MBA essays: Dealing with layoffs and career breaks in your pre-MBA jobs

The last few years haven’t been kind. Most good and capable professionals in eviable pre MBA jobs had to face the heat of an economy that went spiralling out of control, in the wrong direction. Companies felt the easiest way to deal with it was to cut costs, and employees were easy targets. So much for the ‘Our employees are our biggest assets’ spiel.

A whole lot of guys who got the short end of the stick didn’t know how to deal with the unexpected change of events. Many started looking at MBA programs to fill in the vacuum. But the bschool application process isn’t easy or fast. It takes at least 1 full year for applicants to go through the whole rigamarole of GMAT preparation, TOEFL/IELTS test, MBA essay writing, recommendation, transcripts.

And then if you haven’t got another job in the interim, there’s the tricky part of explaining what you did in the previous 1 year before joining bschool.

One good way to tackle career breaks is to talk about how you converted the forced break into a sabbatical. If you went on a back-packing tour, or learnt to play the piano, or got trained in a new language or volunteered for some cause that you believe it. Use that to explain how you grew on the personal front when you were suddenly blessed with a lot of free time and complete freedom to pursue activities outside work.

Professional life saps the energy out of employees and that’s one of the big excuses applicants have for not having any time for pursuing activities that interest them.

Use your essays to demonstrate how you saw opportunity in adversity. You could have slid into depression and sat in a corner sulking. But you didn’t do that. That demonstrates your maturity and your perseverance. Businesses and people both go through bad phases. If you’ve managed to resurrect yourself from personal crises, chances are you’ll be able use that trait to do the same for the businesses that you lead after the MBA.

The next application season is slowly sneaking up on us. Pull your socks up and get into action mode. Chak de phatte, guys!

Also read:
How to handle career gaps in MBA admissions and applications
Dealing with voluntary career breaks in MBA applications

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube

9 thoughts on “MBA essays: Dealing with layoffs and career breaks in your pre-MBA jobs”

  1. Hello Sameer,

    Came across your post while browsing through some random articles and found it really interesting, in fact quite related to my personal experiences. Actually, I am an avid traveler and has a lot of experience of backpacking across Asia and Europe and now planning a massive ‘Around the Globe Trip’ for 6 months, starting this December. Along with this I am also working in energy sector for last 3.5 years and obviously going to quit pretty soon.

    After this trip I want to do an MBA in order to prepare myself to start my own company, an international travel network. How do you think this career break would affect my chances at top MBA programs? Any remedies, if applicable? I can surely build my case by linking my trips with post MBA goals and it also add value to their diversity pool. Does it sound convincing enough?

    Thanks again for the nice article and your response.

    • Narain,
      Seems like you’ve got a whole lot of exciting stuff coming up over the next few months. It’s good that you’d be able to link it to your post-MBA goals of starting a travel network. Just be careful about a few things:
      Don’t assume that the linking between your ‘Around the Globe Trip’ will flow naturally.
      There’s no doubt that ‘Travel’ is the common element out there, but you’d still need to establish the connect between the personal and the business aspects of travelling.
      [Bad analogy to highlight what I mean –> Just because I eat a lot, doesn’t make me a good restaurateur. Right? :-) ]
      If you can demonstrate a major overlap between the two, then it makes your life easy.
      Enjoy the trip.

  2. Dear Sameer sir,
    I had completed my degree in pharmacy in 2000. Then i had searched for pharma production jobs but unfortunately couldn’t got the job as there were no vacancies at that time. then i had got job in pharma marketing done for 6 months. As there was less salary while living in big city like Mumbai, my father advised me to leave the job & start medical store nearby to our native place. As my elder brother was also completed a D pharmacy in 1997 from a college not affiliated by Pharmacy Council of India but recognized by state pharmacy council. So he couldn’t got his D pharma Certificate. About 90-100 students were faced the same problem as of my elder brother & some 4 to 5 students filed case in Bangalore High Court Vs PCI & State Pharmacy council.

    My father told me to start medical shop with elder brother & we started the same in 2002. Then in 2008 my elder brother got D pharmacy Certificate & was eligible to run independently medical shop.
    Soon he had got the certificate I have applied for MBA (Correspondence) & done in 2011 with Finance as a specialization & also completed advanced diploma in Computerized financial accounting with Tally ERP 9.0 (ADCFA).

    Then I had gone to Delhi for some taxation training & got the job in a CA firm in Delhi as Accounts Executive, worked over there for around 1.8 yrs & then got job in MNC at gurgaon on third party payroll & worked for around 1.9 yrs on SAP FICO accounts Payable process(P2P) & left job for some family reasons as well as some health related problems.
    Right now i am jobless but working in the same pharmacy with my elder brother. and i want to search jobs nearby to our native i.e. Pune or Bangalore.
    I have applied for some companies & given interview as well. but some MNC’s rejected my application as there are some problems like i am pharma graduate not a commerce graduate (basic qualification), 8 years gap in education, average comm. skills, as well as my age is around 36 yrs.
    I have both options either search further for job or do wholesale medical business but there was lot of competition in that business as well.
    So please help me in this matter as this is very critical situation in my life.
    Please send me your advice on my mail ID given . & if possible please share your mobile no. so that i can take further advices from you in future. Waiting for your valuable reply.
    thanks in advance.

    • From the description, your primary objective seems to be to get a job in Pune or Bangalore. There’s not much we can suggest here except reaching out to placement agencies that have opportunities in these 2 cities.

      • Dear Sameer Sir,

        Thanks for your reply. I have a question in my mind that is my age (36 yrs) will create problem to work in MNC’s? and also gap in education ?
        I also don’t have commerce background but got good knowledge of Accounts as well as Finance & very good in Mathematics as well, but wherever i go for interview they will ask for commerce background (i.e. Commerce Graduate) person & clearly removes my application for the job. Sometimes not allowing for interviews as well.

        So please suggest me how to combat with such a situations as i am really depressed with this.

        Eagerly awaiting for your valuable reply.

        Thanks in advance,

        • I’m afraid, the higher age, qualification and experience breaks will play a role in the employers decision making.

          You could try applying to smaller firms that may not be as strict with their HR policies.

          • Dear Sameer Sir,

            Thanks for your reply.
            I will surely go with your suggestion.


  3. Hi Sameer,

    With BE(Telecommunications) I have about 5 years of work experience in IT industry. I had to take a break for child care.Mean while I completed M.Tech( 2012 to 2014)(full time).Now I wan to get back to work as my baby is 3 years old.But now I dont want technical job. So can you please suggest me, on whether I should go for full time mba OR ONE YEAR MBA. And please provide some details on placements after one year MBA pgrms for ppl with career break like me.

    Thank you.

  4. Similar problem to what Yogesh faces but I have been lucky to get a seat last year once recognized institutes ESCP Paris for executive MBA . Must which happen completely vice-versa to what Indian GMAT support program are trying to achieve. Their average age is far higher than their Indian counterparts for EMBAs.Let me also people in those countries do get tired with one MBAs rather they equip themselves with second MBA as it is more research driven than euros driven.


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