MBA Selected for Gift of Career Coaching

Thanks for all the great comments on my blog post about celebrating the tenth anniversary of my business.  My assistant Jessica and I selected the one by Frances as the most deserving, as we very much identify with the challenges she faces a working mom.  She and I will have a coaching session together later this month.  It is my pleasure to give her this gift.

Celebrate Our 10th Anniversary… And Win!

In honor of 10 years in business, Debra is rewarding one lucky winner with a choice of a career or leadership coaching session or a complimentary copy of her Gold Admissions Program, a $500 value.

To enter, simply comment, explaining why you are a deserving recipient!  Debra will announce the winner at the end of March.  (Be sure to include an email address so we can notify you if you win.)

Six Interview Don’ts for MBA Applicants

1. Don’t delay visiting until after you have been admitted. Although you may think it’s cost- and/or time-effective to wait, your interviewer may interpret lack of a visit as lack of genuine interest, particularly if you live relatively nearby.

2. Don’t arrive late. If you miss the first 5 minutes of your interview, aside from making a poor impression, you have lost 5 minutes to sell yourself and to learn about the program.

3. Don’t repeat stories from your essays unless the interviewer asks you to clarify one. The interview is a chance for you to provide more information about yourself. Don’t miss it.

4. Don’t ask the interviewer to give an on-the-spot assessment of you. This reflects poor judgment and can make the interviewer uncomfortable.

5. Don’t ask the interviewer to do your job for you. Do not ask him/her to compare the school to others or ask them to sell (e.g., “Why should I come to this school?”).

6. Don’t worry if you leave the interview without a good sense of how it went. A skilled interviewer will leave you feeling you had a good experience without conveying a sense of where you stand. Final decisions are rarely made at the interview so it would be unfair of the interviewer to give you an indicator of where you stand.

Copyright © 2008, connect2 Corporation and MBA Navigator. All rights reserved.

Should You Reapply This Year?

If you applied to MBA programs in the past and were not admitted, you may be considering reapplying to your top choice program. If you are, here are five factors to consider.

1. In what ways have you grown since the last time you applied?

MBA admissions officers like to think they made the right decision the first time, so it’s critical that you show them how you are different since your last application. Have you faced different challenges? Do you have new responsibilities? Did you lead something new? Can you demonstrate fresh results? If you can’t answer yes to any of these questions, wait at least another year before you reapply.

2. Consider your test score.

Was your GMAT score a factor in the last decision? Think twice before retesting. If you believe that you prepared to the best of your ability (i.e. you actually did the test prep homework) then it will make sense to retake the test only if your actual score was 40-50+ points below your practice scores. If you prepared to the best of your ability and scored similar to your practice tests, your time would be better spent on essay preparation than further testing.

3. Don’t recycle your recs.

Many reapplicants reuse their recommendations. Don’t make this mistake. Recommendations are a primary source of information on how you’ve grown. If you plan to use the same recommenders this year, encourage them to tell new stories about you and emphasize new ways you’ve developed.

4. Check your school’s rules.

Some programs require reapplicants to submit applications during a particular round. Double check the application instructions today.

5. Reflect on your essays.

Now that you have some distance from your essays, reread them. How well do they support your original application strategy? What do you think about your application strategy now? Is it time for new key messages? Have an admissions coach, ideally an experienced MBA admissions officer, look over your application and provide you with feedback.

Copyright © 2008, connect2 Corporation and MBA Navigator. All rights reserved.

Preparing for Your Application Season

When deciding whether to apply to MBA programs, consider all your responsibilities (professional, personal, and volunteer) between now and when your last application is due. Make a detailed list.

Now, accept that you can’t do everything! If this is the year, you will have to make your applications one of your top three priorities. This might mean taking time off from other activities. What will your other 2 priorities be? What will you not do during this busy period? Write down your commitments to yourself. Be specific. Be prepared to make difficult decisions as other interesting opportunities will undoubtedly arise during your application season.

If you are not applying this year, prepare by starting a journal of “a-ha” moments as you experience them at school or at work. This record will be a valuable tool when it comes time for you to brainstorm possible essay topics. Also, start thinking ahead about which programs may be right for you.

When you do apply to top business schools, you need to be willing to put your heart and soul into the process. Applying requires a sizeable time commitment that will likely test your resolve. Setting reasonable, well thought-out goals and planning ahead will enable you to utilize your time most efficiently.

Copyright © 2008, connect2 Corporation and MBA Navigator. All rights reserved.

I Want My MBA! But How Do I Choose the Right One?

All one has to do is open a local newspaper to see the plethora of advertisements for MBA programs. If you’re looking to get an advanced business degree, the ads make it look so easy: Visit the website, download an application, and you’re off and running.

Not so fast. While there may be hundreds of MBA programs available in the United States, how will you decide which one is the best fit for you?

Your effective evaluation of programs begins with getting a clear sense of what you hope to gain with an MBA. Do you have clear short- and long-term goals for your life? Who are you today, professionally? Are you looking to advance in your company or industry, or are you looking to change your profession altogether? Identifying your goals may be a challenge, but it is an imperative step toward selecting the MBA programs you want to consider.

Once your goals are clear, compare your skills with those required in the career path you seek. What are your strengths and weaknesses? How will an MBA help you in this regard? Be honest with yourself about your talents, and you will be best able to evaluate program offerings and tell your application story to your schools of choice.

Use the following key criteria to research and evaluate five to ten MBA programs that may meet your goals:

1. Method of instruction. Most business schools operate on at least one of three methods of instruction: the case method, in which classes discuss actual business case scenarios and extract lessons; lecture, in which professors educate their classes by outlining theories and best practices; or experiential learning, in which classmates learn from their experiences working on team-based projects. How do you like to learn? How do you learn best? When reviewing schools, find those that use the methods that most appeal to you.

2. Cost. Tuition for top-tier programs can reach upwards of $80,000. Others cost less but are still an investment. If you want to attend a full-time program, remember to consider the cost of giving up your salary and benefits, plus any advancement you could receive during the two-year time frame.

3. Full-time vs. part-time. If you need to enhance your skills set but will likely remain in your company or field, or if you have limited time or financial resources, you may consider a part-time program. It will take a little longer, but in the end you’ll gain similar knowledge.

4. Academic focus area. Certain MBA programs are known for their strengths in specific areas of business such as marketing, finance and technology management. If you know the area you want to study, look at schools with this expertise. Looking for generalist training? Seek programs with a general management philosophy.

5. Class size/alumni network. One of the greatest benefits of getting an MBA is the class you learn and network with for the rest of your career. Programs with large classes tend to have large alumni networks, yet in some cases the group is then less connected. Smaller programs have fewer alums but are sometimes more close knit.

6. Location. Do you want to stay in the area or are you willing to go elsewhere? Are you striving to be in a certain area of the country in the long run? If so, consider studying in that destination versus relocating later.

7. Reputation. One of the biggest reasons for getting an MBA is the credential it offers. The brand of your program may influence your personal brand. When looking at programs, consider what a degree from each school will say about you, what you know, your values and your qualities.

After you have used these criteria to create an initial list, make a research plan for each school. Talk to students and alums, read career reports, independent reviews and school materials, and then attend as many events as possible where you can learn about the programs you are targeting. Thorough research is how you’ll get your best sense of the program, but don’t try to do all this in one day.

When you complete the research, do a personal reality check. Consider your own qualifications and compare them to average applicants at each program. Standard qualifications include undergrad institution, grade-point average, GMAT score, work experience (quality and quantity), accomplishments at work and outside interests.

Keep in mind that you do not need to be a 100 percent match with other applicants, but if you do not come close to matching on any criteria, it’s wise to consider other programs.

Ultimately, for each school you choose you should have three clear reasons it is right for you. Early soul-searching will help you identify exactly what you want out of an MBA. Combined with time dedicated to researching programs, you’ll be able to narrow your target list to five schools ideally suited to your needs. And then you are really off and running.

Copyright © 2008, connect2 Corporation and MBA Navigator. All rights reserved.