Positioning your career plans and professional accomplishments is an important part of your MBA application.
For each business school you apply to, make sure your CV speaks to your career plan and that both are aligned to the overall story you are telling about yourself.
A coherent plan lets MBA admissions teams see you mean business before they meet you. So, avoid the mistake of jumping in blind with the following 14 tips and make sure you’re CV is ready for your MBA application:
1. Use the right template. Each business school should have a template for you to use. These usually exclude unnecessary personal information and are one page long—make every line count and remove repetition where job functions overlap. Make sure you submit a well-formatted, error-free CV.
2. Highlight your achievements. Show the impact you had and highlight examples of where you went above and beyond. Show that you have made a contribution to your industry.
3. Avoid industry jargon and acronyms. Let someone from outside your industry take a look at your CV. They should understand each point and what you do.
4. Provide industry and company context. This is especially important for international applicants. Admissions officers may never have heard of your company, or your job function. Some context on your company (number of employees, turnover etcetera) and information about your industry can help them understand.
5. Quantify your achievements. Outline the actions you've taken and the results, e.g. ‘Increased turnover by 20% to $1.2 million by conceptualizing and implementing a new training program for staff’.
6. Provide context for your academic achievements. Admissions officers may not have heard of your university or course. Is this the best university in your continent for this subject? Is the course highly competitive? Were you ranked in the top 10% of your class? Undergraduate marks vary widely by course and country, so some explanation could help. Showcase special academic accomplishments and scholarships.
7. Provide personal context. Perhaps your undergraduate marks were lower because you were working on your business or battling illness. Perhaps you were the first in your family to attend university, or the youngest person ever to be appointed to the company board.
8. Highlight leadership, initiative, and interpersonal skills. These are some of the important qualities to highlight on your CV. You can use ‘action words’ such as led, launched, spearheaded, managed, conceptualized and implemented to showcase your role in projects and emphasize these qualities
9. Show career progression and promotion. Highlight how your responsibilities and impact have grown over the years, even if you have been in the same job.
10. Don’t skip extra-curricular activities. Extra-curricular activities like sport, cultural pursuits, or volunteering can show that you’ll contribute to campus life and have a wide range of interests. These should be authentic and long-standing rather than adopted months before the MBA application. The quality rather than the quantity of these activities matters.
Your CV should speak to your post-MBA career plans. Many people go into MBA programs unsure of their next career move or change their minds mid-MBA.
Admissions officers, however, want to see that you can craft a well thought out, realistic, and well-researched career plan. If you are capable of this, you are capable of being responsible for your career journey. You should be able to explore one of your possible career paths even if you aren't 100% sure that you will go in this direction.
Here's how to position your career plans for your MBA application:
11. Paint the full picture. Unrealistic career goals or the lack of a plan can be a red flag for admissions officers who don’t want unemployable, disappointed alumni on their hands. These plans should be well-researched, and should outline your short, medium, and long-term goals.
12. Have a backup plan. If you plan to change careers, industry, function, or geography you’ll need to acknowledge that this can be difficult and have a clear plan for how you’re going to do it. You should also have an elaborate back-up plan should these options not work out.
13. If you are planning to change careers, justify your logic. What is the thread connecting your past experience to your future ambitions? How will you succeed?
14. Be business school specific. Any business school can help anyone develop a network, for example. How will this business school help you achieve your specific goals? For example, you could discuss this school’s link to employers in your industry, or to specific departments in the wider university. If any part of your application looks like it could be from anyone, about any school, you're on the wrong track.