Sunday, January 28, 2007

Concerns of Early Career Applicants

An early career applicant who is that the beginning of his application research asked me some very good questions, the answers to which I will post here with his consent.

1) As an applicant with relatively less work experience, did you feel you were at a disadvantage? Did it take an extra effort from you to convince the schools that you were mature enough to attend school now? I will have 3 years of work experience when I enroll, and by heavens I know I am ready. What advice would you give to an applicant like me whose work experience is way below the average work ex of every school!!

Not really. Disadvantage is just a perception. 3 years experience when you enter is reasonable, although it is on the lower side. Of course there is a greater onus on you to articulate yourself in a way the conveys the following:

-> Your experience maybe less in terms of time but rich in terms of quality. There needs to be demonstrated leadership and diverse team experiences.
-> You are very clear about your goals and know exactly how you wish to achieve them. On the flip side, because you are younger than most applicants, you might just get away with being a less clearer about what exactly you want to do. However, if you choose to take this path, you run the risk of sounding immature and not ready. So it's better to talk about your goals in a definitive manner than being vague.
->As for the maturity aspect, you can bring that out in your interview better. So your aim should be to write essays in which come off as a person who knows what he/she wants and displays the potential to achieve it. This is enough to get an interview invite :-)
-> Do a really well thought out job on the "Why now?" question.

2) Is it ok if one talks about one's experiences outside of work to show leadership, failure, etc etc or do the adcom expect people to focus on incidents from work? I know that it should be a good mix of both, but frankly I have many leadership experiences outside of work, but very few and not so stellar experiences from work. It is my understanding that the work ex is one of the most important aspect of one's candidature. So to summarize, will it be ok if one talks about work in just one (why mba) essay?

Of course! In fact your application SHOULD be a balanced mix of work, XC and personal experiences, otherwise you will come of as a very one dimensional person. Pick your best stuff from work and put it in the career progress part of your app and that's enough. Other essays can span over the better parts of your life :-) This is what they expect of and recommend for early career candidates.

3) Now that you have been through the application process, do you feel that the insights obtained from the various incidents are more important than the incidents themselves ( with respect to essays) ? I mean, is the adcom looking for insights one has gained from the incidents rather than the enormity of the incidents/achievements?

Yes, definitely insight and learning is what matters and shows that you are ready. However, quantifying the achievements in your resume or in the application will not hurt.

4) I hear a lot of people saying that goals have to be precise and well researched. Ok I get it, so lets say, I have genuine interest in management consulting and entrepreneurship. So what is being expected when people and adcom say precise and crystal clear?

This is a concern for career switchers and all they have to show is the interest. Obviously if you are, say, an accountant or a software engineer you will not have any experience per se to justify your shift to Consulting. This is where the research comes in. You can do the following:

->research what the consulting role is all about
->what sort of skills are required to be a good consultant.
->what are the experiences you have had in your life that makes you feel this the right career for you. This is the most important part. You need to logically relate your goals to the skills you have displayed/acquired through your experiences.

Disclaimer: Most of my answers are based on how I approached the application process and may not be the best way to do things.