Thursday, March 25, 2010

Craft a realistic MBA application story

Over the past few years, I have received a good number of emails regarding MBA applications – ranging from the really basic “How should I kick start the application process?” to the rather direct “Could you post your essays?”

Having completed the program, I now have a different perspective on how I would have thought through my own applications as well as courses/things I would have done in my school to companies I would have recruited for.

While I will not be posting my application essays, I plan to write a few blog posts covering some important questions before I bid adieu to this blog. Let me start with the first one – Should I do an MBA?

This is where it begins! Some professions require that candidates should have a MBA degree, while others “prefer” MBA candidates. While considering an MBA degree, it is important to have a very good idea about your short term & long term aspirations and whether a MBA degree is needed for those. If so, how a MBA degree could serve as a bridge between where you are currently and how you can get to your goals.

I know of several candidates & friends that have worked in financial services industry and were required to have a MBA degree to move to the next level in their career. At the same time, the MBA program is a strong requirement for candidates wanting to switch into investment banking roles for a few years. These candidates could then move into industry finance positions such as corporate M&A or PE or other.

Given the number of applications pouring in at schools, it is very important to show that you are aware of these career trends and craft a “realistic” application story based on what you have achieved currently and where you intend to go.

While reading applications of some MBA hopefuls, I found that some applications are not necessarily realistic or tangible in their goals or aspirations. For example, one candidate wrote about becoming the “best CEO” in his industry and not more. Its fine to write about becoming the “best CEO”, but it is even more important to show how the MBA program will help you in becoming one, based on where you are right NOW.

To sight another example, one candidate with 4+ years of telecom experience had drafted a very convincing application about they envisioned themselves to be shaping telecom strategies in emerging nations in the future. To achieve that, they wanted to move into corporate strategy roles after spending few years working with a top strategy consulting firm. A realistic and winning app- because the candidate had goals based on where they were - strong industry experience & knowledge in the telecom domain), global projects with strategy experience and working alongside with telecom leaders and a knowhow of moving forward in corporate strategy.

There are exceptions to almost all rules. There are people who haven’t felt the need for an MBA or have not pursued these programs and have achieved unparalleled success in their career. Remember to have a realistic & tangible side to your application story to show that you have really reflected on why you want to do an MBA.