The trend throughout all of education is practical, experiential learning. You may have even talked about this in your Round 1 applications. If you mentioned HBS FIELD or Ross MAP or any such immersive, real-world, go-out-into-industry-and-do-something type program or project in your essays, then you were likely referencing this category of learning.
This 2018 article from the Washington Post talked about how colleges are introducing more hands-on projects into their undergrad curricula. The common example is building a robot. It’s about learning how to literally do something. They call this transfer learning and it’s about taking the kid out of the classroom and making them put the pieces together. Applying what they have learned, to perform a function.
The value it provides for a student is this: How will what I have done HERE apply when I work THERE. The goal is to make these college grads more attractive to employers, and more employable. They can get spit out of college with their fancy degree, and actually be able to DO something. It’s more than just book learning.
You’ll get opportunities for experiential learning in any bschool you attend, too, though it’s unlikely to be building a robot. It’s more like those case competitions, or pitching a panel of VCs with your business plan to take over the world with your startup idea. Or it’s through the collaborative environment of the d.school on the Stanford campus, or maybe you go whole hog into design thinking and try for the MMM program at Northwestern. Even if you’re “just” in a regular ol’ MBA, such opportunities abound, and they tend to be super fun! You’re going to enjoy learning in a whole new way when you can get your hands dirty like this (sometimes literally!). These experiences will give you more to talk about to the recruiters when you’re interviewing for that post-MBA job.
But guess what: The same type of “transfer learning” approach actually is valuable to consider now, as you’re thinking about your strategy in applying!
As we shared recently with that brainstorming guide from Berkeley Haas on thinking through your MBA goals, the schools do want to see how you’ve got the beginnings of a plan already in place.
They want to be convinced that you’ll be able to make this jump into the fancy new career path you’re pitching them.
So for you MBA applicants:
Think through what you’ve done in the past and see if you can describe how to angle that existing experience towards your future career interests.
This is the essence of our Career Goals App Accelerator, by the way — with a lot more detailed explanation, of course.
You need to show that you have a foundation to build upon, that demonstrates you’ll be successful in the ambitious new thing you’re now going to try for.
You don’t have to have literally done that future job already; obviously. That would defeat the purpose of saying you need an MBA in order to go do it.
But there has to be SOMETHING in your background that you can latch onto, and show that you’ve been successful HERE, which can give a hint or a whiff of your existing skillset or strengths, that will convey confidence to your admissions reader that you’ll be successful THERE.
This is where robust, compelling, and practical MBA career goals are born.
It’s also one flavor or implementation of the advice we constantly harp on, to “show, don’t tell.” In this case, you will be SHOWING that you bring something to the table that’s relevant — even if it’s from totally outside the industry and function you’re aiming towards. You’ll be demonstrating that you understand what that future career is about, and that you have given thought to what you can offer that will let you hit the ground running, come up to speed fast, apply what you know and have in your arsenal today. Bringing this type of self-reflection and practicality to your pitch can help you stand out from the crowd.
Got questions on this? Hit us up here in the comments, or let us know through My SnarkCenter and we’ll be happy to help!