Get Ready to Go Back to (B-) School
September 08, 2011
You have delivered top-notch applications, gotten accepted into MBA programs and chosen your preferred business school. You now plan to relax until the beginning of classes, but you should not. The moment prospective MBAs decide where to attend MBA programs, the business school experience begins. Before they head to class, there are several things they should do that could set them ahead of the competition.
As the saying goes: "Diligence is the mother of good fortune."
5 ways to prepare for MBA programs
1. Get into the B-school mindset.
To get into business school mode, you should first freshen up your quantitative and qualitative skills. You may do so by enrolling in continuing education classes or training sessions during MBA orientation. Accounting, business communications, economics and statistics are among the courses that should ease your way into MBA programs. Excel and PowerPoint classes should also help. Core MBA courses demand a high level of quantitative analysis using Excel and the ability to present information through PowerPoint. If you don't have the time to make it to class, consider online classes. Whatever you do, make sure you're up to speed.
"It's always nice to take a refresher course to get yourself back into the mindset," said Ruthie Pyles, director of recruiting and admissions for MBA programs at the W. P. Carey School of Business of Arizona State University.
2. Find out what's going on in business.
If you have not yet done so, you should start to keep track of financial developments. You may do so by reading The Economist, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and/or Bloomberg Businessweek. You could even build a personalized business magazine using apps such as Zite. Prospective MBAs who would like to interact with executives and companies log on to Twitter or LinkedIn. Trade publications and business organization websites are also great ways to find out the latest news on your field.
"Start reading the financial press daily," said MBA Ryan Anderson, a graduate of the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. You will "see the relevance of the topics you'll be discussing."
3. Put your best credentials forward.
You should also update your resume with the help of self-assessments and informational interviews. During self-assessments, prospective MBAs can check in with co-workers and colleagues to identify their knowledge, skills and abilities and determine how they can transfer them to their business fields of interest. During informational interviews, they should learn more about their targeted fields, including the corporate vocabulary used. Armed with this information, they could update their resumes to target their fields of interest.
An "accurate, truthful, and comprehensive" resume, Pyles said, should note "what value you bring to the table."
4. Pump up your network.
Get on LinkedIn and connect with everybody you come across that you would call back for a professional chat. These should include co-workers, friends, interviewers, and local executives who agree to informational interviews. Staff, students, faculty and alumni who assist you with your transition into business school should also be part of your LinkedIn connections. Professional network profiles should include all pertinent experience--including volunteer work--and education. They should also prominently highlight professional accomplishments. Recommendations should be written by colleagues who can articulate your knowledge, skills and abilities superbly.
"It's important to have a very robust profile on LinkedIn," Pyles said. "That's really where you should be driving your professional network."
5. Get out there.
Last but not least, you should engage in activities to sharpen your business skills, including engaging in volunteer work. Prospective MBAs can contact local organizations to see if they can assist with daily operations or look for online organizations that might be seeking the support of MBAs. Another option for MBAs who want to switch careers is to engage in pre-MBA internships. These internships could be available through startups that need additional help or through major companies such as Deloitte. These novel types of internships are generating a lot of buzz even among MBA alumni.
"I didn't have the chance to do a pre-MBA internship, but I like the sound of it," said Anderson, who graduated from business school in 2007 and now owns Club Z! Tutoring of Greensboro, an in-home tutoring business in North Carolina.
As you prepare to start your business-school education, remember that preparation can make a difference. Your interning, volunteering and reading can give you extra insight and make the investment in your business education that much more valuable.