Hello there and welcome to Business Casual, a new monthly column following my jarring and (hopefully!) exciting transition from working as a fashion writer in NYC to attending business school at MIT Sloan. I wanted to write this column because some fashion friends have expressed an interest in swallowing the grad school pill themselves and tumbling down this crazy rabbit hole. But coming from this industry, it can be tricky to know where to begin. My hope is to fill in those blanks. Please hit me up in the comments with any of your questions. From deciding to go to business school to getting accepted is a long and annoying process, but you can get through it.
First, a little about me, so we’re not strangers…
For five years, I’ve been typing an endless stream of sentences about how to wear sequins for day or find flattering bikinis. In 2006, I started at NYmag.com as the Assistant Fashion Editor. It was basically the best first job ever, and I couldn’t have been luckier to work there. Until I was literally luckier, lured over to Conde Nast (I’m only human) as Lucky’s Fashion News Editor. Recently, I’ve freelanced at J.Crew, InStyle, and NBC.
Hurray for me. I’m the best. Anyway, I’m putting this life on ice in order to get my MBA this fall because I want to be an entrepreneur. Business school is a terrific launching pad for start-ups like Rent the Runway and, in general, a solid platform for anyone looking to broaden her career opportunities or ascend to a higher level.
Some good news to start: MBA programs want people like us: “non-traditional” candidates. They get flooded with consultant and banker applications, so, in some ways, you’re at an advantage coming from the arts. In other ways, you are not. Fashion editors need not do much math, and math is integral to the first hurdle you’ll hit: the GMAT.
The GMAT is evil because you can’t use a calculator. You have to go way back to basics and memorize what 7 to the 3rd power is or how to multiply two three-digit numbers. Most likely, you’ll feel kind of like an idiot at the start. I did. To help, I took a Manhattan GMAT class. It’s expensive but effective. I snagged a 700+ score—the unofficial benchmark you want to aim for at most top schools—and I began the course NOT REMEMBERING HOW TO DO LONG DIVISION. Humiliating but true.
The class lasts about eight weeks, though pencil in another month to review independently afterwards. What will you learn? Oh, wildly fascinating things like high school math (probability, geometry, fractions, etc) and verbal skills (reading comprehension, grammar, critical reasoning). There’s also a writing component and, come 2012, a new section that has you analyze charts and spreadsheets. Good times.
The 3.5 hour exam is brutal but aim to kick ass the first time. If you bomb, you can re-take it since most schools will judge only your top score. However, after months of tedious work, the last thing you’ll want to do is have to turn tail back to your stack of flashcards. So put in the time and be done with it. (As an aside, tons of programs accept the GRE now too. Rumor has it that it’s a tad easier for us less math-y folks, but no doubt it comes with its own drawbacks too like memorizing an absurd number of vocabulary words. Still, perhaps something to investigate.)
Business school is clearly not the only way to get involved in a start-up or finagle a higher paying gig. Net-a-Porter‘s Natalie Massenet started a $533 million dollar company and Tony Hsieh built up and sold off Zappos for $1.2 billion—both sans MBA. Respect. Everyone’s got their own path, and this is mine. I hope it’s of some use! Meanwhile, stay tuned next month for tips about applications, essays and recommendations and anything else you guys ask about. For more day-to-day updates, follow me on Twitter.