Tag: Weston Career Center



So, you’re thinking about getting an MBA. You’re worried you may not have enough work experience to meet MBA degree requirements or succeed in an MBA program. You’re wondering what you can do to make your application stronger and maximize your experiences in school. 

The secret? There’s not just one kind of student who succeeds in an MBA program. Knowing your personal “why” behind wanting your degree, being intentional in choosing meaningful experiences, and articulating those with maturity and introspection can help you be that student—no matter how much work experience you have.

How much work experience do you need to successfully apply to business school?

There’s no magic number that admissions committees are looking for when it comes to years of work experience for an MBA. Experience in the workplace will certainly benefit any MBA student; in fact, we typically see students with around five years of work experience. Often, those students have been in a working role and they’ve realized that they need specific skill sets to advance in their careers or to pivot in another direction. The MBA is the perfect way to accomplish that.

But can you get an MBA without work experience? The answer is yes.

While work experience is certainly valuable, no specific number of years guarantees an application’s success. What admissions committees are most concerned with is your ability to contribute to the classroom experience and get the most out of your MBA. To do that, students without previous work experience or a specific entrepreneurial goal in mind need to know their “why.”

Admissions committees want to see you articulate exactly why you want to be a part of their program and what you plan to get out of it. What benefits will your MBA bring to your life? How will it help you achieve your professional goals? What benefits will you bring to their program? Instead of just saying “I’ve always wanted to know more about business,” your reasoning really needs to be clear and solidified. Most of all, your “why” should be personal and show that you’ve been deeply reflective on meaningful experiences in your life or gaps in your knowledge.

What other factors help MBA students succeed?

Whether you’re applying or already working on your degree, knowing your why and targeting your experiences will ultimately benefit you in the long run. From taking specific classes that will help improve hard or soft skills to taking those opportunities outside the classroom to network, there is much a student can do to get ahead.

Extracurricular activities are a great way to diversify and build your skills and goals. Join clubs, go to seminars on and off campus and build meaningful relationships with your peers and professionals.

Your classmates are your support system for these two years, and many will likely be of some benefit to you in the future.

Having that openness to exploration—whether that be companies, industries, or networking—will help you take advantage of the experiential learning opportunities around you.

While you’re joining clubs and taking classes, remember to also volunteer to take on leadership opportunities in those forums. Whether on or off campus, leadership roles will allow you to work on people-management skills, develop networking opportunities and engage with diverse groups of people—all things you can leverage as you’re applying for an MBA or looking for internships.

Ultimately, who gets the most out of their MBA?

Students who are coming into MBA programs with work experience usually know some of their professional gaps and strengths. Maybe they’ve been through a few annual reviews or gotten a promotion or two. Most pursue an MBA wanting to contribute as much as they take away from the MBA program.

These students have specific goals, whether that be developing soft skills like management and teamwork or hard skills like data mining and forecasting. Being able to target these areas can help you maximize those strengths and develop other areas for growth.

Often, MBA students without work experience don’t have the confidence to know that they do have something to contribute. A simple but critical first step for students is to realize that you have valuable insights to share, such as professionally developed skills or other meaningful experiences. Classmates should be just as much of a resource to each other as the professors standing at the front of the classroom.

You should also be intentional about how you reflect on and articulate those contributions. As you go through the application process, include stories and anecdotes about your experiences and accomplishments in your essays. You need to be able to reflect on specific experiences and draw from those when you’re interviewing for admissions, internships and full-time employment offers.

Ultimately, there’s no work experience “required” for an MBA student to be successful at Olin Business School. Each student, regardless of work or lived experience, brings unique contexts, skills and ideas to their MBA program. Once you learn to leverage those traits by being intentional, knowing your “why,” and articulating that with clarity and reflection, the sky is the limit.




Faux chalkboard with "Why do you want to do an MBA?"

Considering entering an MBA program? Your timing is outstanding. According to research from the Graduate Management Admission Council, 91% of recruiters were planning to hire graduate management talent who possessed MBA degrees in 2021.

Reports from GetSmarter support the accuracy of those findings, revealing that 83% of companies said they planned to onboard MBAs in 2021. In other words, you’re on the right track if you’re considering pursuing an MBA degree through a rock-solid program delivered by a school with a strong reputation.

MBA seekers want to augment their undergraduate learning with the broad, comprehensive knowledge of managing a business enterprise and the skill set provided by an MBA. Another reason prospective students seek an MBA is career switching, and employees whose MBA curricula included coursework devoted to understanding the basics of managing others in the fields of analytics and technology are highly valuable in today’s data-intensive landscape.

No matter why you keep coming back to the idea of getting into an MBA program, you may find it helpful to identify yourself as a specific type of graduate student. Generally speaking, the majority of MBA students are either accelerators or pivoters.

Which type of MBA student are you?

From a broad standpoint, accelerators tend to be people whose career path includes ambitious “climb the ladder” goals. Typically, accelerators feel like they can’t take their next big step without a stronger understanding of the variety of functional areas important in the corporate world today. Through their MBA program, they expect to learn how to think strategically about the enterprise as a whole, to identify the right questions or problems to be addressed, and to address them so they can snag key promotions and rise through the ranks.

Pivoters also want education, but they want to use it to change their occupations or industries. For them, MBAs are ways to get a foot in a new door.

Take Tyler Whiteman, for example. He spent 10 years in the travel industry and did regional theater working as an actor and singer.

Tyler came to Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis for his MBA because he wanted to make a complete career switch. Ultimately, he chose to become a marketing intern for AB InBev and earned honors for his performance at the seventh-annual PepsiCo MBA Invitational Business Case Competition. He credits his WashU Olin experience for giving him a leg up against fierce competitors. Having the support of an esteemed faculty while solving real-world problems and learning the soft skills that come from working with people and organizations that represent cultures different from their own are tremendous experiential benefits.

Find the right MBA program for you

To be sure, you might be a combination of the aforementioned MBA learners. Or you might fit into a unique category. Regardless, you owe it to yourself to spend time getting to know the lay of the land when it comes to MBA programming. So many MBA programs are available.

You have the traditional immersive full-time two-year programs. You have in-person part-time programs that take longer to finish but can flex to accommodate a busy family lifestyle. Some MBA degrees can be earned partially or completely online.

It’s fairly easy to find a delivery format that will work with your schedule and circumstances.

Format isn’t the only defining factor of an MBA program, though. If you aren’t interested in taking a standardized test like the GRE or GMAT, you can still apply for many MBA programs. A significant number of schools have waived this requirement. Because there’s no guarantee those waivers will stay in place forever, you may want to take advantage of them while they’re here.

Putting a premium on globalization

It’s worth mentioning that while you can choose among a variety of delivery methods and admissions requirements, you should absolutely demand an MBA that makes global business a central feature of its curriculum.

The world is shrinking. The more global context you can bring to your business understanding, the more valued you’ll be as an employee and executive.

This is one of the reasons a cornerstone of WashU Olin’s full-time MBA program is its global immersion program. This program happens at the front end of the MBA. Students start in St. Louis and learn the foundations of values-based and data-driven decision-making. From there, they spread their wings and go to the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., to discover the ways business and government align. Next, they visit Barcelona, Spain, followed by Paris and then Santiago, Chile. Over several weeks, MBA students get familiar with how marketing, consulting, supply-chain management, and so many other functional areas interact in a global context.

The global immersion program helps incoming MBA degree candidates bond with their cohort from the very start. The program becomes the basis for future learning and other opportunities, like the ability to take globally focused courses such as Olin’s African business class and exchange programs. When students move closer to graduation, they may be able to work with international companies. Case in point: Some recent MBA students worked with the Ecuadorian Soccer Federation and were able to join them at a game held in the United States.

At the end of the day, it’s easier to develop soft skills like empathy, teamwork, and communication when you’ve formed cross-cultural relationships with a variety of MBA classmates, teachers, and companies.

A successful post-MBA experience

The choice of an MBA program shouldn’t be limited to what happens during your coursework. Having access to career services matters, too. At Olin’s Weston Career Center, MBA students are provided with individualized career coaching and mentoring. This prepares them for internships and real-world jobs. As a “thank you,” many WashU alumni return to help the next generation of MBA graduates pursue their dreams and goals.

At a foundational level, your desire to earn an MBA shows that you’re ready to change at least a small part of the world. And small changes can end up having big outcomes for individuals, communities, and organizations. Whether you’re a pivoter, an accelerator or a one-of-a-kind type of MBA candidate, follow your instincts. The right MBA program can help you gain cultural competency as well as hone your skills in areas that are important to modern employers. It’s never the wrong time to become a stronger, more confident leader.




Mary Houlihan, executive career coach at the Weston Career Center, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Considering a career change? The Weston Career Center is excited to offer a free, comprehensive Virtual Career Boot Camp this fall to assist working professionals and alums with navigating career opportunities and transitions. 

This bi-weekly, eight-session series is designed to enhance fundamental career development and transition skills. Course leaders will provide content at each session. In addition, the sessions will be interactive and provide an opportunity for participants to share and ask questions, as well as get connected with other EMBAs, PMBAs, OMBAs and Olin alums. 

You can sign up for the entire series or for individual sessions, depending on your interest.  

The series runs from 6-7:30 p.m. every other Wednesday from September 7 through December 14.  When you register, you will be able to select the sessions you plan to attend. If you plan to attend the entire series, select all sessions. 

September 7: Taking Charge of Your Career—Learn to set career priorities and objectives, along with the importance of attitude, preparation and giving throughout your career.

September 21: Defining Your Personal Brand—Know who you are, your value proposition and how to differentiate yourself.

October 5: Communicating Your Brand—Create effective marketing messages and materials including your resume, networking documents, and other visuals.

October 19: Leveraging Social Media­—Learn how to use the power of social media, particularly LinkedIn, in communicating your brand. Learn how to be found by recruiters and hiring managers, improve your profile, expand your network, and apply for open positions. 

November 2: Creating Your Career Campaign—Establish your career/transition strategy and plan, including the use of resources, how to prioritize your efforts and how to stay organized.

November 16: Building Professional Relationships—Create strategies and approaches to build and expand your relationships over time.

November 30: Acing the Interview—Prepare for and excel at job interviews, improving your chances of getting an offer. 

December 14: Negotiating the Offer—Negotiate an offer that works for you and is consistent with your value, ultimately improving your compensation over your career.

Sign up here.  

Cost: FREE

WCC career coaches Mary Houlihan, Don Halpin, and Anne Petersen will lead the sessions.

To maintain the confidentiality of attendees, the sessions will not be recorded. The WCC will provide PowerPoint slides after each session. 

Please contact maryhoulihan@wustl.edu with questions.




Pelligreen

Twenty-two WashU sophomores used spring break to visit eight investment banks during WashU’s New York City Investment Bank Trek, March 14-15. It was the first such trek since 2019.

Olin’s Weston Career Center’s Lee Pelligreen, EMBA 44, employer relations lead-finance, and Burt Sheaffer, finance industry specialist, facilitated the trip and shared the experience with the Olin Blog.

Why would sophomores join the NYC IB Trek?

Sheaffer

“For the students, it was an amazing chance to step outside of academia for an in-person glimpse into the world of finance. The trek offered connections and learning opportunities with the passionate support of alumni.

“‘I took away insights about companies, got to meet successful people across the finance world, and gained a new framework for decision-making,’ one student wrote about the experience.

“The trek offered students the chance to learn about different sectors of investment banks, explore careers, and network and connect with alumni.”

How crucial was WashU alumni support?

“This trek could not have happened without the support of the WashU alumni. 

“Thank you to alumni at Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, HSBC Global Banking and Markets, Groupe Crédit Agricole, Lazard, Guggenheim Partners, Financial Technology Partners and Edgemont Partners for hosting us.”

Anything else you’d like to add?

“A shout out to Molly Mulligan, senior associate director of University Advancement Programs at Olin, and to the Advancement team for organizing an alumni roundtable on the first evening, where the students continued networking.

“And the trek was capped off at Elliott Management, with Steve Cohen hosting a dinner finance experience along with alumna Bridget Han.”

Cohen, BSBA 1989, is an equity partner at Elliott, and Han, MACC 2013, is a principal at NY Family Office.

“We look forward to watching the alumni continuing their career paths. And we look forward to the time when these sophomores support future sophomore bears in NYC!”




Considering a career change? The Weston Career Center is offering working professionals and alumni a comprehensive Virtual Career Boot Camp this spring to assist with navigating career opportunities and transitions. 

The bi-weekly, eight-session series is designed to enhance fundamental career development and transition skills. Course leaders will provide content at each session. In addition, the sessions will be interactive and provide an opportunity for participants to share and ask questions, as well as get to know other EMBAs, PMBAs and Olin alums. 

You can sign up for the entire series or for individual sessions, depending on your interest.  The series runs from 6-7:30 p.m. every other Wednesday from January 19 through April 27. When you register, you’ll get a follow-up email to select the sessions you plan to attend. If you plan to attend the entire series, select all sessions. 

  • January 19: Taking Charge of Your Career—Learn to set career priorities and objectives, along with the importance of attitude, preparation and giving throughout your career.
  • February 2: Defining Your Personal Brand—Know who you are, your value proposition and how to differentiate yourself.
  • February 16: Communicating Your Brand—Create effective marketing messages and materials including a resume, one-pagers and other visuals.
  • March 2: Leveraging Social Media­—This session focuses on the power of social media, particularly LinkedIn, in communicating your brand. Learn how to be found by recruiters and hiring managers, expand your network and applying for open positions. 
  • March 16: Creating Your Career Campaign—Establish your career/transition strategy and plan, including the use of resources, how to prioritize your efforts and how to stay organized.
  • March 30: Building Professional Relationships—Strategies and approaches to build and expand your relationships over time.
  • April 13: Acing the Interview—Preparing for and excelling at job interviews, and improving your chances of getting an offer. 
  • April 27: Negotiating the Offer—Negotiating an offer that works for you and is consistent with your value, ultimately improving your compensation over your career.

Sign up here.

Cost: Free.

WCC career coaches Mary Houlihan, Don Halpin, Anne Petersen and Molly Thompson will lead the sessions.

To maintain the confidentiality of attendees, the sessions will not be recorded. The WCC will provide PowerPoint slides after each session. 

Please contact maryhoulihan@wustl.edu  with questions.