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UCLA Anderson Application Insider: Work Experience

This blog post is part of our weekly “Application Insider” blog post series that provides insider information, tips, and advice about applying to the UCLA Anderson MBA program.

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Work experience is a key component of most business school applications and it yet may be a topic surrounded by a fair amount of confusion. Here is a Q&A with the top 10 questions we get on this topic and their respective answers to help you on your MBA application:

1. What is the Admissions Committee really looking for in my work experience?

Our admissions officers are looking at your overall career trajectory and the decisions you made along your career path. Promotions, title changes, and increased responsibilities will display your growth within an organization. If you have led projects or supervised individuals, let us know the number of people, and duration of time. Discuss your cross-functional experience, too, as this will show your increased business acumen and understanding of additional functions of business.

2. How do I communicate my work experience through the application process?

There are a few different places to do so. Your essay will allow you to connect your past work experience and skills to your future short- and long- term goals. The resume will allow you to quantify your accomplishments and set them in the appropriate context for evaluation. And ultimately, the interview will let you connect all the pieces and add your own personality and voice to make your application unique and memorable.

3. When do I start counting my work years of work experience?

UCLA Anderson does not require work experience to apply. However, the vast majority of students have some level of full-time work experience prior to starting the program, with the average being between 4 and 5 years. (See our class profile for details).
We consider your first full-time job post-college graduation as the start of your work experience and count it all the way to when you will leave work to start the MBA.

4. I noticed your average years of work experience for the Class of 2018 is 5 years. What if I have less or more years of work experience than 5 years?

It is not so much the quantity of your work experience, but the quality. The Admissions Committee cares more about what you have done during the time you have worked, and why you want to get an MBA. For some candidates, that could be 2 years of work experience, and for others it can be over 10.

5. I don’t have any full-time work experience yet. Is there something I can do to strengthen my application?

Every year a few amazing individuals with minimal-to-no work experience are admitted to the program. These individuals often bring to our class stellar academics and work ethics, and can often display leadership potential and the potential to succeed in an MBA program through their own individual accomplishments, such as internships, school, and/or participation with other organizations.

6. Do college internships count as work experience?

We typically don’t count the college internships while in college as full-time work experience since many college internships are truly not “full-time”. That said, if you believe your internship is significant enough and is relevant to your professional career goals, you can always list them in your resume and provide the relevant details, level of responsibility and areas of oversight, and the Admissions Committee will take it under consideration as a part of your application profile.

7. I have held several jobs in a few years. Is this going to be seen as a red flag?

If you have changed jobs, be sure to discuss new responsibilities and leadership opportunities that you gained, especially in areas that have given you skills required for your post-MBA goals. If you feel it necessary, explain why you switched jobs, and how these experiences led you to your career goals. This is all part of your story and you should own it and be comfortable talking about it.

8. I don’t directly manage other people and/or projects. Is there something else I can do to show my leadership and management potential?

We understand that not all individuals are given the opportunity by their employer to directly manage people or projects, regardless of their ability or desire to do so. Sometimes your leadership roles can be something that you have sought out on your own through volunteering roles inside or outside your organization, especially when your formal job does not provide with direct opportunities to do so. Make sure you talk about those aspects of your life that highlight your ability to work well with others, think big picture and use your analytical and planning skills.

9. How should I format my resume to better communicate my work experience?

We have no standard resume format that we require, but please limit your resume to 1-2 pages maximum. We ask that your resume be up to date and formatted in a way that we can quickly find important accomplishments, milestones achieved, leadership roles, and career progression. Whenever possible, include adequate context and provide numbers to quantify the size/impact of your contributions, plus minimize the industry jargon in favor of plain English descriptions. Your resume is an opportunity to give the Admissions Committee a summary of your pre-MBA academic, professional, and extracurricular experiences.

10. How is non-traditional experience counted (e.g., Military service, self-employed/entrepreneur, lawyer, doctor)?

UCLA Anderson values diverse perspectives in the classroom, and we welcome applicants from both traditional and non-traditional backgrounds. We recommend that you focus on what you have learned in your past experiences and the skills you’ve gained in your non-traditional experience, and how those may be transferable to allow you succeed in an MBA program and in your post-MBA career goals. Non-traditional students may have work experience prior to the start of their undergraduate career, and we will note this on an individual basis. Military experience is considered work experience in the perspective of the UCLA Anderson Admissions Committee, as you have grown significantly in leadership and decision-making.

For more information on work experience, check out the Application Requirements section of our website.

Check back next week for the next “Application Insider” blog post about LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION!

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