MBA Applicants with a Family Business Background
Embarking on the path to land a spot in an elite business school is an exciting yet demanding endeavor, especially for those whose professional background is in the family business. Successfully positioning your candidacy and work experience is vital for making a compelling case to admission committees. Today, we’re sharing strategic advice on how MBA applicants with a family business background can stand out and secure a coveted seat in a top program.
Your experience in a family business is more than a job—it’s a narrative that sets you apart. Begin your application by communicating the story behind your role. Share the challenges, triumphs, and the lessons learned. Admissions committees value authenticity, and your genuine passion for your family business can be an appealing differentiator.
Paint a clear picture of your vision for the company’s future, and leave no doubt as to how an MBA will help you make an impact on the business after graduation. That way, the admissions committee understands why business school is the logical next step.
In the competitive MBA landscape, showcasing impact is crucial. Play up instances where you’ve contributed to growth and innovation in your family business. Quantify achievements where possible, emphasizing revenue growth, cost savings, or successful strategic initiatives. This underscores your business acumen and indicates your ability to drive meaningful results.
Without a doubt, working in a family business presents unique challenges. Rather than avoiding them, position these challenges as valuable learning opportunities. Discuss how you navigated uncertainties, resolved conflicts, and adapted to industry changes. Admissions committees appreciate resilience and problem-solving skills, and your experience in a family business can demonstrate your ability to thrive in dynamic environments.
Also, keep in mind that many top B-schools have extensive resources for MBA applicants with a family business background. Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, for example, has pioneered family enterprise education with its John L. Ward Center for Family Enterprises.
“The vast majority of businesses around the world are family businesses, and they drive significant innovation and growth in our global economy,” says Francesca Cornelli, dean of the Kellogg School.
Family businesses demand a delicate balance of collaboration and leadership. Mention instances where you’ve led cross-functional teams or improved communication within the family business. Highlighting your ability to navigate interpersonal dynamics positions you as a candidate with strong leadership potential—an appealing trait for elite MBA programs.
Choosing the right people for recommendations is crucial—and sometimes tricky for MBA applicants with a family business background. Pick recommenders who can speak to your professional capabilities and personal attributes. If there’s a non-family member in a leadership position within the family business, consider getting their recommendation. That can add an outside perspective and establish your ability to work effectively with diverse individuals.
Alternatively, a recommendation from a client or business partner can validate your professional skills and impact on business relationships. This type of recommendation emphasizes your ability to build and maintain external connections, which is valuable in a business school setting. Consider having a mix of recommenders to provide a comprehensive view of your skills and character.
In some cases, admissions committees may raise questions about the breadth of your experience within a family business. Proactively address these concerns by calling attention to the range of your responsibilities. Share how you’ve contributed to different facets of the company, from operations to strategic planning. Exhibiting a well-rounded skill set eases any concerns about a limited scope of experience.
Finally, remember that top MBA programs look for candidates committed to continuous learning. Emphasize any steps you’ve taken to enhance your skills and knowledge. This could include pursuing relevant certifications, attending industry conferences, or enrolling in executive education programs. Noting your commitment to staying on top of industry trends bolsters your proactive approach to personal and professional development.
Own Your Family Business Cred
As you launch your transformative journey towards an elite MBA, know that your family business experience is a unique asset. Create a compelling narrative that celebrates your achievements and the valuable skills you’ve gained along the way. By strategically positioning your family business experience, you enhance your candidacy and provide a distinctive perspective to the diverse community of an elite business school.
Do you have a non-traditional background? Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to essay editing to hourly help reviewing your MBA resume. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant.