Previously, we covered two strategies to improve the perceived quality of your work experience, wherever you are. The first and fastest was asking for budget. The second and slower was finding subordinates.
Now we will discuss the third and probably most long-term strategy of all:
Get Close to Those Not In Your Immediate Chain of Command
Ideally, you should have the autonomy to do whatever you want with your time at work, but as a junior, you usually sit around under the watchful eye of some middle-manager who requires you to do his or her bidding. That is a bad situation for you. Because this is not business-school-worthy work. Every day you spend running the Excel or PowerPoint for some immediate boss is a day you truly waste in your life, as far as your own business school prospects are concerned.
So how do you go about making better use of your work?
The ultimate secret to a winning career is to do impactful projects. Projects make the headlines and create the resume entries that get you to places both higher and greener…as well as into your dream business school. Very few people go places for dutifully churning out the grind.
To do impactful projects, you need to either generate them yourself or be staffed on them. Generating projects yourself is one way to go (remember to ask for budget and bring on informal subordinates). Getting staffed on impactful projects can be a better way, but getting staffed on projects requires you to have a high and wide network within your firm, beyond your firm, and within the business community of your firm’s clients, consultants, and suppliers (depending on the complexity of your firm).
In short, you need to get close to people not in your immediate chain of command so as to market yourself as a potential staffer on big important projects. In places like the military and some very specific situations, this is dangerous maneuvering. But for most people early in their careers, this is quite safe practice.
How you go about doing this is subject of some other debate, but in many firms, one target no matter how junior you are should be to have your ultimate boss – the CEO – know you in the first year. Then work your way down to your boss’s boss, fanning wide along the way. After that, keep your eyes and ears open for any big projects you can weasel yourself onto. And once you are on that big elephant of a project, immediately put it on your resume.
So there you have it. Three ways to improve your work experience before business school. Good luck!
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This Veritas Prep GMAT instructor received a degree in Economics from Princeton, and is currently pursuing a PhD. He has worked as a business consultant, research analyst, and adjunct faculty member at various institutions.