Andrew Kirkland, MBA student of University of South Carolina's Moore School of Business, describes the challenges and rewards of transitioning back to student life after serving nine years in the US Army.
Name: Andrew Kirkland
Profession: The United States Army, Seeking a position in either supply chain or operations management in the manufacturing sector
Why did you choose your MBA program? Do you have advice for students on how to make a decision?
Making the decision to go back to school to get my MBA was one of the biggest decisions of my life, next to joining the military. Picking the right school for me was equally important. I did some in depth research on several programs after reflecting on what I thought would be the best fit for my career goals. My past experiences have bestowed me with a deep understanding of how important it is for leaders and organizations to have a global perspective if they intend to effectively compete in today’s age of globalization in business. The Moore School’s unparalleled International MBA curriculum and International Marketplace Immersion earned it the top spot on my list of schools. My advice for future students is to make sure you do your due diligence. Not all programs are created equally and there’s more to it than picking the school with the most recognizable name. Follow your passions and make the choice that you believe is most in line with them.
What are the biggest challenges of pursuing your MBA?
There are many challenges associated with pursuing your MBA such as choosing where to go, the heavy workload, stepping outside of your comfort zone daily, deciding what to specialize in, and landing quality internships and projects. However, I think the biggest challenge is simply taking the plunge and deciding to take a sharp turn in your life to go back to school. Often, people’s fear of failure or the unknown can prevent them from completing the necessary steps toward getting accepted to the school of their dreams. Just go for it and give it all you’ve got!
How did you decide that an MBA was the next step for you? What advice do you have for students considering an MBA on how to make that decision?
After serving nine years in the United States Army, I felt like I was ready to pursue my lifelong goal of making an impact on global business. While the military provides an incredible amount of opportunities to lead diverse organizations around the world in challenging environments, the development of functional business acumen is notably missing. I knew that the best way for me to obtain the education and skills I would need to be successful in achieving my goal was to get my MBA. If you’re considering whether or not to get an MBA, first consider your goals and ask yourself if doing so would help propel you towards achieving them.
What resources are you planning to utilize when it comes time to look for an internship and/or fulltime position? Have you participated in any career fairs, seminars, workshops or other school led events that have helped prepare you for your job search?
Since the start of the IMBA program, I have leaned heavily on the resources that are available to us as students. The Moore School’s Office of Career Management (OCM) has been instrumental in helping me prepare for my internship search, especially due to my lack of experience having just separated from the military. The OCM coaches provide thoughtful and expert advice on how to develop a powerful resume and cover letters, hone your interviewing skills, and systematically manage and plan your search efforts.
Additionally, with their combined experience working in some of the world’s most prestigious companies in varying fields, their insight into what opportunities would be a good fit for you is extremely helpful. They are also with you every step of the way, even at career fairs nationwide where they will have a table set up and work to find opportunities with the companies in attendance. Aside from the amazing face to face coaching, the Moore School also leverages technology and its vast alumni network to help students in their search. The use of Handshake and LinkedIn to connect with alumni and employers who have developed a relationship with the school adds to the scope of opportunities available to students.
Advice for Future Applicants
Did you come from a non-business background? If so, how did you approach the application process and how did you highlight your achievements to tell your personal narrative?
My career prior to enrolling in business school was in the United States Army. Considering the fact that I was stationed in Germany when I made the decision to start the application process certainly added an element of difficulty to the situation, which I am sure fellow international students can attest to. Luckily, the Moore School was very accommodating and allowed me to leverage technology such as Skype to complete the process.
Another challenge for prior-service military applicants is relating the work they did while in uniform to the skills and competencies that admissions officers are looking for in prospective students. I think the best advice I can give to future students when trying to translate their experiences is to always relate your accomplishments to competencies that admissions officers or employers are looking for in candidates. For example, if you were a squad leader or company commander, you will have plenty of examples showing how you achieve results, are strong in conflict resolution, effectively manage time, communicate clearly, develop and follow operational plans, or manage resources. Just think creatively and you’ll never run out of incredible stories to tell.
What is it like to transition back to school after being out for a few years? What advice can you offer students returning for their MBA?
Honestly, the adjustment is not as extreme as you might imagine. Holding a steady job that requires you to manage your time wisely, work with other people, demonstrate effective verbal and written communication, and work on engaging projects that challenge you analytically prepares you for the rigors of obtaining your MBA. Just stay disciplined and develop good working relationships with your classmates and you’ll excel.