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Very non-traditional, very premature profile evaluation

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Intern
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Joined: 13 Dec 2011
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Very non-traditional, very premature profile evaluation [#permalink] New post 06 Jan 2012, 13:52
I'm going to try and provide as much info here as possible, let me know if I'm leaving something out...

My stats:

I graduated from a top 50 undergrad in 2006. My GPA was 3.23, and I double-majored in Government and History. I've not taken the GMAT yet, but I took the GMATPrep practice test 1 without any studying and got a 720 Q48/V41.

I'm pretty confident that with some studying I can bump that to 750, with a 5+ on the AWA. My extracurriculars in college were primarily political in nature, some club leadership, political internships, etc, though I don't really have any extracurriculars now that I'm out of school.

My non-traditional work experience:

My work experience has been pretty unconventional from everything I've seen on these boards. I've spent nearly six years as a political campaign operative, primarily managing campaigns. I've moved up in terms of managing campaigns for higher offices with larger budgets, staff, etc. I've worked in 6 states in several regions, and I can say I've won some and lost some.

Just to be clear, I'm not managing presidential campaigns, these are competitive legislative and congressional races. Not sure that it matters, but I think I can make a compelling argument that managing a political campaign has many more parallels to managing a business than you'd think.

My recommendations will likely come from candidates whose campaigns I managed, one which was successful and one which was not. I'm confident that they will be excellent, though it seems everyone says that.

I'm considering pursuing an MBA for a few reasons. While I love the business I'm in right now, it's tremendously unstable (I've packed and moved like 7-8 times, I'm losing track) and I eventually want to settle down and have a family. I've long had an interest in business, the economy and the stock market and an MBA seems like a reasonable way to transition to a more stable but equally fulfilling line of work.


Now the other hitch is, I'm not looking to apply this year, I intend to work through the 2012 election cycle and do B-school at some point soon after that's done.

So a few questions:

1- is my work background too non-traditional for B-school generally?

2- If not, are there certain schools that this would be a non-starter at, or schools to which it would be appealing?

3- I definitely plan to aim as high as I can. Assuming I can hit 750, what schools should I be looking at?

4- Finally, given that I've got a year or maybe a little more to punch up my profile before applying, what should I look into doing to improve my chances, keeping in mind that I'll be knee deep in campaign life for most of my waking hours?

Thanks and I appreciate your time and advice.
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Current Student
User avatar
Status: Go Blue!
Joined: 03 Jun 2010
Posts: 685
Location: United States (MO)
Concentration: Nonprofit, General Management
Schools: Michigan (Ross) - Class of 2015
GMAT 1: 740 Q47 V45
GRE 1: 336 Q169 V167
GPA: 3.22
WE: Information Technology (Manufacturing)
Followers: 15

Kudos [?]: 145 [0], given: 249

GMAT Tests User
Re: Very non-traditional, very premature profile evaluation [#permalink] New post 06 Jan 2012, 14:22
mikefrommass wrote:
1- is my work background too non-traditional for B-school generally?

No, your WE is sweet. I'd fight other people to have you on my learning team.

mikefrommass wrote:
2- If not, are there certain schools that this would be a non-starter at, or schools to which it would be appealing?

Your skill set probably appeals to every business school in the country, but perhaps a hair less at techy schools like Sloan or Haas. Don't sell campaign managing as parallel to business. Do sell your skills as transferable. Strategy, building support for ideas, coalition building, marketing, budget control, etc. Don't run from your background thinking it's a disadvantage, it's actually your greatest advantage and you should sell the shit out of it.

mikefrommass wrote:
3- I definitely plan to aim as high as I can. Assuming I can hit 750, what schools should I be looking at?

I think Wharton is your ceiling. School list may change up depending on your target industry, but I think Wharton, Kellogg, Booth is a good start.

mikefrommass wrote:
4- Finally, given that I've got a year or maybe a little more to punch up my profile before applying, what should I look into doing to improve my chances, keeping in mind that I'll be knee deep in campaign life for most of my waking hours?

The biggest thing you can do is put together a great goals narrative. Your background will register on the richter scale for reader interest, but you lost me with your career goals.... just flat and unformed. If you can get that same spark on the goals side, then I think you'll shine up as a superstar.

The next biggest thing you can do is research the schools. What about a school in particular excites you? Schools like to read some love in the essays, so that'll certainly help.
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Joined: 10 Oct 2011
Posts: 35
Concentration: Operations, Marketing
Schools: Broad (S)
GPA: 3.1
WE: Project Management (Non-Profit and Government)
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Re: Very non-traditional, very premature profile evaluation [#permalink] New post 06 Jan 2012, 14:23
Hi Mike,

Schools are looking for diverse candidates so I wouldn't worry about your non-business experience. I see a lot of management experience mentioned. As long as you have experience managing people and not sheep ( :-D sorry, had to give a jab), you'll do well. With a high GMAT, your options are definitely open. Your GPA isn't that bad.

If you are able, build up your extracurricular activities. You don't have to commit to a certain number of hours per week for a number of months. Go to the soup kitchen on a weekend, offer to give a talk at a high school, etc. There are many things you can do as a one-shot deal while building your experience. You can also address that weakness in your essays by stating the clubs you will get involved with as a student and what you can bring to the table.

Good luck in your campaign work and future MBA.
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Re: Very non-traditional, very premature profile evaluation [#permalink] New post 06 Jan 2012, 15:50
Thank you both for your quick responses and encouragement.

Method- I absolutely intend to sell the shit out of my work experience... that's one thing I've definitely learned to do in my work. :)

I know right now that I'd prefer to stay on the east coast. Beyond that, I intend to do more homework on individual schools and at some point in 2012 start visiting targets. It should be easier now that I've got a better idea of what's realistic. :-D

As for career goals- I agree with you entirely, it's absolutely something I need to better hammer out. As it stands right now I can see myself being interested in a few areas- general management, strategic consulting, or management consulting. I think the latter 2 are areas where the tools I've developed in my work experience would be very useful, though that's just from looking at sample interview case studies that I found online.

On career goals, I have to ask- how specific should I be? Is it enough to say that my skills as a campaign manager would make me an excellent strategic or management consultant? Or do I need to say that my goal is to be a strategic consultant to mid size companies making widget XYZ in the Peoria, IL area? I feel like saying the former is too vague, but saying the latter is kind of absurd. Am I missing something in between these extremes?

Sorry if these are dumb questions, I'm starting from total ignorance on this whole process. Again, thanks so much!
Current Student
User avatar
Status: Go Blue!
Joined: 03 Jun 2010
Posts: 685
Location: United States (MO)
Concentration: Nonprofit, General Management
Schools: Michigan (Ross) - Class of 2015
GMAT 1: 740 Q47 V45
GRE 1: 336 Q169 V167
GPA: 3.22
WE: Information Technology (Manufacturing)
Followers: 15

Kudos [?]: 145 [0], given: 249

GMAT Tests User
Re: Very non-traditional, very premature profile evaluation [#permalink] New post 07 Jan 2012, 06:57
Haha, yeah you're exactly right on goals scope -- job function + industry should be a good middle ground. For example, management consulting in the healthcare industry. With strategy consulting, you can probably be a bit more vague with industry, and maybe just go with service industries since you have this background in a people-oriented field.

One thing that might help in your school search is to reverse engineer it based on employment, even taking geography into consideration. I lost the website, otherwise I'd post it, but you can find general firm/staff numbers by region or city, then once you have a list of target companies, go to BusinessWeek profiles which list top employers for each MBA program, and find the matches.

You can also do some more mathematical analysis, like.... if Kellogg has roughly 560 in its graduating class, 84% of them are looking for employment, 43% of those people landed in consulting, and 88 ended up at McKinsey, Bain, or Boston, then you can follow:

560 * .84 * .43 = 202 base consulting hires
88 / 202 = 43.5% of all consulting hires landed at MBB

Whereas for Ross:

550 * .84 * .37 = 171 base consulting hires
40 / 171 = 23.4% of all consulting hires landed at MBB

There are definitely schools which are known for consulting like Kellogg and Ross, and firms hire at both, but you'll see much higher density of placement at M7 schools. Make sure you have a couple medium to safe schools like Ross and Fuqua, or even a hair lower as well as a couple big boys.
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Re: Very non-traditional, very premature profile evaluation   [#permalink] 07 Jan 2012, 06:57
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