Our guest today is Jamie Wright. She grew up in California, started her career in PR in Chicago, and then crossed the pond in 2009 to become the Client Services Manager at London Business School’s then brand-new Masters in Management (MIM) program. Jamie rose to become the admissions director for all early career programs at LBS by 2017. In 2018, she joined Accepted and has become an admissions consultant on our staff. Let’s learn from her if there is a magic sauce to acceptance.
Before we get to the early career stuff, how does a California girl end up as Client Services Manager and then the first Admissions Director of London Business School’s Early Career Programs? [2:11]
By chance, actually. When I initially moved to London I wasn’t able to work due to visa restrictions so I had time to explore other career options. I had been working in PR before moving to London, and considered staying in that field, but I used that opportunity of time to explore other roles in publishing, sports business, and came across an ad for a client services role for the MIM at LBS. The program had just launched and was recruiting for its first class. I figured this was a great opportunity to be part of something from the beginning. It was quite entrepreneurial, almost like a start-up even though the program was part of a large school like LBS. It was the first pre-experience program and it was exciting to be a part of. I stayed there for the next nine years.
What are early career programs in management in general? [3:20]
They are general management programs for the most part, though there are some programs that offer specializations. These programs are designed for those just entering their career, with less than 1-2 years of experience looking to go into entry-level positions. In addition to traditional consulting and finance roles, more students are going into entrepreneurship, which is a specialization some programs offer.
How do the masters in management programs differ from the MBA in terms of structure, content, length, goals and placement? [4:30]
In terms of similarities they are both general management programs. An MBA is really for those looking to accelerate or develop their careers, whereas a Masters in Management is for those looking to gain the knowledge and skills to break into a business career. MBA students have on average 5-8 years of work experience and learn a lot from peer practical experience, whereas MIM students might have some internship experience but are really learning more from the classroom environment. MIMs are applying for entry level positions, and MBAs are looking for more senior positions.
From a content perspective, from the outside an MBA looks more practical than a MIM – there are more theory-based MIMs, though there is definitely no shortage of early-career programs offering practical and applied learning as well, with internships and study abroad opportunities. MIMs can be one or two years long, depending on the program.
Do you have any idea how many MiM graduates go back and ultimately get an MBA or for most is it a terminal degree? [6:44]
I’d say a MIM is definitely not a terminal degree, just as pursuing business at an undergrad level is not. If you are an early career candidate, it’s difficult to say if you’ll need an MBA further down the line. You might need it at your company to advance, or to switch careers. If you are an early career candidate in the job you want, and can see yourself growing in that role or company over the next several years, think about the value you get from an early career degree as opposed to waiting for an MBA. If you feel you are lacking the knowledge to break into business, early career programs are very beneficial.
Are most MIM students coming from non-business undergrad backgrounds? [8:22]
It depends on the program. There are some that require students come from non-traditional backgrounds, whereas others look for some business curriculum – like poets and quants, as it were. It totally depends on the program. Any applicant should take a very close look at the student profiles at the programs you are considering. Make sure you are a good fit and will be learning alongside people you will benefit most from.
MBA programs tend to look for individuals who have fairly well-defined career goals. Is that true in the MIM level also? [9:22]
From a career perspective you do want to go into the program with some type of focus. The programs go by quickly and you need to have some sense of what you want to do to take advantage of all the resources. In London, finance and consulting recruiting starts early on- applications open in August, so you might not even have started the program yet. You need to be focused but flexible- have a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.
Let’s change the focus a bit. How do European MBA programs as a group differ from U.S. MBA programs, and I realize we’re talking in generalities, but I’d like an overview? [10:59]
European MBA programs tend to be a little bit shorter (12-18 months), as opposed to the more traditional two year format in the US. Obviously that makes a difference in price tag and living costs, but one is not better or worse, or right or wrong – it’s just what is best for you. In terms of work experience you see slightly more experienced students in European MBA programs, so a wider range of experience in your peer group. As I mentioned, make sure you are in a classroom learning from the types of individuals you feel you need to learn from, as you will learn just as much from students as faculty. In terms of class composition, European business schools have a more international cohort, with students looking to work in more broad-based locations.
What if I’d really love to spend a year or two in Europe either at an early-career program, a traditional full-time MBA, or even an EMBA or LBS’s Sloan Fellows program. But, I know I want to work in my home country. Will it be hard for me to come home and find a job? [13:23]
It depends on the amount of work you are willing to put into you career search. It’s important to think about your network. Most students look to grow their networks, so if you want to strengthen your network in Europe, look at European programs. The network at the school can also ultimately help you return home. Looking at the distribution of the alumni network and post-grad employment destinations is helpful. In terms of conducting due diligence before you leave and study abroad, work on strengthening your network at home. Build and maintain relationships so that when it’s time to return home you haven’t been forgotten.
Similarly, is it worth it if I want to live and work in my home country to have an international experience for my MiM or MBA? [15:54]
Having international experience is not a prerequisite. What is most important is that you demonstrate you have the interest in international experience and why you have that interest. That should be highlighted in your application and essays – how this international experience fits into your professional and personal journey.
You’ve convinced me! I’m applying to an MBA or MiM program, but plane flights from my continent to Europe or whatever continent I want to study on make school visits very expensive – and time consuming. How can I learn about programs and engage with the school if thousands of miles or kilometers separate us? Or do I just have to bite the bullet and fly? [18:25]
If you have the opportunity to visit campuses, I certainly encourage you to do so. You will be spending a lot of money on a program so you want to make sure it is a place you feel comfortable. That said, there are plenty of ways to get the experience of what it is like without having to buy a plane ticket. Attend MBA or Masters fairs that may come locally to you, where you can meet with admin reps, alums, or students on exchange in your home country. There are webinars, virtual campus tours, and I always recommend talking with student ambassadors or alumni, though be mindful of the communication. You don’t want to bombard people, and you need to personalize the communications.
When you were reviewing applications for London’s EC programs, what was the one (or two) things that you wished they really understood about the admissions process or the program that most just didn’t get? [20:31]
I was always disappointed with applicants who looked great with experience and goals but didn’t put any effort into the application. We understand people are applying to multiple schools, but we want to see genuine interest, and submitting generic short answers, or essays with the wrong school in them, or no school-specific content is really disappointing. On the flip side it is equally important to be mindful of the admissions team’s time, so writing pages and pages on an essay with no word limit demonstrates a lack of awareness. It’s all about finding balance – demonstrating your sincere interest in a program and presenting it in a concise way.
What advice do you have for applicants in the midst of applying to early career management programs or to European MBA programs? [22:21]
It’s not too late to do the due diligence we spoke about earlier – reach out to admissions teams, students, or alums. For anyone looking to apply for the August 2018 intake look at scholarship deadlines since you might see deadlines passing. For international students who might need a visa, look at the visa timeline as well, since you want to have idea of what to expect if accepted.
What about those planning ahead for a 2018-19, 2019-20, or later application? [23:35]
Definitely use time to your advantage. Take time to prepare for the GMAT or GRE – make a study plan. Do in-depth research on the programs – visit campus or check when the fairs come around. Have a look at the current application form and essays so you have some idea of what it will be like. Some schools change questions slightly year to year, but you will get a feel for the type of individual and values they want to see. Application deadlines also vary slightly year to year along with the calendar change, so build a timeline and work backwards.
• Jamie’s Podcast from Last November
• MIT Sloan Master in Finance: How to Get In!
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