British comedian and Monty Python star, John Cleese, has been known to say that he has been married for over forty years…just to different women. And while John may be able to make endless jokes about his past, like in his comic sketches, we are assuming that’s not the approach, you would prefer, to explain away your frequent job changes for MBA applications.
Saying something like, Yes I have worked for 6 years in 12 different jobs, spells commitment-phobe, unless otherwise properly addressed.
If you value your time and effort in preparing a perfected application package with the all requisite perfect GPA, perfect GMAT, Pulitzer winning Essay, and the other ingredients, polished like the Queen’s silverware, you should think about a proper way to explain your frequent job switching. That would be the smart way to close the deal and not leave the adcoms hanging in there, doubting your staying power.
Most international MBA programs have a history of 4-5 years of average work experience for their admitted students. On an average, they have about two jobs during that timeframe (Read What type of work experience is required for MBA abroad?).
Leaping from job to job, like spidey, with more than 3 jobs in 5 years may indicate some amount of trouble.
Is it bad to have that many jobs in a small duration?
The answer is not always black…or white. The key to making your case is to use your complete application as a means to structure your career growth towards the decision that has finally brought you here, at MBA’s doorstep. So, no it is not always a bad sign for you to have had many work experiences. But, it is definitely a bad sign if they have been aimless.
- Why is work experience important for international MBA applications?
- Is work experience necessary for MBA?
In this article, we will talk about the acceptable ways you can present your flippancy (or calculated moves) to have the frequent job changes work positively for your MBA profile (Read How to talk about weaknesses in MBA essays and interviews).
Tips to explain frequent job switches
The key is to have presentable, and believable, reasons. Here are some acceptable ways you can do the same.
Let’s just say that personal reasons are the MBA equivalent of Love and War, where everything’s fair, including job jumps. When you are starting off your career, right after school, you are usually most focussed on finding a first job irrespective of its location on the country map.
The basic idea is to take the first step in the professional world, gain the experience and then look for greener, homier, pastures once you figure out your niche.
Subsequent decisions to make a move owing to the ol’ familial reasons such as finding a new job near where your ailing parents live, or moving closer to live with your spouse, are some of the more acceptable reasons of job changes.
Just make sure you don’t sound like a broken record and keep repeating a pattern of personal excuses to fill the story. Honesty does its thing when it has to and keeps everything believable and kosher.
Better Job Opportunity
Here’s a tricky one. Instead of excusing your frequent moves with a blanket statement such as I was looking for my best fit, you need to exhibit clarity of thought.
What prompted you to make the move? If it was indeed in search of better opportunities, explain the expected changes in tangible terms – a larger organization, a better designation, better pay, better projects, etc.
Let’s be clear. You cannot afford to talk about better opportunities by talking trash about your previous organizations. “Better opportunities” imply a clear direction of career growth.
Dissatisfaction with the working environment could be better expressed in quantitative grounds in terms of the job, and not in terms of discord with supervisors or co-workers, work load or other factors that, let’s say, will be tested through your MBA curriculum. If you can’t resolve issues with your team, good luck explaining how you can manage to meander through your coursework.
MBA Goals and Job changes
Do your incessant job changes make sense in the MBA picture? That is, are the changes aligned with your career goals that have prompted you to consider MBA as the next move?
Job changes should reflect a career progression structure as you go about narrowing down your niche while at the same time widening your capabilities by building on your skills.
If you choose six different specialities in five years, your consistency will be in question. If you seem to be expressing a deeper interest, gaining more experience in a speciality, after having zeroed in on it, you show direction.
Did you get laid off from the company you were planning to stay put for some time, or see your company go belly up with massive pad locks on the main door? Well, you are certainly not to blame. Not unless you actively had something to do with it.
Companies often go through periods of recession and try to recover by sacking their staff in a la Thanos fashion (you know, with the big bosses snapping their finger and eliminating half of the workforce!). If you were the unfortunate sap in the wake of such disasters, no one should or would hold you responsible for seeking another role in another place.
There is some lesson in those situations that set you up for failure. Lessons that you can use to make a case for learning how to face challenges and rising above the adversities to move forward. Even if you did have something to cause you to get fired, your failure to perform can be a turning point, forcing you to evaluate your career growth. Spin it and your luck shall turn!
What not to do while explaining frequent job switches
Well, you should have certainly caught hold of the drift of the arguments you can make for being temperamental with your jobs(sss). That being so, you should be careful so as to not sound ornamental in your explanations. It is really not that difficult to get carried away and rely on tripe sound bites.
Admissions Committees are pretty well versed with what categorizes as rehearsed regurgitations of old excuses and what constitutes honest clear thoughts. Keep your radar on for these pointers, some of which we have already hinted upon before.
- Accept your mistakes and misgivings. Use them as learning steps for the next decisions you encountered. Adcoms don’t expect you to be born perfect but rather individuals with the rational capability to evaluate and learn.
- Don’t push the blame. If you had compatibility issues at one of your many jobs, explain what you did to improve the situation. Don’t make your decision to leave your job someone else’ doing.
- Avoid blanket statements. If you have a reason, put forth an objective argument. I was looking for better career opportunities won’t cut it. What better opportunities were they? How would you have gained from them? How did you gain from them?
- Since MBA application is the objective, align your past with the reason you have decided to get into MBA and what is your MBA goal.
- Finally, stay honest. If your MBA interviewer decides to grill you further, you don’t want to get in the room with your hand in the cookie jar. Chances are, and probably a lot, that they will quiz you. Inconsistency with your resume or essay will definitely show up in case you lie.
If you can’t manage all this on your own, give us a shout. We’ve helped many spideys get over this common challenge. Our email is: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com
Meanwhile here are some references to browse while you are on a reading spree.