5 Tips for Oil & Gas Professionals Applying to MBA Programs

by on August 6th, 2017

Given the current state of the Oil & Gas industry, many professionals are looking to refocus their career into a less volatile field, others want to reform the industry from within. An MBA may be a good option either way.

1. Why an MBA?

The first questions you should ask yourself is why do you want to get an MBA and why do you want to get it now? Do you just want out or are you interested in to returning to the industry in a different role? Perhaps you haven’t decided but would consider using the two years in an MBA program to take a wait and see approach.

2. Do your Research.

Unlike in consulting or banking, the path to or beyond an MBA is not always clear from within an oil and gas company, especially for those in technical roles. Seek out others who have successfully forged this path so you can ask them advice on your application strategy and career goals. One resource for this is your own college alumni network. Many schools offer online directories allowing you to search for keywords, such as your target school name or your target post-MBA profession.

Alternatively, reach out to your target school’s admissions office or your target school’s energy club to find students with a similar oil and gas background. How did their background prepare them for business school? How was the transition to business school? What do they know now that they wish they knew when they were applying? What kinds of positions, post MBA, are a natural fit for someone with your background?

3. Define your post MBA goals.

If leaving the oil and gas space is important to you, think deeply about how you can leverage your education and work experience to transition to something new. Investment banks, private equity and strategy consulting firms are often looking for MBA graduates with specific industry experience and advanced analytical skills. A great way to land one of these jobs is to stay tangentially related to the energy field by targeting their natural resources groups.

Another way to pivot is to consider other sectors that would value your unique background such as sustainable energy or to build upon strengths developed outside of your work life. If returning to the oil and gas space is important to you, research post-MBA roles that pique your interest. Are you more interested in the finance or managerial side of the oil and gas business? Are you interested in an integrated major that operates globally or in a nimble play-focused independent? Do you have a preference among upstream, midstream, downstream or services?

4. Choose your Recommenders Carefully.

As is true for all MBA candidates, ideally one of your recommenders would be your direct manager. Unfortunately, as the path to an MBA is not widespread in the oil and gas industry, this is not always possible. Asking a direct supervisor can jeopardize current or future work assignments.

Additionally, some potential recommenders don’t have insight into the process or have what it takes to write a stellar recommendation. Alternates for a direct supervisor would be a (significantly) senior colleague or a prior manager—someone who knows you well and can provide granular, detailed support of your application. Prepare your recommenders by sharing your essays, career goals, and project specifics so that they can take these into consideration. Make sure they are aware that the letter is not a performance review but rather advocacy on your behalf.

5. Focus on the Personal.

Many oil and gas candidates have significant technical achievements and capabilities. While these capabilities are an asset in Exploration & Production they are not particularly persuasive on an MBA application. Adcom would be more interested in the interpersonal dynamics of projects. How do you manage leadership, teams, colleagues, or external issues? What have you done to overcome a hurdle? Is there anything in your personal life that is the key to understanding how you have developed as a human being?

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