You are a highly skilled technical expert in your engineering field, and in recent years you have been asked to (or anticipate being asked to) take on a leadership role, which has required you to evaluate your skillset. You are no longer just writing code or working on the development of a new jet engine, you are managing people, dealing with budgets, operations, perhaps even a marketing campaign.
The only problem? You have no formal training in any of these areas. The solution? An MBA.
MBA facts engineers need to know
Now that you have figured out what you require to be successful in your evolving career, you need to take stock of a few facts to be successful in your quest to earn an MBA.
- You need to stand out in a crowded field. Engineers apply to business school in high numbers, usually for the same reasons you have now. That means you have to work harder than someone with a less traditional background to stand out in the applicant pool – you can’t rely simply on your work experience and academic preparedness to get you admitted. MBA programs want to admit people who have strong work experience and will be successful with the curriculum to be sure, but they also want people who will be enthusiastic participants in classroom discussion and involved in a dynamic community. As an engineer you may have to fight the stereotype that engineers are introverts.
- You have to give a well-rounded picture of yourself. This point is applicable to all MBA applicants, but for those with technical backgrounds it is even more important to show that you are not simply a techie geek. Hopefully you have interests, hobbies, and/or volunteer work that can reveal a different side of you. Do you sing in a choir? Are you in a basketball league? Do you volunteer at an animal shelter? These types of activities are critical to mention somewhere in your application. Help the admissions committee recognize your individuality and multi-dimensionality. They’ll then forget their preconceived notions of engineers, or at least recognize that you aren’t stereotypical.
- You will be expected to knock the adcom’s socks off with your GMAT score. Due to your quant-heavy background, the expectation for your GMAT score is significant (especially the quant score). If your overall score is more than 10 points below the school’s average, you need to invest in some test prep to get the score up. If ultimately you are just not a good test taker and you can’t reach that threshold, you need to address that in the optional essay, and point to other areas of quant strength in your transcript to showcase your capabilities.
- You have to retool your resume to be less technical and more leadership/teamwork focused. Pretty much every engineer that comes to work with Accepted has a technical resume, which makes sense, since you’ve been using it to get engineering jobs. Now you will have a different audience, and one that most likely does not have much if any technical expertise, and almost certainly will not understand any technical jargon or acronyms that are generally accepted in your field. As such, you need to make your resume much more MBA-friendly. How do you do that? Remove any jargon and acronyms specific to your industry, and work on making your bullets more focused on leadership, teamwork, and results. While a project you might be referring to is technical (that’s fine), you want the focus to be on your management skills and business results, so for example, “Managed a team of three to decrease supply chain waste by 10%,” as opposed to being very specific about the details of the changes in supply chain.
- You have to write your essays related to professional experience so that someone without a technical background can understand them.Similar to the resume, you must ensure that your essays aren’t written too technically. Delete the jargon and acronyms only someone in your industry will understand. Break down the projects or issues you are discussing such that someone with a non-technical background can grasp them. Also, focus where possible on the same three things you should focus on in your resume – leadership, teamwork, and results.
You need to shine, no matter what
Last but not least, in all elements of your application, make your personality shine whenever possible. Always work to defy that non-collaborative, head-in-the-book (or screen) engineer stereotype – what can you do to show that you will succeed in the social, collaborative, outside-the-box world of business? Think about how your unique strengths will contribute to your b-school class, and highlight them throughout your application.
Want to make sure you are standing out among all of the other engineers applying to business school? Contact us at Accepted and we will keep you focused on your goal while helping you bring out all of your unique characteristics in every aspect of the application.
Jen Weld is a former Assistant Director of Admissions at Cornell’s EMBA program. She has an additional 10 years of experience in higher ed and corporate marketing. Want Jen to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• Fitting In and Standing Out: The Paradox at the Heart of Admissions, a free guide
• What Should You Do If You Belong to an Overrepresented MBA Applicant Group?
• Different Dimensions of Diversity, a podcast episode
This article originally appeared on blog.accepted.com.
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