
    GMAT score: 700 (perfect quant score but flubbed the verbal stuff)
    I’m currently working as a government economist in the DOD and I want to get my MBA to realistically aid me in the develpment of a financial derivative I’ve been developing and bring it to market.
    What MBA program is my best shot?

  • Kelly

    Hi Ivan,

    I am wondering about my chances of getting into a top MBA program and when I should apply. I graduated from Indiana University with 4 majors in Mathematics, Neuroscience, Psychology and Biochemistry with a Business minor. My GPA was a 3.3, I took the GMAT in 2011 and got a 620 but I am now testing around 700+. I am a 27 year old white female and am currently a senior consultant at a small healthcare IT firm and have 3 years health IT experience. I am thinking about first getting a masters in Health IT from UIC first and then applying in 2 years. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank You!

  • Thakur

    Hello Ivan,

    I am preparing for GMAT and is targeting top colleges for my MBA in Marketing/Advertising. However, I have scored average in school days and my graduation is not from a regular college. I also have 3 years of work experience in Quality Analyst field.

    What is the chance of me getting in into a good/decently good college in the US/Uk? My mock test results are constantly above 720. What would you suggest?


  • adikash

    Dear Ivan

    I’d really appreciate your assessment on my profile for MBA Admission top top 10.

    I Graduated Drexel with a double major in Management Information Systems and Marketing with a 3.6 CGPA and a 3.94, 3.86 Major GPA’s (Deans list all years)
    Had 3 scholarships merit based in school
    I Interned with UBS Investment Bank and Ernst & Young (EY) in my school years
    I am working with a Big 4 Advisory Practice in Financial Services now
    I volunteer at a community kitchen once a week
    I was very active in school-
    Treasurer of Mgmt Info Systems Group;VP, Moot Court; Marketing Chair, Law Society; Black Belt TaekwonDo (Played for my country)

    Planning to score 700+ on my GMAT.

    Please could you tell me if I make a competitive candidate for the schools listed below
    Target schools
    – Harvard
    – Stanford
    – MIT
    – Kellogg
    – Dartmouth
    – Columbia

    Hope to hear from you

  • Hi Shobhit,

    I’m struggling a bit to understand your question, and am hoping you might clarify a bit the portion regarding the “profiles assigned … [by] the companies,” as well as your point regarding the sectors covered by business schools? If your point is that schools’ curricula are based on academic verticals (e.g., Finance, Accounting, Marketing), whereas job opportunities are often classified by function (e.g., business development, product management, etc., please do clarify a bit more, and I’ll do my best to respond!

    I think an MBA from a leading school in India can help you to access opportunities not only with local/regional champions, but with multinationals that have operations in India, or that are trying to increase their share of the Indian consumer market. In fact the MBA may be the key factor in giving you a chance to be considered as a candidate for these roles, from among the many smart, technically-capable candidates who are pursuing those roles.

    Thanks in advance for rephrasing part of your question, and good luck in all of your research!

  • Great, Smarak. I’m glad that you’re going to do a ‘deep-dive’ into all the information available. In this day and age, too much information, rather than too little, is the challenge!

  • Preston, I’m glad that was useful, and thank you for your kind words! Yes, I think your overall emphasis on sustainability, *plus* a very directed sense of what type of company, industry, or function that might play out in, is the right way to go. Please stay in touch and let me know how everything goes in the months ahead!

  • Hi Shmelky,

    I don’t think you’re ‘stuck’ pursuing a marketing career path, and many students pursue an MBA precisely to break the mold and try a new career path. And, though you should not feel limited in this regard, you should also expect to have more market/selling power if you do pursue marketing positions, given your background.

    For me, judging the near-term marketplace opportunities for any MBA student is always a multi-variable equation … what will the job-market and overall economy be like at the point you graduate; if you’re switching industries, can you maintain some consistency in terms of function (or vice versa); what aspects of your prior experience (client account management, analytics, specific team- or project-based work) can most readily translate to your potentially new career path; and what specific coursework and experiences will you pursuing in business school that can help bolster your overall marketability, useful skills and knowledge?

    What I’ve often told my students is to try to avoid scenarios in which you’re attempting to change / break through a majority, rather than a minority of variables … hence, be careful if you’re trying to find work at a new company, in a new city (where you lack network and references), in an entirely new industry, and in a very different function from what you’ve done before. That’s often a recipe for a long, hard slog and usually results in finding a match with an organization that might not have been your ideal, employer-of-choice in that space.

    If you can keep most variables the same (keeping industry stable while changing function, for example) while changing a minimum, few key others, you may be able to create a step-wise plan to get you where you want to be, 2-3 job moves / 5-10 years down the line. This happens most often for students who want to pursue PE / VC work ultimately, but who don’t already have a background in finance.

    With regard to your choice between Baruch and NYU, I think both options are great, and I think you’re also being smart about weighing the costs versus the potential career outcomes (any scenario in which you can minimize educational debt will help give you increased flexibility in terms of types of jobs, and compensation required). One tip: you should be able to request and acquire a sense of the hiring organizations for ~2012, 2013, and, by this fall, 2014 at each school, for the degree program you are considering; this can often help you envision your future roles and the companies you will likely need to network with.

    If you intend to remain in NYC, then some of NYU’s global brand / reach may be of less immediate value to you. If you’re planning the opposite, then perhaps give greater weight to that school’s reputation and network effects outside of metro NYC.

    My sense, and this is simply subjective rather than evidence-driven, is that for part-time MBA programs, there is a greater emphasis on the actual course subjects and your academic achievement (as the main drivers boosting your career options), rather than on the holistic experience, extracurricular activities, travel, and other opportunities that are part of the experience of full-time MBA programs. Hence, I believe that any perceived disparity in quality, rank, social experience, etc. in business schools matters less outside of the full-time MBA space (emphasis is more strictly on what you studied and what you learned); I hope that helps you as you compare programs … something that you can also do by looking at course syllabi and faculty bios. Good luck in your due diligence and in selecting a program!

  • Hi Janani,

    If I understand your question correctly, I believe you’re seeking an investment banking career path and potentially zeroing in on whether/how pursuing an MBA can facilitate that process. The most simple, straightforward answer is that from a skills-perspective, strength in mathematics and analysis (statistics), combined with financial modeling (via Excel), and an understanding of corporate finance and accounting are the primary requirements.

    With regard to leveraging the academic credits during your first-year of school as qualification for banking internships, the short answer is, yes, that’s possible (and especially if you take Corporate Finance / Advanced Corporate Finance). There are different requirements for different roles, of course (for example, you need to know how to pitch a stock if you’re interviewing for Sales & Trading roles), but enrollment in an MBA program is enough to open the door and to allow you to be considered as a viable candidate.

    With regard to visa status and eligibility, most of the large financial institutions in the U.S. will hire / sponsor international students. Here is an industry-specific as well as global list of 2013’s top H1-B visa sponsoring orgs in the U.S.:


    Please keep in mind that your student visa status will most likely make eligible for internship-to-full-time employment, regardless of whether an employer sponsors visas or not. For two good overviews and explanations of visa status/options for MBAs, please see the following two pages from HBS and Tuck …


    These materials should get you much further along in your exploration and due diligence. Good luck!!

  • Preston Kutney


    Thank you for your detailed response. You confirmed some of my suspicions about the “hazy” landscape of sustainability job functions and all of your advice is excellent. I also agree with you that in the not-so-distant future, sustainable business will be the only type of business and will be integrated into every business function. From this I gather that (at least for admissions essay purposes) I need to connect that aspect of sustainability that I have expertise with to a more specific business position.

    I’m very grateful for your time and counsel! This is an excellent column!

  • Hi Preston,

    Let me tackle the easier part of your question first: most consulting firms that recruit MBAs do so for ‘generalist’ roles, meaning that rather than have that person align with a specific sector, industry, or functional practice area at the outset, the new consultant is simply staffed on whatever client project needs him/her at any given moment (with some attention paid to skill-set and past experience). There are exceptions to this rule, but the above holds for most of the leading, large strategy consulting firms.

    Over time (roughly 2-3 years), an MBA hire in consulting will begin to ‘align’ with a specific practice area, and can expect his/her work to consist more exclusively of a certain type of work or a certain type of client form that point on (as part of the partnership track) … think of it as the professional services equivalent of ‘majoring’ in a specific subject area.

    With respect to your sustainability interest and overall career strategy, here are, I hope, a few useful thoughts. First, I think all topics related to sustainability are currently experiencing a transformation from occupying a specialized niche to having a universal presence across all aspects of an organization (meaning, transitioning from having a small team of a few individuals at each company working to spearhead a few initiatives to an organization-wide mandate baked into the job description of every major role and function).

    I think the types of roles you will one day pursue are less likely, therefore, to be stand-alone “jack-of-all trades sustainability expert” (that is, until you acquire the wide-ranging responsibilities of a Chief Sustainability Officer) than they are likely to be about the underlying function, product, organizational process, etc. that you are in charge of. Hence, you may find that you will first need to pursue and select a specific function (product development, or supply chain, or marketing strategy, for example) or a specific industry as a way to focus your career and domain expertise, with the added layer and possibility that you then become the sustainability expert for that function, industry.

    A former student of mine at Yale SOM who has a similar set of interests as you do put it this way during her first week of MBA orientation: “I have to prepare myself for a job that doesn’t exist now, but will exist two years from now when I graduate.” I think that is a valid expectation for you as well, and given how dynamic and mutable the field is and concepts around sustainability are, I think it makes sense, therefore, to worry less about what that future job/role is than to focus on and choose the underlying thing that interests you … whether that’s water, transportation, or carbon finance, etc.

    A ‘generalist’ role in consulting may, in fact, be a good way to experience a number of industries and functions before you select the area into which you’d like to dive deep. Alternatively, finding that single topic, technology, or science that most interests you as an engineer, first, and figuring out how/where best to apply it in the business realm, second, may make the most sense. I think you can be assured that the concept and the need — whether it’s called sustainability or something else five years from now — will still be there. If my assumptions above are correct, sustainability will be such a universal part of business that you might as well start now in researching what type or organization and industry you’d like to work in, resting assured that you can make a sustainability-focused career out of it (think of it in the same way as someone who says he wants to go into “finance” … o.k., what kind of finance, for what type of company, etc.).

    If I’ve thoroughly confused you at this point, please let me know. My instincts are that pursuing an MBA will prove very useful to you in your career, that you will be able to do a lot with the degree given your interest area (to the greater good of our economy and society), and that you can be productive in starting to explore the various career paths and options now, even if many of them are ill-defined and hazy at moment. I think it’s safe to start down this journey despite the fact that there is no visible ladder or track to your end-goal. I also suspect that it will also be more fun and interesting for you than for your MBA peers who know exactly what the prescribed path to becoming partner, managing director, VP is. Good luck!!

  • Smarak

    Thanks Ivan for the detailed reply. It is interesting to note your observation about marketing roles being one of the most challenging roles to get. I will keep that in mind while making future decisions. Moreover, if I go with about 4 years of work-ex in IT services firm, any marketing role apart from technology marketing would be a long shot.

    As pointed out by you, consulting can be one of the viable choices for me. I am particularly interested in Strategy consulting firms like McKinsey, Bain & Co etc.

    I will go through the resources pointed out by you to get more information.

  • Hi Rage123,

    I think both are good questions. With regard to brand name, I don’t think that lack of working for a top 3-4 firm in your industry is an application “killer”, and I think you can add details (whether within your application essays or resume) that highlight the interesting origins of your firm … and also the interesting wrinkle related to the fact that you’ve perceived that work quality has increased over time / after the change of ownership.

    What matters most … and this is true, by the way, of how you convey your past work experiences later on when you’re applying to MBA internships and full-time roles … is the quality of the work you performed, the content/challenge of the work itself, and what you’ve been able to learn and achieve in the process. It goes without saying that candidates from non name-brand firms can display a very impressive set of achievements and undertakings, and that the opposite is also possible (one can accomplish somewhat uninspired, pedestrian work at a name-brand employer). … Good admissions officers should be able to tell the difference.

    In addition, I don’t believe that ‘top 10’ schools place a greater level of importance on brand name pre-MBA experience. If anything, I think top 10 schools may have greater flexibility in “taking a risk” on high-achieving candidates who have been stellar performers in contexts outside of the more predictable pre-MBA career paths. (This is in part related to their greater market-making powers in bringing MBA candidates and employers together, and the perceived higher value-add of the education and training at those schools.) Given your strong GMAT score and additional qualifications, I think you have reason to be optimistic.

    With regard to the boomerang question, my first thought is that this story could / should make for a very interesting application essay. Especially within the context of American culture, there is no “shame” attached to leaving an employer to try something else, and then returning to that same employer later on. What matters most … and what will be the most revealing about your work, your ambitions, your interests … is the narrative related to the growth experience and opportunity you were pursuing when you left, and the realization / learning experience that caused you to return. If I were looking at your profile from an MBA employer perspective, I would expect a greater level of professional maturity, new-found insights about your career goals and potentially what makes you a better match with one organization versus another, and greater detail regarding your ongoing relationships with the colleagues you came back to … all interesting fodder for future interviews, and real-world experience that may help you to be a more ‘advanced’, or sophisticated job candidate.

    I think you have good life experiences to work with, and much of your task will be to bring clarity and simplicity to your candidate profile and any/all applications and interviews.

    PS – Thanks for your kind words about this guest column, and good luck!!

  • Bass,

    I’m so glad you’ve asked this question because I think the answer reveals a lot about the consulting industry itself, and should serve to make it a viable career option for a number of MBAs who might not have considered it otherwise.

    The short answer is that you’re correct: “no career choice you’ve made pre-B School effectively rules you out from becoming a consultant.” That doesn’t mean that you can become a consultant without displaying the quant skills, intellectual rigor, ability to think creatively through business problems, and to do all of the above within the highly social skills-dependent format of client service. It does mean that you will be expected, to the extent possible, to apply a perspective from your prior, pre-MBA experiences, whether that is PhD training, military service, professional sports, etc. …

    And therein lies one of the keys to consulting: namely, that in order to come up with inspired, new insights with respect to clients’ competitive strategies and other questions, consulting firms need to hire and retain a healthy ecosystem — a heterogeneous mix — of consultants. While people with finance backgrounds might approach a problem primarily through a finance lens, and medical doctors might do so from the perspective of being trained as physicians, etc., consulting teams that are comprised of people who have a diversity of backgrounds (including divergent professional and academic backgrounds) can utilize all of those different perspectives to come up with distinct, innovative solutions.

    So, not only are consulting firms open to hiring MBAs who can relate to the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, to different industries and functions, and even to different ways of thinking, they absolutely need to as a matter of adding value to their clients. I think your own background — combined with your ability to pass all the technical hurdles in future case interviews — should serve as a plus!

  • Hi TA,

    If I understand your question correctly, I think you’re asking whether admissions officers will weigh the competitiveness and rigor of the schools you’ve attended as they assess your GPA, and I think the answer is, yes, they will. It can also help to have great recommendations (if you have academic recommendations as well as professional ones), and you can certainly refer to the high standards and rigor of your EE education in your application essays as well.

    In my experience, admissions officers are good at contextualizing raw scores, and you can assist by pointing out that you’ve attended rigorous programs. I hope that helps!

  • Hi Smarak,

    I think you’ve done well to highlight the rich, broad set of endeavors and activities you’ve been a part of, and those, combined with strong GPA and GMAT scores, I feel do put you in contention for the leading business programs in the U.S.

    With regard to your career options, I think that marketing is always among the ‘most challenging’ category of jobs to pursue in the U.S., simply because much, if not most, of the leading organizations in the industry (and in CPG/Retail especially) do not sponsor international students. (Many companies will also refrain from hiring international students for internships, despite the availability of “CPT” — curricular practical training, as part of an F-1 visa — because they would then not be able to make the full-time offer.) Pursuing marketing roles at technology companies is a different matter, and taking this angle may provide you with more opportunities.

    For me, the fact that you’ve already had ~two years’ experience as a consultant at Tata suggests that consulting may be the most ‘efficient’ and worthwhile career path / next step for you as an MBA, and consulting firms generally do hire international students at this level (not to mention that the consulting industry has been in a growth phase these past couple of years in the U.S., with strong hiring needs to match). One set of resources that I think will be useful for you to look up are the individual MBA career / employment reports that each MBA program publishes annually (and usually makes available online) as well as any related lists of ‘MBA employer organizations’ provided by each school.

    To give you an example: here is the link to Kellogg’s most recent full-time MBA employment report (click on “Download full 2013 Employment Report”):

    Once you have a set of reports from your target schools, and a list of hiring organizations from the combined set, you can then look at companies’ own career websites for additional information. For many industries, there are also industry magazines/blogs that provide further information. See, for example, Consulting Magazine’s annual list of “Seven Small Jewels” … boutique firms that may not be on the radar of the average newly-admitted MBA, but are certainly worth researching:

    Good luck in your preparation and in your applications to business school!

  • Sky

    Would really appreciate your thoughts on my chances of transitioning to a strategy/management consulting position from a school ranked in the 10 – 20 range.

    GMAT – 720
    Indian Male – Age 28
    Undergrad – Electrical Engineering – Uni. of Illinois, Urbana Champaign – GPA 3.05
    Grad – Operations Research – UT Austin – GPA 3.3

    Work Experience
    R&D at a nano-sciences lab at Uni. of Illinois – 1 year
    6 month Internship at a high tech small company on Wall St in New York City – The company designed communication products for subways
    2+ Years(Present gig) at an innovative technology wing of a giant Indian conglomerate based in Sunnyvale. Clients include Yahoo , Facebook among others.
    My role has been of a Data Scientist specializing in Big Data Analytics. I have been promoted twice and work involves a lot of face time with major clients.
    I am amiable , good looking , well dressed, well read, well spoken, extremely articulate , confident , sharp and aware in person. That’s one of the reasons I wasn’t a super nerd at these rigorous engineering programs.

    I just happen to be an engineer because that’s the path I was driven down as a kid growing up in India ,until I came here for school and realised there is a world out there outside of engineering.
    I also have been severely restricted in my ability to do different things( work in start ups,start a start up , switch jobs, profiles etc) by constant visa hassles.

  • Rohan Gavaskar

    Hi Ivan,
    I am an Urban Planner from an Indian regional college with an undergraduate and post grad in Urban and Regional Planning. My GPA stands at 3.4. I also was involved in extra curricular student clubs as representative of a nation wide student forum for our fraternity of planning students (there are only around 14 planning schools in India). During my post grad, I also was awarded a gold medal for most distinguished student. During this time, I had organised a sport event (for my University) apart from 1 National level convention for planning students from the country. I have now built on 3 years of work experience in the non profit sector working largely in the water and sanitation sector. The experience have been with regional think tanks and Indian NGO’s active in the sector including a brief consultancy stint on a World Bank project. All the projects I have worked have created substantial social impact in terms of creating public utilities and assets. I have also particularly been gaining from an indepth understanding of the institutional land scape of governance. Now I wish to consider an MBA to improve on my skill sets in finance and economics which were largely limited in my case. I believe to enhance my capabilities and understanding of business development and finance particularly from a fund raising perspective towards adding value in the non profit sector, an MBA would be a tremendous addition. BUT, Do I stand any realistic chance of an MBA from a top 30 B-School program

  • sr229

    Hi Ivan,

    I am conflicted between MBA choices. I am from Los Angeles and my background is as an attorney specializing in soft IP with an undergrad degree in foreign service and experience living abroad in several countries. I didn’t enjoy practicing in a firm and wanted to make a career shift. I had the opportunity to get a senior associate position at a new seed-stage focused venture capital fund because my family member is one of the original LP’s and I basically co-manage the day-to-day operations. Things have been going well, I love my job and they are extremely happy with me, and the fund is growing with additional LPs. I wanted to apply to business school as a means to make a career shift back when I was an attorney, but now I think it would be a great way to enhance my skill set so I can move up in this new career path. I applied and have been accepted to INSEAD, London Business School, and the Fully Employed MBA Program at UCLA because I wanted to either do a shorter program or part-time. I’m very conflicted because INSEAD is the most exciting/best ranked opportunity, but UCLA lets me stay at my job and might make more sense career wise if I want to live in LA. I want to hedge on the conservative side and do what’s best for my career in the long-term in case the fund for some reason dissipates after disbursing this first tranche of capital. I’m not sure what to do! Any advice? Thank you!

  • Guest

    Thank you again for so generously sharing your time and insights with us. I greatly appreciate it.

  • Guest

    Hi Ivan,

    Thank you very much for your reply. Since the time I wrote to you, I’ve done further research and have a reasonably good sense that working in inbound (or inbound/outbound) product management at a biotech/pharma company would represent a ‘good’ transitioning point for me- as it would allow me to utilize my medical knowledge while simultaneously gaining knowledge and experience of business/marketing operations. Given this information, would you still advise against pursuing a MBA at the present time? (provided I have the opportunity to attend a MBA program at a deeply-discounted cost)

    My main dilemma is that I am trying to figure out the most practical approach towards gaining a PM position with no marketing/business experience.

  • Hi Alexandra,

    It’s an interesting question. With regard to schools: I would look into three options/categories — the first is the general range of MBA programs that have ‘international business’ majors or research centers / departments (including schools that have global rotation programs, such as HULT’s one-year MBA, and a particular focus on exposing students via travel and curriculum to business problems in a multinational environment); the second is international relations MA programs that include a substantial amount of business management coursework — see http://internationalrelationsonline.com/education/international-relations-program-rankings/ — and the third is graduate / MBA programs in Korea itself — see: http://www.eduniversal-ranking.com/business-school-university-ranking-in-south-korea.html

    Without knowing the source of your interest in South Korea per se, I’d say that if you plan to pursue a career focused on a single country, your relevant language skills will be critical, and any form of ‘local affiliation’ (family ties, a spouse from that country, etc.) will help a great deal … these assertions are from the employer/recruiter perspective. Learning Korean, if you don’t already speak it, is perhaps more easily done as part of an international relations MA program, but acquiring proficiency usually takes more than the two years one has in graduate school.

    Then there is the question of whether you want to work on Korean trade relations or directly for a Korean company, or for a U.S. company that has operations involving Korea, etc. Sorting out where you fit in (and given your background, perhaps work focused on the political/trade relations might make the most sense?) is a key step in figuring out whether and what graduate program, MBA or otherwise, you might want to pursue, and, indeed, if having such an exclusive focus, plus the many hurdles you may have to overcome to become a great job candidate in this realm, are worth it.

    If you’re not already in the midst of this, perhaps a Korean language and culture class is the right first step?

  • Hi Alexandra,

    It’s an interesting question. With regard to schools: I would look into three options/categories — the first is the general range of MBA programs that have ‘international business’ majors or research centers / departments (including schools that have global rotation programs, such as HULT’s one-year MBA, and a particular focus on exposing students via travel and curriculum to business problems in a multinational environment); the second is international relations MA programs that include a substantial amount of business management coursework (see http://internationalrelationsonline.com/education/international-relations-program-rankings/), and the third is graduate / MBA programs in Korea itself (see: http://www.eduniversal-ranking.com/business-school-university-ranking-in-south-korea.html).

    Without knowing the source of your interest in South Korea per se, I’d say that if you plan to pursue a career focused on a single country, your relevant language skills will be critical, and any form of ‘local affiliation’ (family ties, a spouse from that country, etc.) will help a great deal … these assertions are from the employer/recruiter perspective. Learning Korean, if you don’t already speak it, is perhaps more easily done as part of an international relations MA program, but acquiring proficiency usually takes more than the two years one has in graduate school.

    Then there is the question of whether you want to work on Korean trade relations or directly for a Korean company, or for a U.S. company that has operations involving Korea, etc. Sorting out where you fit in (and given your background, perhaps work focused on the political/trade relations might make the most sense?) is a key step in figuring out whether and what graduate program, MBA or otherwise, you might want to pursue, and, indeed, if having such an exclusive focus, plus the many hurdles you may have to overcome to become a great job candidate in this realm, are worth it.

    If you’re not already in the midst of this, perhaps a Korean language and culture class is the right first step?

  • Hi Guest,

    Thank you for your patience in awaiting a response! I think my first instinct is to be careful about investing in further education, given the time and effort you’ve invested in medical school, and to try to use at least 1-3 more years of work experience to resolve some of your questions and the choice between pursuing an MS in proteomics vs. and MBA, etc.

    I can see how working in tech transfer at a university medical center would pique your curiosity regarding VC work. The skill-set — estimating which current academic research might lead to valuable future products, devices, research methods, etc. — is in many ways similar to that employed by VCs in evaluating new businesses. My one thought about both your VC career path idea is that business school may not be the best lever for entry into that field, and that you may find a better path by spending a number of years gaining first-hand experience and becoming a deep expert in a topic that would then make you a good ‘industry hire’ for a VC firm. Whether a degree in proteomics, plus more private sector work experience (let’s say for a biotech or medical devices firm), might take you to that endpoint is a good question to ask … and I think this is likely a better long-term strategy, if venture capital work is truly your goal, than trying to make it all happen in a limited time window, and with the MBA as the main driver of that career switch (you’re right, it’s a tough numbers game and a hard field to enter, even for candidates with backgrounds in finance and entrepreneurship).

    With regard to consulting, I think there is a similar challenge in expecting the MBA to lever you into that field, and then to switch from being a generalist consultant to one focused more narrowly on medical/research-related client work. If your grades, standardized test scores, and overall academic credentials are less than superlative, the one way to make up for that, again, is deeper industry experience.

    Looking at the overall picture, I think my recommendation is for you to work longer before making the next big leap and financial risk on another degree program. Perhaps more time spent in your current role, followed by working in industry (perhaps for one of the ventures/organizations that is using the technology transferred from academic research?) will help to create greater clarity for you regarding your priorities and objectives.

    Remember that becoming a VC and/or working in consulting entails learning about, absorbing, and becoming part of two distinct professional realms and industries in their own right (this takes a lot of time and effort, and many people who become VCs or consultants want to focus on and be just that … VCs and consultants … rather than seeking to use that work as a means to access and experience another, third interest area and industry. Remember too that there are part time, and executive (mid-career) MBA program options that might work equally well at giving you the management skills you need, at a point in time when you are already have good momentum in a particular business niche.

    I hope this is all useful. My main instinct is to avoid plunging into more schooling, as a means of figuring out what you want to do and how, but rather to spend more time working (and in the process clarifying all of the above) and then deciding whether an MBA or any other degree would be valuable and worth it. Good luck!!


    Hi Ivan,

    I have a dilemma at this stage of my career. With an offer from Rochester Simon for this year and Vanderbilt owen for next year (WL this year), I am confused about the way forward.

    About my background
    I am a engineering graduate from India with an First class degree. I had a startup just after college in a lifescience which failed in an year, a job in telecommunication field and another startup along with that one year into this job. I left my job after 4 years to take care of my startup. I also have an NGO startup which has done fairly well. My GMAT is 690 in the third attempt (1-640,2-660). The problem lies here.. I am 29 already and wish to apply again to elite schools. I would then matriculate at 30 or 31. As a career goal, I want the right company and guidance for a startup for which one of the elite schools is the right place.. but how do I get in??? depressed 🙁

  • Avik

    Hi Ivan,

    I have a Bachelors degree in Architecture from an IIT (India). I currently work at a multinational design and engineering consultancy. My work basically entails, design, coordination with elec/mech engineers and meeting tight deadlines.

    My goal is to enter the Real Estate industry as a portfolio manager. My long term goal is to found a Real Estate firm. My chief stressing point is on sustainability (in my own organisation as well as in the RE industry), leading market transformation towards building green infrastructure.

    What skill sets do I need to acquire in business school (apart from the ones I already have as an architect)? What courses will help me?

    Avik Roy

  • Kurtis

    Hi Ivan,

    I hope you are still doing these as it has been three months since the last one I see. Anyways, here is my story:

    3.2 GPA from BGSU college of business. I don’t think this is a great reflection of my intelligence unless you know how immature I was and how little I did for school and still managed that. Yet I realize that doesn’t translate well on any resume or cover letter so I consider this a factor that must be overcome by my other stats. After that I did a year of Insurance/brokerage sales and a little less than a year of premium audit for an insurance company before breaking into a local CPA firm in Cleveland where I have been about a year and half and expect to stay another year at least before going to B-School. I should probably note that while we are a local firm we aren’t the standard local guys that prepare you taxes your financial statements and do your bookkeeping and payroll as well. We are more of what you might call a boutique local CPA firm in that we have a few specializations that we do really well and thus get work for sizable clients instead of vast quantities of little guys. I’m not sure if this makes a difference or if it does how to communicate it well but I figured I would list it anyways. Also, I have done well with saving money and have been able to start a small real estate company that currently owns three residential rental properties, primarily with my own contributed capital.

    I would like to go to either Fuqua or Darden for their full time MBA program but am kind of looking at Flagler and McComb as backups if my stats aren’t good enough for the first two. Ultimately I want to get into the alternative assets. I would be open to going the real estate route but I think working for a buy out firm would suit my interests most. Anyways my preferred path of getting there would be via strategy consulting. I think there are lots of extremely valuable business skills that can be learned through consulting that would make me very successful in private equity. So, the all important question I am asking in all of this is do I have a shot landing a MBB strategy consulting job with this resume? If not what can I do give myself a shot? If there is no way to beef up my resume to where I can get a shot at that what do you think I could do instead to achieve a similar career track? Thank you and I appreciate your insight.

  • Shmelky

    I live in NYC and am considering an MBA from Baruch or NYU. I would be doing either program part time on weeknights. I have been working in marketing research for the past 9 years and the company I work for recently closed down. Am I pigeon holed into getting an MBA with a focus in marketing? Baruch is significantly cheaper than NYU, is NYU worth the investment?

  • Shobhit Paliwal

    Hi Ivan,
    Thanks in advance for the initiative and taking it up to resolve our queries.
    I am working professional presently serving in IT consulting and services as a Programmer Analyst in India(Asia). My job mainly involves requirement gathering, analysis and providing output by coding and unit testing.
    I am interested in pursuing MBA and I wish to pursue it from Indian Bschools itself.
    I have a huge doubt in my mind regarding the after profiles assigned to us from the companies providing us the job oppurtunities. Sectors like stratergy, consulting, risk management appears to me as basic logical approach and I am unable to understand how Bschools are able to make the difference on these topics.
    Also, how do you look at the job roles provided by the companies providing placements in Indian sub continent.

  • Janani

    Hi Ivan,

    Thanks in advance for answering my query.
    I am from India and I am planning to do MBA in IB.
    I would like to know what are all the qualities that the recruiting companies expect from a MBA IB graduate so that I can hone my skills in those areas.
    I would also like to know if it is possible to get an internship in any of the foreign companies by the credits of the first year and also my job after the 2 years.
    If so, then can you name the names of the companies who recruit international students.

  • Preston Kutney

    Hi Ivan,

    I am a recent grad, working as a civil engineer. I am pretty set on attending business school in a couple years and have the grades/GMAT score to get into a top-10 school.

    Right now I am trying to narrow down exactly what it is I want to do with that MBA. I have experience in water resources, infrastructure and transportation projects, and I have a strong interest in sustainability and sustainable business strategy. My short-term post-MBA goal is to do strategy consulting and I know that many of the big 5 firms have sustainability practices (is that what they are called?) – my first question is – do consulting firms place new MBA’s in a specific group, or are all analysts the same?

    My second question is – what long-term career options could someone with my interests and (assuming things go as planned) experience consider? I know sustainability is a buzzword these days, but it seems to be somewhat nebulously applied to job titles/experience.

    Thank you!

  • Rage123

    Hi Ivan,

    I am working with a Market Research Firm in India and have about 4 yrs. of work experience. I have a good GPA, a strong GMAT score (770) and average extra-curriculars. I will be applying to the US B-schools this season and I need your inputs on the following two points:

    Lack of a Brand Name: I am currently working in the Life Sciences division of a Market Research Firm that was started by Monitor Group. However, it was then sold to a UK-based MNC, which does not have a strong brand image. Though the quality of work we do is relatively better, but our brand name is nowhere close to the KPMG’s, E&Y’s, etc. Does this anyhow prevent me from applying to top US B-schools, considering the applicant pool there will include consultants from Accenture, KPMG, etc. Also, do top 10 US B-schools give more importance to brand name than you work profile?
    Boomerang: During my stay at the current organization, I left the company for a better opportunity in some other firm (product manager in the telecom sector). However, after 11 months, I rejoined my current organization, as I did not like the work and foresee any growth opportunities there. My rationale for coming back is that I was more clear in my head that I want to work on diverse projects, and stay in the LifeSciences industry (even after my MBA). I want to seek your advice on how to justify this shift, so that it does not cause a setback to my application.


  • Bass

    Hey Ivan! Just saw your post, it’s awesome!

    I have a small question for you. With consulting firms, I see ex-Navy guys, engineers, PhD’s in STEM, doctors, and of course MBA’s. Is it safe to assume that because there is such a diverse group of personalities, no career choice you’ve made pre-B School effectively rules you out from becoming a consultant? (I know this is a very vague question and I’ve generalized things immensely, but still, looking for an answer. Take my case, I’ve had careers in music, an education start-up and currently working in digital marketing) Any thoughts?


  • TA

    This is based of John’s Question. Is there a relative lens to the perception of GPA. My undergrad and masters are in top 5 engineering schools in extremely competitive electrical engineering programs. My GPA’s are 3.1 and 3.3 respectively. They are not outstanding but I am certain my intellectual ability is better than a sheer number .
    Thank you

  • Smarak

    Hi Ivan,
    I am from India, and I must congratulate you for the wonderful work that you are doing.

    I have an engineering background, and have 22 months of work experience as a quality assurance analyst in an Indian IT firm, Tata Consultancy Services(TCS) .I have a couple of questions to ask you.

    1)I am interested in changing my job role/industry. I have marked out marketing/ strategy consulting as possible areas. However, I am yet to become more specific. Can you suggest possible sources through which I can have a look at post-MBA job roles so that I can form my future career plans in a cohesive manner? I also want to know whether those options are realisable with my background.

    2)I have completed my engineering from a not so reputed Indian college and my GPA would be 3.7 approximately. However, I have had an enriching association with an NGO and have got many extracurricular achievements and leadership opportunities through organizations like Toastmasters International. I have also received some work related awards and certifications from the National Stock Exchange in India.
    I am yet to give GMAT.However, I am confident of scoring more than 730.
    I want to know whether I can make it to the top 10-15 colleges in US. I would also want to know any areas where I can further enhance my profile.

  • Alexandra

    Hi Ivan,
    I’m a 33 year old female from Puerto Rico who wants to change
    careers. I am quite an atypical case for a person being interested in
    pursuing an MBA. I graduated Cum Laude from the Interamerican University
    of Puerto Rico with a 3.32 GPA -but- my major was, of all majors in the
    world, BIOLOGY! I know. Weird. I then attended and graduated Law School
    at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico School of Law (it
    is ABA accredited) with a GPA of 2.93. I know, bummer. With my JD, I
    went ahead and worked for 5 years in the field of Government Relations,
    Public Policy and Legislation, for top ranking elected officials here in
    Puerto Rico. I was an advisor for the Speaker of the PR House of
    Representatives, the Vice President of the Senate and also the PR
    Secretary of Transportation as his right hand in matters of Legislation
    and Public Policy. Also was the Director of the agency’s Legislative
    Affairs Department.
    Right now, I’m looking into possibly applying to
    an MBA program that focuses in International/Global Business, since my
    main goal is to work in the US-East Asia International Business field.
    My main question is: What MBA program would be my best choice in order to be able to work in the South Korean-US business field and with South Korean companies, specifically? I’ve noticed how most programs offer international educational experiences and coursework but they mostly concentrate in business in China and I’m still looking for the best way to go and the alternative that gets me closer to South Korean business.
    I understand I might not be the most desirable candidate for the best
    schools but I would like to have a better idea of how good or bad my
    chances are of getting into a decent school. I have not taken the GMAT
    or GRE yet and looking to figure out what score I should aim for in order to balance out the areas that I’m lacking in, like my
    low Law School GPA and not graduating from top schools.
    I would greatly appreciate any advice you can give me.
    Sorry for the long post and thanks in advance for your time!

  • Hi Salil,

    To tackle the last part of your question first, yes, the opportunity to take an internship is — both from the student’s and the employer’s perspective — the best way to road-test a candidate (or a company) for a full-time fit … think of it as a “10 week interview”. The existence of an MBA internship reduces hiring risk and thus is the most career switch-friendly aspect of the MBA recruiting process (a factor that, I believe, helps steer a considerable number of students into traditional two-year MBA programs rather than the increasing range of options among one-year MBA programs or other lesser-duration business Master’s degrees).

    With respect to overall hiring climate, it is very positive at the moment, in broad terms. Please see links below to a couple of great articles by John Byrne, as well as for the most recent GMAC recruiting survey data:


    In general, MBA employers do value students with significant prior job experience (the reason why most degree programs admit students with ~5 years of post-undergrad work experience). They are also, at the same time, open to career-switchers … indeed, recruiting at business schools is one of the best ways for companies to identify concentrated pools of candidates from other career paths and backgrounds (students who are, after all, signaling to employers — by virtue of making the significant commitment to undertake a business degree — that they are ready for and interested in pursuing a more ambitious and potentially more ‘traditional’ post-MBA career path).

    The story becomes more nuanced when one considers not whether companies are hiring business school students based on relevant pre-MBA work experience, but when one considers employers’ alternatives to hiring MBAs … including both undergraduates and non-MBA, experienced hires.

    I would characterize the trend for the past several years as follows: employers are not necessarily demanding a greater amount of relevant pre-MBA business experience from their MBA candidates, but, rather, they are seeking to hire a healthy number of candidates from the two other far ends of the spectrum — either undergrads who may have little or no relevant industry experience (but are less “expensive” and are potentially more amenable to training and development), or experienced hires who may lack a business degree, but who have in-depth experience and a proven track record in the relevant function or industry.

    Take a look at the following category comment from the GMAC end of year poll for 2013: “Experienced direct-industry hires and bachelor’s candidates: The majority of employers met or exceeded their hiring plans for experienced hires (74%) and recent bachelor’s degree recipients (88%) in 2013. In 2014, 82 percent of employers expect to maintain or increase their hiring targets for experienced direct-from-industry workers, and 85 percent of employers plan to meet or exceed their 2013 goals for bachelor’s degree-holders.” — http://www.gmac.com/~/media/Files/gmac/Research/Employment%20Outlook/2013-year-end-poll-summary-report.pdf

    So, I think your concern should not be whether companies recruiting MBAs will want those MBAs to have relevant pre-MBA industry experience, but rather that there is healthy competition for great jobs from among non-MBA candidates. To position yourself to make a career shift in this climate, you can do a number of things …

    1 – Excel in MBA academic coursework that is relevant to your intended career path
    2 – Join the relevant MBA professional club(s) and take on leadership responsibilities in that realm (help manage a conference, a business school competition, career education and job search training / mock interview programs on behalf of your classmates, etc.)
    3 – Join relevant industry organizations (attend conferences, contribute to blogs, obtain certifications, etc.) and network assertively with MBA alumni and other practitioners in the field
    4 – Participate in MBA job treks, or travel on your own to meet with prospective employers … the literal “legwork” involved in the networking aspect of your job search
    5 – Potentially undertake specific company-client research (with a business school professor) on behalf of an organization in the industry you’re pursuing .. and/or participate in any/all MBA-corporate work practicum programs or consulting projects

    I think you’ll find that business school offers rich opportunities to bridge the gap between your pre-MBA career experiences and intended post-MBA career path. It’s up to you to pull all the levers at your disposal and take advantage of not only the unique resources but also the unique relationships available to you in business school. I hope that helps!

  • Shinky

    Hello Ivan,

    Thank you. I appreciate you specifying in your answer. I have start taking the steps to work backwards.
    So far I still don’t know but I will continue my search and would let you know what I decide to do.

    Thank you.

  • Amit KK


  • salil

    Hi Ivan

    Thanks for doing this.

    My question relates to the current hiring climate. I hear
    most companies are increasingly focused on relevant past work experience. How can
    career changers position themselves to make a career shift in this climate? Would
    be great if you could give an inside view of this from an elite B school.

    Further, do you think employers are more open to take on
    career changers as interns?

    Thanks again.

  • Shinky,

    I welcome your question, and I think deciding between an MBA and an MS in Finance can be a true quandary, given the parameters you’ve mentioned.

    My best advice is to start at the “end point” and work backwards. What kind of a job would you want 5+ years from now that allows you to engage what you love about working with numbers, is the next order of complexity beyond the bookkeeping and accounts management you’ve been doing, and also compensates you well enough to balance the investment in graduate education?

    If the answer is not immediately obvious, I recommend looking at the LinkedIn profiles of and contacting people working at the sorts of financial institutions you’re interested in … drawing up a list of prospective employers is a good idea, in any case, because it can help you decide whether to pursue one type of educational program over another (does company X recruit at school Y, and just for MBAs or for Finance MAs, or solely for undergraduates, etc.?) You can reach out and ask to have conversations — what in business school are known as “coffee chats” — with people whose work you’re interested in. (I would do that with at least 5-6, if not 10-12, people, at a range of organizations, before deciding on a grad school path.)

    In the process, you may also discover that there are ‘management rotational’ or ‘leadership development’ programs at certain companies that function as a training ground, in lieu of school, for promising employees who have an aptitude and passion for a specific type of work, but who need to acquire more skills and knowledge before they can be granted managerial responsibility. Could that be a possible path for you?

    Whether you are speaking with prospective employers, with students, faculty, or staff at the schools you’re considering, or with your current work peers and friends, building in several months of careful due diligence can prevent you from spending time and effort in a degree program that may not help further your career in the way that you want. And, with regard to the rank or brand power of any of the schools you’re considering, I would also try to divorce all of the admittedly-desirable intangible effects of going to a ‘top school’ and make sure to focus on the actual content and skills you will possess as a result of that learning experience. I’d be curious to know what you decide …

  • Hi Erhan,

    To tackle the last portion of your question first, I think you’re in an excellent position (quant educational background, finance-specific master’s training, and work experience in the industry) to pursue investment banking roles during business school (and congratulations on being admitted to Wharton!).

    With regard to pre-MBA internships, they are, as a rule, unstructured and not possible to arrange, to my knowledge, with the large bulge bracket banks and other MBA employers whom you would likely want to recruit with as an MBA candidate (in part, this is because those organizations are in the process of conducting their formal MBA internship programs during the same summer months as your pre-MBA time window).

    Any informal or project-based pre-MBA work you take on will most likely be either with a smaller, boutique firm, or with a company that does not have a formal MBA recruiting process, or both. Coming up with this arrangement is usually a matter of leveraging your own personal professional network, and/or focusing on an aspect of the industry or particular market space where you already have some domain expertise and can offer valuable work to the employer, even while expanding your own horizons and taking on a new functional role or different investment or trading activity than you have been exposed to in the past.

    From my perspective, the goal is not to “get a foot in the door” with a prospective post-MBA employer, but rather to seek out tangible experience (at a company that may be too small or too focused to pursue general MBA recruiting) that you can then showcase as part of your formal MBA recruiting effort. Yes, cold-calling and cold e-mailing, in those instances in which you don’t have a personal connection, is the way to go.

    Last, I think it can be difficult to arrange for pre-MBA project-based work in a different country (in case that’s part of your consideration); there are simply too many hurdles with respect to visas, work authorization, etc., and your focus should be the experience itself rather than on the brand or location of you pre-MBA internship. I hope that you’re able to find a well-defined project that adds positive value to your understanding of finance, and then helps you to successfully navigate MBA recruiting once you’re in business school!

  • Shinky


    My profile is very different than other prospects of MBA on this post. I have an undergrad from Louisiana university in Biology and Math Minor. I had 3.2 GPA. I have been working as accounts payable and receivable/bookkeeper. I love numbers and researching and analyzing and seeing how companies are progressing and interested in steps they are taking. Therefore, I decided to be financial analyst and therefore I thought MBA would be a right choice to change the career.

    After I read other alumni profile, I don’t know if MBA is correct path for me for my goal to be financial analyst. MBA teaches you management not finance. Although, when I search for financial analyst job, a lot of employers preferred MBA not MS in finance. Second, since i worked only in simple job, I am not sure if college would even consider me.

    I am not sure if these are the type of question you usually answer. If you don’t, please advise who can help me guide.

  • Erhan

    Hi Ivan,

    Can you please share your perspectives on pre MBA internship programs? Specifically:

    – Are there any companies that has structured pre MBA internship program I can apply for?

    – What is your estimate of my chances getting into i-banking after MBA given my background and no pre MBA internship experiences (assuming average interviewing and networking skills)?

    – Is cold calling and emailing my best shot at getting pre MBA internship?

    A bit about my background: I am starting my MBA program at Wharton next fall and intend to work as an investment banker at one of the top banks (or boutique shops) after graduation. I have a bachelor’s in engineering from a top 10 engineering school and a master in quant finance from a top program technical school. I am a CFA and have four years of experience in finance (2 years as trader assistant, and 2 years as investment consultant).

    Any other advice you can give is greatly appreciated.

  • David,

    That’s a great question, and congratulations on both your professional and academic accomplishments!!

    If Robert Morris doesn’t currently have MBA recruiting relationships (e.g., an application / interview process) for the firms you’re exploring, and given your relatively greater degree of experience and measurable achievements in industry, I think you’d be best served to access the “experienced hire” recruiting function at the consulting firms you’re exploring (that information should be available on the firms’ websites, and you can do additional leg-work and networking via LinkedIn).

    The good news is that a combination of the education you’ve pursued (content counts, regardless of pedigree), plus the fact that you can point to the finance expertise and the track record you’ve established during the past 10 years, should make you an interesting candidate, whether or not an employer decides to ultimately vet you for an ‘MBA associate’ level role, or for a project manager / engagement manager position. (They may simply want you to be a consultant for a while, at the same entry point as other newly-graduated MBAs, in order to let you experience the consulting learning curve before letting you lead teams and manage client service projects.)

    From your brief description, I know that I’d be interested in your candidacy, and I also feel that Chicago is a great town for consulting careers, in case you’re hoping to remain there. Please let me know if you have any additional questions!

  • David

    Hi Ivan,

    Thank you for your insights. I am graduating summer 2014 with a dual-degree
    (BBA and MBA in Management) from Robert Morris University in Chicago. I will finish
    with a 3.6 GPA in my undergraduate work and have received several
    recommendations from graduate instructors for my MBA coursework (particularly in
    corporate finance, research and statistics, managerial economics, and
    managerial accounting). I’m 34 and have 10 years of corporate experience most
    recently at the director level. I have a passion for consulting with specific
    interest in M&A, strategy, change management, and customer relationship
    management, however I have no illusions about the relationship between the relative
    tier-level of my school versus where firms are generally selecting from. I’m not
    sure if I should market myself to firms as a “fresh out” student
    given that I will just now be completing both my undergrad and MBA together, or
    should I take the professional approach to leverage my P&L, people, and
    process management experience? I have demonstrated comfort and experience
    working with management levels from the line to C-suite, and so I’m wondering
    how I can best position myself now to overcome any barriers the lack of
    recognition my school might bring. Any thoughts?


  • Hi Guest, yes, it was an undergraduate transcript, required as part of an MBA associate application at BCG. I believe that BCG, as a general rule, does not currently require undergrad transcripts for MBA candidates, though I believe some offices may have leeway on that question (see link below), and then there is always the possibility of being asked to submit a transcript after receiving an employment offer, as a way to verify your background.

    http://lbs.bcg.com/faq/default.aspx “Transcripts are not necessary. However, some offices will want to know what your degree class or GPA was from your undergraduate studies, so you may want to include this information on your CV.”

    With regard to current employment practice at a specific school and for a specific set of employers, your best bet is to ask your MBA career services office for the application criteria. Good luck!!

  • Guest

    Thanks for your thorough response! To clarify, when you said: “discussion with a partner in BCG’s D.C. office many years ago that focused on a specific course on a student’s transcript”…was this referring to the undergrad transcript of a post-mba candidate? Do you know if it it’s common practice to bring with or submit your undergraduate transcript for MBA positions?

  • Healthy

    Very thought provoking. Thank you Ivan. !!!

  • Hi Guest,

    It’s a good question, and I think the answer is, yes, you should be prepared to field a question regarding your undergrad GPA. I recall having a discussion with a partner in BCG’s D.C. office many years ago that focused on a specific course on a student’s transcript … so, whether it’s overall GPA, or a less than triumphant grade on your arts elective, ‘The Making of Metal Sculpture’, there are employers who will want to probe a bit further into your past academic efforts.

    And, though your undergrad GPA may seem far removed from your current reality and more recent accomplishments (not to mention that you’re clearly doing something right in order to have been admitted to a great set of MBA programs), there are valid reasons for asking about undergrad GPA, standardized test scores, etc., and these can range anywhere from: getting a better sense of an earlier period of your life (and any challenges, adversity faced along the way) to come up with a better sense of who you are as a person, to trying to test you simply to see how you handle pressure in an interview situation, to focusing on past academic performance because it is, after all, one of the criteria and predictors of success as a consultant.

    Now, for a bit of perspective. Your undergrad GPA is likely not going to be the decisive factor regarding whether you receive an offer or not, and it may, in fact, never come up. The trick is to be prepared for the possibility that it might, to have a thoughtful, self-aware answer that not only accurately depicts the circumstances (way back when), but also puts them into perspective in terms of your other pursuits, interests, and, perhaps more importantly, your professional success between college and business school.

    Last, my advice to MBAs is simply to be cool, and not sweat too much about things that can’t be changed. I’ve known savvy MBA job candidates who will, in advance, decide what their “greatest area of weakness” is going to be, so that they can steer an interview conversation towards it (or be ready for that to occur naturally), in order to then show all of the qualities that employers are seeking and that they possess (how one deals with setbacks, how one strives for improvement, how good-natured one can be about past ‘dings’, etc.). Remember that part of what employers are seeking is someone who can be a decent colleague, who can have a sense of humor about him/herself, and who can move past obstacles and get on with the next challenge.

    In the end, your goal is to be well-prepared for all topics, but not to dwell on the negatives too much, and certainly not to do so at the expense of highlighting all of your other amazing achievements and undertakings!

  • Hi Guest,

    Thank you for adding that comment, and my apologies for missing the focus of Jack’s question! … Not surprisingly, I tend to conflate the MBA recruiting process for banking/consulting with the actual undertaking of MBA internships in banking/consulting.

    From a purely schedule-specific standpoint, it may be possible to undertake first-round interviews (and potentially even second-round interviews) separately for banking and consulting, but that is a very rare possibility, and the answer above still holds … there is so much overlap in terms of employer presentations, coffee chats, Fridays spent traveling to meet with alumni and firm representatives, interview preparation, mock interviews, etc., that pursuing a simultaneous recruiting process in banking and also in consulting is simply not feasible.

    Of course, that hasn’t prevented MBAs from trying in the past, but unless there is some other mitigating factor (for example, you are pursuing a very small, select set of target employers — let’s say 3-4 total (which in and of itself may not be a good strategy), trying to do this is a recipe for failing on both fronts. Last but not least, because it’s unlikely that you can keep your consulting recruiting efforts “secret” from the banking recruiters, and vice versa, that kind of effort tends to send a mixed message about what kind of work you’re trying to pursue, and can be a reason for employers doubting your sincerity/true interest in a career in consulting vs. banking, etc. I hope that make sense!

  • Guest

    I believe he was referring to the recruitment process…i.e. prepping for both consulting and banking interviews (along with the requisite networking), not doing two internships in one summer.

  • Guest

    Hi Ivan,
    Thanks for your posts. I’ve been admitted to a top program (HSW) with a sub 3.0 gpa. Will my undergrad record be an issue for MBB recruiting? Would it come up during the intern application process and interviews?

  • JohnAByrne

    Ivan asked me to post his response to you because he’s having some technical issues. Here’s what Ivan has to say:

    Hi USA,

    My apologies for the bit of technical trouble; I think my earlier responses simply got zapped into the aether. Here’s another try …

    I think you’re following a good course of action — bolstering your liberal arts and foreign languages background (which should serve you in good stead, by the way) with additional coursework that both signals your level of interest and seriousness about pursuing the MBA as well as bolsters your MBA-relevant knowledge and academic capabilities.

    I think taking a micro-, macroeconomics and statistics class, such as the one offered by NYU, is a common, and good, way to bridge this gap. In general, good grades received for coursework undertaken at an accredited university are viewed very positively.

    On a more tactical level, I would also think about the extent to which you might be able to absorb micro/macro/stats topics via a free online learning platform, and whether it might make more sense to invest in accredited coursework in Finance and/or Accounting (always part of the MBA core curriculum, and useful regardless of how creative versus operational one’s post-MBA career path is likely to be). Though self-study and online learning may not have the same credential power as a university course, I would consider a mix (some self-guided, online learning, and some live, university-level coursework … with an emphasis on management-specific topics beyond the econ basics).

    As a general comment, I think you may also want to re-envision being “liberal artsy” as a positive. Assuming that you can clear the technical hurdles (great GMAT, good grades in additional MBA-focused coursework, etc.), your marketing experience, research skills, and critical thinking / history-based knowledge will all be construed as positives, and I would say that all schools value those traits.

    With regard to whether/which specific programs would be “open” to a candidate like you, I would almost flip the question and think in terms of how open and interested you would be in them. … Look closely at elective course offerings, at individual faculty profiles and current research underway, and at the various initiatives of both the MBA program (including its mission statement and strategic plan) as well as of the student body and student organizations. It’s likely that if you find programs and activities that inspire and excite you, the existence of those programs will serve as a proxy for the sort of outlook and perspective that might be welcoming of you and your background too. (In general, though, I would say that all MBA programs are interested in building diverse, interesting student bodies, including ones that have a healthy contingent of high-achieving ‘liberal artsy’ folks who are planning ambitious careers across all sectors of the economy.)

    Last, and simply in terms of framing your efforts and goals, I would think of any pre-MBA coursework that you undertake not only as a mechanism for securing admission, but, of course, as a means to make your time more productive once in business school, and as a way to be a more powerful businessperson in the long-run. Hence, studying Finance and Accounting in a pre-MBA context may seem redundant, since you will surely do so in business school as well, but there is a difference in level of sophistication and how advanced your learning can be in the b-school context (it’s good to have a solid foundation in advance, and to be able to waive some pre-reqs and move on to advanced corporate finance, for example, if academic policies allow). Beyond the academic department verticals (Finance, Accounting, Marketing, Operations, etc.), I would also think in terms of the functional skill-sets one needs to undertake that coursework … from financial modeling via Excel, to predictive modeling using Oracle Crystal Ball, to financials research via Capital IQ.

    On that last topic, there are a number of widely-applicable software packages and MS Office-based hard skills, as well as MBA-relevant ‘soft skills’ (such as project management, meeting facilitation, presentation skills) that are covered, in aggregate, in the third week of our own pre-MBA program, the Practice MBA Summer Forum, as part of a course called ‘People Performance Lab’. I encourage you to also take a look at the Practice MBA website, among the many other options for pre-MBA study. Thanks for your question!

  • JohnAByrne

    Ivan asked me to post his reply to you because he’s having a few technical issues. Here’s what Ivan has to say:

    Hi real estate applicant,

    Thank you for re-submitting your question; we’ve been doing some technical troubleshooting after noticing that some replies haven’t been able to post! So, I thought I’d include all the elements from your original question …

    It’s great to hear that you’re considering an MBA in the U.S. and that Yale SOM is on your list of target schools! Here are some tips, both with regard to work authorization for the U.S., and also with respect to real estate recruiting at leading business schools.

    First, the safest bet in terms of visa sponsorship questions are large, multinational professional services firms (most often banking and consulting firms); in your case, the safest route may be to target the bulge bracket banks (that also do interesting RE work) for general, MBA associate roles, in order to get in the door, and then to re-focus and specialize in RE at some point in time further into your career with.

    The second best option, from a visa standpoint and also as a bit of a hedge, is to focus on firms that are large enough to have offices in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere around the world (thus, if something goes wrong on the visa front, you can merely be rotated to another office, rather than have your offer rescinded). With regard to Blackstone and Starwood, I noticed, via the following website, that they are submitting H1-B applications, a good sign. (See:http://www.myvisajobs.com/Visa-Sponsor/Blackstone-Technology-Group/73105.htm and http://www.myvisajobs.com/Visa-Sponsor/Starwood-Capital-Operations/509775.htm). I’m assuming this data is correct, and here is the top list of H-1B applicant companies in the U.S. (keep in mind that this is not specific to MBA hiring, of course):http://www.myvisajobs.com/Reports/2013-H1B-Visa-Sponsor.aspx

    As you get beyond big, multi-service financial services firms, and/or multi-national RE investment/development firms, the chance of finding one that will sponsor an international student falls significantly … it’s more likely than not that a firm will make an exception when there is a special candidate, and a relationship built up between a firm leader and the MBA student that then spurs the HR team to figure out how to sponsor the student, but as a general rule, most niche, boutique firms simply don’t have the resources on hand to employ international students.

    With regard to your selection of schools, I would recommend looking at: whether or not there is a Real Estate research center of academic department (whether or not it’s rolled up under the Finance Department); the corollary there is that there will be good electives and good faculty members to teach those specific topics. I recommend reaching out to faculty members if you have specific questions about how to shape your educational experience to meet your overall academic and professional goals.

    Beyond that, you’ll notice that MBA career services offices will frequently publish lists of ‘hiring organizations’, including those in RE. Here are links for Yale SOM and for some if its nearby neighbors in NYC:





    While “past hiring” is no guarantee of “future hiring”, and while some of these employment outcomes are the result of very specific interests or relationships on the part of individual MBA candidates, it’s nonetheless a good starting point for exploring the corporate relationships that have led to MBA hiring for that particular school. An added step would be to find out not just the past year’s hiring results, but those for the past ~3-5 years, which will paint a broader picture; remember that companies may want to hire at a specific school, but may just not be able to find the right candidate in a given year.

    Last, I agree that pre-MBA experience in the industry is one of the biggest drivers, if not the biggest drivers, for success in the MBA job search. For you, the best strategy might be to try to hold some of the variables steady … by seeking a position that mirrors your past functional responsibilities and track record of success, while switching employers to execute on your goal of living and working in the U.S. Beyond that, networking is critical … and, not incidentally, pursuing a multidisciplinary degree program, such as the one offered by Yale SOM, is a good way to broaden your critical thinking and managerial mindset (applying lessons and patterns found in other industries to whatever you choose to focus on in RE).

    Good luck with your search and with applications!

  • JohnAByrne

    Hi Tim,

    I’m posting this on behalf of Ivan who is having a few technical difficulties. He wanted to address your question and asked for my help. From Ivan:

    Fortunately, there are P&Q articles that address this topic! Please see the following links for the “top feeder companies” to Stanford, Wharton, Harvard, Chicago, and Columbia …






    With regard to the more profound and complex question of what this empirical evidence means (does the fact that such high percentages of new MBA admits come from such a concentrated pool of employers imply a certain degree of “destiny” or assurance with respect to being admitted), here are a couple of ideas that may prove useful to you, as you dive deeper into this topic …

    Let’s say that a high percentage of new MBA admits at school X come from companies A, B, and C. Can we infer that simply working at companies A, B, and C is a major driver of admission, or are those admitted merely a small % of those who apply from companies A, B, and C?

    In other words, to what extent is it possible that there are a great number of applicants from companies A, B, and C who aren’t admitted to School X? And, are we seeing companies on the list that tend to be large (lots of applicants), and that tend to have a lot of people who apply to business school (lots of people at that stage of their career), rather than visualizing those companies for which the ratio for individual success — admits / applicants — is high (something that can happen at small, boutique firms)?

    For those companies that are, in fact, smaller, does their presence on these ‘feeder’ lists imply higher success rates, or could that also be a function of the business model … the fact that at year 2-3 into your post-undergrad ‘business analyst’ role, you’re expected to go off to earn and MBA and then return for the next level of responsibility and phase of your career at that company? This would also drive the feeder phenomenon, without necessarily signifying something statistically significant about the applicant.

    Last, if 30% of the student body at a particular school worked, prior to business school, for one of 25 employers (with some year-over-year flux), I think that’s not a bad thing. … This is about where most b-schools seem to be. If 50% of students came from 5 employers (and most of them were sponsored), I would feel differently about that, but I think, at the current composition of most business school classes, there is enough diversity and range in terms of pre-MBA work and educational backgrounds for the experience not to feel like being part of a monoculture … and for you to not feel as though unless you worked for one of those ~25 organizations, your chances of being admitted are small. (Remember, for most schools, the majority of feeder organizations — as well as most post-MBA employer outcomes — tend to be “one-sies and two-sies”.)

    Betsy Massar has a good blog posting about both the company and college feeder phenomenon:http://masteradmissions.com/wp/?s=feeder

    In general, I think it is accurate to note that the types of experiences and training individuals receive at ‘top feeder’ companies tend to equate to high levels of baseline capability, know-how, and increased chances of success (whatever the objective is), but it’s worth remembering that one can do a bad job at a good company, and vice versa, as well as be a poor student at a great school, and vice versa. The key is to get the right match between *your* personality, abilities, and professional interests, and an organization’s culture, training opportunities, and network/credential-building power. I hope that helps!

  • Jack Boughs

    Hi Ivan,

    I am currently exploring career opportunities in both investment banking and consulting. In your experience, is it feasible for a first-year student to partake in summer internship recruiting for both banking and consulting simultaneously (given a pre-MBA background outside finance / consulting)? From my conversations with several MBA students, many have told me that time constraints would make this impossible. Thank you in advance for your advice!

  • Real Estate applicant

    Dear Ivan,

    Thank you very much for your time and effort!

    I am an international MBA applicant, planning to apply to a b-school in the US this year. Currently I work in Real Estate Finance in Europe (mainly on the debt side), and my goal is to recruit for Real Estate IB and Real Estate PE in the US in the long-term.

    – In general, how are the chances of international applicants to break into RE in the US?

    – I am very interested in Yale SOM, particularly because of its integrated curriculum and growing presence as a global business school. How do you rate Yale’s real estate courses and how visible is SOM for RE recruiters such as Blackstone, Starwood Capital, etc.?

    – What do you consider the key success factors of gaining a RE position in the US? Is it prior RE IB experience? Networking and having the right contacts?

    Thank you!

  • MusicMan

    Thank you so much for the encouraging response Ivan! I understand that my whole app should be well rounded to make me a strong candidate. I’m working on those parts as we speak (getting a coherent story together, lining up my referees etc), however, your post is quite encouraging. Thanks, I’ll definitely keep you updated!

    P.S. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are tearing things up (their Same Love performance at the Grammys was amazing). Oh and “Black” from “Ten” is my favourite Pearl Jam!!

  • MusicMan,

    Your question has taken me a bit back in time … to my own freshman year in college, when I listened to Pearl Jam’s first studio album, Ten (on a Sony Walkman, no less … that’s how old I am!), during just about every homework session.

    And, of course, living in Seattle means that I occasionally catch sight of, and even shop at the same thrift store as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I’m not kidding. Come visit!!

    To give you a very short, but confident, answer: yes, your background (law, music, strong GMAT) should prove to be attractive to business schools. A lot of the outcome will also depend on the quality of your application, your references, how deeply you’ve thought about your next career path, and how the MBA — and a particular school’s offering — will fit those plans. Your profile is similar to what I’m seeing among the folks who who’ve contacted us to express interest in the Practice MBA Summer Forum, and I think it’s worth bearing in mind that, especially in the U.S., business schools have a broad social mandate, which means educating leaders for (and from) the widest possible range of industries and functions.

    With regard to switching into consulting, my perspective is that one of the interesting things about consulting (and a fact that makes working for consulting firms fun) is that there is no single or primary career path that one needs prior to consulting. Part of what consulting firms need, in order to deliver inventive, broadly-sourced strategic advice to their clients, are consultant teams that include a diversity of individuals and individual work backgrounds — staffing attorneys, physicians, and designers together with business people in a client engagement team is a good way to come up with truly excellent ideas and recommendations. So, the answer there is to be smart, analytical, and excellent at whatever it is you do, and to worry less about the specific field of endeavor you’re in. … Attending business school should help, of course, both due to the ‘market making’ power of the school vis-a-vis MBA recruiting and the education and training you receive.

    Last, with regard to volunteer activities and other interests, don’t worry about which one is “right”, or what will round out your profile best… choose something that genuinely interests you, and that you feel is fun, rewarding, meaningful. There are no rules on this topic, save perhaps a general, MBA applicant word of caution, which is to avoid pursuing an extracurricular activity simply because it’s good for one’s resume.

    I’m excited to hear about how your plans develop; please stay in touch!

  • Healthy

    Hi Ivan,

    I’d like to know your views on the new DrPH degree at Harvard:


    It is a new degree on health leadership and management. I am also considering an MBA.

    I wish to work in healthcare consulting at MBB. How would a public health leadership degree from Harvard compare with an MBA?

  • MusicMan

    Hi Ivan,

    First off, I’ve read some of your responses to the posts below and I find your answers succinct and insightful, kudos for that.

    I’ve graduated from the top ranked law school in India (ranked 1 or 2 over the last 10 years by reputed Indian magazines) in the top 15% of my class. Post law school I worked at a prestigious law firm for 3 years (top 3 law firms in the country) (in a different city). Recently (over the last 6 months), I’ve moved into a major international music label (Sony/ Universal/ Warner) -in a commercial role (where my legal knowledge helps but is not essential) in a very nascent vertical within the music industry. This role too required a change in cities. The reason for this change is because I’ve been passionate abut music during my course at the law school and really wanted to work in this sector- especially with independent artists (non-Bollywood) who are just about finding platforms in India.

    I’ve taken the GMAT and have scored a 750. My post-MBA goals are to gain experience in an international environment preferably within the music industry (at record labels/ start-ups) or in technology firms associated with music (Apple/YouTube/ Spotify etc) or within management/ strategy consultancy (given my experience as a consultant in a law firm).

    My main questions to you is (1) whether such a profile would be attractive to B-schools, and (2) would switching careers from the music industry to consulting be possible post B school? Lastly (and this is a bit open ended), is there any volunteer work/ extra curricular work I should focus on for my profile to be better rounded (I’ve worked with children with disability in the past and am currently helping edit position papers for an NGO which helps underprivileged women)?

    Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing your response. (P.S. I’d love to visit Seattle- as I’m a huge grunge music fan- PJ is my favorite band).

  • Timothy o’Brien

    Hi Ivan,

    I’ve been noticed a frequently occurring term on this website – after a quick search, it seems like there’s no article that addresses it directly. I thought you would be the most relevant authority to help clarify this term, or perhaps refer me to an article that I missed.

    The term is “Top-tier/first-tier feeder company/firm”. There are probably more polymorphisms, but I think they all refer to the same thing. The idea is that top business schools love taking candidates from a set of “top companies” – I’m really intrigued by this idea, and I was wondering if there’s a list of these current top companies, and which schools show special preference for which companies.

    Thanks for your time!


  • Rajiv Shukla

    thank u ivan

  • Matheus,

    Thank you for asking the question. My recommendation is to apply to the HBS 2+2 program, and here’s why…

    First, even if you’re not admitted, I don’t believe there is a down-side (you’re not ‘penalized’ in any way) as you approach the regular, MBA admissions process at Harvard a few years down the line; hence, this is a good way to get yourself organized, tackle the GMAT, and do all the things you need to do to shape an outstanding application … and to have a future opportunity to try again, if you’re not at first successful. In my experience, the learning curve required in becoming a great MBA candidate is steep enough that one year is sometimes not enough time for students to put in their best effort; at times, students will opt to go to wherever they’ve been admitted, rather than face the onerous task of starting all over again. In short, getting an early start on what can be a complex and time-consuming process is a good idea.

    Second, if you’re admitted to the 2+2 program, I would imagine (though I don’t have direct experience on this topic) that this fact would make you an even more attractive candidate for a range of organizations that might also want to retain you beyond your MBA years. Since your next mission is to find a great job after school, why not try to improve the odds in your favor by showing a great deal of professional and academic focus and advanced planning (signaled by your pursuit of the MBA), to any and all prospective employers, whether in Brazil or the U.S.

    Last, whether you would be a better applicant now vs. later is a trickier question to answer. If you know that you’re simply wide of the mark (by virtue of GMAT, GPA, or any other factors) in the upcoming admissions cycle, given the incredibly high benchmarks established by admitted students in prior years, then perhaps it’s better to hold off… but the only way to know that is to “get in the game” and start down the GMAT track, to take additional coursework if you need to, etc.

    And, this is just a personal perspective, but I think you should not be too afraid of being “too early” or “too green” in your efforts at applying. It can sometimes work to your advantage, assuming that you come back at a later time with stronger scores, a better application, incredible impact in the jobs you’ve held in the interim, etc. Assuming that your approach (integrity and behavior) is at a consistently high, polished level from initial to later applications / years, it can be great to show the delta (closing the gap due to your perseverance and focus) from when you first applied to a later point in time. Again, this is just personal preference (I’m also the sort of person who always chooses the first available interview slot, rather than trying to guess at which point in any given day a prospective interviewer is likely to be most highly-caffeinated and attentive).

    Good luck!

  • Hi Rajiv,

    The answer is: use anything that makes your efforts simpler, more effective, and creates a stronger final presentation. I know that there are a number of automated resume-builders that one can access online … if this would help provide a template and format which you can then labor over (to make sure that the end product looks like a good individual effort, tailored to your needs), then go for it.

    What I would avoid doing is simply plugging in your credentials into a resume-builder, and then going with whatever result that software creates. If you think of any online resource as simply a starting point that you can then tailor to your needs, I think this is a better way to go, rather than relying on the resume-builder to do all the work for you.

    Incidentally, there are decent, traditional Microsoft Office “functional resume – CV” templates that are free to download, and that might be all that you need. I would avoid any resume style/format that is too fancy and that causes the reader to expend too much effort to read and decipher … remember that the folks who read resumes / applications have a high volume of content to pay attention to; anything that slows down this process and requires a lot of added brain energy can weaken rather than strengthen your efforts. Keep things simple, clean, and traditional …

  • Rajiv Shukla

    thnk for the answer.

  • Hi again Rajiv,

    I’m going to do my best to answer your admissions questions (even though the career development side of the equation is my normal domain of expertise); luckily, I think the answers are fairly straightforward …

    1) I think that leading business schools have a sophisticated understanding of the relative strengths and qualities of undergraduate degree programs, across the world. You’re probably not the first student from your undergrad institution to apply to business school, and MBA admissions offices usually have long track-records and experience in evaluating candidates from a broad spectrum of schools.

    In the MBA career services realm, I felt I could frequently recognize patterns of thinking, ability, and perspective characteristic of students from a specific undergrad program, and I would imagine that having a similar “feel” for the undergrad landscape is also not uncommon in the admissions realm.

    2) The best thing to do, post-undergrad is to seek out challenging work that allows you to learn new skills, to experience new projects/responsibilities and work environments, and come into contact with a wide range of colleagues, clients, and customers. Focusing on how you’re personally going to impact your environment, and how you will help your colleagues succeed and your organization thrive — what will those future bullet points on your resume say about what you did at “Company X”? — may be a good way to seek out and select that job.

    3) There is no specific type of extracurricular that schools are seeking. What matters is that you care about that extracurricular, and that you’ve become immersed in whatever pursuit that is … whether it’s sports, volunteer activity, teaching, an arts and culture pursuit, and so on.

    I recall a great MBA resume that I read when I was at Wharton: the bulk of the resume described this particular Asian student’s extensive military service experience and achievements, and included just the right amount (not too much, but pretty close to the borderline) of military jargon regarding weapons systems, troop deployments, combat theater operations, etc. At the very bottom, under “Additional Interests”, the student mentioned that he had won a poetry prize when he was younger (no elaboration, just the subject of the poem, title of the prize, and date) … it was such a nice touch, and such a great antidote to all the rest of that beefy content.

    The key is that, in a humble way, it showed that the student was a multi-dimensional person, that he cared about a range of things in his life. Please think of extracurriculars not as another check-box or test that you have to maximize and pass (hence, don’t worry about the right “duration” of your extracurricular activity), but as something that will truly offer a window into your life and mind and the things you find engaging and fun, and worth spending time on.

    I hope that helps!

  • John,

    I think it is possible to overcome a lower undergrad GPA with additional course work, and/or another degree, though I would not undertake another Master’s simply as a way to get into business school, but because you see a clear link and benefit to having both degrees … and, in your case, especially because you want to do public sector / social sector strategy consulting.

    I think one can also potentially overcome a lower GPA if those grades were segregated to the first two years of undergrad … it might take a bit of additional explanation, and perhaps highlighting what your GPA was solely in your major, or in your junior and senior year alone. To make my response a bit more career-relevant rather than admissions-focused, I would also say that a lot depends on the quality of your work (and subsequent recommendations) for these current few years leading up to your applications.

    Last, you may want to consider applying to and enrolling in a Public Policy master’s program that is part of a joint-degree program / agreement with a business school you’re interested. Even if you’re not initially admitted to the business school in question, starting the “other half” of the degree first, and doing exceptionally well in that academic setting, can then make you an attractive candidate for admission to the business school portion of the joint-degree. I don’t have hard data to support this, but it stands to reason that being a great student who is already enrolled in 1/2 of a joint-degree program should at least allow you to be given close consideration when applying to the business program.

    I hope that makes sense to you, and good luck in the years to come!

  • Rajiv Shukla

    kindly answer some of my questions-




  • Rajiv Shukla

    should online websites be used for writing mba application resume?

  • John

    Hi Ivan,

    Thank you for doing this. I’ll try and keep it short. I currently work in Big 4 tech consulting, but my true passion lies in strategy consulting (specifically, public sector strategy consulting) so I’m planning on getting an elite MBA in a few years to make the jump to McK/Bain/BCG. What is holding me back the most is my undergrad GPA ~ 3.1. This is NOT a reflection on my intellectual capability, but more on my apathy/immaturity from freshman/sophomore year. It obviously hurts my application so I’m wondering what I can do to improve my application from an intellectual capability standpoint besides doing very well on the GMAT. One thought is getting a pre-MBA graduate degree to create a sort of alternative transcript. I’ve found a Master’s in Public Policy degree (from a reputable school) that I’m interested in. If I get this degree with great a great GPA ~ 3.8, will this be enough to help alleviate concerns about my low undergrad GPA?


  • Bill Ravelo

    Hello Ivan,

    Thanks for the reply and I will take your advice as I narrow down the field. Have a good one.


  • Matheus

    Hello Ivan.

    My main doubt is I should aim at the HBS 2+2 program now or the regular HBS MBA program right after graduating.

    Im a product design senior in one of the top 5 Brazilian Universities. I have a 2 yo Shoe Start up and have a Tecnical Course in Footwear Design (loads of business experience and great experiences). Because I have done all this while in college my GPA is not awesome, but I’m working on getting a rockstar GMat to better my odds at HBS.

    So my question is, which kind of application do you think suits me better/ will I be a better candidate at?

    Thanks a lot!


  • Fatima

    You got it bang on !
    Being done with balance sheeting and it turning out to be platitudinous , made me think about this career – where else can I get to work for those huge monster sized assets. And never to forget besides earning a living I will equally be able to earn ‘smiles’.
    Time – consuming ? I am working on this for the past 1 month !Connecting with people , drilling their profiles but they are basically all internally recruited people started from being a service agent to airport service supervisor to airport managers.I would love to be mentored by you.
    This Boeing is sheer glory but wait what did they mention? 121 million skittles ( sea hawking time )

    PS – go get ’em hawks !

  • Real Estate applicant

    Dear Ivan,

    Thank you very much for your time and effort!

    I am an international MBA applicant, planning to apply to a b-school in the US this year. Currently I work in Real Estate Finance in Europe (mainly on the debt side), and my goal is to recruit for Real Estate IB and Real Estate PE in the US in the long-term.

    – In general, how are the chances of international applicants to break into RE in the US?

    – I am very interested in Yale SOM, particularly because of its integrated curriculum and growing presence as a global business school. How do you rate Yale’s real estate courses and how visible is SOM for RE recruiters such as Blackstone, Starwood Capital, etc.?

    – What do you consider the key success factors of gaining a RE position in the US? Is it prior RE IB experience? Networking and having the right contacts?

    Thank you!

  • Hi Jersey Girl,

    Congratulations on all fronts!! I hope you’re excited about your upcoming grad studies, whether you choose to pursue the joint JD/MBA (an interesting option) or solely the business degree.

    I admit it’s had to answer your question without additional specifics about projects, roles, responsibilities you’ve had in the past, but, in my experience, it *is* possible to map one’s work in a prior field to a new career opportunity. For example, your govt. consulting research skills would likely translate to market research (customer segment analysis, etc.) in the marketing space. In my time at Yale and Wharton, I worked with MBAs who were translating experiences from active combat duty, professional tennis, and biomedical research to commercially-oriented careers … and it was also possible in those cases to find the skills and experiences that one can use to switch into a new career path.

    And, yes, I agree that information on how to do this is not something one can locate in an MBA employment report. Much of that process occurs one-on-one, in meeting with your MBA career advisors. I think you should feel confident that you can make the transition (as other, smart career-switchers have before you) and compete successfully for coveted post-MBA jobs. There are a lot of additional specifics, of course, relevant to the business school or joint program that you choose, and to the target set of companies and types of roles you are pursuing (in addition to your past experiences). I’m curious to know what you decide … please stay in touch!

  • Hi Fatima,

    I love this question (especially since aircraft manufacture and aviation management topics that loom large her in Seattle, the home town of Boeing). Your question has caused me to do a bit of research, and I’m amazed at how broad the options are… from Cranfield’s well-regarded program in the UK, to options in the U.S., and even in the West Indies.

    Here’s a strategy that might work well. I would look forward into the future and think about the kinds of jobs you’d like most in aviation management (the actual jobs that are currently being filled by people whom you can locate on LinkedIn, etc.); then, work backward from there to inventory how many have MBAs vs. MSc’s in aviation management vs. Engineering or other degrees. One option with regard to the MSc programs is to contact their career services and ask to be connected to an employer representative who might be able to share more with you about the skill-set and hiring needs for specific positions. (You can also contact employers directly, skipping the school contact step … given such a niche focus, and your MBA / finance experience, I think you will likely find people to be responsive.)

    My guess is that you’ll ultimately find a fair number of ‘general management’-like roles that don’t require a specialized degree focused on aviation (and for which an MBA might be ideal), as well as a fair number of fairly technical roles (air traffic control, airport operations and design) that might require a deeper level of expertise, and for which the MSc might be right. Education, in and of itself, is always a good thing, but connecting with more employers, and more people who have the sorts of “dream jobs” you aspire to, will help you decide whether an additional degree is worth it, on the margin.

    If you’re wanting to do this comprehensively, I would reach out and touch base with at least half a dozen people in at least 3-5 companies. It’s time-consuming, but it will make you a much savvier consumer of additional educational options.

  • Hi Bill,

    Thank you so much for your question, and, not least, for all of your years of service in the Army.

    My hunch is that you probably don’t need multiple degrees … that an online MS in Finance might in and of itself be sufficient, or that pursuing an Executive MBA after you retire might be the way to go (but not necessarily both, unless you truly feel you need one in order to embark on the other).

    That being said, the option of pairing an online degree with an immersive MBA program might work well if what you want from the online degree is purely technical knowledge and domain expertise, and what you hope to gain from the in-person EMBA is an experience of spending time with your peers, faculty members, with alumni, and employers, in order to have that experience itself help shape your career path and decisions after school. If it’s financially feasible, and not too intensive a time commitment, the combination of degrees might work, but if it seems as though both options are a considerable investment in time and money, I would simply pick the one that appeals to you the most.

    And, given your level of experience, I think a full-time MBA program might feel a bit too much like “college all over again”. Your peer group is more than likely to be found among the mid-career professionals and executives who enroll in an executive MBA program, and that route will probably feel the most enriching and fun to you than being immersed in a context in which most of your fellow classmates are ~4-6 years out of college. I hope that helps!

  • Hi vedavyas9,

    I’m glad you’re getting an early start on thinking about graduate school, and about the sorts of experiences you’ll want to have along the way, not only to increase your chances of admission, but to make the experience more valuable, and to increase the positive impact you have on your classmates, once you are in school.

    The simple answer is “yes”, international work experience is valued, if for no better reason than that it exposes you to colleagues, clients, customers from different cultures, as well as to different business practices and/or strategies. It can also help to work in different countries while staying with a single company (by taking advantage of a management rotational program, for example); I find that by keeping one constant the same (employer), all of differences in everything from go-to-market strategy, to more subtle differences in how meetings are facilitated, for example, tend to be that much more distinct.

    Good luck in seeking a cross-border assignment, work project, or posting in the years to come!

  • Fatima

    Hi Ivan ,

    Thanks a lot for the inputs and suggestions , you are putting up for assistance.
    This is potentially about shifting to a completely different career path. I always had this fervent desire to work for ” the aviation industry ” . Holding a MBA degree in finance has almost activated all my quantitative skills but the necessity is to explore a career into service management at the airport .
    – Will a MSc in airport and aviation management help ?
    – What will be its impact on the recruiters ?

  • Hi Tim,

    Thank you for your questions. I know that Stacy Oyler (P&Q’s resident expert on MBA admissions) would also have useful ideas for you. In general, additional master’s degree work is a positive, and a public policy degree (especially coursework that is of a functional, universally-applicable nature; e.g., classes such as statistics and cost-benefit analysis).should serve to enhance your application.

    From a career perspective, being able to balance school with work is a plus, as you suggested, and I think what will truly matter in your applications is the integration of your public health research work, your policy interest and domain expertise, and your plans for a future career that leverages that knowledge and those abilities in a new context.

    I would make a concerted effort to explore your most likely post-MBA career path (whether in Health Care or otherwise), and to have a good sense of the top 2-3 professional avenues you are likely to pursue, not only for admissions purposes, but so that you can be confident in taking on the huge investment of time and money involved in earning an MBA.

    And, yes, grades in any and all coursework do matter; business schools will want to know that you can perform well in any academic environment, and will consider that factor as one among many / all other factors. Good luck!

  • Bill Ravelo

    Hi Ivan,

    I am a two years away from retirement from active duty from the U.S. Army after 22 years of service and I am applying to MBA programs (BU/Kelley/Syracuse/UNC/Villanova) prior to that date. I have read that several of those same programs offer online MBA’s each with its own merits and achievements. To throw a mix into the lot I also saw BU’s online MS in Banking and Financial services which looked fantastic targeting the career which I wish to pursue.

    What would your recommendation be as to proceed with the MS before retirement and then pursue an EMBA or Full-Time MBA after retirement? Thank you very much.

  • vedavyas9

    hello ivan,

    i am a recent under graguate with 7 months of work ex in hand.

    i have heard from a lot of mba aspirants that having an abroad work exp would increase my chances of getting into a top bschool…

    is it ?

    And any suggestions and points to keep in mind …?

    thank u 🙂

  • Jersey Girl

    Hello Ivan
    Thanks for offering your tips! I’ve been accepted to a top 5 JD/MBA program and top 10ish b-school so far, and I’m coming from a nontraditional background (government work and niche gov. consulting, more on the research and writing side) but want to move into either finance or CPG/retail with the hopes of e-commerce entrepreneurship. Either of these options are major leaps to make. I’ve heard time and time again that recruiters expect career switcher but how can I leverage my very different background to be competitive for jobs like these? I’ve pored over employment reports but none really describe in detail how professional backgrounds are connected to internship/post-mba outcomes.

    Your advice would be quite helpful to me as I weigh what school to attend!

  • reality

    You’re right to be concerned. A lot of us – those that have the talent to secure admission to top programs, and will dedicate effort and resources to attend in person – are getting worried about the dilution of brands in an industry where that’s basically the entire product. If you pay $150K and 2 years of your life to get something, but then it goes on sale sans exclusivity, you are the sucker at the table. Everyone talking publicly about this issue (people making hiring decisions have opposite opinion but keep it to themselves) is always really careful to give the benefit of the doubt to online/part-time/whatever, but when schools say it’s the same degree to boost sales of the cash cow programs it has unintended effects on the real program. Imagine an old-school scale, a la Lady Justice, the blindfolded statue representing the legal system from the old Metallica album cover. On one side is hte traditional MBA, very heavy, and on the other side is the easy to get into profit MBA, floating higher because it’s not as substantial. When the school says they’re equal, they put their thumb on the scale so the profit program weighs more, and it does move that scale favorably to make it look more substantial. The problem is, the traditional MBA on the other scale also moves in a negative direction. Unintended but natural consequence.

    The only way to avoid having your degree seriously devalued in the near future is to print off your favored ranking of schools, take out a sharpie, and cross off all the schools that have parasitic programs distracting from the traditional one. I have no particular dislike for these programs, and if they were really the same degree, I’d be an idiot NOT to do them. But they aren’t the same degree, and I’ve been warned by every single person in a hiring position I’ve talked to about B-school. It’s only been a topic I’ve brought up maybe 30% of the time; that is, usually the person will tell me to only look at Full-Time Top X degrees before I have to ask. Your mileage will vary. If a regional or less competitive school gets you where you need to go, don’t think twice, go for it. All I’m saying is, if your goal requires a top whatever program, know that there are no shortcuts, and the things that require that also require it be in-person.

  • USA

    Hi Ivan,

    I’m preparing to apply to MBA programs this fall with the hope of building upon my current career in marketing consulting. I come from a liberal arts background with a degree in History and extensive experience with foreign languages. I did not take any quantitive courses in college such as math or economics. My current profession is also more on the marketing/innovation/creative side of business. I have some time before I apply to MBA programs so I’d like to take some additional classes to demonstrate I have quantitative ability. I was thinking I would take macro/micro econ and stats at NYU. Is there anything else I can do? Do you think that by taking these classes and doing well (plus a solid GMAT quant score of course) I’ll no longer fall into the liberal artsy, History-major, creative marketing trap? And finally, are there certain schools that tend to be more open to/interest in marketing types like me?

    Thank you very much

  • Tim Whatley

    Hello Ivan,

    I am currently a researcher at a well-known university where I study issues related to adolescent public health. Generally people work in this position work for a couple years and then apply for phd programs, but I have realized this path is not for me . One benefit of my job is that I get free tuition for classes; I have taken advantage of this and in another year I will graduate with a masters in public policy. How will this be viewed by an admission committee? Will this be viewed positively, since it shows intellectual curiosity and that I was able to balance a full-time job with school, or negatively because it hints at someone who is unsure what they want to do in life? Also, do my grades in my coursework matter?

    Thank you.

  • Mari

    Thanks very much for the thoughtful response, Ivan. I’m sure I will have more follow-up questions later, but this is a great place to start – thanks again!

  • Hi bagcan,

    To take your last question first, I think all leading MBA programs do a great job of preparing students for careers in consulting … it’s such a large percentage, in terms of career choice, for graduating MBAs, that each school offers comprehensive resources in terms of teaching competitive strategy, offering great career services advice, and also nurturing a strong professional club organization to support additional learning, case interview practice, etc.

    A number of schools have acquired a deserved reputation for being especially ‘good’ in this category, and I agree that teaching and learning via the case method — including via Yale SOM’s “raw” case methodology — is an effective tool for helping build both one’s skill-set and mind-set for consulting.

    To combine this question with your query about the size and distribution of one’s alumni network, I think these variables are important to consider (weighing the intensity and close bonds of a smaller MBA community versus the more widely distributed, if more diffuse, social ties of a larger MBA network), but I would merely factor these in among other variables as part of your overall decision regarding which school to attend.

    If you’re looking for some way to reduce the complexity, perhaps create a rank order of what variables matter to you most (quality of teaching and curriculum, social life and community feel, campus and facilities, alumni network, etc.), and then give each school a grade, based on your personal needs and interests. The resulting matrix may help you see past the clutter. Ultimately, and in my own experience, I think students do best when they choose a school not purely with their brains, and not purely with their hearts, but with a balanced combination of the two. Of course, make sure you get in first, and then you can feel justified in being vexed by having so many great options! … ~:^)

  • I agree that it’s simply difficult to tell what the future will be like, once, for example, there are more online MBA degree holders than there are graduates who experienced graduate business education ‘live’.

    For the moment, I myself don’t share the same level of concern, even if there is a future in which MBAs opt to place an asterisk next to the credential in order footnote the manner in which it was received. It’s too hard to know, without the proverbial crystal ball, what the long-term impact of online and blended learning will be.

    My simple hunch is that online degrees will help reinvent and change the industry, in the same way that electronic books, for example, have changed the way we access and experience reading, without destroying our appetite for literature or the reasons for which we read. I wish I could provide a more prescient response …

  • Concerned Skeptic

    Thanks so much for your thoughts. I definitely realize the value of an on-campus MBA and that employers feel similarly. Although UNC@MBA is a high quality online program, I agree that it isn’t equitable to the on-campus degree – which is a fantastic program.

    However, I am concerned that the school will flood the market with people who possess the “same” MBA diploma yet otherwise lack skills/qualifications. The resultant negative image could trickle down, possible within a few years because online MBAs now far outnumber on-campus MBAs. Employers may begin to second-guess Kenan-Flagler job candidates generally. I don’t know how comfortable I feel paying 150K and forgoing two years of salary to put the letters “M.B.A.” on my resume only to feel that I’ll need to include an asterisk so employers know it’s the real one before I can even pay off the degree.

    In essence, I’m concerned that online programs associated with reputable schools such as UNC will cannibalize the reputation of the MBA program.

  • Concerned Skeptic

    Thanks so much for your thoughts. I definitely realize the value of an on-campus MBA and that employers feel similarly. Although UNC@MBA is a high quality online program, I agree that it isn’t equitable to the on-campus degree – which is a fantastic program.

    However, I am concerned that the school will flood the market with people who possess the “same” MBA diploma yet otherwise lack skills/qualifications. The resultant negative image could trickle down, possible within a few years because online MBAs now far outnumber on-campus MBAs. Employers may begin to second-guess Kenan-Flagler job candidates generally. I don’t know how comfortable I feel paying 150K and forgoing two years of salary to put the letters “M.B.A.” on my resume only to feel that I’ll need to include an asterisk so employers know it’s the real one before I can even pay off the degree.

    In essence, I’m concerned that online programs associated with reputable schools such as UNC will cannibalize the reputation of the MBA program.

  • Bagcan

    Hi Ivan,

    I’m really so glad to have such a detailed comment from you. It helps me to gain “geographic proximity” vision while choosing a proper MBA program for myself. But after your emphasis about geography, now a question mark appears on my mind . As I mentioned above, my primary target, lets say my dream, is Yale SOM. And I’m planning to apply Cornell Johnson also. As compared to top b-schools like Columbia, Wharton, Booth, Yale and Johnson have a smaller but intense community.They are both located in small towns and you should show more effort to build a network with companies during job and intership processes. Now the question is coming. Since their class size is relatively low as compared to most of the b-schools, does this create a network disadvantage? For example lets say, I decide to turn back to my home country, Turkey, after graduation, will be it more helpful to graduate from a school which have more alumni in order to build a career in consulting? The same is question is also valid, if i will decide to move in US. Can we say that more alumni brings more luck?

    My final question is about school’s approach to consulting area. As I read from some articles, only Harvard and Darden have a specialized program for consulting which helps students how to deal with “case studies”. Although a common sense dominated in MBA world that HBS is best in consulting area, when I deep dive into Yale SOM’s website, I have realized that the SOM Case Research and Development Team (CRDT) has contributed over a hundred pieces of material to the SOM curriculum on a wide variety of topics and from numerous global locales. It seems to me that Yale also has a strong curriculum which enable us to improve our skills. My question is here. How does a potential MBA candidate decide whether a school’s curriculum fit to consulting area or not?

    Thanks for your kind answer.

  • Bagcan

    Hi John,

    Thanks for these great articles. They really helped a lot to draw a framework for my target school choices.

  • Hi Concerned Skeptic,

    I think your topic of inquiry is legitimate, and that further research (with school representatives, UNC grads, and even employers) may either help ease your concerns, or guide you in a different direction. I do agree with you that online/distance learning is different from the experience of an in-person, campus-based education, and I would add that there are advantages to the online format as well as advantages to the in-person format. Choosing what’s right for you is more important, I think, than trying to figure out what the impact of another degree alternative is, when offered by the same institution.

    Whether or not the existence of an online program somehow dilutes the experience, brand, or network is, I think, very hard to judge, and I suspect that the jury will be out for a while on what the overall impact has been of online or blended (online and in-person) learning programs on the MBA marketplace as a whole. What I do know is that Kenan-Flagler is not the only school to offer a part-time degree program choice, or a combination of open enrollment and/or custom executive education programs, and that many/most of these programs incorporate aspects of distributed team project homework and online learning. Whether these additional portfolio offerings by business schools share services — such as career advising and/or employer outreach and job sourcing — is a less critical question, I think, than what the extent of those services are.

    In my experience, business schools that branch out to offer additional degree options don’t do so without increasing the size, scope, and specialization of their admissions, career services, and academic program / student life teams, whether or not those administrative roles are housed in the same offices and/or under a same Director. Hence, an online program may not be right for someone who could gain more value out of the full-time, immersive MBA experience, but that doesn’t mean the existence of this option necessarily lessens the full-time experience or that students ability to access resources and services.

    For what it’s worth, and despite the fact that all schools are careful to advertise that all students are receiving the “same” MBA degree (meaning same faculty, same content, etc., regardless of delivery format), it remains the case that MBA employers still recognize and care about the difference … knowing, for example, that someone who has dedicated a 100% of their time to pursuing the degree, and has had a chance to participate in all of the informal, peer-learning experiences, close relationships with faculty mentors, and other extracurricular pursuits and projects, etc. has potentially been able to derive greater value and learning from the MBA experience as a whole. (I should note that the opposite can also be true … an employer’s hiring needs for a specific role may favor, for example, a job candidate who has graduated from a one-year specialized Master’s in Finance rather than someone who has completed a two-year, generalist MBA program).

    Last, employers also tend to know the admissions hurdles, the GPA/GMAT profiles, and other talent variables that exist for full-time MBA programs versus the other options in the management education taxonomy, and realizing that employers are able to distinguish and put a premium on the different kinds of education, depending on their hiring needs, may also offer some comfort to you with regard to your concern about ‘dilution’.

    … Overall, and this is simply my personal perspective, I have very positive feelings about the quality of UNC’s MBA program, and I think their career services team (Director Amy Wittmayer and her staff), as well as the other staff functions and Dean Evans have shown great attention to student experiences and outcomes. My recommendation is to take a closer look, and to talk to more people who have had first-hand experiences there…

  • Dreamer,

    I think the first point to make is that being a JD-MBA candidate is a positive thing, in terms of how consulting employers are likely to view your credentials (you should be able to highlight your law-related critical-thinking, research and writing skills, as well as knowledge of the legal aspects of the business activity, from public markets regulation, to IP law, to innovations in securities trading and M&A activity).

    With regard to having a lack of pre-graduate school commercial experience, I think you will need to leverage ‘functional’ aspects of your previous legal work … such as managing deadlines, working in teams, finding creative solutions to problems, achieving impact for your clients (a key factor for consulting interviews), and so on. Even though you may not have been doing financial analysis, or managing P&L, your work in any field (law or otherwise) can say much about your ability to get things done, to be competitively successful, and to add value to an enterprise and to those working with you.

    What you will also need to do is highlight specific instanced during your MBA studies (your academic performance in core management classes, success in business plan or business case competitions, and/or in any consulting practicum projects, for example) that suggest that you have a mind for business and also signal your strong interest in consulting. Your experience will likely be that your performance in the technical aspects of consulting interviews (doing a break-even analysis, or a market-sizing) will be more critical for you than for another job candidate … hence, putting a lot of time and effort to prepare for case interviews, and to show great facility with numbers and business problem-solving, will be an important way for you to put consulting firms at ease with hiring you.

    Last, don’t forget to promote the cross-disciplinary learning that you’ve experienced as a joint-degree student. Consulting firms need their firm members to be able to think across sectors, to recognize patterns, to be able to transport ideas and ‘best practices’ from one field to another … all things that you should be, on the margin, better able to do, given your dual-degree background. Good luck!!

  • Augustus, the very simple answer is “yes” … any credential that is directly applicable to the task of managing an enterprise (CFA, CPA, etc.) is considered a plus by MBA admissions offices … Stacy Oyler, in her resident column here on P&Q would agree, I think.

    Whether the opportunity cost for you in pursuing a CFA is right is a more complicated, individual question, but the general concept holds … a technical qualification / certification such as a CFA is considered to be valuable!

  • Marcus,

    I would agree with John’s article in P&Q; I think alumni giving participation rates is a good proxy (the only one we have) for the level of engagement and long-term “satisfaction” (as Dartmouth’s Dean Danos puts it) in one’s MBA experience and in the value derived from the ongoing ties with one’s business school community.

    To answer your questions directly, I think this is an important variable in choosing a school … you will not only be forever associated with a particular program (and its ongoing fortunes as an organization), but you will need to rely on fellow alumni, as well as be relied on by them (and by future MBA admits who seek your career advice) for all time. For this reason, your feelings of a good “fit” with the culture and philosophy of a particular school (there is such a thing, even if it can sometimes be hard to define, and even though schools do experience culture shift over time) is very important.

    Here are the general factors to consider: larger schools (with bigger alumni bodies) tend to offer more chances that you will know someone at a given organization (when you’re looking for contacts during a mid-career transition, for example); but large schools and large alumni bodies tend to be more diffuse (meaning, the communal feeling of closely shared experience and other mutual links and personal connections tends to dissipate when you get into the tens of thousands). Further, what is the distribution of a school’s alumni body, both sector- and country- and city-wise (see AS27’s question below), as it relates to your own anticipated career path and choice of where to live in the future?

    Last, what is the likely trajectory, in terms of brand reputation, quality of research and faculty teaching, endowment strength, etc., of your school in the years and decades to come? (You will need that trajectory to be positive, as you will also need to rely on the quality of future student talent — admitted MBAs who will become future alumni — in years to come.)

    All of this being said, rather than thinking in terms of a ‘top 10’ school list for those programs with the most vibrant alumni communities and school-student ties, I would think in terms of your own personal affinity and natural inclination to become part of that “tribe”.

    Let me give an example: let’s say you’re living and working in Wellington, New Zealand, at some future time, and the number of alumni from your business program there is very small (let’s say it’s 5 people, spread over different lines of work), but that the positive feeling and mutual respect for one another is off the charts because of how much you enjoyed and how much learning you derived from your time in business school. … That is likely to be a powerful network, even if it fails to provide the basic ‘muscle’ (strength in numbers, etc.) captured in the categories above.

    And, remember, as your namesake, Marcus Aurelius, once said, you will have to “accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” Good luck!

  • Mari

    Hi Ivan,

    I’m considering an MBA as career changer. I have a background in political science and a master’s in IR from a university in South America, as well as several years experience teaching college-level English there. I currently work as a contractor for the Dept of State in human rights issues and am realizing this path may not be for me. I’m interested in exploring options in private industry and would like to know if you think there is a way for me to parlay my regional background and strong language and communications skills to break into industry and if an MBA would help with that.

    I’m still in the information-gathering phase of this decision, so I’m looking to see where I could carve out a place for myself – maybe international marketing or sales? How would you recommend I proceed? Any good books to read or other blogs to investigate? Would an MBA help me with this transition. Would greatly appreciate any insight! Many thanks!

  • Concerned Skeptic

    Hey Ivan,

    The UNC@MBA program at Kenan-Flagler seems to be aggressively promoting that it grants the same MBA diploma as the on-campus program. I support distance learning, but I have substantial reservations about granting the same degree. The online program offers a very limited a number of elective courses and group work is altogether different.

    It also claims that it wants to help students maintain their lifestyle. In my opinion, if an MBA program allows you to maintain your lifestyle, it’s a joke. A legitimate MBA should be intensive – not a hobby.

    UNC@MBA also does not make admission data publicly available, the GRE/GMAT is not necessarily required according to the website, and admission has skyrocketed more than 2000% in two years. I am concerned this will dilute the alumni network – particularly if UNC@MBA shares resources with the on-campus program, which I suspect it might.

    This is looking a lot like a diploma mill. Frankly, I think it will get out of control soon and devalue the school’s on-campus MBA program. From an organizational standpoint, I don’t know how they can put the lid on this and stop it from devolving further – I can only imagine the margins they’re making. I’m having serious doubts about attending the school. What are your thoughts?


  • Dreamer

    Hi John,

    I’m a first-year law student at Michigan applying to Ross this year. I had hunch that law may not be for me before law school, but I’m more sure now. I want to go into consulting after finishing my JD-MBA program, however, my resume is just law related. I guess I’m not sure how to sell myself to the consulting firms come next year when I go to the business school. Any advise would help.

  • Augustus

    How does MBA admissions perceive the CFA? I am considering taking it, but am not sure how it is regarded when it comes to the MBA admissions process.

  • JohnAByrne


    I’m as eager as you are to hear what Ivan has to say about this. We actually ran a fairly thoughtful article on the value of alumni networks here that I think you and other readers would find interesting:


  • Marcus Aurelius

    Hi Ivan,
    I would like your perspective on various business schools from a loyalty of alumni perspective. To me, success in business is a combination of many factors, and not the least of which is sales. Each of us, whether directly or indirectly, must be constantly aware of selling a particular strength or set of strengths. From something as seemingly simple as an admin staff needing to show certain acumen relative to someone looking to take their job, to the highest level executive.
    One of the keys for me has always been the ability to articulate some differentiating value in my talents relative to my competition. My sense is that having an MBA from one of the top programs gives one another differentiating value in comparison, say, a competitor who lacks the same degree.
    And at some point down the road, we may be calling on our alumni, whether for an introduction or for the purpose of securing a transaction. In this sense, a degree from a school with a more loyal alumni association can have a true impact on one’s future success in business, all other things being equal. An example I have seen work is a colleague who is an A&M alum. One call into a connection leads to another time and time again. Some programs might refer to this idea as opening a door that might otherwise be locked and frown upon it as a reason for applying to their programs. Other programs suggest it’s a benefit of their programs.
    From your perspective, what would your top 10 list of most loyal alumni associations be? BTW, this is an element of my decision making process. I have acceptance letters from the programs I thought would be a good fit for me, and have turned down others after meeting a sample of students and faculty.
    Thank you for your keen insight in advance.

  • Hi Bagcan,

    To add to the great articles that John shared with you, I think all of the leading business schools (in North America, Europe, and now Asia as well) are great places to pursue a career in consulting, and most firms that recruit candidates with advanced professional degrees think of the MBA as the primary source of new managerial talent.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer my own personal opinion regarding Yale SOM … which is that it’s an outstanding program, with incredible faculty, an amazing student community, and a multi-disciplinary approach that relies on the broad wealth of Yale University resources to nurture students who are pursuing the full spectrum of careers, consulting not least!

    For you personally, I think the range of experiences you’ve had would be attractive to a potential employer in the consulting space, and I think your timing in pursuing an MBA also sounds right.

    The only additional factors you may want to consider is the extent to which you envision your (future) consulting experience to be focused on serving a specific industry, and to therefore think about the geographic proximity of your MBA program to the companies in that industry (broadly speaking, banking and other finance clients tend to be clustered near New York and Boston, CPG / retail clients are prominent in the Midwest and are most easily accessed via Chicago, Tech clients tend to be on the west coast, and oil and gas / energy clients tend to be more concentrated in Texas and the Southeast).

    Proximity is not “destiny”, by any means, but it can make your networking efforts a bit more efficient, and you may find that you enjoy greater network effects when the MBA alumni from your alma mater are clustered around a specific city or have populated a particular sector. (That being said, all of the leading schools have cultivated broad, global relationships across the range of industries … a key business development function of the MBA career services office that serves each school … and that should allow you to hunt for jobs across state lines and national borders regardless of what program you attend.)

    I’m excited that you’re planning to pursue an MBA!

  • AS27


    Thank you for the informative posts! I have a few quick questions regarding the importance of geography in choosing your business school:

    I have found a better “fit” at Tuck and Duke than UCLA, however, the job I want post grad is an auto manufacturer located in LA and recruits primarily from UCLA/USC/UC Irvine. If I go to Tuck or Duke, how common or feasible would it be to obtain a job on the opposite coast with limited alumni in the area and no alums in the company?

    Thanks again for your time!

  • McKWannabe

    Thanks for the resource. You mention the words minimum threshold, which is what I was referring to in my poorly worded question. What’s the bare minimum to even be considered for an interview? Because if I don’t hit the minimum, the way you’ve phrased your response, I won’t even get a chance to highlight those 5 characteristics.

  • Hi Towski,

    I’m glad you’ve asked this question because it allows us to address a level of nuance that mostly goes untouched in the pre-MBA phase of most students’ MBA career planning.

    I think cases in which a company advertises a specific position only for a specific short list of schools (rather than across MBA programs) is very rare. In this case, Disney may be making the assumption, whether correctly/fairly or not, that there are relatively more students at one or two leading schools who have already worked their way to fairly advanced positions (for example, by having been promoted to case team / project leader or engagement manager positions at a few leading consulting firms, prior to starting business school), thus being ready to take on the advanced responsibilities of an in-house strategy role at the company in question.

    The key thing to pick up on is not that a company like Disney doesn’t expect to find candidates with those qualifications at other schools, but that they expect to find them in greater numbers at a few leading programs (and by virtue of trying to get the most return out of their MBA recruiting investment efforts, they are limiting / focusing their efforts on just a couple of schools, the best hunting ground in their estimation.

    What this means for MBAs at large is that while the recruiting infrastructure may already be established for those roles at schools like Harvard or Stanford, it does not mean that companies will refuse to look at a well-qualified candidate (who may have the advanced experience mentioned above) at schools outside of that short list. What I often tell students (in fact, I just covered this same point with an HBS first-year student this morning) is that the lack of formal recruiting and a structured, on-campus process for a role at your own business school may in fact be a competitive advantage for you in terms of your efforts to stand out …

    If you do the leg work, contact the right people, show initiative, and present your candidacy in a very personal, individually-driven manner (from a school outside of the top ~5, let’s say), that can sometimes be much more noticeable and impressive than if you are merely one of the 3-4 dozen students at a large MBA program dropping a resume and cover letter for an on-campus role. I hope that makes sense, and also helps you to feel less pressure about needing to be at one of a very limited set of schools in order to achieve your professional goals.

    Regarding the gradients of market power that you have depending on whether you’re at a “top 2”, or “top 7”, or “top 15” schools, I would say that, on day 1 of business school, those relative rankings do matter. If I knew nothing else about a candidate other than where he/she is at school, I might also privilege the schools that are generally ranked among the elite.

    However, from day 1 forward, candidates can do much to distinguish themselves and execute on an effective MBA job search strategy, regardless of where they are, and what matters less than the general rankings of schools, once everyone gets further into the MBA recruiting process, is the individual’s — your own — strategy for how to leverage the unique resources, faculty relationships, corporate ties, geographic location, etc., of the business school that’s the best fit for you.

    In my personal experience, I have seen students at schools such as Yale SOM, Berkeley Haas, Cornell Johnson, just to name a few, triumph in achieving their ambitious career goals, while, on occasion, I’ve also known students at schools such as H/S/W to sometimes get lost in the mix, or lose focus on who they are and what their distinct career path should be.

    To bring this lengthy response to a close: there is no easy answer. Yes, the things that are great about the most elite business programs are, in fact, great. But you can succeed .. or fail … at any business school.

    Knowing what you’re trying to do, and having a strategy in place for how you will project yourself into your new MBA environment and future career is the key success factor. … As a side note, I started the Practice MBA Summer Forum to help students undertake this process in the relatively pressure-free time before the start of business school, and I encourage you to consider joining that program and/or contacting me for a complimentary pre-MBA ‘readiness’ assessment, if you’re keen to start this process sooner rather than later. Thanks for the great question!

  • That makes sense to me. Good luck!!!

  • Bennett

    Thanks for the great response. I will definitely take your advice

  • Musab

    Thank you for the reply Ivan. You’ve helped clarify a lot of questions i’ve had in the back of my mind. And i agree with you, one must think more broadly than MBB. But i’d like to be able to take a shot at them at least. Whether they recruit me or not is a separate issue, I just wanted to make sure that electing to go to a lesser known school (due to a larger scholarship offer) wouldn’t hold me back. Thanks!

  • Hi Bennett,

    As an engineer, you
    likely have many of the critical analytical skills and facility with numbers
    that are part of the bedrock of good performance as a consultant. The fact that
    you’re enrolled in an executive MBA program also suggests that you have a
    strong record of work experience to draw on.

    I suspect the key
    areas you’d want to think about and also address are all of the social
    interactions and client service dynamics inherent in consulting … for
    example, the switch in lifestyle from working for one organization in a
    specific location vs. serving, in serial fashion, a number of different organizations,
    requiring travel, a fair bit of remote work, and meeting and having to prove
    yourself among a whole new set of people every 4-6 months … or, the sorts of
    influencing skills and consensus-building abilities you’ll need when you don’t
    have direct authority over the managers and workers who will be the ones to
    execute your recommendations after your client study is complete.

    As in previous
    answers, I recommend speaking to as many consultants as you can (especially
    those from engineering backgrounds) to get a feel for how they made that
    transition. You certainly won’t be the first!

  • Hi Musab,

    If you’re attending a program that is not officially a core recruiting school for the firms you’re applying to (and it does make sense to think more broadly than MBB, if your goal is to become a consultant above all else), you should take heart in knowing that you’re not “ruled out” form consideration …

    The reality is that you must do the leg-work yourself to make the connections and to engage with a firm (in the absence of on-campus recruiting’s formal company presentations, coffee chats, etc.). This can take a lot more effort, and you may find that you’re learning how to do it as you go, but it may also mean you might be the only one, or only one of a few students at your school, making that sort of effort … and this, in turn, may help you to stand out. (The alternative is being one of 100s of candidates forma big MBA program who must distinguish himself or herself from a big group of peer classmates).

    At the end of the day, competition for elite consulting jobs is global, and includes all schools, so there is a lot to overcome, but keep in mind that in the mix of those dozens of MBAs from a shared alma mater at any consulting firm there are plenty of outstanding consultants from programs like Simon’s … and beyond!

  • Hi McKwannabe,

    I think the best resource for your question is McKinsey’s career website itself: http://www.mckinsey.com/careers.aspx.

    McKinsey does a great job of identifying the dimensions that they look for in a job candidate (see URL below under “what we look for”):

    A tip about the 5 dimensions they list; it helps to think of them in a very literal sense, and to be able to highlight examples and stories from your own life that fit each category. In my experience, you really do need to touch on all of them in a substantive way … they are not merely general guidelines, but concrete capabilities and characteristics that each new McKinsey hire must have:

    1 – Personal impact
    2 – Entrepreneurial drive
    3 – Problem-solving skills
    4 – An orientation around achievement
    5 – Leadership abilities

    Of course GMAT, GPA, etc. all play a role, but they are merely a starting point, a minimum threshold, if you will, that gives you an opportunity to start a conversation and then have a chance to illuminate the dimensions above.

  • Towski

    Hi Ivan,

    Regarding on-campus recruiting, I’m wondering the extent of variation in positions that companies post at different schools. For example, Disney recruits at each of the top 10 business schools. However, they only recruit for Corporate Strategy at H/S (to join the group from other schools, you must spend 3 years at M/B/B). How typical is this and how can we obtain those TOP positions within a company rather than merely a “job”?

    More specifically in my case, I’m wondering about different opportunities between a top 7 school (Wharton/MIT/Booth/Kellogg/Columbia) and a top 2 school (H/S) because, despite having an admit to one of the top 7, I fear a lack of opportunity without the H/S brand to back me up with on-campus opportunities (I certainly know of instances where this is the case). For reference, I am most interested in Corporate Strategy for entertainment and CPG.

    Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

  • Bennett

    What advice do you have for a full time engineer who is getting executive MBA switch careers and transition into consulting?

  • Shaky0304

    Thank you for your prompt response John. I am a great fan of yours and I read your articles on Linkedin and Forbes.com. You guys are very helpful.

  • Musab

    Hi Ivan!
    Thank you for the initiative! I’m sure everyone else here appreciates your time as much as I do.

    I just had one question. Is it possible to make it to the interview stage for MBB as an intern/associate (without MC experience) from a lesser known university such as Simon? I realise they dont recruit at these schools but what are the chances of making it to the interview stage through the online application?

    Thanks for your time!

  • JohnAByrne


    Ivan is here to address MBA career strategy issues–and not questions about MBA admissions. Stacey Oyler of Clear Admit handles admission questions on our site for readers. In your case, however, I must unfortunately tell you that Harvard Business School does not accept “average” students or applicants with “not so good grades.” You would have to be truly exceptional to get into Harvard because even applicants with well above average grades from the world’s best undergraduate institutions are routinely passed over by HBS.

  • Shaky0304

    I am an international student from India having a burning desire to pursue MBA from Harvard Business School. I am an average student with not so good grades in Bachelors of Technology from not so famous university. I want to seek guidance in evaluating myself if I am fit for HBS or not. I will do anything to pursue my dream. Please Help!

  • pk87

    John, Thanks for this article.

    I will be matriculating this Fall and come form a non-consulting background (5 years experience in industry). Couple of questions:

    1. Regarding the GPA requirements, as I’m an international student, my undergrad grades are not in the US GPA system. How does the consulting firm take those into a/c? Furthermore, since the internship procedures begin quite early, does our performance at B-school for that short period matter?

    2. How to effectively compete/collaborate with fellow colleagues having consulting backgrounds?

    3. How to best hit the ground running? (I know of Deloitte offering pre-MBA internships, other options, etc.)

    4. Apart from academic performance in B-school, which other aspects should I focus on to impress the recruitment team?

    Thanks for your time and advice!

  • McKwannabe

    what are the basic requirements for getting into McK? GMAT, GPA, etc…

  • JohnAByrne

    I’m sure Ivan will respond more completely to you, but have a look at these two stories on Poets&Quants;



  • Bagcan

    I am from Turkey and I have six years work experience in audit (Deloitte), fast-moving consumer goods (Coca-Cola, P&G) and retail (IKEA). I strongly believe that it is time to apply for an MBA at a top 20 business school in the US and pursue a career in consulting. Is an MBA the right choice for this career shift? If so, how should I rank top schools in the consulting area? The rankings are generally based on finance, entrepreneurship or leadership areas. Should I check post-MBA recruitment ratios in consulting to find a good programme? And finally, Yale SOM is my dream, and do you think is it a right school for such a post-mba career target?

  • guestie

    Switching between buying IBD services and pitching them…how doable is this? Have signs can do without MBA. Then MBA then transition to Equity Research or high end Investment Mgmt.

    What if someone didn’t get into the top 3 schools because of crazy post-MBA goals, but they have otherworldly test scores and apply to next 3 highest schools? Know someone that was pretty surprised at bad results @ HSW but trying to convince them they’re not a longshot at next 3 but rather may get fellowships at them…what are your thoughts?

  • Hello devils0508,

    There are three main intake points for people joining McKinsey, BCG, or any leading multi-practice strategy consulting firm: “business analyst” (undergraduate hire), “associate” (MBA hire), and “experienced” (mid-career, executive hire). The nomenclature can differ from firm to firm, but the categories hold in general.

    At each level, the requirements are different … raw analytic capability, academic achievement, and a capacity to learn matter more on the early / analyst end of the spectrum, while experience overseeing key functions or projects, domain expertise, managing people and being able to serve senior clients matter significantly more on the later / experienced hire end of the spectrum.

    It should also be said that for consulting, one needs not only intellectual, number-crunching capacity, but also emotional intelligence, a facility for speaking and listening, delivering presentations, etc. … all of the communication and social skills one would expect to come in handy in client service-focused environment.

    So, whether you can make it at McKinsey and BCG depends in part on what your background is (academic achievement is critical in the early stages, on-the-job success and deep knowledge of a specific industry or function in the more advanced stages). For MBAs, it’s a balanced mix … you need to be a top student, with a broad range of interests and abilities (intellectual horse power), and you need to have at least some track record of leadership and success working in a commercial capacity (or something that translates well … even experience in realms as disparate as military service or social sector work), It’s a broad answer, but the best one for a broad question.

    Last, and of course, BCG and McKinsey are similar to the extent that they are leading global strategy firms, but they can feel different across practice areas and offices in terms of culture, history, their own competitive strategy, approach to client service, etc.

    If you’d like to take the next step in figuring out whether you would be a great ‘fit’ for either firm, I encourage you to seek out alumni and current firm members who can share their own personal, first-hand experiences with you. Good luck!!

  • Hi John,

    I think the only way to answer this question is by making a few broad generalizations, as well as adding the caveat of “it depends” (on what you want those future options to be).

    To tackle the first part: most MBAs who go into professional services (investment banking and management consulting are the most popular options) do so not necessarily because they expect to go the distance and become managing directors (banking) or partners (consulting), but because they will acquire broad exposure and client service experiences that span a range of industries, functions, geographies, etc. … this will then give them greater market power (as a potential new hire) and knowledge to take on more focused, long-term roles.

    At each stage of promotion (roughly every 2-4 years), somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% of the MBAs working at large, multi-service banking or consulting firms will transfer out of those roles and “go in-house” at a client organization, and/or take on roles that are meant to be long-term (rather than “up or out”).

    Whether banking leaves the most options open depends on whether you want your long-term career to involve finance or not. If you see yourself working long-term in any field that depends on that particular skill-set (for example, investment management, hedge funds, private equity, treasury / M&A / CFO functions at Fortune 500 firms, etc.), then traditional investment banking does give you the broadest range of options.

    If, on the other hand, you want your future options to include a broader spectrum of experiences (e.g., marketing, operations, technology, supply chain management, etc.), then consulting may offer you the most leverage and the broadest range of options.

    A third point: companies that have MBA management rotational / leadership development programs can also offer the types of experiences (working with different business units, on a range of projects, across countries and customer segments) that support one’s efforts to add a second level of “schooling”, beyond the MBA (and before one chooses a long-term path and focus). Last generalization: big companies, with many different types of products and services, and with locations in multiple cities and countries, tend to offer MBA candidates the diversity of experiences that are intended to leave options open. Many MBAs will work for a big, global brand first, and will then choose to join a smaller, boutique firm for the long-run.

    The real trick is knowing when to continue to invest in experiences that are designed to leave future options open, and when to finally take that plunge and become a true expert and guru in a given field. Thanks for your question!

  • devils0508

    “What’s the best way to know if you could make a go of it at McKinsey or BCG?”

    I’d like this answered

  • John

    Coming out of business school, what career leaves the most options open? I’ve heard heard Investment banking – is this really true?