The tech sector has seen a drastic shift from driving a booming job market to becoming an industry shedding jobs. Over the past year, many major tech companies have announced layoffs, with a significant acceleration in the final months of 2022. Amazon, Meta, Twitter, and Microsoft are just some of the companies that have announced significant layoffs recently. In total, it is estimated that over 70,000 tech sector employees have been laid off .
Impact on MBA applications
In the last decade, there have been 3 traditional feeder industries into MBA programs: the finance sector, management consulting, and the technology industry. The number of applications to business schools are also known to be a negatively correlated with the economy. If the economy is growing and jobs are plentiful, applications to MBA programs will experience a decline. When economic conditions worsen, as they have within the tech sector, business schools will see an increase in applications. Uniquely, right now, there is a significant weakness primarily within the technology industry. This means that applicants applying to business school this cycle, with a tech background, will faced increased competition.
There are even several business schools that are targeting this population of students by offering GMAT/GRE waivers for applications being submitted in the 2022-23 admissions cycle. This includes schools such as Kellogg and NYU Stern for its 1 year Andre Koo Tech MBA. On other example is MIT Sloan, who has extended its round 2 application deadline, in order to allow students impacted by layoffs more time to complete an application to the program.
It is important to consider the way in which an MBA class is built. The admissions committee looks to bring together people with a variety of experiences across different industries and functions. If a school were to accept a class where a majority came from one industry, such as the tech sector, the ever-critical diversity of the cohort would be lost. If you are coming from a tech background, whether employed or recently laid off, there are several important considerations as you prepare your applications.
1) Differentiating yourself
2) Approach letters of recommendation
3) Explaining or filling a gap in your resume
Differentiating Yourself and Your Experiences
An MBA application should ideally strike a balance between sharing personal information and details about your professional accomplishments. The personal stories in an application allow you to demonstrate your personality and values as well as how you will contribute to the MBA cohort. While accomplishments help the admissions committee to identify people who are driven and have made an impact through their work.
As you think about how to approach your application, I would identify several unique experiences, characteristics, or strengths that you would like to highlight. Essentially, you should be thinking about how you are different from the others in your field who will be applying, whether based on your professional experience, extracurricular activities, leadership opportunities, and your interests or passions.
In terms of professional experience and how to brainstorm what might be most relevant to your application, you can ask questions like:
Have you completed any particularly interesting or challenging projects that you might highlight?
Have you done anything that has made you stand out from others at your level of experience?
What impact have you been able to have at work?
Have you had any leadership experiences that have been valuable to you?
Standing out from a pack of tech sector candidates is possible with the right preparation and guidance about your application.
Letters of Recommendation
It is common for an MBA application to require one letter of recommendation from a direct manager. If you have been let go from your company, you might feel uncomfortable getting back in touch with your former manager to ask for that letter. Alternatively, your manager might no longer be employed at the company, which is arguably trickier.
In the first case, reaching out to your former manager for the letter could actually have a benefit for your application. If they are able to speak highly of your performance while you were on their team, this would help to convince the admissions committee that your layoff was not performance based but due to market conditions beyond your control. They could also corroborate your explanation about why you were laid off. This would entail that you still have a good relationship with your manager and that they would be willing to get your feedback into their letter to align on your explanations.
If your manager has also been laid off, I would advise against seeking out that person for a letter of recommendation. Letters are meant to come from a professional email address and not a personal one. Unless your former manager has already found a new position, they would not fit the criteria for submitting a letter. Furthermore, it would be difficult to guarantee that you receive an unbiased letter from this person. Ultimately, it would be better to have a manager or colleague from a different employer write a letter for you.
A final note, you may need to briefly explain why you are not submitting a letter from a current manager somewhere in the application. Some programs have a specific section of the application where they ask you to do so. If not, the additional information essay would be the most appropriate section for providing this explanation.
Explaining or filling a gap in your resume
If you have been laid off with the recent wave of job cuts, you may be concerned about how to explain your employment situation. First off, stay positive and do not complain. Many people are laid off at some point during their career and the admissions committee will not react favorably to someone who is speaking badly about their former employer. If this is your situation, it is better to succinctly explain what has changed with regards to your employment status. This explanation should be reserved for the additional information section of an application, where a candidate should describe any weakness or perceived weakness. The rationale here is that it is better for you to control your own narrative than to let the admissions committee make assumptions about your experience.
You can briefly state that you were laid off and then redirect your writing to focus on the positives. For instance, what you have learned from your experience or what you hope to do differently in the future. Another consideration is to discuss how you are filling your time between now and the start of the program. Business schools do not like people who sit idly. Instead, you can be exploring your hobbies or interests, volunteering, or developing skills prior to starting an MBA program. Any of these opportunities or something that is unique to your own situation, will help to distinguish your application.
About Oriel Admissions
Rona Aydin has multiple years of experience advising clients applying to top MBA programs including Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, Columbia Business School, UPenn Wharton, and Northwestern Kellogg. Rona is a graduate of Oxford Said's MBA program.
The Oriel Admissions team also includes Lauren Levine, a former NYU Stern admissions officer with over ten years of experience. Lauren has read over a thousand MBA applications for NYU Stern and has interviewed hundreds of candidates.