You probably don’t consider yourself a stereotypical anything. But certain career paths in certain fields like finance and consulting tend to look an awful lot alike from one person to the next.
Sure, maybe you switched from IB to PE two years after college. Used to be, that was a really big feat to pull off. Now it’s very common.
Or maybe you switched from IB to consulting.
Or consulting to finance.
For any of these more standard pre-MBA careers, there are pitfalls and risks to this MBA process.
The main one is that if you have a cookie-cutter resume, then it’s gonna be hard for the adcom to take more than a nibble at your resume.
(Post for another day: Mixed metaphors and why to avoid them.)
We’ve talked before about the “finance guy resume” and we encourage you to check that out if you’re in any of these categories. Even though the media is fond of the hand-wringing about app volumes down, the finance sector is still crowded with impressive candidates from America, Canada and Asia, and if that’s you, it’s important to pay attention to things like position.
Heck, we even suggest redoing your resume completely. Ditch the focus on deal size and due diligence. Instead, show where you’re a LEADER.
We see these standard finance guy (and gal) profiles all the time and yeah it sucks to be told that you need to redo the whole resume, and to be told that your background that you’ve worked so hard to build over the past five years since graduating from college is common or not good enough. To be clear, we’re not saying it’s not good enough. Not at all. What we’re saying is that when you present yourself in the way that so many other candidates are presenting, by focusing on the things that your industry highlights, rather than speaking in terms that make sense for your audience based on their values and priorities then that’s where it’s going to be tough to stand out.
Especially in Round 2.
For everyone, the resume needs to include things like summer internships, study abroad, concrete accomplishments that are beyond deal size and standard finance-typical statements. That’s where you can stand out.
Stuff like mentoring the new hires in your firm and helping with recruiting? It’s great that you’ve done that but they’re pretty common for those coming from finance and consulting.
You’ll want to keep these items on the resume, but you won’t gain much from leading with them or overemphasizing them on the page.
Instead, we’d look for ways where you have really made a substantive impact on a deal, project, portfolio company initiative, working environment, or end-result
Get rid of the jargon. Rewrite statements that include specialized terms or proper nouns like product names or project names or the industry name of the division that your portfolio company sold. Don’t force your reader to think. Use descriptors instead. Lay things out in simple business terms that help demonstrate IMPACT with no energy outlay from your audience. They should be able to cruise over the bullets as easily as if it were text on the page of a Stephen King novel.
Even though we’re posting this now, you really shouldn’t be tackling resume revision now. Instead, get through at least the first set of your first essays. (Or, your first set of your next-round essays, if all your prior apps have failed to turn into wins. If you have come up short with all that you’ve attempted thus far, then that means a change in strategy is warranted. Don’t do the resume until you know what went wrong and have worked out what that new strategy is.)
We’re focusing mostly on the resume in today’s post, but standing out as a mainstream candidate in a crowded pool takes much more than that.
We’ll be coming back to dig into this more over the coming days (OH LOOK! WE DID SO HERE!). The blahg of course is a tremendous resource on all of this – for example, here’s the ‘snarchive of all posts that have been tagged for this pre-MBA profile of candidates coming from finance.
Tell us what you think.