The Forté Forums provide an unparalleled opportunity to speak with business school representatives, hear from inspiring MBA alumnae, and network with your future fellow classmates. Here are a few choice tips that will help you relax, enjoy, and get the most out of the event.
- The business school representatives you meet at the Forum will be talking to hundreds of women at this event Factoring in the countless other similar events they attend every season, and you can see that putting a lot of pressure on yourself to make a strong impression is probably a fool’s errand. Think about having a way to introduce yourself planned, but otherwise, just relax and engage naturally. No matter where you are in the process, you are not expected to be an expert on the MBA or any given school.
- That said, negative impressions are easier to make than positive ones. Anyone can be forgiven for asking a silly question now and then, but jockeying for attention, blocking others who want to join the conversation, and monopolizing someone’s time will make you look bad. So be respectful and inclusive of others as you move around the room. You probably didn’t need me to tell you that, right?
- Don’t just make a bee-line for school representatives. This event represents an equally important opportunity to find inspiration in your peers and predecessors on the MBA journey. So take the time to make meaningful connections with everyone you meet. Get their business cards and follow up in a timely manner. You just might find your MBA roommate, your post-MBA employer, or a friend who can review your essays with an objective eye when you need support on your applications.
- Remember, your main job is to listen.This event is for you to gather information and connect with people, not to sell yourself. As such, you probably won’t need your elevator pitch. Instead, you will want to think about intelligent questions that you actually want to know the answer to and then listen to and engage with the answers people give you.
So of course one of the keys to making the most out of a Forté Forum is to ask great questions! But the right questions for you depend on where you are in the process.
Are you trying to decide if the MBA is really for you?
If you are just beginning the process and investigating whether the MBA will forward your career in a direction you want to go, then you are looking for inspiration. Ask questions of alumnae, peers, and school representatives that enable you to decide if the MBA is a necessary step on your career trajectory and one that you can get excited about. The MBA application process is arduous. The degree itself is expensive.
But those who have traveled that road will say that it was worth everything they put into it and then some. So see if you can find inspiration in following in their footsteps. Some good questions to ask:
For MBA Alumnae
- How has the MBA enabled you to advance in your career in ways that you could not have done without it?
- What were the three most valuable skills you developed during business school?
- How has your MBA network been important since graduation?
For Business School Representatives
- What is the feedback you get from business school alumni about how the degree helped advance their careers?
- After business school, I want to go into (insert chosen field here). How would attending your program help me succeed in that role in a way I couldn’t do without the degree?
- What are the top three benefits of your program according to students and alumni?
- Who should not get an MBA and who should get one?
Be prepared to get excited about the answers you hear!
Have you decided to pursue an MBA, but aren’t sure which schools are right for you?
If you know you want an MBA, then the next step is to choose your best fit schools. Most people apply to somewhere between three and six programs, meaning you will need to narrow the vast field of exceptional options. School websites, internet forums, and various other online resources can provide basic information. Since this is a rare opportunity to meet with a member of your school’s admissions committee in person, plan to take some time beforehand doing basic research so you can ask questions that dig beneath the surface.
Aim to establish a sense of personal fit with the programs when you speak with alumnae and school representatives. This includes questions about school culture, clubs, the curriculum, recruiting opportunities, and job search support.
- What are the highlights of your school’s curriculum that students rave about most?
- If my target post-MBA position is in Healthcare (for example), what coursework do you offer that focuses on the challenges of that industry?
- What one or two personal qualities do your students share?
- What is the best aspect of your school’s culture?
- What one or two complaints do you have about the school as an alumna? Or for school reps: What complaints do you most frequently hear from alumni?
- I am planning to go into (insert field of choice here), can you tell me what companies recruit on campus for my industry? How does the on campus recruitment process work?
- What support does career services provide for people conducting an off campus job search in a different geography? (this is important if you want to work in a different geography from the school’s location.)
Be open to talking with schools you know less about. Part of the value of the Forté Forum is a chance to connect with people from many schools. So find out what makes each program unique and be prepared to get excited about what you hear!
Have you already targeted your top choice schools for your MBA?
If you know which schools you are applying to, and are planning to apply in the next several weeks or months, your questions will likely be more focused on the pragmatic aspects of the application process itself. Here are some great ones that signal thoughtful interest in the school without making you seem like you haven’t done your research or carefully thought through the decision.
- How do you assess fit with the program in the application process?
- What advice do you give candidates about choosing recommenders?
- Tell me about your interview process.
- Do you have any advice for me about (insert trick essay question here)? For example Booth’s PowerPoint Presentation, MIT’s Optional essay for which people frequently submit videos, NYU’s Personal Expression Essay, or Stanford’s What Matters Most to You and Why?
I can tell you what their answer to this last question will be: “Be creative, have fun, be yourself, and say exactly what YOU want to say to express yourself.” But it will feel better to hear it straight from them so go ahead and ask!
Finally, school reps may not know answers to some technical questions you have about things such as the online application form, submitting your transcripts, or the precise timing of GMAT scores. So always ask them for permission to follow up: “If I have any technical questions about the application later, how can I get in touch with admissions staff?”
No matter what you do, make an effort to turn the new relationships you form at the event into real connections. Whether you pursue an MBA or not, your network will always be an important source of support, information, and opportunities for you throughout the rest of your career. Have fun!
Hi, I’m Angela Guido, the Founder of Career Protocol. I help early and middle career professionals define and achieve ambitious goals, embrace learning opportunities, and have more fun in their work. If you are interested in maximizing positive impact, career success, and joy, you have to check out my blog and join my Insider’s List.