This week we are changing things up a bit and turning the camera (so to speak) on Scott Edinburgh, Personal MBA Coach founder. Get Scott’s insight on the value of an MBA, the main challenges MBA candidates face, the right time to apply and more!
Question: Based on your experience and expertise, what is the value of pursuing an MBA?
With low levels of unemployment (though this may change soon – more on that below) you may be questioning the value of an MBA. However, there are countless benefits of earning an MBA. The most obvious, of course, is the technical knowledge you will gain. In addition to traditional courses in fields such as finance, accounting and marketing, nearly all MBA programs offer specialized courses covering a variety of industries and functional areas. Whether you are planning to go into finance, real estate, marketing or healthcare, you will have the chance to learn the fundamentals from industry experts.
Equally as important as these technical skills are the “soft” skills you can gain during an MBA. Both inside and outside of the classroom, MBA programs strongly emphasize skills such as leadership, teamwork and communication, all crucial skills for future leaders. In addition, the countless volunteer and travel programs offer students further opportunities to stretch themselves personally and professionally.
The business school classroom also provides students the chance to take risks in an open and trusting environment. Often students enter business school with one goal, but they use this unique and safe environment to try classes or programs in other fields. In many cases, this leads students down an unexpected path as they find a field that is a better fit.
Finally, business schools provide students with great networking opportunities, both while on campus and beyond. In addition to learning from classroom peers, students find alumni to be invaluable resources as they seek their first post-MBA jobs. Alumni not only can provide crucial insider knowledge, but they also often help fellow alums secure roles in their companies. MBA graduates will then continue to rely upon this network throughout their careers for partners, mentors or even investors.
Question: What do you recommend to candidates who have considered postponing applying to business school because of the strong job market?
This is actually an ideal time to apply to business school. With lower levels of unemployment, many top business schools are seeing fewer applicants (particularly domestic applicants). This makes now a slightly (and I do mean slightly) less competitive time to apply.
Further, all signs point to a worsening job market, which means by September 2023, when 2022-2023 applicants will enroll in business school, professional opportunities are likely to be more limited. Based on my 15 years of experience, I expect to see an increase in applicants in the near future as more companies announce layoffs and hiring freezes due to increased interest rates and lower spending.
If you are considering an MBA in the near future, now would be a great time to take the leap.
Question: What was the greatest impact attending Wharton had on your professional and personal life?
Naturally, given my line of work, my MBA experience changed my career. While I started my post-MBA career in a more traditional strategy role, the MBA was so transformational for me that while I was in school, I began helping my friends with their applications so they, too, could have this valuable opportunity. Thirteen years later, helping others enjoy the transformative experience of the MBA has become my life’s passion.
Tactically, at Wharton I learned to think more strategically and to develop stronger presentations. I also expanded my negotiation and decision-making skills and became an overall better leader. Leadership is tough and while I am still learning, a lot of the skills that have helped me succeed today, I developed at Wharton.
Personally, I now have friends (even very close friends) from around the world. While you meet a lot of people and develop great friends as an undergraduate, everyone is still somewhat immature. Business school is a great time to develop lasting relationships. I still cherish and leverage these relationships today, using many of my peers as sounding boards, both personally and professionally. The opportunity to attend global weddings (once they are allowed to happen) is not a bad perk, either.
Question: What is the main challenge that MBA candidates face in getting accepted to their target MBA programs?
The main challenge that Personal MBA Coach and our team help clients tackle is figuring out how to truly tell their stories. Developing the personal story may be the hardest and the most important part of the application. This story should be compelling and somewhat unique. MBA admissions directors see countless similar profiles each year, particularly for students who work in overrepresented industries or who come from overrepresented demographics. Personal MBA Coach helps candidates to stand out and clearly articulate the value they will add on campus.
We advise candidates to start this process months, if not years, in advance to develop a story that is focused, logical and unique. When I meet with a new candidate, I start by asking a lot of questions. We talk about everything the applicant has done, often starting from childhood. I advise you to start with a similar process.
Make a list of everything you have done in your life and take the time to write it all down. Think carefully about the decisions you have made, activities you enjoy and, most importantly, why you made those choices. Think about your future goals. What do you want to do after you earn your MBA and, again, why? Next, look for a theme! What single idea ties all this together? This is the hard part, so give it time.
Question: What is the profile of an MBA candidate?
There is no one profile of an MBA candidate. Each year we work with more “typical” candidates, including management consultants, investment bankers and private equity professionals. We also help many clients coming from and/or returning to family businesses. However, we also work with clients who are opera singers, musicians, nonprofit leaders, teachers, marketing professionals, restaurateurs, physicians, family business professionals — the list goes on. Strong business and leadership skills can be an asset in any industry as supported by the diversity of MBA applicants.
Question: After completing the MBA, what comes next?
That answer is up to the applicant. The fields that MBA graduates enter are as diverse as the fields they worked in prior to business school. In certain careers MBA graduates feed into common roles – for example, consulting firms start MBA graduates in a “class” of their peers. Other firms provide leadership development programs for recent graduates. In general, however, there are countless roles a graduate can fill. MBA programs dedicate an entire career services department to helping graduates find their ideal jobs.
About Personal MBA Coach:
Founded by a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan graduate who sits on the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants Board of Directors, Personal MBA Coach has been guiding clients for 15 years and is consistently ranked #1 or #2 by leading sources including Poets & Quants.
We help clients with all aspects of the MBA application process including early planning, GMAT/GRE/EA tutoring, application strategy, school selection, essay editing, and mock interviews. Our team includes former M7 admissions directors and former M7 admissions interviewers.