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Advice for Career Changers

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Advice for Career Changers [#permalink] New post 22 May 2012, 13:24
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We've been getting a LOT of questions from folks looking to use b-school to make a career change. And it makes sense, of course. Why not go back to school to learn a few things and make the jump?

Except, career changers make adcoms nervous. And if you happen to be one of 'em, well, keep reading...

If you wanna have a better chance at getting in, don’t talk about career changes in your essays for the adcom.

I know that doesn’t seem to make sense but stick with your past background. Speak your mind…as though you were going to stay along the lines of your current job. That is your best bet for sure.

I'll say it again (because it's THAT important): career changes make adcoms nervous. Why? Well, here’s the deal. Adcoms like people who prove they will be wildly successful one day. (Wildly successful people make b-schools look good. They also make a lot of money….and then donate that money back to the school that helped them get there. Yes, even business school is a business.) And for adcoms, someone who has experience in a field are much more likely to be successful than someone who doesn’t.

Think about it. If you were reading two applications and both people wanted to own their own hedge fund one day, but one applicant has worked at a hedge fund for 5 years and other has spent the past 5 years in consulting ….who do YOU think would have a better chance at achieving that long-term goal?

The truth is, it doesn’t matter how badly to WANT to make that career change; the adcom is going to go for the sure thing. And that, my friend, is not the career switcher.

So…why bother? Why stick with the career-change story? Why take that risk? Just stick to what you know in your application and show those adcoms that you’re a sure thing.

Then, once you’ve got that MBA under your belt, you can switch careers as many times as you want.

Make sense? I hope so. The career change argument is a tough one, and a smart strategy is key.

If you're looking to take the plunge and want some more help coming up with a plan that will work, you should join me on Sunday, May 27th for our "Career Change and the MBA Application" webinar. It's gonna be an hour and I'm gonna share some specific strategies and answer aaaall your questions. It's gonna be good. Register here: http://admissionado.com/onlineclassbootcamp-sign-up-form/
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Re: Advice for Career Changers [#permalink] New post 31 May 2012, 09:44
Solid advice. Wish I would have seen this and followed the advice during my apps. Luckily, I still got into a top 10 despite writing about the whimsical career as an entrepreneur I planned to pursue - after spending the last 4 years in engineering. Maybe I would have had more interview invites, instead being dinged on several other schools.
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Re: Advice for Career Changers [#permalink] New post 31 May 2012, 09:51
Gonna have to disagree with this one. I applied as a career changer and did just fine. In fact I don't think I would have gotten in if I claimed to want to stay within my current line of work. If an applicant can connect the dots from past/current experience to future aspirations there is no reason they shouldn't be successful (as long as the other aspects of the app were in line). I always tell people to detail their real career goals. It sounds much more compelling than just saying what you think the adcom wants to hear.
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Re: Advice for Career Changers [#permalink] New post 31 May 2012, 10:09
cheetarah1980 wrote:
Gonna have to disagree with this one. I applied as a career changer and did just fine. In fact I don't think I would have gotten in if I claimed to want to stay within my current line of work. If an applicant can connect the dots from past/current experience to future aspirations there is no reason they shouldn't be successful (as long as the other aspects of the app were in line). I always tell people to detail their real career goals. It sounds much more compelling than just saying what you think the adcom wants to hear.


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Re: Advice for Career Changers [#permalink] New post 31 May 2012, 12:24
cheetarah1980 wrote:
Gonna have to disagree with this one. I applied as a career changer and did just fine. In fact I don't think I would have gotten in if I claimed to want to stay within my current line of work. If an applicant can connect the dots from past/current experience to future aspirations there is no reason they shouldn't be successful (as long as the other aspects of the app were in line). I always tell people to detail their real career goals. It sounds much more compelling than just saying what you think the adcom wants to hear.


I don't think your personal experience is relevant to whether the OPs advice is in general a sound one. And I don't think he's claiming that you absolutely can't get into a top school as a career changer....obviously you can. Only that its generally a safer strategy to avoid applying as a career changer. THe OPs post doesn't apply to everyone (nothing does) but is nevertheless pretty sound IMO.
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Re: Advice for Career Changers [#permalink] New post 31 May 2012, 12:41
mooze wrote:
cheetarah1980 wrote:
Gonna have to disagree with this one. I applied as a career changer and did just fine. In fact I don't think I would have gotten in if I claimed to want to stay within my current line of work. If an applicant can connect the dots from past/current experience to future aspirations there is no reason they shouldn't be successful (as long as the other aspects of the app were in line). I always tell people to detail their real career goals. It sounds much more compelling than just saying what you think the adcom wants to hear.


I don't think your personal experience is relevant to whether the OPs advice is in general a sound one. And I don't think he's claiming that you absolutely can't get into a top school as a career changer....obviously you can. Only that its generally a safer strategy to avoid applying as a career changer. THe OPs post doesn't apply to everyone but is nevertheless pretty sound IMO.


True my personal experience may not be indicative of the whole. However, anecdotal evidence I've seen from other applicants shows the same type of results. Do I think someone's goals can be totally out of left field from their background? No, of course not. But that doesn't mean an applicant who is a consultant shouldn't be honest about his/her goal of working in brand management simply because it's logical to want to continue along the consulting path and become a PM. If that person can show how the skills they already have would benefit them in a new career field and that an MBA will help fill in the gaps, then from what I've seen in other successful applicants who talked about career changing I doubt an adcom would be nervous reading those goals. I stand by the assertion that being honest helps in writing compelling essays. And if a person honestly wants to switch careers then they should logically detail how they plan to do it with the help of an MBA. Isn't a consultant's job to help applicants figure out how to tell their own story, not give them a story they think adcoms want to hear? IJS
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Re: Advice for Career Changers [#permalink] New post 31 May 2012, 15:14
cheetarah1980 wrote:
mooze wrote:
cheetarah1980 wrote:
Gonna have to disagree with this one. I applied as a career changer and did just fine. In fact I don't think I would have gotten in if I claimed to want to stay within my current line of work. If an applicant can connect the dots from past/current experience to future aspirations there is no reason they shouldn't be successful (as long as the other aspects of the app were in line). I always tell people to detail their real career goals. It sounds much more compelling than just saying what you think the adcom wants to hear.


I don't think your personal experience is relevant to whether the OPs advice is in general a sound one. And I don't think he's claiming that you absolutely can't get into a top school as a career changer....obviously you can. Only that its generally a safer strategy to avoid applying as a career changer. THe OPs post doesn't apply to everyone but is nevertheless pretty sound IMO.


True my personal experience may not be indicative of the whole. However, anecdotal evidence I've seen from other applicants shows the same type of results. Do I think someone's goals can be totally out of left field from their background? No, of course not. But that doesn't mean an applicant who is a consultant shouldn't be honest about his/her goal of working in brand management simply because it's logical to want to continue along the consulting path and become a PM. If that person can show how the skills they already have would benefit them in a new career field and that an MBA will help fill in the gaps, then from what I've seen in other successful applicants who talked about career changing I doubt an adcom would be nervous reading those goals. I stand by the assertion that being honest helps in writing compelling essays. And if a person honestly wants to switch careers then they should logically detail how they plan to do it with the help of an MBA. Isn't a consultant's job to help applicants figure out how to tell their own story, not give them a story they think adcoms want to hear? IJS


Well, as long as we're basing this on anecdotal evidence, I can tell you the vast majority of the applicants i've spoken to do not tell "their story",..they tell the best version of a story they can credibly sell based on their work experience and overall profile. Lets not be naive about the application process,...when I went to Tuck ASW the career services folks told us that based on previous classes 70% of us would change careers,...obviously not everyone suddenly realizes they were wrong about their deeply held goals,...it stands to reason that many (if not most) either don't know what they want to do (and therefore tell the best story they can),... or know what they want to do but sell a different story that sounds better.

Honestly,..I appreciate that the OP is simply dealing with reality,..the majority of MBA applicants are not wedded to a specific career goal/path. This talk about "finding your own voice" or "telling your own story" can be a little patronizing. We all know that's not how the game is played. And a consultant's job is to teach his/her clients how to play the game.
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Re: Advice for Career Changers [#permalink] New post 31 May 2012, 15:26
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As cynical as this sounds, the job of the consultant is to get a candidate into her dream school. The reality is when you are looking at the application as a whole, the content of the other essays will have stories from their previous background. If the career you are shooting for has limited overlap of skills from your current position, then the adcom doesn't have a view into how you could be successful in the new career. There is an element of "grasping at straws" that the applicant is at risk of showing, and I believe that is the OP's intent of the post.

If you are currently an RFID development engineer and want to work in investment banking post-MBA, it is difficult to connect the dots. If you currently work in management consulting to CPG's and want to move to brand management, there is more content there to be able to put into the essay as to why you are ready to make that change. In my mind, it seems that a lot of people use the MBA as an "anything but what I do now" exit and that can come out in the essays if you put down an industry you know nothing about but sounds cool (e.g., private equity).
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Re: Advice for Career Changers [#permalink] New post 31 May 2012, 16:30
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I think there are some important caveats to this advice and it probably depends on how you define career change. A general rule is that you can change functions or you can change industries, but it's really hard to change both.

- Some people have little choice but to present themselves as career changers. An engineer or a software developer is basically expected to be changing careers (and engineering/sciences generally makes up 1/3 of the class). You could say you wanted to go into operations or just be in a position to manage people I suppose, but it's frankly just as natural for a developer to go into product management in the tech industry. Or a scientist going into marketing at DuPont for example. These functions are not that hard to sell.

- "Downgrading" is generally not an issue. So if you worked in banking and want to transition to industry, this is not really a hard sell either, particularly if it was an industry you analyzed. Same with consulting.

I think it is true that any moves into finance if you don't have experience can be really tough to sell. The other direction you can usually claim you fell in love with xxx industry, but it's just harder to say you suddenly discovered your love for finance when you've never done it before.
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Re: Advice for Career Changers [#permalink] New post 07 Dec 2013, 21:58
Hello from the GMAT Club MBAbot!

Thanks to another GMAT Club member, I have just discovered this valuable topic, yet it had no discussion for over a year. I am now bumping it up - doing my job. I think you may find it valuable (esp those replies with Kudos).

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Re: Advice for Career Changers   [#permalink] 07 Dec 2013, 21:58
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