Given the emphasis that schools place on a candidate’s work experience, it is important to be proactive in addressing unemployment or gaps in employment. When applying to business school, many candidates worry about how the adcom might perceive gaps in employment. We would like to take some time to discuss strategies for addressing this issue.
It’s not unheard of for an MBA candidate to have a gap in employment, and this will not necessarily make a negative impact on someone’s candidacy. Gaps might be due to anything from lay-offs to periods of travel. As a rule of thumb, applicants should explain gaps in employment that are three months or longer in an optional essay or, if instructed, on their data forms. The adcom will not want to play detective with vague dates on an applicant’s résumé or large chunks of unaccounted for time. As the adcom will simply want to know what an applicant was doing during a period of unemployment, applicants should show that they made productive use of this time. It is important for applicants to be open and clear about extended gaps to show that they were not simply spending the time to look for full-time employment.
Addressing current unemployment in applications, however, requires a different strategy than simply discussing past gaps in employment history. Candidates applying to business school who are not currently employed are in a trickier situation, as business schools view themselves as career accelerators rather than career jump-starters. The task is not impossible, though. As with addressing gaps in employment, these applicants should not evade discussions centering on this issue. On the other hand, they should not present unemployment as the reason for applying to business school nor should they suggest that they aren’t presently looking for work due to the need to devote time to their MBA applications (a major red flag).
If you have determined that applying to business school is your next important step, and you are currently unemployed, it might not make sense to seek out a new position at a new company, and then leave in six months. This time might be better used seeking out an opportunity to volunteer for an assignment in a community service role, take on an internship in the career you are seeking after the MBA, or to live in another country for a period of time. Whatever it is that you choose to do, make sure that it ties into your overall plans, of which seeking an MBA is a part, as well as provides you an opportunity to continue to grow, both professionally and personally.