MBA Application Advice: How to Build a Compelling Work History

One of the most important profile characteristics for any b-school applicant is their work history.

Unlike Law School, Medical School and just about every other terminal degree or master’s level program, business school requires students to come with some kind of work experience under their belts in order to “qualify.” In addition to being unique, therefore it’s also very important to have this credential, since much of what you learn in business school ends up coming from your classmates, and in turn, they learn from your perspective and experience. This all comes in handy when using the case method, because pulling from the collective experience of your classmates proves invaluable in seeing problems in a variety of ways. Hopefully you considered all this in the years leading up to your application, since it’s very difficult to build a compelling work history in a small amount of time.

The ideal candidate arrives at application season with a well-rounded and impressive professional experience.

While colleges will certainly consider internships and other “alternative” work experiences, these will generally be discounted vs. full time, professional work that was logged after you graduated from college. Ideally, you have some international experience, or even multi-national experience to tout, which will make you more competitive to be sure especially when you are compared against the “average” applicants, who have only some international personal travel to reference. Clearly having worked internationally or with international teams will have provided you with a much deeper understanding and more valuable perspective.

Additionally, you will need to show how your role has been progressively responsible and impactful to your employer.

Both quantitative and qualitative impact is useful to demonstrate and if you can measure your impact, even better. Some examples of measurable impact might include an increase in growth or revenue statistics, sales, turnover or other hard numbers to which you can associate your contributions. As you have advanced in your role, how have your responsibilities increased? More importantly, have you been asked to lead others? Leadership is one of the most important traits to show the admissions committees. Past and present leaders usually make good future leaders. Don’t forget about peer leadership either—it’s not only managing others which can show you have strong leader potential. Thought leadership, persuasive skills, leading from below, and servant leadership are all great examples of how you have what it takes to leverage an MBA to be a thoughtful leader going forward. Giving specific examples in your essays or on the application goes a long way. Tell them about how you got your coworkers on board with one of your ideas or how you took the initiative to make a change which resulted in a more efficient operation. Finally, don’t forget to paint a picture of teamwork and collaboration in your work history. Team work is a huge component of business school and those who have done this in their careers will appear more prepared for the b-school experience.

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