There’s no arguing that the world is getting smaller. Technology has finally connected just about any remote part of the globe which until just a few years ago, still operated in many cases as if in the dark ages. Even in the remotest villages of Africa, we now find cell phones and smart phones. Where we once had to fly to client locations to meet “face to face,” we can now meet remotely via telepresence, which has become as easy as finding a mobile connection.
Businesses have led the charge in shrinking our world by adopting and creating the latest technologies, and in doing so they now place a new importance on global experience in the workplace. The employees who know their way around international business practices have an advantage, not only in a multi-national corporation, but also with the smaller firm which wields the worldwide web to waggle their wares.
This desire for international exposure has trickled downhill, and the companies which recruit at top business schools more than ever demand students who have both a global worldview and practical experience abroad. Of course at the bottom of this hill are the business schools, whose job it is to prepare students for this diverse international environment.
It’s not enough, unfortunately to cram this experience in during business school, and schools know this. In fact many schools, especially at the top tier, are looking for applicants who arrive at b-school already having international experience. This is more complicated than it sounds, because that semester abroad you spent in college taking a couple of courses in Italy and ingesting Spaghetti alla puttanesca all summer (if you know what I mean) won’t impress them. Study abroad is great, and can sometimes help you land that post undergraduate job with the international firm, but it’s really the international firm experience itself that’s going to win you points with the admissions committee. And as great as international pleasure travel is for broadening your cultural horizons and revealing some personal passions, it’s not going to check that box at the elite schools for international exposure.
What schools are really looking for is tangible, professional interactions in the workplace either physically in a foreign country or at least with people in foreign countries. This puts many American workers at a distinct disadvantage, but before you write it off as a weakness in your application, make sure you are not selling yourself short.
Most firms these days have some sort of connection to the international marketplace. If you are not familiar with what your firm does outside your home country, start looking into it. Perhaps you can take on some extra responsibilities with a team which has an international assignment? Even if you simply deal with employees or customers in different countries on a regular basis without ever leaving your office, you can begin to garner an international perspective on the business landscape which you can leverage for business school.
Worst case is you describe your personal travel or study abroad time in a narrative that shows gravitas and sage insight, but try if you can to seek out true international work experience. You may be pleasantly surprised at the edge it gives your application.
If you want to talk to us about how you can stand out, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!
Scott Bryant has over 25 years of professional post undergraduate experience in the entertainment industry as well as on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. He served on the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA and now works part time in retirement for a top tier business school. He has been consulting with Veritas Prep clients for the past six admissions seasons.