Last week, Goldman Sachs initiated a massive round of layoffs that’s forecasted to be roughly 6 percent of its workforce, or approximately 3,200 jobs. This on the heels of the much-reported layoffs happening in the tech industry, which prompted many top business schools – including MIT Sloan, Berkeley Haas, UCLA Anderson, and most recently Duke Fuqua – to make unique admissions changes in a swift effort attract the talent flooding the market. The concessions vary by school, but include app fee and test waivers, slimmed-down application processes and fewer essays, and additional admissions rounds or extended deadlines.
From my perspective as an MBA admissions consultant and former Wharton Acting Director of Admissions, this is a golden opportunity, and a rare one, that now stands to benefit early career finance professionals. If your career plans have been upended by recent layoffs, consider the MBA as a valuable opportunity to improve your future career prospects.
Not only are top MBA programs incentivizing you to compile your application quickly, but they’re also removing some formidable hurdles. It’s very hard to prep and take the GMAT, write essays, and solicit strong letters of recommendations within a span of four to six weeks. Depending on where you choose to apply, you can take advantage of shorter applications, test and fee waivers, and other incentives. In short, there are exceptional circumstances at play allowing you to turn a layoff into your long-term advantage. MIT Sloan’s Round 2 deadline is extended to Feb. 23, with Round 3 (R3) due April 11. Berkeley Haas has an April 6 deadline for R3, and UCLA Anderson’s R3 is due May 1.
So what do you need to know, and how can you prepare for delivering a standout application in six-to-eight weeks? Read on for expert advice from my colleagues at Fortuna Admissions.
TIPS FOR FINANCE CANDIDATES READY TO PURSUE AN MBA
- Identify and explore your unique qualities.
Many candidates believe their identity and profession are synonymous, which makes for a one-dimensional narrative. Make sure that your application illuminates the other qualities of your personality, your background, your motivators, and things that are important to you as you tell the full story of who you are and why you want this degree. The more personal you can be in terms of why you do what you do, the more interesting and memorable you’ll be. It’s this feat of both vulnerability and confidence that can make a tremendous difference in your application.
To this end, think about why you’ve done the things you’ve done, the events and encounters that have shaped you as a person, your values, and attitude toward life. Consider the patterns of behavior that flow through your professional performance and how they extend to your engagement in the community, the roles you took on, how you show up.
- Convey what you’ve learned, not just what you’ve done.
Similarly, don’t make the mistake of creating the “resume to prose” type essay that will put your wearied admissions reader to sleep. Showcasing a highlights reel of professional accomplishments is a common mistake, and it robs your narrative of the potential for making an emotional connection. Go beyond what you did to convey what you learned from your experiences. And then, connect what you’ve learned to what you’re going to bring to the MBA classroom.
“For example, you might talk about a failure in the essay – a time you fell and picked yourself back up,” says Fortuna’s Karla Cohen, former Harvard Business School Associate Director. “Underscore what you learned from the experience and how it shaped you as a human being. It’s so much more compelling when you allow people to connect to your experience.”
- Know your story and present a clear rationale for your decisions.
There’s plenty of variation in the finance industry – being in sales and trading is very different than being in private equity, working on Wall Street or in any of the international markets. All of these realms are really quite distinct. But it’s less to do with where you’ve worked than why you worked there, your understanding of your role, and your rationale for making different moves at various stages of your career.
What does it say about what makes you tick and the environment that you thrive in if you’re a day trader? What was it in your personality that led you towards one field or another, and why, for example, did you choose an investment management route? Your ability to articulate your thinking behind each of your decisions is critical, along with your motivations and ambitions beyond the MBA.
For all 5 tips for finance candidates applying now for the MBA, view my full article on Advice for Finance Candidates Pursuing the MBA Fortuna’s website.
Judith Silverman Hodara is Co-Founder at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Director of MBA Admissions at Wharton. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.
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