MBA Recommendation Letters: Get Moving!

Mentor assisting a mentee up a mountain

I recently read a Clear Admit article that offers tips on recommender selection, and started thinking about my own MBA application process and how to select MBA recommendation letter writers (link to Clear Admit article HERE. Make sure you read this article. Great advice.).

Who should write your rec letters?

I had two undergrad advisors write on my behalf: the first was a professor with whom I had taken two classes (financial modeling and investment analysis). He wound up advising me on which classes to take in the finance program. Every so often I would pop into his office to ask about another class or professor, and he gave me sound advice about school and life after college. He understood my work ethic and how I would perform in the program: an obvious choice.

Mentor assisting a mentee up a mountain

My other letter came from a mentor who really helped shape my undergraduate experience. He was not an academic advisor, but the director of the volunteer and leadership office at my school. He challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and really pushed me to become a better leader. We keep in touch from time to time and he was a huge part of my college career (it was a no-brainer that I wanted him to write my letter).

But not everyone has the time to join community service groups, and not everyone has a great relationship with one professor or advisor. Let’s face it – life is busy. What if you haven’t had a chance to foster lasting relationships with people outside of your classes? Who knows how to select MBA recommendation letter writers in that case?

You’re an MBA now (or you plan to be one very soon). These opportunities to foster relationships with people in different areas of your life are not a waste of time. At this point, you have to be able to market yourself and let people know who you really are (a high-achiever with loads of potential, obviously). That requires developing relationships with people you meet in your professional and personal lives. No one is going to vouch for you if you don’t give them good reason. And because you want to put your best foot forward in your applications, your recommendation letters cannot fall short.

Be attentive and authentic in your relationships

You want good, solid letters that paint you in a positive light. Focus on building a few good, solid relationships rather than trying to connect with every single person you meet. Unless you have political aspirations, you do not have to meet and engage everyone (think about the last time you met someone at a party who kept scanning the room for more important people as you tried to hold a conversation: that was fun, right? Be sincere in your interactions.

If you have absolutely no idea how to select MBA recommendation letter writers for your business school application, join a group, club or team now, and get involved. Use your skills and abilities to better your new organization, and make sure that you keep your promises. Taking the initiative to add to your experiences will not only make you look better to certain programs, but you just might find someone who will vouch for you. Perhaps you revamped your sports team’s marketing campaign, or you helped put together a fundraising event for a charity organization, and came in under-budget. Whatever you are thinking to do, get moving. Now.

Quality over title

Lastly, don’t let snazzy labels distract you. A dazzling recommendation letter from your supervisor at a small firm will do more for you than the form letter you receive from the president of your organization (even though you definitely met him in the elevator–once). You’re working hard on your applications, and each part should show how much you rock. Don’t let your recommendations hold you back!

Good luck and tell us how you chose your recommendation writers, perhaps in a guest blog. :)

Image via Pixabay

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  1. We recently had this question come up: if you can’t ask your boss for a recommendation letter for business school, that’s not going to completely wreck your application. Ideally, you want someone to be able to speak to your competence and ability to perform in a graduate business program – this can be a client you trust or even a supervisor from a previous job (in addition to the suggestions in this article). As this article mentions, don’t get too hung up on titles and rankings of your recommendation letter writers – ask the best people for the job, who will make sure you truly shine.

    *Also* if the school ask you to certify that you have not been involved in the crafting of your recommendation letters, be sure to take that seriously.

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