If your international experience is lacking, there are other ways to impress these schools.
Highlight international teamwork – Emphasize the diversity within your office and organization. If you work on an international team, with international colleagues or you work virtually with colleagues or clients abroad, describe what you learned from these experiences and how they helped shift and enhance your perspective.
Highlight depth of experience – If you’ve spent even minimal time abroad, convey the depth of this experience. Sometimes, even short experiences can significantly deepen your knowledge about and insight into another culture. For instance, you may have had to quickly improve your language skills, or deal with a very challenging situation that was completely outside your comfort zone. Show that you have the qualities that will make you competitive in international markets: adaptability, flexibility, curiosity about other cultures, ability to adapt your communication style to your audience or culture, and good listening skills.
Highlight cumulative experience – One of our recent clients at Fortuna Admissions was concerned that he could not point to a lengthy period abroad. However, when he added up the total time he had spent on frequent business trips outside his home country, it came to well over a year. Try to quantify your total time spent abroad, and don’t underestimate the value of the international exposure you may have accumulated over the years.
Show international ambition – Remember to show that you are excited and motivated to further your understanding of international business. Communicate a clear vision of your career goals and be sure to incorporate an international element. Lastly, detail how being a part of a very international alumni network will be relevant to you. Convince the admissions committee that you want to work in an international market, and you’re ready to start making the connections now to ensure that that happens.
While having an international perspective may be a hygiene factor for candidates applying to international schools, it can also be a great asset for candidates looking for a way to stand out in the applicant pool for any highly competitive MBA program. (See also How to Stand Out in the Application Pile). Top schools such as HBS and GSB emphasize heavily the value of diversity and bringing a unique and innovative perspective to the classroom. Highlighting the broadened perspective you have gained from your international experience can be a great way of conveying the unique value of the insights you can bring to the school’s learning community.
Caroline Diarte Edwards. Caroline is a Director at Fortuna Admissions, a prominent MBA admissions consulting firm, and former Director of MBA Admissions at INSEAD. Fortuna is composed of former Directors and Associate Directors of Admissions at many of the world’s best business schools.