How much management experience do you really need to get into a top MBA program?
It’s no secret that management experience looks great on your MBA applications.
A lot of aspiring B-School applicants ask us questions regarding the size of the teams they’ve managed. Is the actual number of people that important? And how much management experience do you really need to get into a top MBA program like Stanford GSB, Booth or INSEAD?
The truth is, many applicants do NOT have direct management experience, so don’t let the M word scare you.
What Business Schools Really Want Is…
We’ll leave you hanging on the that for a second and pose a question: What 25-year-old has managed a team of 400 people? Not a one. (OK, maybe a few have actually, but those folks are outliers). Not many twenty-somethings have that sort of experience under their belt.
And that’s OK, because that’s not what business schools want. They want someone with management POTENTIAL. So, for example, let’s say your boss left town for a week or two and you managed some people. Or let’s say you managed a small project, even if it was only for a brief amount of time. Both of these examples (or things similar to them) could be used to showcase your management potential.
Look at it this way. Top MBA programs like HBS, Wharton, or MIT Sloan (just to name a few), aren’t going to hire a 60 year old businessman or businesswoman who’s been managing people for decades. They want someone young who has shown management potential at a few key times throughout their career. Even just one or two isolated experiences will do just just fine.
So, What Did You Do And How Did You Do It?
When it comes time to talk about your management experience, it’s not enough to just say that you’ve had it. Make sure you show the MBA admissions committee (we call them adcoms) how you managed when you were given the opportunity. Give them a taste of exactly what you did, how you did it and why you did it. Did something amazing happen? Even better.
The goal is really to make them see that you’ve got what it takes to be a leader. You do it right and it doesn’t matter if you managed a team for five days or five years… all they’ll see is that you’ve got the skills to be an effective manager down the road. Leadership is immensely important, folks. And at the end of the day, that’s what they’re looking for.