Writing An Effective MBA Resume


How To Get Into Business School With Little Work Experience


“I can’t get a job without experience, but how can I get experience without a job?”

That’s every 22 year-old’s Catch-22. Of course, some graduates aren’t looking to enter the workforce. Instead, they’d prefer to hit graduate school before their study skills erode or they’re diverted by work or family commitments. However, unlike many graduate programs, business school is designed for seasoned professionals. While you’ll find a handful of recent graduates sprinkled across the cohorts, those candidates are, for the most part, wunderkinds.

Indeed, getting into business school is a steep climb for any 22-25 year-old. According to a recent column by Clear Admit, that stems heavily from their lack of business experience.  “…it may be difficult for younger applicants to present themselves as fully prepared to contribute to an MBA program because they often lack leadership experience and extensive business exposure.  This is especially true when they are compared to their fellow applicants who have more years in the working world.”

While the odds are stacked against younger, less experienced candidates being accepted into business school, Clear Admit offers several suggestions to help these students better position themselves to adcoms.

And it starts with outstanding academic performance. Dreaming of Columbia Business? Well, the average GMAT is 716, with 80 percent of scores falling between 680-760. If you’ve only been out of school for two years of less, that means you need to score near the high end. Same with undergraduate GPA, where 3.5 is the average (with most averaging from 3.1-3.8). At minimum, such scores show that you can compete with your peers (particularly if you have a technical or quant background). However, as Clear Admit notes, numbers only tell part of the story. “…it will [also] be to your benefit if you have received undergraduate scholarships and awards or graduated toward the top of your class, as this indicates that you excelled relative to your peers.”

Second, you need to dazzle the gatekeeper. And that means highlighting your potential, along with how your undergraduate efforts demonstrated leadership and teamwork. “One way to demonstrate your responsibility and management experience is through your participation in extracurricular and undergraduate activities… (internships, collegiate activities, part-time work, community service, etc.). At the same time, cite stories of how you ‘rose to the occasion’ and excelled despite a lack of experience or support.”

Adcoms are always curious to see how candidates answer the “Why here, why now” question from candidates. For younger applicants, the latter is particularly important to convey. “Your challenge,” writes Clear Admit, “will be to convince your target MBA programs that you are able to make a valuable contribution to their schools without further work experience.  In order to do this, you will need to demonstrate that continuing at your current job won’t advance you toward your professional goals. You might also suggest that there is some degree of urgency related to your vision for your career, for example around acting on a closing market opportunity, taking advantage of an industry trend, or making a transition in your career.” In other words, you need to establish a clear career plan, along with “demonstrat[ing] confidence that you will stick to this plan.”

Finally, adcoms are looking for maturity from younger applicants. And that comes through your self-awareness and people skills. “One of the ways you can demonstrate your maturity is by showcasing your ability to analyze your actions, accept blame, and grow and learn from mistakes and failures, as these are trademarks of a reflective and mature individual. An easy opportunity to do this is in essays that ask you to detail a challenge, mistake, or setback.”

Indeed, there is a “wait your turn,” “pay your dues,” and “come back when you’ve accomplished something” attitude that permeates business schools. And for good reason: MBA students often learn as much from their peers’ work experiences as they do from cases and projects. Occasionally, there is a spot for an up-and-comer whose intellect and leadership fills a void. Question is, are you better served waiting and developing your experience and intangibles – or taking a shot while you’re still full of energy and ideas?


Source: Clear Admit

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