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Should I Stay or Should I Go? Avoid mistakes that can derail your MBA application

The decisions applicants make today can drastically impact their business school admission outcome.

I spoke with an applicant who had applied to a top business school and was ultimately denied admission.

Academically, she was a strong candidate (above 730 GMAT and 3.6 GPA from an Ivy League University).

She had pursued an unusual major and had interesting work experience in the developing world earning her some solid points on the diversity/unique perspective category.

The weakest aspect of her application was her work experience and leadership track record.

She had done a one year stint at a Hedge Fund then followed it up with two short stints in International Development (each lasting several months).

And herein lay her problem: the work profile was too inconsistent to justify her applying now.

I think she could have benefited from staying at the latest job an extra year to beef up her leadership experience and “grow some roots” by staying 2 years there instead of applying with a short tenure, thus reinforcing the concerns that she may be a flighty candidate.

For candidates in similar situations, it is important to proactively and with maturity address their decision points and motivations.

This MBA applicant did not effectively address her decision to join a Hedge Fund in the first place; neither did she demonstrate with credibility what inspired her to pursue the socially-driven work she had done.

I recognize that every applicant has unique circumstances that he/she is faced with.

Here are some questions to contemplate when deciding whether you should stay or leave your job:

– What’s the new job and will it reinforce your brand and give you more leadership exposure?

– What is your track record for changing jobs?

– How soon are you going to apply to business school?

When it makes sense to leave your job

If you are a year or more away from applying to business school and this job will give you greater responsibility and more opportunity to build your brand, then it makes sense to leave.

The same applies for when you are stagnating at your current job and need to broaden your skill set.

If it is a job that is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it fits with your passion and you can get a lot of interesting stories that you can draw on for your application, then it is worth making the leap.

And then for those who are looking to rebrand themselves, a job can go a long way in helping you establish credibility regarding your goals and how you market yourself in your MBA application.

When it makes sense to remain in your job

If you are at risk of appearing flaky by switching jobs too many times or if you are in a situation where your recommenders would frown on your decision to join another employer, possibly jeopardizing your recommendation, then you may need to consider remaining at the job until after you apply and interview at the business school.

Changing jobs isn’t always the only way for you to differentiate yourself.

You can seek assignments outside your group for greater responsibility or even initiate something at your firm that can create value beyond your job description.

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