Career Switching + Your MBA Application
So, you’re ready for the next chapter in your career, and you know that an MBA is a crucial next step in that journey. But what if your post-MBA career goals represent a significant shift – in industry, function, or both – from your background? How will the admissions committee perceive your desired switch?
Well, that all depends on how you tell your story. Here are a few best practices that I’ve learned throughout my years of coaching career-switcher MBA applicants (and as someone who was a career-switcher applicant myself!).
1. It’s not a switch, it’s an evolution.
Let’s start with your mindset. Thinking of yourself as a “career-switcher” is limiting. No need to apologize for the past. Instead, think of your path as a natural evolution, using your past as building blocks for your future. This mindset will help you draw the connections between where you’ve been and where you want to go. That is the story you need to tell the admissions committee in your application – show them that your past plus your goals all make sense.
2. Clearly communicate what skills and experiences you bring from your past that will be an asset to your target industry.
So you’re an engineer who wants to break into investment banking? In addition to your quantitative and problem-solving skills, which will be of value to investment banks, you will also want to showcase your leadership and teamwork experience, emphasizing that you have the soft skills needed to succeed in that industry where you will likely be managing analysts if not full deal teams. Regardless of your path, bridging the experience from your past to the demands of your target industry is a crucial step in selling your story to the admissions committee.
3. Acknowledge what gaps you have in your experience and how an MBA can help fill them.
Contrary to what you might think, acknowledging the gaps in your knowledge and experience will not put you at a competitive disadvantage. In fact, your self-awareness is a strength: it shows the admissions committee that you are pursuing your career goals thoughtfully and methodically. These gaps will guide your “why I need an MBA” story and prove to the admissions committee both why and how an MBA is a crucial step in achieving your goals.
4. Demonstrate a good understanding of your target industry.
Whether your target industry is a common MBA destination (management consulting, corporate strategy, banking / private equity, etc.) or a niche discipline, it is important to demonstrate working knowledge of how that industry operates – including key players, current events, vocabulary, job titles, job descriptions, etc. You can even detail the steps you took to research the industry in your essays to add credibility. This will show the admissions committee that you are committed to your goals and understand the reality of the career you’re pursuing.
5. Convey passion and a vision.
Last, but not least, be sure to demonstrate energy and passion for your post-MBA career goals. Don’t simply state your goals, but explain the “why” and the “how”. Why did you decide to pursue investment banking after 3 years as an engineer at Shell? How did you figure out that investment banking was your dream job? In addition to those answers, communicating your vision for your career trajectory will help the admissions committee buy into your dream as well, getting you one step closer to an acceptance letter.
Applying to business school as a career-switcher is an exciting but stressful time as gaining admission to a top school is likely the crux of your plans. I’m confident that following the tips above will help you turn your career-switching story into an asset that will set your apart from the pack. Best of luck!
Have any questions? Reach out the experts at Vantage Point MBA Admissions Consultants: