Business schools have a very difficult problem. For most intents and purposes, their applicant pools are junior business acolytes whose days usually consist of menial desk labor at the beck and call of a perhaps marginal superior. The issue is that it is very difficult to separate a good candidate from a bad one among a pool of people doing this type of work.
By far the most important part of an MBA admissions application is the work experience, yet very few people talk about improving it. Indeed, on first sight, it appears like you can do little about your work experience, especially if you are one of the aforementioned acolytes. But that should not be the attitude of a future captain of industry like yourself.
There are strategies and tactics that you can use to dramatically bolster the quality, impressiveness, and maybe even lucrativeness of your current work experience – maybe even in a very short period of time. As an added bonus, these strategies will also dramatically improve the quality of your work experience in the eyes of the admissions committee of your dream business schools.
The first, easiest, and fastest big strategy is:
Ask for a Budget
Business, at the end of the day, is about money. And business schools recognize that. In executive MBA programs, for example, a prime consideration for admission is the size of the candidate’s budget. More budget means more responsibility, more success, and more influence. Business schools like admitting people who have demonstrated ability to influence.
Thus, ask for a budget.
Whatever your current job or station in your company, you are rarely too junior to ask for budget. Start small. Ask for a budget to buy books. Ask for a budget to attend conferences. Eventually, ask for a budget to run a project. Over the course of a year or two, if you demonstrated good work with the money you have been given, ask for a large project with a large budget…and then emphasize this on your business school application.
One of the key business skills in business and in life is asking others for money. If you can demonstrate it early, you have demonstrated the ability to succeed in business school and beyond. Also, size of budget will matter tremendously on your career trajectory up the food chain in any corporation. Without fail, he or she with the most budget has the most influence.
So don’t be an amateur at work. Ask for money from wherever and whomever you can. Ask for money for whatever and whichever purpose you can think of. It is often difficult to ask for a salary increase, but it is easy to ask for money as a budget for a specific project. If you are asked to do anything significant, ask for budget to help you do it. This is actually best practice (standard practice in fact), and most executives assume projects all come with budget. But most junior people do not know about this and never ask for money. If you are not asking for money, you are not in this activity we call business. Before you get schooled formally in business, educate yourself in asking for money.
Next time, we’ll take a look at a second way you can improve your work experience.
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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.