My last post was about setting up informational interviews with students and/or alumni from your target schools. I did a bunch of these intel sessions as I was applying, and I got great information not just about each school, but also about how to package myself as an applicant.
During my informational interview phase, I spoke to four students at UCLA Anderson, one Kellogg student, two Kellogg alums, a student at Indiana Kelley, a student at NYU Stern, and a student at Stanford GSB. Here is what I learned from them!
I asked school-specific questions during each interview, but I won’t recap all that here. I asked about what matters to me — class size, experiential opportunities, career services, alumni responsiveness, and the entertainment scene at each school. And always ask if there’s anyone else you should connect with — Anderson students really shone in that regard; after each intel session they’d give me one or two more people to reach out to!
I also asked everyone I talked to about their experience as a student. Many people echoed that it’s important to prioritize. What about the MBA experience is essential to you? One person put it simply: you go to school for one of three reasons — networking, education, or a job — pick which is most important to you and let that drive how you spend your time.
A fantastic insight about non-traditional candidates came from an Anderson student who worked in casting pre-MBA. She said that finance was challenging for her, but non-traditional candidates get more out of an MBA program than people from more common backgrounds. Finance people go from a 5 to a 6 by getting their MBAs; we go from a 1 to a 5. We may not catch up, but we grow so much more.
The big takeaway, which was repeated by several of the folks I talked to, was this: package yourself in a way that makes you an easy sell for recruiting. I think this is essential, especially for non-traditional applicants. Each school’s goal is to get you hired after graduation, so having airtight career goals and strategy demonstrates that you’re setting yourself up for success and are a low-risk choice.
The students I spoke with advised me to emphasize experiences that have taught me to think strategically and analytically, as well as my relationship-building and networking skills, since they are vital to building a career in entertainment (which is my target industry post-MBA).
They also told me not to think about WHEN I get in to school, not IF I’ll get in. There are obviously no guarantees in MBA admissions, but making that mindset change when it counted (like during admissions interviews) helped me focus on why I’d be a great admit so I could best represent myself while applying.
Entertainment can be a bit of a challenge in terms of recruiting. More traditional industries like consulting and banking have set hiring schedules, but entertainment requires a constant hustle to land internships and jobs. Schools in media centers like LA and NYC are great because they offer the opportunity to do internships during the year to beef up your resume.
These students told me that if I want to pursue entertainment post-MBA, I should start talking to alumni early. They also told me to reset my expectations — entertainment isn’t an MBA-heavy field (just yet), so the starting salaries and titles are sometimes lower than what your cohorts will be offered in other industries.
I had the opportunity to speak with a couple of MBA students who came from entertainment, and their biggest and best advice was about putting the time in to build a story that links my pre-MBA experience with my post-MBA goals. These students worked on multiple iterations of their stories, working with the career center for feedback and using informational interviews as tests to see how alumni reacted.
Start reaching out! These students are more than happy to connect. Head on over to my last post for some ideas about where to find these students and what to ask ’em!
Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.