When it comes to MBA, does your pre MBA career matter?

So I am looking to do an MBA in 2-3 years.
I am set to get a very good grade in my masters degree in maths from a top 20 university in the UK.
I did a practise GMAT for fun and I got 730.

The only thing which I am stuck on is which career to pick.
I have absolutely no idea.
I have spoken to top MBA consultants and they separate all the candidates by sector and put every application in context. Emphasis is placed on diversity.

Upon learning this my thinking is that your pre MBA does not matter IF you truly excel in your career path.

For example I'm thinking about pursuing a career in civil service. I have been told that this is probably not the best path because it is not common. HOWEVER if I truly excel in the civil service and quickly climb the ranks (I have strong contacts in this industry) , then would it still be a hindrance?

If the pre MBA path is not common then I am guessing it is a good thing as the admissions like a wide range of careers?

I want to understand how MBA admissions select candidates.

I know that MBA admissions like consultant.
Lets say you have to candidates. First candidate is an average consultant working at a top firm.

The second candidate is an exceptional employee working in civil service. He has made a huge difference and has progressed through the ranks at a very fast pace and now is at a very senior post in a short space of time.

Which candidate would the admissions go for?

Comments (26)

Jun 4, 2016

sometimes being different is better than following the beaten path. my advice is that you do what you are good at. most schools try their best to have many points of view in the classroom and a civil servant might just strike that cord. good luck.

(p.s. don't forget you can lie about your post MBA goals when you apply and then sell out when you graduate and get a posh job in IB, Consulting or PE - plenty of demand for connected people in those areas).

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Jun 4, 2016

Hey thanks for the answer.
That's what I thought. I wonder how many applicants HBS gets from MSc maths students who are civil servants haha :)

I have solid contacts in the civil service industry and its something I would be good at. I reckon I could climb the ranks very fast because you dont have to wait a certain time to apply for a promotion and when you apply for the promotion it is all competency based.

Jun 9, 2016

"dont have to wait a certain time to apply for a promotion and when you apply for the promotion it is all competency based."

This is the exact opposite of what civil service is.............

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Best Response
Jun 4, 2016

You're thinking about this all wrong. You should NOT pick your current job on the basis for how well it qualifies you to get into a top MBA program. You should pick a job that is in the career that you would like to pursue or helps you build the skill set / connections / whatever in order to obtain it. There are many ways to better position yourself for business school (GMATs, community service, extracurricular activities, leadership, etc.), but your choice of career should really not be one of them -- that should be a personal choice.

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Jun 4, 2016

Thanks for the post.
Ok so its seems I have a lot of thinking to do because I have no idea what career to take. I want to work in finance but that is not going to happen in my current situation.

I think I ma looking at it the wrong way because I can not see anything wrong with choosing a career based on MBA alone. I dont mind being unhappy for 2-3 years if it means I can achieve my end goal.

Having said that I would quite like a career in civil service. Do you think it would be a good career choice for a top MBA program?

Jun 19, 2016

I did a practise GMAT for fun

Interesting. What else do you like to do for fun in your spare time?

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Jun 6, 2016

I'm gonna echo what CompBanker said above, the approach of "what job will get me into an MBA" is a bit off. You can get into an MBA from any job - professional athletes, filmmaker, journalist, banker, consultant, shoemaker...

You should choose a career that:
- you believe you will excel it because it matches your natural aptitudes
- will allow you growth opportunities

Civil Service could be a good career, or a boring one for the Adcom. It depends on where you land in civil service, what you will manage, what your advancement options are and so on and so forth...

If you are more specific about the job and it's requirements maybe we can help more, but once again you can get into a good MBA from anything, but yes, you should be excelling in whatever it is you ultimately do.


Jun 9, 2016

I'm in the process of matriculating at an elite business school. I concur with both CompBanker and Admissionado in that it doesn't matter what you did pre-MBA as long as you are an interesting, well-rounded candidate who has been successful/recognised in his field/at work.

In my class I have doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, bankers, accountants, consultants, civil workers, fashion designers, architects, ex-military, folks from non-profit etc. Go work wherever the hell you want with the intention to create meaningful, positive impact. You can get into any business school in the world granted that your grades, GMAT and extracurriculars are strong and that your profile is INTERESTING. With a 730 GMAT you can shoot for H/S/W, LBS, INSEAD i.e. the creme de la creme.

If you don't mind me asking - where are you from, what is your heritage? This could potentially be a very strong point in your favour.

Jun 10, 2016

Hey thank for the reply, I will pm you my profile in a bit. Thanks

Jun 22, 2016

@STARCHITECT" would you say all of thee backgrounds have a good chance of doing something completely different I.e. Architect to banker, fashion designer to consultant etc? Keen to hear your take from a first hand perspective.

Jun 23, 2016

It all comes down to how bad you want to do xyz upon graduating. For "classic" transitions a la banking and consulting, it doesn't matter what you did in your "previous life" as long as you can nail the interviews, which should be basically handed to you on a platter by virtue of the school's pedigree. For niche transitions or "tiered" transitions (PE, AM/HF etc.) it is not impossible by any means, but it is less cookie-cutter.

Please do take note that I am saying this with the assumption that, since you were admitted to an elite institution, you have the mindset and habits of a winner - perseverance, consistency and excellence. These things really ought to be second nature for 99.9% of the class. It is, therefore, statistically likely that "you'll be fine, you'll figure it out" for lack of a better reassurance.

For banking/consulting, you'd surprised how little competition you actually have when you factor in the fact that a big chunk of people end up deciding that it's not worth it and pursue something different (media, tech, non-profit, industry etc). I have yet to actually start classes, but am already seriously considering whether what I put in my application is what I want to do with my life. A significant number of people echo my reflections.

My personal bottom line in this matter is that YOUR EGO (laziness, procrastination, mediocrity) is your biggest competition by a country mile. If you've made it this far to read an MBA at an ultra elite school, your future really is all in your hands.

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Jun 9, 2016

"Civil service industry" made me spew coffee all over my desk.

Jun 26, 2016

I recently got admitted to a Top 10 b-school with a strong placement at BBs and some MM/Boutiques. I am pursuing investment banking - hopefully with a top M&A product group - and reached out to few smaller banks for a Pre-MBA internship, and ended up securing an unpaid one. If I take this gig, it will cost me around $12k (lost wages + housing expenses). For those of you who have recruited for banking jobs at b-schools, how valuable is a Pre-MBA internship? I have a business background which is very relevant to banking, have a great story and have been told by current students that I should not have problems landing a top gig. I am usually decent in networking and will prepare well for the interviews.

Do you guys think the pre-MBA internship will significantly increase my chances during the recruiting cyle? I also would reach out to few boutiques such as EVR/GHL/LAX who don't recruit at my school.


From everything I've read on WSO and other sites, there has never been too much emphasis on a pre-MBA internship. Given your background and going to a top10, I would think you could easily get away with not doing one. If you had worked at a non-profit or something similar, it might not be a bad idea.

Jun 26, 2016

As someone who recruited for IB at a M7 school, the preMBA internship is worthless in the sense of recruiting. It might be interesting, but knowing the people at my school who went to top tier BB (GS/MS), i don't think any of them had pre-MBA internships, so clearly it's not a make or break situation and won't help all that much. It will however, help you realize if you actually like doing IB, which is very valuable because not everyone likes it.

If you'd have to pay $12,000 and it's only at a small bank I personality would probably skip it. That $12k is better spent during school

People might disagree with me about this, but I honestly don't think it will help you during internship/FT recruiting.

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Jun 26, 2016

Thanks guys! I decided not to take the internship. I will be staying at my current job - working 40 hours a week for few more months and saving 12k which will be spent on b-school travels.

@MBA2014: Thanks for your insights. I heard the exact same thing from the few current students I talked to. Seems like with my big4 accounting background, I shoud be fine!

Jun 26, 2016

Curious what your current role is. I'm in a similar situation.

Jun 26, 2016

Sorry for the super late response.

I am a CPA with a Big4 firm.

Jun 19, 2016

your career should appear scripted - it should like you're on path to something big - like in the middle of a successful proof.

I don't think civil service or consulting would count you out of MBA. that GMAT wouldn't give you trouble for MBA application, but that's only like 5% of your profile, so don't think that'll help much. Again it's the viable career path you're seeking that makes you good for an admit letter down the road.

Jun 19, 2016
Jun 20, 2016