Make the right decision

If you want to go to a top MBA program I know that working at an investment bank would look much better than working at an accounting firm. However, I am interested in find out what would look better, an Ok boutique or a Big 4 accounting firm. What is the lowest you should go in terms of the brand name for an investment bank before 2 years at a Big 4 looks better for business school?

Comments (3)

Jun 23, 2009

While brand is helpful, your performance will carry a lot of weight as well. For example, if you work at an accounting firm and are promoted prior to everyone else or if the people that are writing your recommendations have something tangible to point at that you have done. There are a lot more aspects to an application than just where you work. Business schools tend to take a wholistic approach to candidates vs. law schools who rely more heavily on grades and test scores. You still need to have the grades and the test scores, but you also need to craft your story as to what makes you unique and what seperates you from everyone else.

Jun 23, 2009

I think you're confusing brand name within a field to field over field. For example, if I say you can work at Goldman Sachs or BofA in the M&A group, it will look better (even if marginally) to B schools to work at Goldman - because, technically, the work should be pretty much the same either way - analyst level work, and at that point it's just about which was harder to get into, Goldman wins with more prestige.

If, however, I say would you rather work at Goldman or a Big 4, that's not as easy of a decision. Reason being, you will probably be doing different work at each employer, with differen responsibilities, different promotion opportunities, different relationships, etc. It is this difference that makes for the unique qualities of a B school application that help get you into the school. Business school is looking for advancement, leadership, quant skills, ability to work in teams, effective communication skills, and more.

What you have to figure out is which position you will enjoy more (because if you enjoy it, you should be inclined to work harder, volunteer for more projects and get more out of it), what you want to do in the future (in other words, which position will most appear to be a valid step in achieving your end goal) and which position will offer you the most experience in terms of all of the aforementioned qualities.

Taking your example, a Boutique vs a Big 4, which will provide you with more advancement opportunity, which will allow you to step out of the box and demonstrate leadership and freedom in your tasks, which will provide you with a more-developed skill set, and, honestly, which do you think you will enjoy most (it's easier to sell something if you enjoy it). For me, I would choose the boutique (based on my exposure to a few boutiques), but every boutique is different and every candidate is different. Best of luck.

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