If you’re thinking about applying to business school, you may be wondering if you need management experience to do it.
There are many factors that MBA programs consider when evaluating applicants, and your professional track record certainly plays a key role. In fact, some schools won’t even consider applicants without professional experience—and others place such a high value on it that they’ll provide MBA GMAT waivers to those with enough of it! However, regardless of what your work history entails, it’s important to understand the bigger picture of an MBA application—and that a lack of formal management experience shouldn’t keep you from applying.
Take a holistic approach — since everything matters.
Although applicants with management experience may enjoy a competitive edge, it’s important to remember that every component of your application matters. Programs may differ regarding which aspects they prioritize, but you can be sure that they’ll be taking a holistic view of everything — including GPA, test scores, resume, essays, professional experience, recommendation letters, and how well you perform during interviews. The top schools want to know who you are, and statistics and a resume don’t tell them that. It’s the essays, interviews, and recommendations that ultimately reveal the person beyond the paper.”
Be creative — since leadership can be displayed in many ways.
Though “management” and “leadership” are different animals, there are some aspects that overlap — and admissions committees know that. If you’ve held a formal “management role,” be sure to display how you used strong leadership skills in your work. In the same manner, even without such a title on your resume, there are many ways to show how you’ve been a leader in other roles. This could include things like volunteer initiatives you’ve participated in for your community. As Graham Richmond, graduate and former admissions official at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, notes in an interview for U.S. News & World Report, “There are many ways to demonstrate leadership and teamwork — be it in the professional domain or in one’s outside activities. In other words, applicants do not have to be formally managing a team of 10 people in order to have an impressive leadership or teamwork profile.”
Be compelling — and give them a reason to want you.
Perhaps one of the most important things you can do for yourself when it comes to preparing your MBA application is to provide a compelling profile that admission committees will be attracted to. Forbes contributor Shawn O’Connor says doing so starts with knowing yourself, and then convincing others that you’re a perfect candidate: “Your MBA application is your chance to share yourself with the admissions committee and convince them that you are an ideal fit for their school. To do this, you need to reflect on who you are personally, professionally, and academically.”
Having a management position on your resume is certainly a good thing, but may not be a necessity when it comes to finding the MBA program that’s the best fit for your needs. What’s more important is to provide a holistic view of what you bring to the table — and how your leadership skills are an important component of your candidacy.
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