Being able to demonstrate a strong professional trajectory is important when applying to MBA programs. Business schools want to see that you are taking on additional responsibility and having impact in the workplace. However, through my conversations with applicants, there are three common professional weaknesses that tend to arise over and over again. I have elaborated on these professional weaknesses below as well as how to overcome them.
Not being promoted in the workplace
Being promoted professionally is a signal to Admissions Committees that you are able to handle additional responsibility, are a valued member of your team, and are demonstrating positive impact at your company. Not surprisingly, therefore, showing that you have been promoted can help to strengthen your candidacy. But what if you have not been promoted? Are you at a huge disadvantage versus your peers who have been?
The short answer is no, but you’ll want to be able to show through the application that despite not having the more senior title, you are still demonstrating the same strengths and qualities as someone who has been promoted. You can emphasize how you are taking on more responsibility, leading from below, and impacting the company through your resume, essays, recommendation letters, and short answers within the application. Let how you are a Rockstar at your company shine through!
Being conscious of how you are portraying yourself through the application can go a long way towards making the lack of a promotion a non-issue.
Not working for a well-known company
Are you working for a company that is small or not well known? Or maybe you’re working for a family business? Not working for a large company or “blue-chip” company is often a concern of many candidates. While companies that are more well-known may have perceived advantages since the top business schools are more likely to be familiar with them and what they do, don’t fall into the trap of discounting your accomplishments.
Although your company may be smaller, it’s what you do while you’re there and the impact that you’re having, that really counts. Think about projects that you’ve worked on through which you’ve been able to positively influence the outcome. Perhaps because the company is smaller, you’ve even been able to take on more responsibility. What do these things show about you? At the end of the day, it is the qualities that you bring to the table that Admissions Committees will be assessing – and those same qualities can be demonstrated just as clearly at a small company or family business as at a large company.
The bottom line? You can absolutely position working at a small company or family business as a strength instead of a perceived weakness.
Gaps in professional history
Most business school applications will ask you to explain 3+ month gaps in your employment history (some schools want explanations for gaps of any duration, so make sure to read the instructions carefully). You should explain why the gap(s) exist and what you did during the gap(s); for instance, you may have been in-between different jobs, or maybe there was a compelling personal reason (such as a health issue). Whatever the reason is, the key is being absolutely honest and transparent. Provide a concise explanation that addresses the gap(s).
By being proactive about addressing professional weaknesses that exist in your profile, you will be able to put forth a more compelling case for your candidacy.
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Ivy Groupe is a boutique MBA admissions consulting company founded by Shaifali Aggarwal, who received her MBA from Harvard Business School and undergraduate degree from Princeton University. Shaifali’s philosophy focuses on authenticity and storytelling to help clients craft compelling and differentiated applications that stand out. With this approach, Shaifali’s clients have gained admission to top-tier MBA programs such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, Booth, Tuck, and Yale, among others.