Any school you apply to is looking for a good fit in culture, experience and character. Watch the attitude of the students and staff. Does it fit with who you are? For Jamie, McCombs fit the mold. Their entrepreneurship and marketing programs were highly ranked, making the school an ideal combination of opportunities to use her strengths. She was open to entrepreneurship as a path, and eventually ended up taking a class and teaching at the Texas Venture Labs (run by UT). The social scene was also great. With events of some kind almost every night, she was able to push herself forward professionally and socially to have the full graduate school experience. “The MBA shouldn’t be your entire life,” is the motto to live by. Find some friends, go do other things, have side projects, or (copy Jaime and) become part of the admissions committee. In making the MBA program “not be your entire life,” you get to cultivate something super important: opportunity. Don’t be afraid. Go make that friend who can land you your dream job.
2) Focus on yourself
When you apply to a school, you are asking it to marry you. Not just date, but “till death do ye part” you. But just like pursuing any committed relationship, there are deal breakers.
Jaime’s advice on what to do and what to avoid:
- Be yourself; avoid over-hyping your experience. In the essays, experience is used best to highlight a skill set or supplement your story. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, don’t make your strengths INTO weaknesses.
- Show you care. It is an excellent idea to get some face-time with admissions committee members or alumni, attend events, visit the campus…. show the committee you care. They will notice.
- Create a powerful story. One that is powerful says far more about your character than a half-assed one. This seems obvious, “but you wouldn’t believe how many essays people send in that look like they didn’t have a lot of effort put into them.” This goes back to number 2: show you care.
3) Focus on what you want
Jamie came out of college and was dead set on working at a Fortune 500 company. She did, and guess what? She hated it. However, very soon after she discovered her dissatisfaction, she found a job as head of marketing for a start-up called Pick a Prof (now MyEdu). This, she loved, and quickly found her path: entrepreneurship. She was lucky because she found what she DIDN’T want to do before she began her MBA.
If you are having issues figuring out what you want, instead of focusing on what you want to do, go into the graduate program knowing what you DON’T want to do. In other words, be open-minded and eliminate some options. Yes, it’s nice to think you know exactly what you want, but with a narrow focus “you will be missing out on a bunch of professional opportunities to branch out!” Don’t get stuck at the start your program knowing you only want to do consulting, only to find after you graduate, you really don’t want to do consulting. “If you are making money to pay back loans and debt, great, do what you need to do to make that happen, but do something you love (if you can). Don’t get caught with the salary being the sparkly bit [that draws you to the job].”
So make a list of all of your options and start crossing some things off. However, some decisions about your career path will need to be made in the first year (if you are taking a 2 year MBA program), but “don’t make any huge decisions about your career path until you have to.” You will close doors to some opportunities, but in doing so, your time can be focused on discovering what you truly love.
I leave you with this in closing: “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” I hope you enjoyed the read, and if you did, feel free to share it!