Evaluating — and Improving — Your Work Experience Before Applying to Business School: PART 2

If you read Part One of this article, you should know by now whether or not your professional background will be a weak spot in your b-school candidacy.

If that’s the case, what can you do about it before you send in your application? Here are four steps to consider.

Buy some time.

If delaying your applications for another year would not disrupt your life, consider doing so. However, it's simply not enough to add 12 more months of employment to your resume. Rather, you need to use that extra time to strengthen your candidacy beyond mere duration.

Assume expanded duties in the workplace.

This will convey to schools that your superiors trust, respect, and value you. Seeking opportunities to interact with senior executives will reveal your self-confidence and upward mobility; you might even develop a relationship with someone who can serve as an impressive recommender. Remember: the shorter the duration of your employment, the more you need to compensate by being an overachiever.

If you aren't already tracking your work results, start doing so today.

If your current role is one that focuses more on "process" than "outcomes," find out from fellow employees what those outcomes are, so you can rightly claim that you contributed to them. If your project is not going to be completed before the MBA application due date, you should present the projected results.

Take on more authority.

Say your company has relatively low visibility in the marketplace. Or perhaps you're working for a startup which isn't even in business yet. The best way to compete against MBA applicants from high-profile "feeder" firms and corporations is to convince the admissions committee that you have more responsibility, and therefore, make a greater impact than your peers at similar companies. If you can't make that happen on the job, use your affiliations with well-known non-profit organizations as a platform to demonstrate your leadership effectiveness.

Work experience can become a competitive advantage if you understand how you compare with other applicants, confront your vulnerabilities, and capitalize on your improvements. If you can, your first step might be to get an objective, expert evaluation of your candidacy from a b-school admissions expert, like those found at the MBA Exchange.