PR Professional to MBA: 5 Secrets to Success
Many people working in public relations or other communications role do not consider the possibility that an MBA could be a very helpful step in their professional path. It’s hard to know that an MBA would help open doors for you if you don’t know anyone who has gotten one.
Here are five tips for PR professionals to consider if they want to pursue an MBA:
1. Do your research
Find out as much as you can from others with public relations experience who have taken this path. Check with schools you’re interested in to see if you can get in touch with students who might have come from similar backgrounds. Maybe there are students on a summer internship in your city who could be a valuable resource. Meet them for coffee or lunch to find out how they made their decision to go to business school. How did they find the PR work helped prepare them for business school? What would they do differently if given another chance? Talking to people who have made the leap from communications to an MBA is likely to give you lots of insight as to the possibilities for your future. For example, if you know you want to stay in PR, a business degree would give you the skills and knowledge to open your own boutique agency someday. If you’re not the entrepreneur type, perhaps an MBA would allow you to jump into a management position at a company or agency that would have been harder to achieve.
2. Acknowledge your gaps
You’ve likely learned valuable skills while working in PR, but usually quantitative skills are not among them. Unless you majored in finance or business in college, you are likely to have gaps in your quantitative profile that could make you less competitive for top MBA programs if you don’t address them. If this is the case, you’re in luck because there are so many different ways you can gain these skills and show the admissions committees you’re prepared for the rigors of an MBA curriculum. You could sign up for an online course or enroll in an accounting or finance course at a local college. All of these options would show schools that despite your non-quantitative background you’ll be prepared for all aspects of an MBA program. Of course, a solid quantitative score on the GMAT also goes a long way in illustrating your readiness so spend plenty of time preparing to get that part of your score as high as possible.
3. Seek out new opportunities at work
If you’re working in the public relations department of a company, look for ways to learn more about what’s going on in the business beyond your silo. Can you volunteer for a project that overlaps with another department, perhaps operations, corporate strategy or marketing? As you learn more about the broader business context, try to figure out how the PR department fits in with the other functional areas. If you find this interesting, you probably would be a good candidate for an MBA, which teaches you the fundamentals of business alongside people who have experience across every function and industry. If you’re working at a smaller PR agency, take an interest in the business side of the shop. How does your boss get clients? How does he/she plan revenue and expenses for the year? How is the agency positioned in the market compared to competitors?
4. Guide your recommenders
Unlike their peers in finance or consulting, many supervisors in public relations haven’t worked with employees who leave to pursue an MBA. Take special care to explain to your supervisor why you want to get an MBA and how you see yourself benefiting in the future. Tell them that the communications work you’ve done will allow you to offer a unique perspective to classroom discussions. Perhaps give them several bullet points on how you see your communications background as a very effective background to learn about broader business concepts. Most recommenders will be happy to help you but will want to learn more about why you want this degree and how it will help you down the road.
5. Play to your strengths
Your communications background will be a positive differentiator in several ways as you apply to MBA programs. Your work has likely involved understanding how an organization’s brand is presented to the world. Your applications are your chance to present your own brand to your audience—admissions committees. Also, don’t be shy about marketing yourself as someone who will bring a unique perspective and interesting set of skills into the classroom. Schools are looking for people with experience across all functions and industries, so be clear about how your experience will add to your peers’ learning. Finally, use your writing experience to your advantage by putting together clear, crisp and compelling essays. You likely have stronger writing skills than the average MBA candidate, so this is your chance to shine!