Today we want to talk about arguably the biggest and most common mistake we see on MBA applications, which is failing to market transferable skills. More importantly, we want to talk about how to fix that problem.
In working with clients of all age, gender, nationality, and industry, one thing we're always trying to do is identify things that connect everyone - common elements that become and remain true, regardless of differences. To be honest, there aren't many such elements. Almost everything about the MBA admissions process is a contextual exercise. You can almost never divorce a unique applicant or a specific school from your analysis. It's part of the reason this is such a difficult endeavor for people, part of the reason why so many admissions consultants do a horribly incomplete job of advising candidates, and a huge part of the reason why admissions consulting even exists. You have to do a lot of things right and you have to do them with great contextual specificity. If you confront "one size fits all" advice, typically you can sprint away from that as fast as possible.
That said, there is one universal truth that we have uncovered that seems largely overlooked by the rest of the MBA admissions landscape and that is how enormously important it is to abide by what we call the Art of Transferability.
What does that mean? Quite simply, it means finding the experiences and skills you *already possess* and highlighting them as the proof that you will succeed in business school and beyond. Most people either intuit or they learn that work experience is important in an MBA candidacy and many others grasp the concept that certain trademark themes (leadership, teamwork, maturity, motivation, intellect, etc.) are critical as well. What few seem to understand, however, is that this whole ballgame comes down to how well you EXTRACT from those experience and then PRESENT evidence of your relevant ability. And this is true of literally any candidate.
If you are "young," then the pressure is on to show that you are mature and ready for an MBA and what comes next.
The way to do that is to comb through your personal background and work experience to show off your early acceleration - that you've been challenged early in life and you've stepped up and met those challenges. You prove your credentials as a young applicant by highlighting specific skills and experiences - by zeroing in on that which is transferable to an MBA and to your relevant career goals.
If you are an "older" applicant, your goal is the same.
Rather than overwhelm a reader with 10+ years of seemingly unguided career wandering, zoom in on the specific experience and traits that will add value. There's nothing wrong with having a little moss on you so long as you can boil things down to the essential ingredients. As long as you can say "look, to be good at X, I need A, B, C, and I have those skills," you can be highly competitive, even if you are older than 30.
If you are a traditional applicant (banking, consulting, etc.) and you are looking to stand out, you do it by highlighting specifics and not banking (pun intended) on assumed, general characteristics of those industries.
Focus on specific value you will bring to the class and then to hiring companies (and their clients) later on.
If you are a non-traditional applicant, it is the same exact exercise.
Don't worry that you were an actor and not a banker or a restaurant manager and not a consultant; simply comb through your life and work history and find the building blocks that will make you successful in your line of work. As a restaurant manager, you worked on tough timelines, managed difficult personalities, thought critically, came up with innovative and creative methods, got a chance to try your hand in everything from marketing to accounting, and generally grew up faster than someone would in an analyst position ... and now you are ready to bring all those critical and mandatory skills to strategy consulting.
On and on it goes.
No matter what background you are coming from you, the burden is on YOU, the applicant. to show what transferable skills you bring to the table and that will impress recruiters during on campus interviewing.
The admissions office will never assume you have them. Put another way, if you don't display them, they will assume you DON'T have them.
Obviously, this is something a vetted admissions consultant can help you with a great deal. Starting with the career goals, we can help you move backward toward the transferable skills that need to be on display, and then help you research your own past to find those skills. As long as there is a straight line running through everything, you can clear this hurdle and move on to showcasing fit with each unique program (a much harder exercise, to be honest).
If you need help with this - or any other - aspect of your candidacy, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.