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With my work experience, is it even worth it to try?

This topic has 1 expert reply and 3 member replies
herman345 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
Joined
30 Aug 2016
Posted:
3 messages

With my work experience, is it even worth it to try?

Post Tue Aug 30, 2016 12:41 pm
Hello,

I'm considering hunkering down and studying like a mad man in order to get the best GMAT score that I possibly can and start applying for top 10 MBA programs, but after doing some online research, I'm left with a very important question that I haven't been able to find an answer to: With my very unimpressive work experience post-bachelor's degree, is it even possible for me to get into a top 10 program even with a very high GMAT score? Here's a little background on me:

In 2010, I graduated from a decent state university (WP Carey at Arizona State) with about a 3.7 GPA in "Global Leadership." My goal at the time was to get into corporate strategy at a large company. Upon graduating, I took an internship in China at a small company that helps students make the necessary preparations to attend school abroad in various western countries (US, England, Canada, Australia, etc). Here is where I got a little...shall we say, off-track.

After my 6-month internship, I decided I wanted to try out ESL-teaching. I did that for about 6 months (so I spent a total of 1 year in China), and then moved back to my home state and worked for a very small business as a sales rep selling a certain kind of construction equipment. Due to certain circumstances, and due to the fact that I do not enjoy sales, I only spent about a year with that company before going back to China to teach ESL for another year. After this second stint in China, I once again moved home and took a job at a very large financial company (think Charles Schwab, Vanguard, Merril Edge, etc), and this is where I have been for the last 2 years and 9 months.

So, here's where I'm at: I am now 29 years old, and my work experience is...unimpressive, to say the least. I work on the phones in a call-center environment, and I assist clients with a very specific type of investment that's geared towards saving for education. I do have licenses -- Series 6 and 63. I desperately want to do more with my life, and I am still very interested in corporate strategy, although admittedly I have a very unclear, big-picture idea of what the means. What I know is that in college, I stood out greatly from my peers in my upper-level classes which were geared towards business and corporate strategy, strategic analysis, etc. What's more, I actually ENJOYED my projects in these classes. Over the past couple of years, I have applied for numerous positions which I hoped could eventually lead in the direction that I want to go, but I have had no luck, and I believe it's due to my work experience.

So, my question is this: If I were to achieve a very high score on the GMAT (let's say 730 - 760), do I have any chance at all of getting into a top-10 MBA program, or is my work experience (or lack thereof) going to hold me back to such a degree that it's not really worth the effort? If my chances are too low to justify the time and money that I would need to spend studying, then I will probably need to resort to plan B.

I would very much appreciate any advice that anybody has. Feel free to be as harsh as you want!

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GyanOne Master | Next Rank: 500 Posts
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Post Wed Aug 31, 2016 3:18 am
herman345 wrote:
Hello,

I'm considering hunkering down and studying like a mad man in order to get the best GMAT score that I possibly can and start applying for top 10 MBA programs, but after doing some online research, I'm left with a very important question that I haven't been able to find an answer to: With my very unimpressive work experience post-bachelor's degree, is it even possible for me to get into a top 10 program even with a very high GMAT score? Here's a little background on me:

In 2010, I graduated from a decent state university (WP Carey at Arizona State) with about a 3.7 GPA in "Global Leadership." My goal at the time was to get into corporate strategy at a large company. Upon graduating, I took an internship in China at a small company that helps students make the necessary preparations to attend school abroad in various western countries (US, England, Canada, Australia, etc). Here is where I got a little...shall we say, off-track.

After my 6-month internship, I decided I wanted to try out ESL-teaching. I did that for about 6 months (so I spent a total of 1 year in China), and then moved back to my home state and worked for a very small business as a sales rep selling a certain kind of construction equipment. Due to certain circumstances, and due to the fact that I do not enjoy sales, I only spent about a year with that company before going back to China to teach ESL for another year. After this second stint in China, I once again moved home and took a job at a very large financial company (think Charles Schwab, Vanguard, Merril Edge, etc), and this is where I have been for the last 2 years and 9 months.

So, here's where I'm at: I am now 29 years old, and my work experience is...unimpressive, to say the least. I work on the phones in a call-center environment, and I assist clients with a very specific type of investment that's geared towards saving for education. I do have licenses -- Series 6 and 63. I desperately want to do more with my life, and I am still very interested in corporate strategy, although admittedly I have a very unclear, big-picture idea of what the means. What I know is that in college, I stood out greatly from my peers in my upper-level classes which were geared towards business and corporate strategy, strategic analysis, etc. What's more, I actually ENJOYED my projects in these classes. Over the past couple of years, I have applied for numerous positions which I hoped could eventually lead in the direction that I want to go, but I have had no luck, and I believe it's due to my work experience.

So, my question is this: If I were to achieve a very high score on the GMAT (let's say 730 - 760), do I have any chance at all of getting into a top-10 MBA program, or is my work experience (or lack thereof) going to hold me back to such a degree that it's not really worth the effort? If my chances are too low to justify the time and money that I would need to spend studying, then I will probably need to resort to plan B.

I would very much appreciate any advice that anybody has. Feel free to be as harsh as you want!
Hi herman345

Some points to consider as you evaluate on your next steps:

- You certainly can get into a top 10 program, provided you are able to top up this experience with a strong GMAT score AND strong applications.
- In your case, the moves to and fro between China and the US are not a problem by themselves; the actual issue is the lack of singular career direction. The China experience may even be seen as a positive (not everyone can go do what you did, and twice!). Your job will be building a coherent future vision and explaining well how the MBA can help you get there. This is not impossible. Plenty of people move industries, roles, functions post the MBA.
- Corporate Strategy may not happen immediately even post-MBA, but you could, for example, make the move to an industry such as consulting, and then make the move to Corporate Strategy later. Without an MBA (or further education aligned to business/strategy) this move would indeed be challenging.
- Just curious though - why are you not considering programs ranked 10-20? You could be ignoring some excellent options there, many of which could help you get into consulting or strategy later too.


Hope this helps. Feel free to come back with more queries as needed.

Thanked by: herman345
herman345 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
Joined
30 Aug 2016
Posted:
3 messages
Post Wed Aug 31, 2016 12:36 pm
Quote:
Hi herman345

Some points to consider as you evaluate on your next steps:

- You certainly can get into a top 10 program, provided you are able to top up this experience with a strong GMAT score AND strong applications.
- In your case, the moves to and fro between China and the US are not a problem by themselves; the actual issue is the lack of singular career direction. The China experience may even be seen as a positive (not everyone can go do what you did, and twice!). Your job will be building a coherent future vision and explaining well how the MBA can help you get there. This is not impossible. Plenty of people move industries, roles, functions post the MBA.
- Corporate Strategy may not happen immediately even post-MBA, but you could, for example, make the move to an industry such as consulting, and then make the move to Corporate Strategy later. Without an MBA (or further education aligned to business/strategy) this move would indeed be challenging.
- Just curious though - why are you not considering programs ranked 10-20? You could be ignoring some excellent options there, many of which could help you get into consulting or strategy later too.


Hope this helps. Feel free to come back with more queries as needed.
Thank you very much for the reply. I'm glad to hear that top-10 programs aren't completely out of reach for me. I like your idea about building a coherent future vision - I'll definitely give that a lot of thought before applying anywhere. As far as my current experience (I'm a licensed financial representative, but I'm still in a call-center environment which I feel could hurt my chances), what are your thoughts on that? I feel like I will have a hard time justifying that as part of my direction in moving towards a consulting/strategy position.

Also, as far as only considering top-10 programs: Part of my reasoning is that my company will sponsor me if I get into a top-10 program. Outside of that, I'm already a little bit weary of degrees that seem general in nature (MBAs don't exactly teach you skills that are specific to one type of job), as I feel a little let down by the opportunities that my undergrad opened up for me, and I'm worried about getting myself into considerable debt and then not being able to find a job that justifies the cost of the MBA. So, my thinking is that if I got into a top-10 MBA program, my chances of finding a career would be considerably higher than if I were to get one from a top-20 program. I am, however, very much open to suggestions, as I'm still in the "research" stage of my process! Basically, I don't want to go through everything needed to earn a MBA, and then get out of school and find that all it really afforded me was slightly higher chances of getting some kind of supervisory position at a company like the one I'm already in.

Also, funny that you mentioned consulting -- getting a job in consulting was actually my plan when I was in undergrad! I would still love to do it, but where I live and with my qualifications, opportunities are VERY scarce (if they exist at all!)

GMAT/MBA Expert

money9111 Legendary Member
Joined
19 Apr 2009
Posted:
2109 messages
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GMAT Score:
640
Post Wed Aug 31, 2016 9:40 pm
You, my friend, are in the stages that I'd say MOST people are in. I've talked to many many applicants in similar situations such as yours, so I'm going to be very candid here and probably all over the place, but I hope you'll be able to catch the main points. I should actually be doing work at the moment, but when I see a post like this, I always feel the need to offer some direction. I'm not looking to offer you admissions consulting services but rather some simple insight into what's ahead and moreover what you should be thinking about as you begin.

As I don't come on here much, I feel the need to give you a little bit of background on myself. I graduated Johnson at Cornell University in 2013. I fully immersed myself in the b-school application process by starting about a year and a half ahead of when I would apply. I was 27 at the time. Applied to schools when I was 28, matriculated at 29 and graduated at 31. I am now 34. When I saw I immersed myself in the application process that means that, since I didn't know anyone who had pursued an MBA, I didn't know what it would take but I was determined to find out. I ended up taking the GMAT 3 times (didn't score above 650 on any 1 exam, but had good splits at different times), i took 2 GMAT classes, had a GMAt tutor, used MBA Admissions consultants, went to countless seminars (I was living in NYC at the time so that was very helpful), visited more than 5 business schools... etc etc etc the list goes on. Throughout this process I was blogging (See link in signature). I blogged all throughout the admissions process, throughout business school, and have now just started writing again trying to weave my post-MBA story to the previous one. While at school, I did many things, but one of the things that I did was admissions interviews as a 2nd year, so I've heard a lot of stories.

::wipes brow:: ok that was a long background, but I feel it was needed.

Now, back to you.

1. Stop selling yourself short. There is 100% a good story in what you posted about your profile. The key for you is to be able to tell it in a compelling manner. It sounds like you're so down on yourself about where you thought you should have been by now, which I can understand, but step 1 is to flip your story around and tell it as though the experiences that you've had are positive ones.

Watch what I do here - You lived in China for 2 years....teaching! So you've got that culture experience under your belt. I'm sure you can speak chinese - at least a little bit, conversationally perhaps? That's a plus! You taught! That's cool... that means that you have a knack for helping others understand things. You can probably use different methods of teaching to get through to different types of people. Am I right? That's an incredibly rare transferable skill, no matter what the industry is. In terms of business school, you'll definitely have to use that skill on a daily basis when dealing with your classmates and such.

2. You work in a call-center for a financial company. Perfect! Now without knowing the ins & outs of what it is that you do, I'm beginning to see a recurring theme already. You're in a "communication" role or at the very least you clearly are very comfortable communicating in financial terms. Am I right? If you're in a sales role, then hey, you're basically doing what you did in China but with a different set of deliverables.

3. Guess what you'll have to do in a corporate strategy role - COMMUNICATE to people who have a different set of values & assumptions and you've got to speak their language! Just from what you've posted on here, a role like that would actually seem right up your alley! Especially given the brief mention of your strengths from undergrad. So while you may not be able to go to B-School and get a job in the Strategy Dept @ Apple, maybe what you need to do is start investigating the Consulting route. Consultancies basically love people who think differently, able to convey ideas, and communicate. Oh they also LOVE HIGH GMAT SCORES. Wink

4. I won't go into everything with this next topic but - throw the "I'm only gonna apply to a Top 10 school" out the window. If you said "Top 20 school" I'd give you more leeway, but 100% throw the top 10 thing out the window. Now of course you're going to say, yeah...but... debt... job...recruiting... yada yada yada and we can have a longer discussion about that (even on the phone if you're in the US), but it's all bullshit in my opinion, WHEN YOU'RE IN THE BEGINNING RESEARCH STAGES. So expand your list... research schools... and just start asking a shitload of questions.

Here's where I would start:
1. Admit that you have a story that you can turn into a positive one. You've got to take onus for your story - your experiences - your destiny. Sounds simple, but it's not. You can't change anything that you've done in the past and that's okay. You're the only one with your experiences and you've got a lot to offer.

2. Go ahead and get rid of the notion of "Only applying to top 10 schools", broader your search. You can start with the top 10 list (but of course you know that varies depending on which publication you use. Go to the school's websites and research consulting. Most importantly, research WHICH CONSULTING COMPANIES RECRUIT AT THAT SCHOOL. Make a spreadsheet, and as you go down the list of schools, wherever you see the cut-off of reputable consulting firms, then you have your list of schools to look into more. For instance, if you look through the top 20 schools but you see that only the top 15 routinely place someone at firms X,Y, and Z, then maybe that's the one for you. If you only want to go back to school with the notion of going back to your current company - then that's a different story. Few people do this even though they enter thinking they might. I'd actually be very curious to know exactly what that % is (outside of those coming from consulting and then going back into consulting). But again, that's something that you can inquire about.

3. Find solace in my blog (in my signature) - you'll have to scroll quite a bit (over 400 blog posts) to get to the "Good stuff" where I was struggling, but it's in chronological order, so you'll be able to follow the cadence of the app process & b-school. You're smart, you can figure it out.

4. Ask me any question you want... Wink

_________________
My goal is to make MBA applicants take onus over their process.

My story from Pre-MBA to Cornell MBA - New Post in Pre-MBA blog

Me featured on Poets & Quants

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Thanked by: herman345
herman345 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
Joined
30 Aug 2016
Posted:
3 messages
Post Thu Sep 01, 2016 8:15 pm
money9111 wrote:
You, my friend, are in the stages that I'd say MOST people are in. I've talked to many many applicants in similar situations such as yours, so I'm going to be very candid here and probably all over the place, but I hope you'll be able to catch the main points. I should actually be doing work at the moment, but when I see a post like this, I always feel the need to offer some direction. I'm not looking to offer you admissions consulting services but rather some simple insight into what's ahead and moreover what you should be thinking about as you begin.

As I don't come on here much, I feel the need to give you a little bit of background on myself. I graduated Johnson at Cornell University in 2013. I fully immersed myself in the b-school application process by starting about a year and a half ahead of when I would apply. I was 27 at the time. Applied to schools when I was 28, matriculated at 29 and graduated at 31. I am now 34. When I saw I immersed myself in the application process that means that, since I didn't know anyone who had pursued an MBA, I didn't know what it would take but I was determined to find out. I ended up taking the GMAT 3 times (didn't score above 650 on any 1 exam, but had good splits at different times), i took 2 GMAT classes, had a GMAt tutor, used MBA Admissions consultants, went to countless seminars (I was living in NYC at the time so that was very helpful), visited more than 5 business schools... etc etc etc the list goes on. Throughout this process I was blogging (See link in signature). I blogged all throughout the admissions process, throughout business school, and have now just started writing again trying to weave my post-MBA story to the previous one. While at school, I did many things, but one of the things that I did was admissions interviews as a 2nd year, so I've heard a lot of stories.

::wipes brow:: ok that was a long background, but I feel it was needed.

Now, back to you.

1. Stop selling yourself short. There is 100% a good story in what you posted about your profile. The key for you is to be able to tell it in a compelling manner. It sounds like you're so down on yourself about where you thought you should have been by now, which I can understand, but step 1 is to flip your story around and tell it as though the experiences that you've had are positive ones.

Watch what I do here - You lived in China for 2 years....teaching! So you've got that culture experience under your belt. I'm sure you can speak chinese - at least a little bit, conversationally perhaps? That's a plus! You taught! That's cool... that means that you have a knack for helping others understand things. You can probably use different methods of teaching to get through to different types of people. Am I right? That's an incredibly rare transferable skill, no matter what the industry is. In terms of business school, you'll definitely have to use that skill on a daily basis when dealing with your classmates and such.

2. You work in a call-center for a financial company. Perfect! Now without knowing the ins & outs of what it is that you do, I'm beginning to see a recurring theme already. You're in a "communication" role or at the very least you clearly are very comfortable communicating in financial terms. Am I right? If you're in a sales role, then hey, you're basically doing what you did in China but with a different set of deliverables.

3. Guess what you'll have to do in a corporate strategy role - COMMUNICATE to people who have a different set of values & assumptions and you've got to speak their language! Just from what you've posted on here, a role like that would actually seem right up your alley! Especially given the brief mention of your strengths from undergrad. So while you may not be able to go to B-School and get a job in the Strategy Dept @ Apple, maybe what you need to do is start investigating the Consulting route. Consultancies basically love people who think differently, able to convey ideas, and communicate. Oh they also LOVE HIGH GMAT SCORES. Wink

4. I won't go into everything with this next topic but - throw the "I'm only gonna apply to a Top 10 school" out the window. If you said "Top 20 school" I'd give you more leeway, but 100% throw the top 10 thing out the window. Now of course you're going to say, yeah...but... debt... job...recruiting... yada yada yada and we can have a longer discussion about that (even on the phone if you're in the US), but it's all bullshit in my opinion, WHEN YOU'RE IN THE BEGINNING RESEARCH STAGES. So expand your list... research schools... and just start asking a shitload of questions.

Here's where I would start:
1. Admit that you have a story that you can turn into a positive one. You've got to take onus for your story - your experiences - your destiny. Sounds simple, but it's not. You can't change anything that you've done in the past and that's okay. You're the only one with your experiences and you've got a lot to offer.

2. Go ahead and get rid of the notion of "Only applying to top 10 schools", broader your search. You can start with the top 10 list (but of course you know that varies depending on which publication you use. Go to the school's websites and research consulting. Most importantly, research WHICH CONSULTING COMPANIES RECRUIT AT THAT SCHOOL. Make a spreadsheet, and as you go down the list of schools, wherever you see the cut-off of reputable consulting firms, then you have your list of schools to look into more. For instance, if you look through the top 20 schools but you see that only the top 15 routinely place someone at firms X,Y, and Z, then maybe that's the one for you. If you only want to go back to school with the notion of going back to your current company - then that's a different story. Few people do this even though they enter thinking they might. I'd actually be very curious to know exactly what that % is (outside of those coming from consulting and then going back into consulting). But again, that's something that you can inquire about.

3. Find solace in my blog (in my signature) - you'll have to scroll quite a bit (over 400 blog posts) to get to the "Good stuff" where I was struggling, but it's in chronological order, so you'll be able to follow the cadence of the app process & b-school. You're smart, you can figure it out.

4. Ask me any question you want... Wink
I really appreciate your reply, and I've been reading through your blog as well. It's amazing how you documented all of that in real-time, and I think it's gonna be a HUGE help to me, so thank you for that!

I'm very glad to hear from you (and also GyanOne) that it doesn't seem like my work experience is going to keep me from getting into a good program, and I like what you said regarding communication being a common thread in my experience so far. I'll definitely use that! You are correct in your assessment: I can safely say that I am well-versed at communicating with people of different backgrounds, communication styles, and even nationalities. It IS a regular part of my job currently that I guide people through fairly complicated concepts and help them make some pretty important decisions. This certainly gives me something to think about, and I think I can even expand on it. As far as my Chinese, I'm afraid the best I ever spoke the language was at a basic conversational level, and even most of that has evaporated since I've been back in the states for 3 years and haven't really been keeping up with the language. So, my Mandarin level today is pretty embarrassing, but I suppose even a little bit helps, right?

Being that I'm still fairly ignorant regarding MBAs, my reasons for only considering top 10 schools thus far have been, well, exactly what you hinted at and what I said in an earlier post: I'm worried about graduating with a mountain of debt and then not being able to find a job that would help me pay it off in a reasonable amount of time! Again, though, you make good points, so I'll take your advice and expand my scope.

Again, thank you very much for the advice and the blog. Your experience is pretty inspiring. I definitely have more questions I would like to ask you, so do you mind if I Private Message you from time to time?

Also, congratulations on getting into (and graduating from) Cornell, and also on the startup!

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