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[转帖]Five Years to B-School

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发表于 2009-3-3 17:34:00 | 显示全部楼层

[转帖]Five Years to B-School

Five Years to B-School: The First Year

Typically, students enter business school five years after getting their undergrad degree. A new series takes a year-by-year look at positioning yourself for an MBA

Five years. For a newly minted undergrad, it sounds like a long time. It might be, but it's also roughly the amount of work experience collected before a student enters an MBA program. Which means that if you're planning on going to business school someday, you'll boost your chances of getting into a top school by spending those five years wisely.

To help you, BusinessWeek.com is launching a new series: a five-year planner for business school. The five-part series—this is the first—will provide a year-by-year guide to what you should be doing and thinking about in building the sort of résumé and skill set that will be attractive to MBA admissions committees.

But what are we waiting for? Five years goes by pretty quickly. Here's what you should be doing in Year One.

Make the Most of Your First Job

The kind of job you have after graduation is not half as important as your performance and the responsibilities you have. Whether you're working at an investment bank (which is typical for someone destined for the MBA track) or teaching middle school (with your mind set on one day starting your own business even though you haven't yet dipped your toes into such endeavors), your goal should be to do your job and do it well, says Lawrence Murray, former associate director in MBA Admissions and current program director of the BSBA Program at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Set out to show an evolution in your career, Murray adds. But this is just the first step. Figure out your place in the organization and the organization's place in the industry.

Admissions committees will be looking to see that you made your mark and took advantage of every opportunity you had to be a leader. They want to know that you have initiative and never shy away from challenges and responsibilities. They don't care if you do this at a tiny startup or some big corporation with a well-known name, says Scott Shrum, director of MBA Admissions Research at Veritas Prep and MBA blogger at BusinessWeek.com.

During this first year on the job, take advantage of any training sessions your company offers, soaking up knowledge about the industry, learning the ropes, and developing skills that you'll be able to put into action. You're preparing to build a résumé that is more than just a list of titles you held; it should eventually be a demonstration of your abilities and accomplishments. Ideally, you should have already gotten started on this during internships. Now you're building on and enhancing your skills.

While most experts agree that it is not wise to up and quit a job right away, they also say that you shouldn't be afraid to leave if there are better opportunities elsewhere or if your current job isn't offering you any chance for growth. Don't job-hop, says Rosemaria Martinelli, admissions director at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, but leave if you have to, and be ready to give a good explanation to business schools and potential employers.

At the end of Year One, you should feel more confident about your work and have at least a slightly clearer picture about what you want to do eventually. You can't expect to be CEO at this point, but you should have seen tremendous growth and adjustment in yourself and your work, says Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.com, an MBA admissions consulting firm. "You are really becoming an adult," she says. "Mommy and daddy are not doing it all for you anymore."

Learn to Network

Networking, or making contacts in your industry or the greater community, is important for potential MBA candidates for many reasons.

For starters, especially at this early stage of your career, you want all the help you can get to succeed and carve out a career path that will earn you one great gig after another. Besides needing the help of your mentors, you'll also need great people who know you well and can vouch for your strengths and achievements in MBA recommendation letters.

The right mentor is someone who is a few years older than you and has a job you covet. You can approach potential mentors either in person, by e-mail, or with a phone call, briefly explaining that you were hoping to snag a few moments to pick their brains about their job. Tell them you'd like to set up a quick meeting to discuss how they ended up taking on their role, what their job entails on a daily basis, and any tips they might have for you. Accommodate their schedule; they're doing you a favor. In the end, you should be able to use their career paths as a guide for your own.

Don't think the process ends when your meeting does. You have to keep up with these contacts and develop real relationships with them. The relationship goes two ways. You also have to contribute and help them. "You get what you give," says Abraham. In fact, you might even consider mentoring those who are younger than you by offering advice on the job search and looking over résumés.

Getting to know people is the hard part. You don't have to limit yourself to the team with which you always work. Look around the cafeteria at work, sign up for professional organizations, and get involved with any conferences or special meetings your company offers. Consider talking to people outside of your function in jobs that might interest you to make sure you know what job you'd like to be doing in the future. Many people earn their MBA because they want to change fields or functions altogether. That's O.K. The important thing is that in five years, when you write that application, you know exactly what you want to do. Now is the time to start making those decisions—and talking to others will help you make informed ones.

Get Involved

The office is not the only place you should be getting acquainted with new people. You should also be getting involved in community service and activities that ignite your passion outside of work. While it's true that business schools want to see a track record of service, it's also healthy for you to have a life that is well rounded and full. In those first days after graduating from college, you might feel down or closed off from the world. Essentially, you are a freshman again—and getting involved will give you a renewed sense of self and some purpose.

Consider this your chance to act on your passions. Think about what you really enjoy doing and choose a relevant activity. You don't have to be involved in a 100 organizations, but you should truly be involved in the activities you choose.

These extracurricular activities, besides being fun for you, offer an opportunity for you to show off your passion and personality to admissions committees. "Schools want something substantive, not a list," says Dan Poston, the assistant dean for the Masters Program at the University of Washington Foster School of Business. He adds that you should be able to enthusiastically discuss your participation in these activities during admission and job interviews.

Tutoring and Habitat for Humanity are not the only kinds of activities that admissions committees will find appealing, so don't feel limited. Shrum says he wrote half his application essays about his involvement in an improvisational comedy troupe. The important thing is that you take on responsibility and leadership in any of the groups you join. The good news is that if you're starting to get involved five years away from the MBA, then you are ahead of much of the competition, who often wait until the last minute to perform a few deeds in order to have something to write about.

GMAT: Now Rather Than Later

One advantage you have in Year One is that you are still in the student mindset. You've only recently completed your undergraduate degree, and you're still used to reading lots of material, taking exams, and listening to lectures. Now is the time to make these disciplines a habit. "Deciding to be a business leader means you're committing to a lifetime of learning," says Chicago's Martinelli.

If you had weaknesses in your academic life—writing or especially quantitative skills—continue studying those subjects. Buy books or take courses to sharpen your skills. Read, read, read, adds Martinelli. Pick up books and periodicals that will keep you up to date on business and the industries that interest you most. Stay abreast of current events, particularly those that influence your business. Pay attention to what's going on in the world around you. This will help you to be a better leader, and genuine intellectual curiosity is a must for admission committees to see.

Consider taking the GMAT— the main business school admissions test—now. While it sounds premature, since the GMAT score is good for five years, it makes sense to get it out of the way, when you're still used to studying for exams. On the other hand, some MBA admissions consultants, such as Shrum, say taking more time to study for the exam at a measured pace is an argument for waiting. Either way, you can take the test more than once.

By now you know your learning and test-taking style, so you know what's best for you. If you think you'd do better by taking the test now, then do it. If not, take extra time to study more. If you're not sure, you can always take a practice test from a book or online and see how you do before deciding the best time to take the actual test.

Stay Grounded

Times are tough enough these days. While it's good to have a five-year goal, it's also important to have a well-rounded life now, when you're free of many of the responsibilities that come when you're older. Plus, MBA programs want to see that you are physically and mentally healthy and that you can contribute to society and perform well at work. Find ways to de-stress and unwind. Of course, don't be crazy and irresponsible. Explaining why your name showed up on a police blotter to a business school admissions committee isn't an easy task.

You're already staying connected with friends and family through Facebook and Twitter. More professional networks, such as LinkedIn, could be useful to your career (more on that in Year Two of this series). But you have to be careful about the image you present online. Five years from now, Google will still find your Facebook and MySpace profiles. Therefore, do yourself—and your future— a favor by making responsible decisions on- and off-line.

Consider using social networking to do some good. Kenan-Flagler's Murray once had an applicant use her Facebook and My Space pages to market a nonprofit organization that she launched. In her application, she was able to use this material to demonstrate her passion, leadership, and initiative, which the admissions committee ate up. Help some people now, and it might help you five years from now.

By the End of Year One…

You should have:

• Begun developing your skill set

• Found a few mentors who have given you a better idea about the jobs you might like to do in the future

• Found a way to translate your passions into a couple of activities in which you'd really liked to get involved

• Decided how you can make an impact at the office and in those extracurricular activities and start implementing a plan of action to do just that

• Kept your mind on business by reading relevant books and articles

• Made a decision about when you'd like to take the GMAT

• Started building a satisfying, well-rounded life and career

Business Exchange related topics:
Executive Search
Career Change
Employee Engagement
     

Di Meglio is a reporter for BusinessWeek.com in Fort Lee, N.J.
     


[此贴子已经被作者于2009-3-3 17:37:41编辑过]
 楼主| 发表于 2009-3-3 17:34:00 | 显示全部楼层
不知道之前有人发过没有,在BizWeek上看到的,觉得真的很好,就转过来了。
 楼主| 发表于 2009-3-3 17:35:00 | 显示全部楼层

Five Years to B-School: The Second Year

The path from college to B-school typically takes five years. By Year Two, would-be MBAs should have leadership experience, a growing network, and high-level math skills

To help you, BusinessWeek.com is launching a new series: a five-year planner for business school. The five-part series—this is the second—will provide a year-by-year guide to what you should be doing and thinking about in building the sort of résumé and skill set that will be attractive to MBA admissions committees.

If Year One is about getting your feet wet, then Year Two in the five years leading to business school is about coming into your own. Now is the time you will start to take more initiative and create a more definitive career path. You will likely be better acquainted with your adult self and your job. Your personal life might be flourishing as well, which will give you more insight into the future you'd like to create. This is the year that you will put the wheels in motion for your application.

The five years leading up to entering an MBA program will fly by, so let's not wait. Here is what you should be working on in Year Two:

Take on More Responsibility at Work

In Year One, you found a job and learned how to do it well. With a bit more experience under your belt, you are now beginning to take on more responsibility and finding ways to have an impact beyond your everyday tasks, says Judith S. Hodara, senior associate director in the Office of Administration and Financial Aid at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. Your comfort level and confidence, says Hodara, should be rising. Use this to take initiative. Make suggestions for projects that you think would benefit the company and offer to take a leading role in executing them.

Of course, you should also take advantage of any opportunities for promotions or leadership roles that come your way. "Don't just wait for the yearend review," says Hodara. Step up and volunteer to do additional work. Take on responsibilities outside your job description. Go above and beyond to prove yourself, stand out, and demonstrate a solid work ethic.

At this point, you should be showing evidence of progression in your career—even if it's in practice and not in title, says Graham Richmond, co-founder and CEO of the admissions consulting firm Clear Admit, which is based in Philadelphia. Although you should try to stick it out for one more year at the same company, you can start thinking about what you'd like your next move to be and what you need to do to arrive at that point. Planning ahead is the key to fulfilling your MBA destiny.

For those aiming for the top 20 business schools, finding international experience should also be a priority. "Even if it's just meeting with a client in London or doing a project abroad, you should do it," says Richmond, who adds that there is more competition than ever from international applicants who have a slew of experience in different parts of the world. Showing you're prepared to take on the challenges of a global economy will give you an edge.

Build and Strengthen Your Network

Finding at least one mentor who could help guide you through the initial stage of your career was near the top of your to-do list in Year One. By now, you should be developing those relationships by scheduling lunch two to three times per year with your mentor.

For these meetings, you should prepare questions and follow up on goals you previously set with your mentor. If he or she suggested you read a particular book or contact a particular person, you should have completed the task and be able to discuss it. The point is to show your mentor that what he or she says matters to you and that it is making a difference. Be sure to keep in touch, says Hodara, even when you don't need anything from your mentor. Taking advantage of people's kindness and not making good on your promises will never get you anywhere.

In Year Two, you will start to build a professional network in addition to your mentors.

Expose yourself beyond the five people you see everyday," says Hodara. She says most people will be flattered if you approach them to check in or get more information about the roles they fill on the job. Keep a log of their names and contact information. Every once in a while, drop them an e-mail or give them a call to see how they're doing without necessarily creating a formal relationship like the one you have with your mentor.

Professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn, where 30 million professionals have logged on to exchange information and ideas, will come in handy because it makes it easier to keep in touch with your existing network and find new people who might have similar goals, interests, or roles. What's great about professional networking sites is that they help you control your professional identity online and avoid gaffes, such as that MySpace photo of you doing a keg stand during your undergrad days. In fact, if you haven't done so already, now would be a good time to remove any unprofessional or unflattering online content about yourself.

Once you have established contact with a number of people, you can start setting up informational meetings to learn about jobs that interest you. When you apply to business school, you will have to be very specific about your career goals and how the MBA will help you achieve them. Now is the time to start giving thought to whom you'd like to be when you grow up, says Richmond. Talking to people and reflecting on your likes and dislikes is the best way to start developing your career plan.

Get More Involved Outside of Work

Joining organizations or participating in activities outside of work for which you were passionate was a year-one goal. Now that you have been involved in these activities for a year, you should be taking on a larger role, such as chairing a committee, running for an office, or helping to recruit other members. Richmond says this is even more important for those who are struggling to get promoted or noticed on the job.

An organization or project outside of work is a great place to show off your leadership skills without feeling encumbered by bureaucracy or office politics. Without even being part of a formal organization, you can organize a charity run or plan a recycling program, suggests Richmond. At this stage of the game, you should be making your mark in your community as well. Use your creativity and moxie to come up with ways to improve the world around you.

But community service isn't the only way to flaunt your talents. "We don't care if the activity is altruistic or totally selfish," says Hodara. "We're looking for people with more to offer than the ability to run a spreadsheet." For instance, Richmond, who is a Wharton MBA, played an instrument and was able to discuss this during the application process.

Follow your heart—what do you love to do with your free time?—and do it well. For this to count, you must really devote a part of yourself to the activity. A year into these pursuits, you should know which ones you will stick with until the MBA application process and beyond. It might be just one passion, and that's all right. Quality wins over quantity in this case. If nothing else, these activities will add color to your application essays and interview and make you a bit more interesting than the same old candidates running past the desks of the admissions committee.

Polish That Academic Transcript

You might already be thinking about, studying for, or perhaps even taking the GMAT. But you should also be thinking about an enhancing your transcript if you did poorly in your undergraduate program, or your performance was less than stellar. Now is the time to take courses at a local university, especially quant courses, and to perform well enough in them to make up for sins of the past.

Having new grades (a B or above) combined with a strong GMAT score could wipe away a low undergraduate GPA in the minds of admissions committees. They will be looking to see that you can handle the academic rigor of their program.

Having strong quantitative skills is a must because a school such as Wharton, says Hodara, expects applicants to be in the 85th percentile on the GMAT quant section. Study up!

Some applicants also spend time studying and taking exams for certificates such as the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst). While this doesn't hurt, Richmond says that becoming fluent in a foreign language might be a better use of your time. Again, this will help you compete with an ever-increasing number of international applicants and make you more appealing to admissions committees—and employers facing a global economy. Speaking another language is a skill that will remain on your résumé long after you graduate from an MBA program.

Investigating the MBA application process is an appropriate task to take on now. Surf the Internet to check out programs that might interest you and align with your career goals and where you'd like to be geographically. You might visit forums, such as the ones on BusinessWeek.com, to get in touch with other applicants, MBA students, admissions consultants, and alumni.

Talk to people in your office who have an MBA about the process and the options available to you. Consider visiting campuses that are of the most interest to you. "I visited Wharton my second year out of college," says Richmond. "It gave me something to look forward to. It planted the seed." Seeing the school for yourself helps you imagine your life there, and it could motivate you even more.

Start Socking Away Your Pennies

You should continue to strive for a well-rounded life. That means that you can not work all the time without taking time for yourself. While you need to be a devoted and dedicated employee, you also must show the admissions committee that there's more to you than your résumé. One way to fix this is to actually use your vacation time. Traveling, especially if you are lacking in international experience, can also provide you with interesting anecdotes for essays and interviews, says Richmond. It can open your eyes to other cultures and pique your intellectual curiosity.

In Year Two, if not sooner, you must begin to save money for your MBA education, which costs upward of $80,000 for a top full-time program. Add in living expenses and the salary you'll give up while hitting the books, and the price tag can easily top $200,000 or more. "Scholarship dollars are few and far between," says Lawrence Murray, program director of the BSBA Program and former associate director in MBA Admissions at UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School. "Going into Year Two, you must have a savings strategy that gets more conservative as you get closer to entering a program." Put away those pennies, start packing your lunch, and live humbly, so that you can afford two years of paying tuition without earning an income.

Exceptional students might actually start applying to business school in Year Two. Schools, such as Harvard Business School, have begun accepting students with extraordinary backgrounds earlier than the traditional five years. Some of these programs entice women, who might want to start a family five years out of an undergraduate program, to earn their MBA sooner rather than later. These personal goals must be weighed in tandem with your career goals when deciding the time line that is right for you.

By the End of Year Two…

You should have:

• Shown progress in your career

• Received a promotion or taken on a project or assignment that had you in a leadership role

• Started thinking about your next career move

• Taken on more responsibility for your relationship with your mentors and built an even larger network of professional contacts

• Demonstrated initiative in one of your extracurricular activities and continued to pursue your passions whatever they may be

• Worked on any weaknesses in your academic record

• Gained either exposure or experience internationally

• Begun to save money to finance your education

Di Meglio is a reporter for BusinessWeek.com in Fort Lee, N.J.
    


[此贴子已经被作者于2009-3-3 17:37:17编辑过]
 楼主| 发表于 2009-3-3 17:35:00 | 显示全部楼层

Five Years to B-School: The Third Year

On the way to B-school, Year Three is a turning point. Prospective MBAs must show career progression and hit books to prepare for the GMAT

By Francesca Di Meglio

To help you, BusinessWeek.com is launching a new series: a five-year planner for business school. The five-part series—this is the third—will provide a year-by-year guide to what you should be doing and thinking about in building the sort of résumé and skill set that will be attractive to MBA admissions committees.

In Year One, you learned about getting your feet wet at work and finding a mentor. In Year Two, you took on greater responsibility and initiative and started to prepare for the academic rigor of an MBA program. Year Three is the turning point in your five-year plan. You are on steadier ground, and you're much more removed from your undergraduate life. There are no more late-night philosophical discussions or keg stands left in you. In Year Three you must show actual movement in your career and either move to another company or earn a promotion where you are. This is the year you must prove yourself, so let's get right to the point:

IT'S PROMOTION TIME

Not everyone was promoted in Year Two, when it was possible to get by with a bit of initiative and greater responsibility. Now, however, things are different. You must have a change in title in the form of a promotion, or you have to move to another department or company. "Admissions committees don't want to see you doing the same job sitting in the same position for the third year," says Stacy Blackman, president of Stacy Blackman Consulting in Los Angeles. It's critical, she adds, that you wisely choose your next move and that it is something that enhances your résumé and shows progression in your career.

What kinds of work should you be doing in this new position? Well, you should have more responsibilities and new projects, and ideally you should be managing and/or recruiting others. Your two years of training are complete, so you should help to make change and give direction to the company. If you can't find those kinds of opportunities where you are working, then you should move on, which may be difficult given the state of the economy. In Year Two, you should have looked into all possibilities; now it's time to seriously pursue those other positions.

Ideally, you'd like to be in charge of something. For example, if you are in engineering, you should be a project manager who controls a budget and has at least one other person reporting to you, says Jay Bryant, assistant vice-president of qdmissions and recruiting at Thunderbird School of Global Management. Admissions committees want to see that you are a leader with great potential—and you'll need specific examples to prove that as fact.

At this point, says Bryant, you must have a narrow list of what you'd like to be doing post-MBA and how this career path (even if it's not in the field you'd eventually like to be in) is going to get you there. As you make decisions about positions to take, you must keep this ultimate goal in mind. In business school applications, you'll have to be explicit about this plan and how your current experiences will help you achieve your goals. For example, if your in marketing and your post-MBA goal is to launch a business, your new position might involve helping launch a startup, perhaps as the company's vice-president of marketing.

BECOME A MENTOR

Now that you have two years of work under your belt, you can start mentoring others, says Blackman. The benefits are twofold: By serving as a mentor to an up-and-coming young person, you are building your network while that person is gaining valuable advice to advance his or her career. Blackman says you can even approach young people in your office who show promise and offer to mentor them. This is yet another way to show initiative in your life—a great characteristic if you're seeking an MBA, and one you'll need to demonstrate in your B-school applications.

In the meantime, you should maintain your relationships with your mentors. Keep up with them, fill them in on your life, and if you can, help them, too. Networking lasts a lifetime, so you should also still meet new contacts and learn about them. Start asking people about their own MBA experiences, how the degree has helped them in their career, what their school was like, why they chose it, and what they think about your desired path. Of course, you might want to be careful about discussing your interest in leaving a certain position for business school if that's not a traditional path for your industry and if you think your employer would not be understanding.

In Year Three, you have the chance to extend your network by talking to administrators, students, and alumni at the schools that interest you. At this point, you should be contacting schools. "You should identify who you are, where you are planning to go, and which school will get you there," says Bryant. He suggests being in communication with your short list of preferred business schools. At the very least, you should be on the school's mailing list, so that you can attend events, speak with alumni, and be able to refer to specifics about the school if and when you interview there, says Bryant.

Order the applications online to read the essays, so you can start thinking about what you might write, suggests Blackman. "Having those questions in your head helps you to be more thoughtful about them later," she says. This is your chance to get to know the schools, so you apply to the places that best suit you—and so the schools get to know you, too.

PREPARE FOR THE GMAT

You can't put off GMAT preparation any longer. The process can be lengthy, say admissions experts. You may take the test itself two or three times before achieving the score that you'd like. Getting a high score requires studying, which means different things for different people. Some applicants take a few practice tests and read up about the GMAT online and are satisfied with their first score. Others take prep courses on- and offline, study on the weekends and at nights, and take loads of practice tests to prepare. You won't really know what category you'll land in until you start familiarizing yourself with the test and assess how much work you must do to get the score you'd like.

Head to the GMAT site and read about the test. Then take a free practice exam, see how you do, and come up with a plan. You might want to check out the average scores and range of scores for those who are accepted into the programs that interest you. You'll find those numbers in the Rankings and Profiles on BusinessWeek.com. You can also learn about various GMAT prep courses if you think you'll need one of those to achieve your desired score.

PURSUE YOUR PASSIONS

You should be continuing your extracurricular work. You should be flourishing and leading whatever organizations or clubs of which you are a part. Living a healthy lifestyle that makes you proud and serving as a leader in your community will come through in your application and probably make you a more confident, happier person. Now is definitely not the time to drop the ball.

Filling out the application should be on your mind. One other thing you should do to prep for the application process is find a way to make yourself stand out. Use your passions to guide you. For instance, Bryant had one candidate who wanted to be in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest person to travel the world and had already visited 170 countries. Dance the salsa or go on safari. Live a full, well-rounded life so that you have lots to write about in essays and discuss in interviews. Determine what already makes you stand out from your peers, who might also be applying to B-school, and work from there.

Some of you will have husbands or wives or be in a serious, committed relationship by Year Three. If so, you should discuss your plans to attend B-school with your significant other. Full-time programs often require people to pick up, move, and spend lots of time in study groups or teams. This lifestyle, although temporary, will affect the people with whom you share your life. They should have a say in your decisions about where to go and how to proceed.

Your plans and your partner's future should work well together. If you have kids, then you must also consider their feelings and lives and what it would be like for them if you moved to go to school. "Business schools are not here to break up couples," says Bryant. You might also want to research the various programs B-schools have for families and present that information to your loved ones.

As mentioned in the previous articles in this series, you should be saving money to finance your education. Year Three is a great time to make sure you're paying off outstanding debt and to look into how you will supplement your finances so you can afford tuition and housing. As you inch toward Year Four and the application process looms, you should be living more and more like a student. That means spending less, eating at home, and refraining from splurges such as fancy clothes and cars. Your budget should get tighter and your debts smaller as you get closer to B-school. Living on a budget, even if you anticipate making big bucks post-MBA, is a wise idea that will help you weather any economic storm and two years without an income.

BY THE END OF YEAR THREE…

You should have:

• Either been promoted where you've been working or moved to another company to reach the next level in your profession.

• Found someone to mentor while still maintaining relationships with your own mentors and continuing to make contact with superiors who can better inform you about the MBA and various business schools.

• Narrowed down the list of things you'd like to be doing after you complete your MBA.

• Made contact with business schools that interest you.

• Discussed your future with your loved ones and listened to their thoughts about your plans.

• Tightened your finances even more than before in anticipation of paying tuition and going without an income for two years.

Di Meglio is a reporter for BusinessWeek.com in Fort Lee, N.J.
    


[此贴子已经被作者于2009-3-3 17:38:10编辑过]
 楼主| 发表于 2009-3-3 17:36:00 | 显示全部楼层

Five Years to B-School: The Fourth Year

D-Day is fast approaching. If you're serious about business school, now is the time to stand out at work, line up your recommendations, and mentally prepare for the application process

By Francesca Di Meglio
   

To help you, BusinessWeek.com is launching a new series: a five-year planner for business school. The five-part series—this is the fourth—will provide a year-by-year guide to what you should be doing and thinking about in building the sort of résumé and skill set that will be attractive to MBA admissions committees.

In Year One, you learned about how to get your career started on the right foot and find a mentor. In Year Two, you made inroads in the office and learned how to get noticed by the right people. Year Three was a turning point, when you might have moved to a different company or accepted a promotion. Now, in Year Four, you must make your mark and start preparing for the MBA application process. This is the year that you start tracking your achievements and devising future goals, so that you will be able to knock out a solid application essay and make a big impression in the interviews next year. There's no time to waste, so here goes:

BROADEN YOUR EXPERIENCES
    

By now, you should have been promoted at least once, perhaps twice. You are probably comfortable in the role you have at your company. If you can, take on projects and duties in other departments to get exposure to different careers and to show that you can wear many hats. This kind of work, besides serving as additional research as you decide exactly what you want to do post-MBA, can be great fodder for the application essay and interview. You might also pick up additional skills, which should be a goal of yours, especially if you plan on using the MBA to switch careers.

Just because you have earned a promotion or two does not mean that you should rest on your laurels. You still should strive to stand out at the company. Take advantage of leadership opportunities such as heading up a committee. Create projects and initiatives. Try to win awards for your work. You should have specific examples of where you are adding value to the company, whether that's helping launch a successful new product or undertaking a cost-cutting initiative with measurable results, says Julie Barefoot, associate dean for MBA Admissions at Emory
    University's
Goizueta Business School.

Don't worry too much if the slower economy is slowing down your career, too. "We're not clueless about the economy," says Barefoot. "We understand that this group of students has been thrown a lot of curve balls." In other words, the admissions committee will understand if you have been laid off or if you were given more responsibilities without a promotion or salary change. Just be sure to explain the situation—and how you turned your lemons into lemonade. If you lost your job for a brief period, explain in your application essay how you freelanced while job hunting until you landed a better, full-time gig. Take on the challenges of a slow economy and perform well under difficult circumstances. For instance, says Barefoot, if you are helping your team at work to accomplish the same goals with fewer people, you should definitely bring that up in your MBA application.

CHOOSE YOUR RECOMMENDERS
    

Now is not the time to give up on your network. "Networking is like gardening," says Beth Flye, assistant dean and director of admissions and financial aid at Northwestern
     University's
Kellogg School of Management. "If you have a garden, you need to constantly tend to it and care for it. It's the same for a network." Therefore, you should be continuing to keep in touch with your mentors, the people you are mentoring, and any other contacts you have made in the last three years.

In addition, you should be looking around you to determine who knows you and your work best and would be able to confirm whatever you decide to include in your application in the form of a recommendation letter. A big name is much less important than someone who works closely with you, knows your strengths, has witnessed your accomplishments, and will speak well of you.

If it's too early to come right out and tell your recommenders—say it's your boss and you don't know if he'd appreciate your decision to leave the company—then ask subtle questions about what this person thinks of the MBA, says Alex Chu, president of MBA Apply. Use this information to come up with a roster of people who can write recommendations for you. Chu adds that you should ask the same people to write the recommendations for every school to which you apply because it's easier for everyone.

Those who can openly discuss their plans with their recommender can take him or her to lunch at this point, suggests John Roeder, director of MBA Admissions at Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management. Use your time together to give the potential recommender an overview of your achievements and your reasons for wanting to go to business school.

While you're deciding on your recommenders, don't neglect the rest of the application process, particularly the research into your target schools. Track down students and alumni at your top choice schools—your list of schools should be narrowing as you research the offerings at each—and ask them questions about the culture, campus, and highlights of the MBA program. This is great background information that you can use to make your application essays specific to each school to which you apply, even if you can't make it to campus for an actual visit, says Jim Ward, an aspiring MBA in Washington, D.C., who is going through the application process now. Ward adds that narrowing your list of schools and thoroughly researching each is key to performing well in essays and interviews. He is pleased that he chose only four schools and got to know each one very well. "Four is enough," says Ward. "It was a lot of work, and I'm happy with the four."

KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK
    

Your extracurricular activities—from community service to that garage band—should be ongoing and consistent. There's not much sense in starting new activities, but you should try to shine in the ones in which you're already participating. These groups are a good way for you to get leadership experience if you are unable to get it at work. "There's a difference between participation and accomplishment," says Chu. "Anyone can participate, but achievement is something more." If you volunteer at a soup kitchen every day and won an award for it, then you have achieved something. Recognition of your services is an asset to your application.

Some of the people who work with you in these other activities might be on your list of recommenders. Treat them as you would those with whom you work. Just as you would on the job, continue to look for leadership opportunities and ways to make your mark and improve the organization.

Minorities, women, those coming from certain industries, and others might find organizations that will help them with the application process. Groups, such as the Forte Foundation, are great places for applicants to join, says Analilia Silva, associate director of admissions at Indiana
     University's
Kelley School of Business. They can provide a network, in some cases information on the application process, and scholarships. Professional organizations can also be helpful because you can meet people who can tell you about the jobs that interest you in that field. Year Four is an ideal time to get involved since you'll be starting to write the applications soon and can use that information.

PREPARE TO COMPLETE THE APPLICATION
    

Filling out the applications is now only one year away.

There are things you can do to prepare for writing the essays and interviewing with alumni or admissions committee members. The first thing you should do is take a self-inventory, says Flye. Where have you had an impact? What have you learned? What skills are transferable for the move you want to make post MBA? Answers to all these questions should be included.

You also might consider keeping a leadership journal. In the journal, you should take notes as you demonstrate leadership on the job or in your extracurricular activities. These notes will come in handy as you write your essays and think about what you will say in an interview. Write down anything you think could be relevant because you can always leave it out of the essay if you end up having stronger examples. In the essays, you're going to want to illustrate not just what you accomplished but also why it is important, says Barefoot. Keep this in mind as you track your examples.

Mock interviews with your mentors or other trusted contacts who have gone through the MBA application process can help applicants prepare and stand out, says Roeder. If the MBA application interview is the first one you've had in four or five years, you will likely have trouble, he adds. Practice certainly can only help you.

By now, you should have taken the GMAT at least once. If you're still not satisfied with your score, take it again. While most programs will not disclose their minimum GMAT scores, you can get a hint for what it will take to get accepted by checking out each school's profile and looking up its average GMAT score, which range from 696 to 726 for BusinessWeek's Top 10 full-time MBA programs. In preparation for the MBA, you should also look at the curriculum and perhaps even the syllabus of the courses at the programs that interest you most. Besides helping you determine fit, you will have specifics for the essays and interviews.

Good applications happen when people put their all into them. "It resonates in their application that they have prepared and put a lot of work into the process," says Flye. Indeed, work ethic plays a role and can help you stand out from the crowd. "Hard work is what separates those who get ahead," says Chu. "It's a bit of luck but mostly hard work and commitment [that will help you]. Some people just want it more."

GET READY FOR A MOVE
    

Whether you are single, married, or have a family, you will most likely move from where you are living now to another area when you begin your MBA program. As you narrow down the schools, you should be looking closely at the location of those that interest you most. Determine if you want to live there after the MBA because there are likely more jobs offered to graduates in the school's home than outside. Also, consider the housing prices, if you won't be living on campus. If you do have a spouse and kids, consider the jobs and schools available to them where you'd be living.

Visiting campuses is a great way to get to know the culture and see the city or town. Have your spouse and family join you if you can make a visit before applying. If not, you should try to attend recruiting events for those schools in your area. When you do get to visit a school, check out the groups and benefits they offer to families of MBA students. For example, spouses at Kellogg can audit courses.

People who are thinking about applying to business school should be saving money to fund their education. At this point, you should have saved lots and should already be living like a student on a budget. Consider what your cost of living and tuition will be and start making calculations about how you will be able to swing this. Of course, start researching scholarship and award money now. Get working on those applications, too. Free money, as opposed to loans, is the best way to fund your education because you don't have to ever pay it back.

BY THE END OF YEAR FOUR…
    

You should have:

•Earned recognition on the job and broadened your experiences by taking on new roles or projects

•Narrowed your list of top business schools and thoroughly researched them

Chosen your recommenders and either talked with them about the MBA in general or your desire to apply, depending on your relationship with each

•Begun taking note of your achievements and demonstrations of leadership in preparation for the essays and the interviews

•Researched the regions of the schools that interest you most to determine the types of jobs available, the cost of living, and the culture for you and your family if you have one

•Started applying for scholarships and any other free money to fund your MBA

Di Meglio is a reporter for BusinessWeek.com in Fort Lee, N.J.
    


[此贴子已经被作者于2009-3-3 17:38:42编辑过]
 楼主| 发表于 2009-3-3 17:36:00 | 显示全部楼层

Five Years to B-School: The Fifth Year

In a year you'll be in business school. So wrap up things at work, finalize your list of top schools, and tackle those application essays

To help you, BusinessWeek.com is launching a new series: a five-year planner for business school. The five-part series—this is the fifth—will provide a year-by-year guide to what you should be doing and thinking about in building the sort of résumé and skill set that will be attractive to MBA admissions committees.

By the end of Year One, you had launched your career and found a mentor. In Year Two, you began taking on more responsibility at the office and in your extracurricular activities. Year Three brought a promotion or a move to another company. You made your mark on the job and started preparing for the application process in Year Four. Now, your life is about to completely change. You're ready to actually apply to graduate business school and become a student again. This year will fly by, so let's get to work:

FIND CLOSURE
    

Aspiring MBAs, who have one foot out the door of their office during the application season, tend to catch senioritis, a disease that grips folks leaving their jobs, as well as kids graduating from high school and college, and has them doing little to nothing in their final weeks. Don't be among the ill. This is a great time to make yourself invaluable, says Liz Riley Hargrove, associate dean for admissions at the Duke
     University
     
Fuqua School of Business. "You don't want to put yourself in the position where you burn any bridges before going to business school," she says.

Even if you probably won't return to the company where you're working now, you still want to keep your options open, and to do that you must continue to give it your all on the job. Lengthy assignments that might not get completed before you leave for business school are less than ideal and should be avoided if possible. But smaller projects, as well as work that has you testing the waters of functions that might interest you in your post-MBA career, are worth taking on, says James Frick, director of admissions, operations, and recruiting at Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business. Besides keeping you in the good graces of your employer (who probably is writing a recommendation for you), these assignments can help you weed out post-MBA career goals you may not be suitable for or interested in, and provide fodder for application essays and interviews.

On your way out of the office, you should also make it clear that you're going to business school to expand your skill set and not because of dissatisfaction with your job (even if that's the real reason you're leaving), says Mae
    Jennifer
    Shores, assistant dean of MBA admissions and financial Aid at the UCLA
     
Anderson School of Management.

In Year Five, you also have to reflect on what you've accomplished in your career so far. Besides keeping a leadership journal and evaluating how far you've come, both of which are recommendations from Year Four, you should also determine quantified outcomes of projects, suggests Dan Bauer, founder and managing director of The MBA Exchange, which is headquartered in Chicago but provides consulting services for MBA applicants around the world. Both you and your recommenders will want to point to numbers, such as process improvements or sales growth.

Still, not everyone is seeing roses and rainbows at work these days. Applicants who think they might get laid off or already have been laid off because of financial woes don't have to run and hide from the admissions committee. "It's the reality of our economy right now," says Hargrove

If you're out of work in Year Five, you might consider taking on volunteer or freelance opportunities to hold you over until entering business school. Just be sure to tell the admissions committee what you've done with this additional time, what you're learning about yourself, how you made a difference despite losing your job, and how the school and the MBA will help you.

Ultimately, you are looking to gain closure at work in this final year before entering graduate business school. For starters, you should make yourself accessible for questions after you leave, says Shores. You'll want to wrap up projects, tie up any loose ends, pass things off to others who will be taking on your work, communicate your plans to colleagues, supervisors, and clients, create ways to stay in communication with those you'll be leaving behind, and say good-bye at least for now.

MAKE NEW FRIENDS
    

Saying good-bye at work does not mean the end of your relationship with your colleagues. A wise, aspiring MBA knows that you don't just throw away business contacts. You should devise a plan for keeping in touch with your mentors, those you are mentoring, and other important colleagues and clients while you're at business school. You might send out an e-mail once a month or keep a Linked In or Facebook page.

Your network will be the first place you turn when looking for recommenders for the applications. At this point, you can flat out ask all your recommenders—even employers who you might have waited to tell about your B-school plans because they would know your departure was imminent. Pay attention to their response, warns Bauer. If the person says no or offers a lukewarm yes, you should consider someone else, he says. "If he or she doesn't give you the warm feeling that you can count on this person to write about your wonderfulness, then you have time to cultivate a new recommender," adds Bauer. Giving your recommenders an overview of what you've accomplished and reminding them of your contributions and goals and their feedback is a must that will be appreciated, says Hargrove.

Once you have a short list of business schools that you'd like to attend, then you can start to expand your network even more. You should reach out to the schools and ask to be put in touch with alumni in the industries that interest you for your post-MBA career, suggests Frick. Head online to find business school forums with other applicants, current students, and alumni who can answer your questions about the schools that interest you. Bauer suggests reaching out to people you already know in the regions where you might attend business school to get a feel for the community and to feel less alone when you first arrive. He adds that applicants with significant others or spouses might get in touch with the presidents of the partners' groups at the campuses on their short list to inquire about the social network and opportunities for their families.

As you take this next step, you'll be leaving behind some loved ones. Bauer suggests reaching out to family and friends where you are living now to prepare them for what's coming. "You'll be vapor once [the application process] is over," says Bauer. Let them know that you have some seriously hard work ahead of you and that you might not be able to get in touch as often as you'd like, but it doesn't mean that you're not thinking of them.

DO GOOD
    

Throughout this series, you have heard from admissions committee members and admissions consultants who have told you to get involved and be active in at least one organization or hobby about which you are truly passionate—and to stick with it.

Some of you have taken this advice and are organizing food drives, building homes for the less fortunate, performing in a band, or helping to clean the parks in your community. Kudos to you. Be sure to mention all this—and demonstrations of your leadership in these activities—on your application.

Others, however, might not have taken this advice. Although admissions committee members admit that people who sign up for community service or other extracurricular groups six months to a year before applying to business school seem like half-hearted, just-in-time participants, they also say that doing something is better than doing nothing at all. "We want students who want to change the world," says Hargrove.

You could always get involved in community-service opportunities at work. Many offices have a community-service day or some sort of fund-raising drive in which employees can participate, says Frick. He adds that you could even take the initiative to start something of that sort at work yourself, especially if working long hours is among the reasons you haven't gotten involved already.

Having activities outside of work under your belt is just one way to show that you are well-rounded. Shores says that she is looking to see that candidates have a broad perspective of the world and get along well with others. If their activities can't show her this, then she will look to the applicant's letters of recommendation, essays, and undergraduate studies (a nontraditional major or a few electives in the arts, for example) to reveal how they view the world and what they are interested in beyond business.

APPLY YOURSELF
    

This is the year that you will complete your business school applications. One of the first goals on your agenda should be to demonstrate why you are a good "fit" for each of the B-schools on your short list. To do so, you should visit the campuses. "Essays become more robust and sincere when you talk about what you saw and who you met, rather than what you've read," says Bauer. Some experts suggest visiting campuses in the spring, rather than the fall, because there are fewer applicants on campus then, and you can get more face time and attention with everyone.

Still, if it is impossible for you to visit the school, you must immerse yourself in the online community for that school, know its Web site inside and out, and talk to current students, alumni, faculty, and administrators. Your main goal, with or without a visit, should be to become an insider at your top-choice schools, says Bauer. To do this, he suggests also setting up Google Alerts for the schools that interest you most, so you never miss the latest news on campus, and reading student and alumni newsletters and other publications regularly.

Another component of articulating fit is knowing exactly what you want to do and how the MBA and a particular school's program will help you do it. By now, you should have completed your soul-searching and have some sort of career path in mind that you can outline in your essays and interviews. "Business school is not the place to find yourself," says Hargrove. "You have to come in with a plan." Although many students are career changers, you have to enter the program with a pretty firm idea of what you want to do after graduation, because of the pace of the job-search process, which will begin in the fall of your first year. You don't want to get left in the dust by your classmates, which could end up intimidating you and putting you behind in your post-MBA life.

Once you've visited a school and know it well and you have a career path in mind, you can start thinking about your essays and interview. This is probably the most important part of the application, say admissions consultants. "You're entering into a lifelong partnership," says Frick. He suggests writing a summary of what brought you to the application process in the first place, what you value, what you want to do with your life, the skills you need to accomplish that goal, and how this program and the MBA will help you.

One warning as you sit down to complete your application: "Avoid a lot of what you hear on the street," says Shores, who adds that you should stick with the advice you get from admissions consultants about the application. Her main reason, she says, is that sometimes alumni and students don't really grasp the process that the committee goes through to choose and create a class. Therefore, they can't really give you tips you can use. There's no set profile, she adds. "Be genuine, authentic, and let us get to know you as an individual," she says. By now, you should know who you are and what you want (more or less), so it shouldn't be hard to let that shine through in your application.

If you're still dissatisified with your GMAT scores, now would be the time to retake the test. To give yourself an edge, consider one of the many test-prep services that specialize in the GMAT, such as Kaplan, Manhattan GMAT, or Princeton Review. But be warned: they can be pricey—more than $1,000 in some cases. If you're considering an admissions consultant, you should make decisions about whether to use one early on, so you are getting your money's worth, says Bauer. If you wait until the last minute, you may be competing with others for time with your consultant. Also, think about what the schools to which you are applying would say about you having an admissions consultant before deciding. No schools ban them, but some—including Harvard, Wharton, and Stanford—have been openly critical in the past.

Another suggestion that Bauer has for clients is to conduct a background check on themselves. Schools will use online services and research to find out about your past. He says some online companies will do this for you for less than $100, so you can see what the schools will see before they see it. The best place for an MBA applicant to go, writes Bauer, is the member directory of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). Then, when schools ask about indiscretions, you'll be prepared to explain that driving violation from freshman year, he says. You might not even remember some of the things that can come up in these checks, so it's best to be prepared.

Finally, take a step back, suggests Frick, and put yourself in the shoes of the admissions committees at the schools to which you are applying. What will they see as your perceived weaknesses? How can you help them understand those weaknesses and how you are overcoming them? Explain all of this in the application and elaborate if it comes up in the interview. Use the optional essay. "It's optional in name only," says Frick.

LIVE ON A BUDGET
    

You should have been saving money and starting to live like a student again all along. As you're applying to business school, you should decide about whether you're going to sell your home or if you will need your car at school. Bauer says that these kinds of things are important decisions because they will be factored into your financial aid packages. He also tells his clients to increase credit lines while they're still fully employed because it will be harder to get credit once you are back at school.

Creating a two-year budget, based on being without an income, is a great idea, says Frick. He adds that along with your budget, you should make it a priority to help your partner (if you have one) find a job and to learn about other ways you can make money while studying full-time. He says that students can serve as teaching assistants or give admissions tours to help offset the cost of their studies. Every little bit helps.

BY THE END OF YEAR FIVE…
    

You should have:

• Wrapped things up at work in a way that leaves you in the good graces of your former employer

• Become an insider at the MBA programs at the top of your list

• Come up with a clear-cut career path to share with the admissions committees

• Addressed your weaknesses as an applicant in the application

• Found a way to explain why you're a good fit for the schools on your short list and completed your applications

• Started to live—and feel—like a student again. The MBA is, after all, just around the corner

Di Meglio is a reporter for BusinessWeek.com in Fort Lee, N.J.
    


[此贴子已经被作者于2009-3-3 17:39:06编辑过]
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