It’s a typical pre-MBA scenario. You’ve done a ton of research, talked to MBA friends and coworkers, scrupulously examined your finances — and you’ve decided you’re in. The answer is yes. An MBA is for you.
So what the next step?
FIRST STEP, FORTÉ
In 2013, Elizabeth Lynch made the decision to leave her 5-year career with a theatrical lighting firm to pursue an MBA.
In her initial research, she discovered the Forté Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing women in business and assisting them in pursuing the advanced degree. Fortuitously, Forté offers a program called MBALaunch, a 10-month online program to help women prep for the GMAT, build a successful application, and connect with peers and mentors.
Additionally, participants receive application fee waivers from more than 25 schools and discounts from GMAT test prep providers and admissions consultants. These discounts more than make up for the cost of the program.
“I had a mentor who was two years out of an MBA and worked for Microsoft,” Lynch said. “And I was looking to work in tech in a client-facing role, which was exactly what she was in. So it was valuable to get to know her, and I got this really great experience overall. The launch program paid off in so many ways.”
CHOOSING NOTRE DAME
After MBALaunch, Lynch was ready to apply to schools. A Michigan native working in Wisconsin, she wanted to stay in the Midwest. She wanted a top 25 school, and she wanted a close-knit program where she could get personal attention and get to know everyone in her cohort.
“For all these reasons, Notre Dame got on my list of schools to visit in person,” she said. “And the in-person visit sold me right away, just like it does for so many people. I knew this was the right place for me. The people couldn’t have been more helpful and the campus is beautiful.”
In returning to school, Lynch had decided to take advantage of leadership opportunities. Her strong experiences with Forté bolstered her decision to run for president of the Notre Dame MBA Women In Business Club.
“I had been exposed to a lot of great women and a ton of resources through the Forté Foundation," she said. "So that sort of teed me up to share with people in their career search and help them take advantage of their MBA. I had a little push to share.”
Lynch was elected president and got to work on her vision for the club.
CREATING CAREER OPPORTUNITIES
So what is the MBA Women In Business Club anyway? “The way I define our club is twofold,” Lynch said. “First, it’s meant to be a support for women MBAs at Mendoza to help with their career ambitions, whether it’s through networking or corporate events.
“And the second pillar is just giving women a place to interact with each other through mostly informal, social events.”
Regarding the first pillar, career-building events and activities, Lynch sought especially meaningful opportunities. Her first push was to encourage first-year MBAs to attend the Forté MBA Women's Leadership Conference, which offers candidates exposure to recruiters.
“Companies treat this sort of as a first look at the best candidates,” Lynch explained. “So it’s important for women to get into a recruiting mindset — have their speech ready and their resume prepared. We try to help women get ready for that, and we want to encourage more women to attend.”
As proof to the value of the conference, one incoming MBA student got a job offer — even before she took her first MBA class.
Additionally, Lynch and the other club board members arranged two notable career events at Mendoza: Workshops with Amazon and Whirlpool.
“We wanted the workshops to be valuable to all MBA concentrations, not just marketing or finance or consulting,” she said. “So we asked the companies if they could conduct workshops that would be of interest to all. It really worked for our members.”
A SUPPORT SYSTEM
As to the club’s second pillar — providing a space for support and connections — Lynch explains this is no small thing.
“Anyone involved with an MBA program at all will understand that the percentage of women pursuing an MBA is always less than half the class size,” she said. “Frequently it’s less than 40 percent. In order to encourage women to pursue an MBA and for them to feel welcome to pursue an MBA, you need a very active women’s group within the MBA school.
“The MBA Women In Business Club gives women an opportunity to feel both empowered and to have a chance to ask questions and discuss the challenges in a good forum,” she added.
“I also think it is natural with anyone to want to talk to someone and hear from someone you feel you have a commonality with. Even if it’s that we’re the same gender. So I think the more opportunities to bring people together where they feel comfortable, where they feel they have something in common, that should be supported.”
Elizabeth Lynch is currently traveling in China with the MBA program. After graduation, she will take a position with Whirlpool Corporation in their IT rotation program. Contact her at Elizabeth.M.Lynch.firstname.lastname@example.org or contact MBA admissions at email@example.com.