Let’s face it – we all know it is tough to get into the top MBA programs. Last year, Harvard accepted only 1 in 10 applications it reviewed. The climb to the top can be even tougher when you have to distinguish yourself amongst the many other applicants who ALSO come from Consulting. Last year, consultants made up the top percentages among students at HBS and Stanford.
Candidates from consulting will need to invest time to ensure that they stand out from the pack as business schools don’t want a class filled with students with identical profiles!
Here are some ways to stand out:
Leadership, leadership, leadership:
Just like the mantra of real estate is “Location, Location, Location” – the mantra of business school is “Leadership, Leadership, Leadership.” Remember that teamwork IS leadership.
If you have not yet had the opportunity for formal leadership, proactively think about (and then practice) your successful methods for leading from below or laterally. How do you move the conversation? How do you handle your critics? How do you co-opt support for your ideas? How does the culture at your client site influence how you lead? And, of course, look for opportunities to lead an engagement outright or opportunities to lead a work stream.
Broaden your exposure:
Admissions values individuals that have worked with diverse teams. If you have not had the opportunity to work outside your home country, perhaps pursue an international assignment between now and the time your application is due.
If you have not yet worked with a management team, network your way onto a project that will get you in the front of the board room.
If you have ONLY worked in the front of the board room, consider pursuing a project where you would be front line. Now is a great time to ask for a stretch assignment!
Consider giving back:
While it is understood that many consultants have hectic travel schedules that make it challenging to commit time to an organization, some of those you are competing with WILL have figured this out.
Look for meaningful opportunities to contribute to your community. Be creative. It could be by creating or improving on-boarding/training within your firm or a pro-bono engagement that also builds a skill you need for your long-term goals. Perhaps you could take a role in your undergraduate alumni association.
Think strategically about your post-MBA goals:
Connect your post-MBA goals with some area of expertise that you have developed through consulting so that your post-MBA goals will logically build upon your skills developed through work experience. This area of expertise could be functional (e.g. marketing, operations, logistics) or an industry expertise (e.g. Oil and Gas, Automotive).
If you are already passionate about what you want to do post-MBA, then strategically network your way onto engagements that will give you skills, depth or credibility in your area of focus.
If you are still deciding what to do post-MBA, then resist the temptation to “sample” without developing an expertise.