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.

Mission Admission: Should I Seek a New Position Before Applying? - mbaMissionAlthough the 2016–2017 MBA admissions season is nearing its end, the 2017–2018 season looms on the horizon. Many business school aspirants are already considering how they might enhance their candidacy. Candidates can take a variety of steps to accomplish this, from boosting their community and personal profiles, to pursuing additional classes, to reinvigorating relationships with potential recommenders. Some even consider seeking a new position in a different firm or industry—but is this a good idea?

If you are contemplating such a move, you should first consider your tenure at your current firm. If you have been with the company 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 held for approximately one year or less, staying put now and proving your commitment is a likely 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.

The next question is whether you are considering a horizontal or a vertical move. If you would be gaining an increase in salary and responsibility, you would almost certainly be making a wise choice and would also be insulated from concerns about tenure. Admissions committees want to know that you are a rising star. If, in the next nine months, you can obtain a new role that involves greater responsibility, 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 should also consider whether you might be burning bridges at your existing firm. Maintaining your references is important, because you will need them soon for your application(s). Further, ask yourself whether you have enough time to achieve something impressive at the new firm. If you believe nine months is sufficient time in which to bolster your professional or 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, so you may want to think twice about moving.

Finally, we advise that you not pander to admissions committees. If you think that a consulting or banking position will impress the admissions committee but such a position is not legitimately part of your intended career path, shifting into one of these areas would be 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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