by Bailey Butzberger
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate 2015
Southern Methodist University (Cox School of Business)
If you are having trouble selecting the programs to apply to or what to write your essays about, then you need to take a step back. This is a red flag that you don’t have your career goals solidified enough yet.
If this is the case for you, the best thing you can do for yourself is to talk to people. Talking to current students, professors and especially alumni at various institutions will help you to gain some insight into what a program has to offer and where your education can lead you. While I was applying last year, I had a general idea of the career path I wanted to pursue before entering school, but now a world of career possibilities has opened up, many of which weren’t part of my original plan.
You will eventually research this range of possibilities, so the sooner the better. You may be surprised at the areas that you are interested in that you hadn’t considered before. Contact the admissions office from the schools you are considering applying to and ask to be put in touch with alumni from different job functions, like:
- Management Consulting
- Marketing and Sales
- Investment Banking
- Corporate Finance
Most alumni are very open to speaking to prospective students. You can learn a lot and begin to expand your network, which is a crucial part of being successful in business school. Ask them questions like:
- What was your career path both prior to and after business school?
- What do you like best about your position?
- What are the challenges?
- What do you wish you had known before?
- What advice would you give to someone exploring this career path?
You WILL begin having these conversations when you enter business school, and you will be ahead of the game if you start now. These conversations will help you to cement your career goals, get a feel for whether a particular institution will help you to meet your these goals, and maybe even create some personal advocates at your institution of choice.
Cementing your career goals will make the rest of this process much easier, from selecting the right schools to being able to communicate your thoughts clearly and confidently in the interview. In the end, you can always change your mind, but the more you know, the less you’ll have to.