Gisselle Lankenau is an Assistant Director on the MBA Admissions team at NYU Stern. She joined the team last March, previously working with NYU Stern’s Leadership Accelerator. Hailing originally from Miami, Gisselle enjoys museums, cooking, and coffee shops.
Prospective students typically pursue an MBA to advance within their current industry or to make a career change. Applicants looking to make a career pivot often ask about resources at Stern that facilitate this transition and how they can showcase their current experience, particularly if they are coming from a non-traditional background.
What is a non-traditional background? Typically, a non-traditional MBA student is someone who has experience other than the standard business to MBA career route, although many of our students do not come from a ‘traditional’ business background. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds, from technology to education to military experience. We view the wide range of backgrounds of our students as an asset, with each individual bringing their own unique perspective to the classroom and enhancing the overall Stern community.
At Stern, there are a number of ways to get involved, contribute, and gain hands-on experience. For those coming from a non-business background, Stern offers several options for career support.
- Office of Career Development: One of the best resources for career support is the Office of Career Development. During the summer before the MBA program begins, our Careers team offers the IGNITE program, which consists of resume reviews, mock interviews, networking workshops and industry panels to put you in the best position to meet with recruiters from day one of the program. Career coaches will work with you to align career goals, set up a game plan to tackle the recruiting process, and they will continue to provide support throughout your time at Stern and when you are an alum.
- Lean on your peers: Your classmates will be joining the MBA program from a variety of industries. They will become your network and will support you during the recruiting process. Your peers might have worked at a company or industry that you are interested in, so you can lean on their expertise and connections. At Stern, your peers want to see you succeed.
- Experiential learning: Through Stern Solutions courses, you will be able to learn about your industry of interest, immerse yourself in an environment where you can tackle a real business issue, and reflect on the experience. These experiential learning opportunities allow you to gain real world experience, build your skill set and more broadly provide the space to be curious. You will be able to test out different roles, leadership styles, and to feel free to fail and learn from your mistakes and triumphs through reflection.
- Student Clubs: Professional clubs play a vital role in preparing students for the recruiting process and their next career step. At Stern, collaboration is key with MBA 2 students mentoring MBA 1s and guiding them through the recruiting cycle, providing interview prep, working through skills together and organizing events on campus and off-site at companies. So whether you are interested in pivoting to consulting, marketing, finance or technology, our student clubs are ready to help guide you through the process and share their insights.
The Stern community is committed to supporting your future success with several options to build on your current experience, regardless of your professional background. Prospective students often ask us how they can speak to their unique experience in the application and highlight their experience through their resume.
When crafting your resume, put your best foot forward and lean into your experience. As you are looking to make a career change, it is important to take a step back and access your transferable skills while identifying any potential gaps you may need to fill. In your resume, highlight your strengths and quantify your impact in previous roles. If there are potential knowledge gaps, look into resources to leverage at Stern to fill those gaps and highlight these in your essays. The MBA is an opportunity to grow and develop your skill set regardless of previous experience; highlighting these interests in your application indicates you’ve gone the extra step to look into how Stern will help you achieve your future goals.
Ultimately, the biggest piece of advice for candidates with a non-traditional background is to spend some time reflecting on your career so far. What energizes you at work, what strengths are you bringing to the table, what are areas for growth and what changes would you like to see moving forward? Answering these questions will not only help you craft your story during the application process, but will help guide your overall career transition and help to hold yourself accountable. At Stern there are numerous resources available to support your career change. Plan ahead, determine your strategy, and take advantage of every opportunity.