Mission Admission is a series of MBA admission tips; a new one is posted each Tuesday.
“I am self-employed.”
“I am a vice-president in my family’s business.”
“I am a freelancer.”
“I am a contract consultant.”
If you can describe your professional situation using any of these statements—or something very similar—you may very well be thinking (and worrying), “I have no supervisor! Who is going to write my recommendations?!”
Before we address this problem, let us first remind you that MBA admissions committees have indeed seen it all. Your situation is most likely not unique, so you do not need to fret. Let us consider the example of the family business vice-president and add a detail—that the family business is in manufacturing. This hypothetical MBA candidate could contact one of the company’s long-standing clients or suppliers, who may be able to write about the applicant’s integrity, growth, sense of humor, determination and more, all in relation to other comparable individuals.
If these constituents were not able to offer adequate feedback, however, the MBA candidate might instead ask the head of a trade association or possibly even a respected competitor to write on his/her behalf. If the applicant really needed to get creative, he/she might even consider asking a service provider; for example, getting a letter of reference from an architectural firm that collaborated with the candidate to build a new manufacturing facility could be an interesting solution.
In short, most MBA candidates have more potential recommenders to choose among than they realize. Keep looking and try not to get discouraged—someone out there knows you well and can write objectively on your behalf.