Recently I have been asked by several prospective students variations of this question—if you could go back, what do you wish you would have know when applying to b-school? It is a great question. As I have thought about it, there have been several things that have come to mind, but the one I want to focus on is the importance of location.
When I was originally applying to business school, location was a very important factor. I wanted to be in a place that promoted a tight-knit student culture, and I wanted to go to school in a region I was interested in living in post-MBA. However, the one aspect of location I didn't consider, and for me as a career switcher is extremely important, is whether or not the local business community will provide me with opportunities to gain the skills and experiences I need to help me successfully switch careers.
Although I didn't realize it when applying, being in Los Angeles would be a key part of my success in being able to get to where I am now in the career switch process. Before business school, my work experience was primarily in operations. I spent the last 2+ years before Anderson at Goldman Sachs. When I came back to school, not only did I want to change functions to marketing, I wanted to change industries as well. Changing just functions or only industries is very common in b-school, but attempting to make the double switch is a bit more difficult.
So, what is the local business community like and how exactly has being in LA helped me? The startup scene in LA is booming and there are a ton of opportunities for students to gain valuable experience beyond just the typical MBA summer internship. There are also a lot of bigger well known name brands that hire part-time interns during the school year like Disney, NBC, etc. This summer I began building my marketing experience as a Brand and Content Marketing intern at Castlight Health. I wanted to continue that momentum and keep building on my marketing experience, and have recently started another internship in Brand Management at Little Tikes. I am confident that these experiences and skills I will continue to build beyond my summer internship will help me successfully make my desired career transition.
So what would I say to those out there looking to apply to business school? If you are considering switching careers, think carefully about how will the program and location of the school put you in the best position to make that switch.