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How To Make Sure Your Job Enhances Your MBA Application

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MBA candidates most often apply to business school because they are seeking more rapid career advancement, or they want to dramatically change their career path. However, for many full-time MBA candidates, job dissatisfaction is just as likely a reason—otherwise they wouldn’t be applying for an MBA. But no matter the reason behind the MBA, every applicant should remember that their application is a chance to sell their skills and demonstrate the value that they will add to the program. To do this, it’s important to learn how to spin your work experience.

We reached out to Julie R. Barefoot, the associate dean of MBA admissions at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, for her advice on making the most out your job experience. Here’s what she had to say:

Don’t Reveal Your Job Dissatisfaction

“MBA applicants need to remember that Admissions Officers will not know that the candidate doesn’t like their job unless the candidate tells them,” Barefoot said. More likely than not, during your interview or application essay, no school or admissions’ officer is going to ask, “Are you happy at your job?” That question is irrelevant to your MBA application. Your happiness in your current situation does not reveal your aptitude for the MBA program, and that’s what matters. In situations where you don’t want to reveal certain details, remember that less is more. You are not required to tell your application committee that you have a terrible job with an incompetent boss and rude coworkers. Focus on the details that would be of interest and value to your MBA.

Focus on What Your Job Has Taught You

No matter how difficult a situation you find yourself in at work, you should still be learning something. In fact, for many individuals learning what not to do is just as valuable as learning what to do. “MBA applicants should try and put a ‘positive spin’ on their current job situation…,” Barefoot continued, “and focus on what they have learned in the job.” If you currently work at a company that is disorganized and rarely achieves desired goals and benchmarks, show how you’ve learned the importance of organization and follow-through. If your coworkers are not team players, emphasize how harmful that was to the company and how you’ve come to understand the value of teamwork to encourage creativity, idea generation and communication.

Circle Back to the Importance of the MBA Program

If after changing all your negative experiences into positive learning opportunities, you’re still struggling to write an essay, bring it full circle back to the MBA program. If you’re truly dissatisfied with your position, Barefoot recommends that you “articulate to the admissions officer how an MBA will prepare you for your desired job or new career path.” After all, your goal in attending an MBA program is to move forward into a new path in your life. Speak to the fact that an MBA could provide you with the tools, information, confidence and abilities you need to successfully pursue a much more satisfying and rewarding career.

Barefoot continued, saying, “I would recommend that applicants focus on how their work and life experiences will be meaningful to share in the MBA classroom. As well as how those capabilities, in combination with the MBA degree, will make them a good fit for their desired post-MBA career path.” When it comes straight down to it, MBA programs want to know what you will bring to the program and whether, upon graduation, you will bring credibility to the program. So, if you are at a job you dislike with little opportunity for advancement, focus instead on how the MBA will help you reach the next level.

Find Other Opportunities to Develop Your Skills

MBA programs are not solely focused on business; they are also focused on personal development. If your job does not provide you with the opportunity to develop new and desirable skills, find outside opportunities. Barefoot gave us this example: “If the applicant feels that they have not had the chance to demonstrate much leadership in their job, then volunteering for an organization like Habitat for Humanity and leading a team of volunteers would be a good idea.” There are a multitude of opportunities to build your resume and improve your skill set, and many can be found outside of the office. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a life outside of your job. Volunteer opportunities, church leadership and even hobbies can all reveal valuable insight into your MBA potential.

When it comes down to it, your satisfaction or dissatisfaction with your job should not play a strong role in your MBA application. No matter the position you find yourself in, there are always ways to spin your experience in a positive light. And if that seems impossible, be prepared to speak to other opportunities that demonstrate your competence and fit for your desired MBA program.