Career Diversity

Real talk about diversity and careers: The things you want to talk about at work but can't...and probably shouldn't.

The Master of Art in Management program is designed specifically for liberal arts majors only. The MA degree program is a 10 month intense study of the basic functional areas of business. After graduation and working for approximately two years, all MA graduates are eligible to apply to Wake Forest as part of the MA/MBA joint degree program and get the MBA in one year. The new Dean, Steve Reinemund, has created a new scholarship for diverse students pursuing the MA degree called the Corporate Fellowship.

The Corporate Fellowship provides full tuition and a $21,000 stipend to cover living expenses. Additionally, each Corporate Fellow will participate in a practicum. The practicum has two components, educational and professional development. Each student will be assigned a mentor that is a high level executive with their sponsor corporation. The mentor will oversee an educational project covering 4 of the functional areas of business using their own corporation as the subject. The student will visit the corporation 3 - 4 times during the program to present his/her results of their research project. Additionally, the "professional development" component of the fellowship provides career coaching and leadership development for the students.

The goal for the corporation is to be able to groom and hopefully, hire a top candidate from a diverse background for their organization. Of course, there is no obligation that the students accept any offer of employment. Still, the student benefits, even if they are not ultimately hired by their sponsor corporation in that they have the MA degree and the type of experience that will make them more marketable.

Contact Debra Jessup at 336.399.5403 or

Career Couch
New York Times

A Cover Letter Is Not Expendable

Q. You are getting ready to apply for a job electronically, and your résumé is ready to go. Do you need to prepare a cover letter? Are they necessary in this day and age?

A. Cover letters are still necessary, and in a competitive market they can give you a serious edge if they are written and presented effectively.

Cover letters are a graceful way to introduce yourself, to convey your personality and to impress a hiring manager with your experience and your writing skills, said Katy Piotrowski, an author of career books and a career counselor based in Fort Collins, Colo. You can also tailor them to a specific company in ways that you cannot with a résumé.

Ms. Piotrowski recently had a job opening at her small company, Career Solutions Group, and she was dismayed when about a quarter of the 200 applicants did not send cover letters. Most were within five years of graduating from college, she said, reflecting a more informal mind-set among younger people.

Q. How should your cover letter be organized, how long should it be, and what should it say?

A. First, do your best to find the decision maker’s name, and use it in the salutation. If you are applying to a blind ad, say “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To the Hiring Manager.” Ms. Piotrowski said she received cover letters that had no salutation at all or began with “Hey there” — not a strong start. If you want to be on the safe side, use a colon after the salutation, although some people now feel it is permissible to use a comma in an e-mail message.

Your cover letter should be short — generally no longer than three or four paragraphs, said Debra Wheatman, a career expert at Vault, a jobs Web site.

In your first paragraph, explain why you are writing — it may be that you are answering an ad, that you were referred to the company through networking, or that you learned that the company is expanding, said Wendy S. Enelow, author of “Cover Letter Magic” and a professional résumé writer in Virginia.

In the middle paragraphs, explain why you are good candidate, and show that you are knowledgeable about the company. Then convey a clear story about your career, and highlight specific past achievements. This can either be done as a narrative or in bullet points, Ms. Enelow said.

You can also highlight qualities you possess that may not fit the confines of a résumé, Ms. Wheatman said.

She once worked in human resources at Martha Stewart Living, and recalls reviewing applications for a chef in a test kitchen. One woman had a career in manufacturing, but her cover letter described how she had grown up in a family that was passionate about cooking and where she had frequently made meals from scratch. The woman got the job despite her peripheral work experience.

Finish your letter by indicating that you will follow up in the near future (and make good on that promise). Sign off with a “Sincerely,” “Cordially,” “Thank you for your consideration” or similar closer, followed by your name and, if you like, your e-mail address.

Q. Where should your cover letter appear, in an e-mail or in an attachment?

A. You can include your letter in the actual text of your e-mail message or place it above your résumé in an attachment. If you put it in a separate attachment from your résumé, you run the risk that a harried hiring manager will not click on it at all. If you place it in the text of your e-mail message, it should generally be shorter than if you use an attachment, Ms. Enelow said.

Then, if you really want to make an impression, make a hard copy of your cover letter and résumé and send it to the hiring manager by regular mail. Attach a handwritten note that says, “Second submission; I’m very interested,” Ms. Piotrowski said. “I’ve had clients double their rate of interviews simply from doing that,” she said.

Ms. Enelow calls this “double-hitting,” and says she has seen it work remarkably well. She said a senior-level client of hers got an interview and was hired because the hard copy of his cover letter and résumé reached the company president, whereas his electronic application was rejected by someone in human resources because it did not meet certain rigid criteria.

Q. What are some common mistakes in cover letters?

A. A cover letter with typos, misspellings and poor sentence structure may take you out of the running for a job. If you cannot afford to pay someone to review your cover letter and résumé, enlist a friend or a family member with good language skills to do it instead.

Another misguided thing people do is to make the cover letter all about them: “I did this, I’m looking for, I want to ... I, I, I.” Structure your letter so that it stresses the company and what you can do to help it reach its goals, Ms. Piotrowski and others said.

Another danger is including too much information — for example, very specific salary or geographic requirements, Ms. Enelow said. It is also unwise to point out that you do not meet all the criteria in the job description, she said. You can deal with that later, if you get an interview.

Hiring managers are looking for ways to exclude you as they narrow down their applications, she said. Do not give them that ammunition.

So you started preparing for the GMAT and you are wondering, “What is a good score?” While there is no simple answer to the question of what a “good score” is, here are two ways to evaluate your GMAT score and assess how much preparation you should do (or if you have taken the test already, whether you should apply with the score you have).

Personal Best Effort

Your personal best effort means that you have done all that you can do to achieve your highest possible score. Defining your best effort can be tricky, but you must consider whether you have invested all the resources at your disposal to help you achieve your score. You will have to look critically at what you have done in preparation for the GMAT and what you could have done. You have to consider what you have invested (not just financially but also mentally) in preparing for the test and whether that is all you could have invested.

The chart below shows the correlation between time invested preparing for the test and GMAT score. Over a period of 6 – 10 weeks this would mean investing no less than 10 hours per week working on the improvement of your GMAT score. Assessing whether you have given your personal best effort requires that you ask yourself, at the very least, the following questions:

1. Have I done all the homework and attended all the classes that were in the syllabus?
2. Have I taken all the practice tests that were recommended?
3. Have I evaluated my results and identified specific areas to improve?
4. Have I made my best effort to learn and implement the approaches described?
5. Have I sought out additional help (tutoring, extra classes, email or other online support)?
6. Have I allowed myself enough time to learn, digest, review, and practice the things I was taught?

If you know you did not prepare as well as you should have, then it makes sense to continue to prepare and to take the test again. However, if you know you have put in all the time, money, and mental energy you could into preparing and achieved a score that reflected your best effort, then you should put the GMAT aside and work on improving the other areas of your application.

School Range

Given that the GMAT's only purpose is to help admissions committees (adcom) evaluate candidates for admission, a “good” score can also logically be defined as the score that doesn’t eliminate you from consideration at the school you want to go to. A high score is generally thought to indicate that a candidate possesses the quantitative, analytical, and verbal skills needed for the academic rigor of typical MBA programs. Submitting a score that does not force the adcom to question whether you can handle the work at their school will demonstrate that you are serious about applying to the school and have done your due diligence on the program. When asking yourself if your GMAT score is a “good” score, you should know the range of scores for admitted students at the school you are targeting. For example, consider the table below, which contains several of the top 30 business schools in the country.If you had a GMAT score of 680 and applied to Stanford, which has a mean GMAT of 720, you would still have a "good shot" at admission, since you would fall within the range of applicants. If you were to apply to Kelley, your GMAT score would place you above the mean but would not necessarily make you a better candidate for Kelley than for Stanford. At both schools your appeal to the adcoms will be based more on your other criteria than on your GMAT since your GMAT would be in the acceptable range. Your goal should be to get a GMAT score that makes the GMAT fundamentally irrelevant in your admissions decision (which means that it does not raise questions about your ability to handle the work). If your GMAT score is within the range of the school you would like to go to, then you probably have a “good” score.

Understanding what is needed and setting realistic goals will allow you to make more informed decisions about your continued preparation for the GMAT or whether it is time to move on to the other components of your application. No matter what, you must realize that getting a good GMAT score generally requires a significant commitment of time, energy, and money. This is especially true for those who are starting significantly below the mean score of 535. You should be ready to invest all that you can in your GMAT score and business school future.

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