MBA Admissions: Application Advice for Career Changers

As an IT consultant, how do you know equities research is the right career for you? How do you know you can handle the hours, the industry volatility, the stress of having such a large impact on huge investment decisions?

The MBA applicant pursuing career change carries a burden spared other applicants: the need to demonstrate that you understand the new industry and/or function in practical terms. After all, someone may be genuinely fascinated by equities research but ultimately not fit in with that industry's culture. Thus, you must go beyond expressing sincere interest and making a logical case for your career goals. You must show that you understand your chosen industry or function "from the inside." Failure to do so will undermine the credibility of your goals.

The goals essay is the heart of that effort. Most important, explain how you plan to achieve your goals, the actual steps you will take. Here are some other pointers for using your goals essay to show that you know exactly what you are doing in changing career direction.

  • To make the change seem as natural as the sunrise, tell the "story" of your motivation and your evolving understanding of the field or function. For example, you are an IT consultant seeking to become an investment research analyst. Through interacting with people in different functions at client companies, you discovered and were intrigued by how financial factors shape not just IT decisions but overall strategy development. Describe your developing awareness and interest, detailing some of the more illuminating interactions.
  • Show that you understand the day-to-day reality of your desired industry or function. Interactions with people such as those noted above are one way. You may also request informational interviews, audit courses, and read industry publications. Clarify in your essay your proactive efforts to understand the field and the insights you gain from these efforts.
  • Openly address challenges and obstacles you expect to face as a newcomer to the field, and how you plan to handle them. This further demonstrates knowledge of the field or function and also your maturity and objectivity.
  • No doubt your current work honed skills and provided knowledge that will be beneficial in your future career. For example, the IT consultant developed communication skills in obtaining information from the client, which will help him draw information from company management as an equities analyst. In addition, his quantitative skills from engineering will apply. Presenting concrete examples of skills and knowledge applicable to your chosen field underscores both your preparation for the role and your understanding of its demands.
  • Along similar lines, you can likely argue that your "different" background will enable you to make a special contribution in your new role. The IT consultant brings a deep understanding of technology deployment that will facilitate analysis of a company's true value and potential for continued success. Delineate such benefits, as always, supported by a concrete example or two.
  • Finally, get the adcom "fired up" about your plans by articulating a vision for your goal. That means clarifying something you want to accomplish or contribute through your career, the impact you hope to have. For the IT consultant, it could be "integrating deep technology know-how into the evaluation of all companies."

Clinch your message by effectively using the "why this school" part of the essay question. Ideally, the MBA studies are a bridge that will take you from where you are to where you want to be. By now identifying key learning needs for your new career, you further strengthen the impression that you understand the realities and demands of the position. Describe through specific details how the program under discussion will become that bridge.

As a career changer, you face certain obstacles in your MBA strategy and application. On the other hand, you likely have an interesting story to tell about your goals. Use that story to make your plans seem like the most inevitable, natural thing in the world.

However, telling that story isn't always easy.'s experienced editors can help you reflect on your experiences, select the anecdotes that best portray your singular self, and weave them into compelling essays that grab the admissions committees' attention. Read about's services to see how we can help you gain admission to the best MBA program for you and make the career change you want.

By Cindy Tokumitsu, Senior Editor, co-author of The Finance Professional's Guide to MBA Admissions Success

For information on how can help you, please see our MBA admissions consulting and application services.

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