There is No "Perfect" Pre-MBA Job

If you're not an investment banker or management consultant, you may think that business school is not for you. Here's why that's not true (from a Stanford GSB MBA).

Nate S.

By Nate S.

Posted January 10, 2024

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I remember thinking that I shouldn’t bother applying to MBA programs. I wasn’t a consultant or an investment banker. I started my career in sales and I had heard that salespeople didn’t get MBAs. I thought that business schools were looking for a specific profile that I just didn’t fit.

Now on the other side of the admissions process, as a recent graduate from Stanford GSB who interacted with hundreds of prospective applicants through a range of admissions programs, I’ve realized that I was wrong.

Yes, a lot of MBA candidates come from backgrounds in finance and consulting: 40% of Stanford’s Class of 2024 come from one of these two industries. This is in large part due to these industries requiring an advanced degree for career progression, and often offering their employees financial sponsorship.

This doesn’t mean that these are the only types of candidates that business schools are looking for. Schools want to create classes with diverse professional and personal backgrounds because so much of the learning and growth comes from interacting with one another. Each candidate is assessed on how they will contribute to the experience of their peers in addition to their individual stories. Schools are focused on creating the best mosaic, which comes from selecting a wide variety of tiles.

As a candidate coming from a “non-traditional background,” you have a unique value to provide. I challenge you to turn that perceived weakness into a strength that you can share with your future class.

For example, a salesperson could highlight on their application that they will teach their classmates interested in entrepreneurship how to send the perfect cold email. They could offer to bring examples from deal negotiations into the classroom case discussion. Maybe they’ll plan to start a sales club on campus.

A prospective applicant recently asked me what their next role should be if they were going to apply to business school soon. My answer to them, and to you, is to take a role that excites you. There is no perfect pre-MBA role, but there is a perfect role for you.

But, what made my business school experience so special is that my class had an incredibly diverse set of experiences that allowed everyone to learn and grow from another. We were like a mosaic - our sum is greater than our individual parts.

Rather than thinking about yourself as an individual candidate, think about what you can uniquely bring to your broader class that makes that mosaic even more special. For those of you in “non-traditional” roles, I challenge you to turn that perceived weakness into a strength. Highlight in your application that you will be the person that teaches your classmates how to send a cold email and close a deal. You’ll bring the customer-first perspective into the classroom case discussion. Maybe you’ll even start that Sales Club that doesn’t exist on campus yet.

A prospective applicant recently asked me what role they should take next if they planned to apply to business school soon. My answer: take the role that you’ll be excited to share learnings from with your classmates. Be confident in your unique story.


Nate S. is a Stanford GSB MBA with admissions experience. While at the GSB, he led Dream Big Lead Boldly - an annual event that aims to demystify the business school application process for hundreds of prospective applicants. He would love to help you get into your dream MBA program, too. Book a FREE intro call with Nate today!

Nate is also hosting an exclusive group class on How to Write a "Why Stanford?" Essay That Stands Out. Grab your seat here before it's too late!

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