Before I present an answer, allow me to elaborate on this question, and what ‘switching careers’ really means. Ask any B-School’s career center, and they will proudly say that over 70% of their students are career changers. Given the diverse backgrounds that students come from, and the kinds of roles that are posted at B-Schools these days, it may be a little difficult to bring complete transparency and objectivity to what a career change really is. At most schools, a career change is considered as a function OR industry shift.  This, in practicality, is very achievable, but is this really a career change?

A career change, arguably, is when you want to do something else because you don’t like what you are doing now! Given that you only have experience in what you don’t like doing, you find yourself in a vicious circle.  Not liking your current situation is only natural, but it does not mean that you have to radially change your situation to find your true calling. Career centers at most schools will also advice you against radical changes.

The MBA, in itself, is not a specialization – it is a program designed for specialists, and hence the experience requirement in the application.  At most top schools, the average experience is around 5 years, and there is a reason for this.  With the ‘why now’ question, Schools want to gauge whether you have acquired some level of functional or industry depth.  At this stage if you want to change careers, it is more difficult for the School to launch your career because the MBA will not provide you depth – it will only provide you breadth.  Hence, it is necessary to look at your post MBA job as an evolution to your background. Rather than a career change, look for career growth.

The top 200 to 300 jobs posted at the Indian School of Business, or for that matter, at any other top B-School, arguably, will not weigh past experience over brilliance – these are strategy, consulting and leadership rotational roles that will look at intellectual horsepower and problem solving ability over depth of knowledge.  The companies that hire for these roles will look at your CGPA, brand quality of your undergraduate institution, and a competitive pre-MBA job as evidence of potential.  They will have multiple rounds of case based interviews to ensure that you can address problems quickly, with confidence, and with incomplete information.

For an engineer who has worked at a manufacturing unit, will a job at a top consulting firm be considered a career change? For an arts graduate, will a tech or digital role at a branding agency be a career change?  For a commerce graduate, will an operations leadership role at an ECom giant be considered a career change?

What about the rest of the jobs? Recruiters will, for the most part, shortlist candidates based on experience, and will consider either functional knowledge OR industry depth when evaluating your profile.  A Chartered Accountant working as an analyst in a bank could be selected for a finance role in an engineering conglomerate, or a sales professional working in a consumer electronics company could be selected for a category management role at a major retailer.  Are these career changes?

The term ‘career change’ is really irrelevant – what is relevant is whether an opportunity poses career growth.  Also relevant is whether the candidate is satisfied with the outcome of his or her final placement.  I don’t view most post-MBA jobs as career changes.  I view them as career growth opportunities, and for years I have observed that most students who crack these roles are satisfied with their outcomes.

To maximize opportunity, one should make use of the school’s ecosystem and strengths.  I do not recommend that students go off on a wild goose chase looking for that dream job. I have gone through enough data to conclude that your likelihood of getting a job through campus-facilitated sources (In India) is much higher than going off on your own.  Top recruiters get tens of thousands of applications per month, and your application, most often, will not even reach the hiring manager’s desk.

My advice to you is this – once you get into an MBA program, do everything to get into the best possible company as early as possible.  Obviously, this is not easier said than done!  However, at schools such as the ISB, you will be immersed in Career Services and L&D activities from the beginning – you will network not only with alumni, but also with recruiters who visit campus for various club activities.  You will form strong bonds with the Career Services staff. Career Services maintains personal relationships with the who’s who of the recruiting community, and have the ability to push your CV into the right hands when required. It is very important for you to network with such people who can get you your next break.  Social capital is a predictor of success, and I can say with a fair amount of ease that students who spend more time with the placements department find it easier to navigate their job search and interview processes.

At most schools (in India), placements are designed for the most sought after recruiters to visit earlier – the top companies will come earlier, and hence the best students will get placed earlier.  Try to get placed earlier, for this will be the only time in your life when you will have the upper negotiating hand with recruiters!

As far as you application is concerned, try to answer the ‘why now’ question by stating why the MBA will be a natural progression to your career, given your past background.  Bring flow to your short and long-term career goals, for the admissions committee is unimpressed by dots that are not connected, and will probably give you a hard time during the interview in case you are shortlisted for one.  If you want to be a product manager at that ECom giant and you don’t have relevant experience, at least show that you have done some work in technology.  Or try to provide evidence of interest.  If you want to work in banking, be prepared to answer finance questions during the interview if you don’t have relevant experience or education.  If you want to work in consulting, make sure you have an answer for why you will be a good fit.

So will the MBA help you accelerate your career?  For the most part, you can’t go wrong with it, especially from a top school.  The best schools will provide you an unparalleled ecosystem and access to a plethora of opportunities.  Having said that, times have changed – in comparison to the past, organizations now have different requirements, education systems have evolved, and for sure the new generation is much more aware.  I tend to believe that, in the future, a narrower focus will be of advantage to the aspiring professional.  If you haven’t acquired some level of industry or functional depth by the time you begin your MBA application, hang on just a bit.  Also consider a specialized Masters to put your career on the fast track!


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed on this site and in this article are opinions, and all data and information provided here are for informational purposes only. CollegeStation Eduservices LLP, its partners, clients or any of its associates make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information provided on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

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Over the course of my career, and as an independent consultant, many candidates have asked me what score they need to get into the ISB. Candidates view the GMAT as a make or break situation, often considering it the most important part of the application. It is a very important part, but reality is somewhat different from what students have traditionally thought.

My own experience working with candidates has given me reason to believe that there is little correlation between the GMAT and academic performance during the MBA, as long as the candidate achieves a certain hygiene factor on the GMAT.  I also feel that there is little correlation between the GMAT and success in placements or interviews, as long as the same minimum score is met.  The key here is – “As long as a certain score is met.”

The Admissions Committees are evaluating potential for success. When they look at an application, and all its individual elements, they want to answer one question first – Can this candidate succeed?  To answer this, AdComs will evaluate evidence of past success and evidence of brilliance.  Every school has its own evaluation criteria, and certain schools will place more weight on past performance, while others will tend to bend in favor of brilliance. For example, a candidate with a 3.8 undergraduate GPA from a top college and a 700 GMAT will have a better shot at certain schools in comparison to a candidate with a 3.3 GPA from a lesser known college and a 770 GMAT, and visa versa. Both these candidates have provided some level of reassurance to the respective admissions committees. Having said that, I don’t think that a candidate with a 3.5 GPA (or a comparative undergraduate background) will significantly benefit from a score of 760, when she already has a 710.  This is because she too has established acceptable requirements for both evidence of past success and evidence of brilliance.  Once such evidence is established, AdComs will move away from the question, ‘Can she succeed,’ to ‘Will she succeed,’ and look at your overall story, and other elements of your application.

So what do you do if your score is a 690? If you are applying to the Indian School of Business, you could avoid taking it again as long as you can establish some level of past performance.  As I have mentioned, B-Schools will view the application as a system, and will put a check mark on elements that give them reassurance.  The more boxes you tick, the higher your likelihood of admission! High scores in 10th and 12th – check, Bachelors from a top college – check, solid GPA – check, work experience in a well-known company – check, good GMAT – check, and so on. Once these quantifiable elements are evaluated, AdComs will look at the softer elements of your application i.e. your story, and ultimately, your interview.  The GMAT is only one element, and for the most part, cannot get you in by itself (although it can keep you out).

Hence, if you are applying to the ISB, and you have a good academic background and experience, you can avoid taking it again.  But if you went to a lesser known college, have experience which is difficult to explain, unimpressive grades, and are making more effort to bring flow and consistency to your story, you may benefit by taking the GMAT again, for a higher score will establish brilliance, and compensate for the lack of other elements in your application. A high score will give evidence of potential when it cannot be measured by past success.

For the ISB, the minimum score I recommend is as follows:

For male applicants – 650

For female applicants – 620

 For the top 20 US schools, I recommend that you aim for at least 700. There are a ton of articles and statistics on the web that are in favor of a higher GMAT score, and I tend to agree with them.  Especially for Indian male applicants, getting into a top US school is arguably more difficult than getting into the ISB.  Given the sheer volume of applications, increased pressure from rankings, and soaring average GMAT scores, AdComs will tend to give the GMAT the benefit of doubt when comparing domestic and foreign candidates.  Having said that, even for most US schools, I doubt whether you’ll significantly benefit with a 760 if you already have a 720.

 In the end, I would like to state that you should apply your own intelligence and judgment to your situation.  Every candidate is unique, and while we all love to obsess over the GMAT (and GRE), you should really consider the merits of your overall application.  If there is only one piece of advice you need to take away from this article, it is this – try to get the highest score that you can, but do not refrain from applying if you have a lower score, or a less pedigreed background. Admissions Committees realize that socioeconomic factors play a role in who you are, and they are only striving hard to evaluate your potential for success. There are times in which a candidate’s potential cannot be evaluated from prior backgrounds alone, because not all have had access to the same opportunities.  In such situations, the GMAT, your essays and ultimately your interview play a bigger role. Everyone has the right to an education, and if you are passionate about learning, you should not be deprived of it – there is a school and a program for everyone.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed on this site and in this article are opinions, and all data and information provided here are for informational purposes only. CollegeStation Eduservices LLP, its partners, clients or any of its associates make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information provided on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

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