Scott Edinburgh
December 27, 2023

MBA Planning Week 1: Make Your Career Work Harder For You

Eat healthier. Exercise more. Get organized.

These may be some of the new year’s resolutions you had in mind. But for those of you hoping to apply to business school in 2024, add MBA application planning to this list. (If you are still deciding whether 2024 is the right time to apply, check out tips from Personal MBA Coach on whether it is the right time for an MBA here.)

To get a head start on your MBA applications, do not miss Personal MBA Coach’s 4-part MBA planning series this January which breaks down the MBA planning process into 4 easy-to-follow steps.

Check out part 1 now:  Make Your Career Work Harder for You!

Without changing jobs, there are some steps you can and should be taking now to ensure that when you sit down to draft your MBA essays and prepare for your MBA interviews you have plenty to talk about.

1) Be honest about your desires

That may seem simple, but many of us are afraid to be straightforward about our ambitions at work. Whether or not you can be transparent now about your MBA aspirations, let your manager in on your long-term goals. Tell them what skills you hope to master. If there is an experience at work you want to have, ask for it.

Many managers will be more than happy to find projects to help you close existing skill gaps or develop new expertise.

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2) Take on extra work

Yes, we really said this. Now is the time to ask for extra projects. Look specifically for the ones that can fill experience gaps. Even if you have already let your manager know about the skills you are looking to perfect pre-MBA, do not rely only on them to find assignments that fit your needs.

In an ideal world, you would work just on your dream projects, but we know that is not possible. By identifying your own additional projects, you will get more chances to build the skills you desire. With some companies managing through layoffs and hiring freezes, your extra efforts will be appreciated!

3) Get involved at the office

While we will talk about extracurriculars in-depth next week, it is worth mentioning now as well. Internal projects are a great way to beef up your pre-MBA leadership experience, and almost every company has an internal initiative that requires help. Offer to plan the next team-building activity, set up a training or speaker series, or lead recruiting efforts. If nothing exists, create it yourself. Starting a new program at work will score bonus points with your colleagues and give you plenty to share with admissions committees on your applications.

4) Look for mentoring opportunities

Even if you have not had the chance to manage your own team, you can still begin to perfect your management skills. Take a new hire or even an intern under your wing and show them the ropes. If you can be a formal mentor, great! But if such an opportunity does not exist, an informal mentor relationship still supplements your pre-MBA leadership experience.

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5) Get your own mentor

Find someone you admire or connect with at work and invite them to a coffee or happy hour. Ask about their career. See if they are willing to give you general career guidance.

At this stage, you do not want to ask for anything specific. Instead, start to build a relationship. Over time, you might be lucky enough to develop an office champion or a future recommender. Regardless, getting advice from someone more senior can always help.

Looking for custom advice on how you can optimize your profile for future MBA or graduate school success? Check out Personal MBA Coach’s early planning services!

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