Mission Admission: Should I Seek a New Position Before Applying?

Mission Admission is a series of MBA admission tips; a new one is posted each Tuesday.

With approximately six months to go before the first-round deadlines for the 2013–2014 MBA admissions cycle, many business school aspirants are considering ways of enhancing their candidacy. While candidates can take a variety of steps—from boosting their community and personal profiles, to pursuing additional classes, to reinvigorating relationships with potential recommenders—some even consider seeking a new position with a different firm or industry. Is this a good idea?

If you are contemplating such a move, the first thing to consider is your tenure at your current firm. If you have been at your firm for less than one year, changing positions is generally unwise. MBA admissions committees tend to appreciate consistency and frown on what they perceive as opportunism. So, if you have had several positions in the past that you have held for approximately one year or less, staying put now and proving your commitment may be a good idea. If, however, you are a long-serving employee and want to embark on a new path, a move may bolster your profile.

Beyond the tenure issue, the question becomes are you moving horizontally or vertically? If you are changing positions and gaining an increase in salary and responsibility, you are almost always making a wise choice and are most often insulated from concerns about tenure. MBA admissions committees want to know that you are a rising star. So, if you can gain greater responsibility in the next nine months, then you should grab that opportunity. As we often tell candidates, “What is good for your career is almost always good for your MBA candidacy.”

However, before you move on, you may also want to consider whether you will be burning bridges at your existing firm. Maintaining your references is important, because you may need them in the short term. Further, you may want to ask yourself whether you have enough time to achieve something impressive at your next firm. If nine months is sufficient time to add to your professional/personal narrative, then a new position may be worth pursuing. However, if you are joining an organization that has a one-year sales cycle, for example, you may not have much to offer by application time and may want to think twice about a move.

Finally, we advise candidates to not pander to MBA admissions committees. If you think that a consulting or banking position will impress the admissions committee but such a position is not part of your intended career path, making a move into one of these areas is pointless. Your potential move should be consistent with your personal goals, not with what you think an admissions committee wants—the committees want authenticity and differentiated candidates, not a cookie-cutter “type” of candidate from a specific field.

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