Leveraging your ‘Less-Quant’ Background

As I prepare for my upcoming Economics and Financial Accounting mid-terms, I cannot help but reflect and laugh at how as an undergrad at Tufts University I took ‘Symmetry’ to fulfill my math requirement, and now I am earning my MBA at MIT Sloan, the mecca of anything and everything quantitative-related. Throughout my early career and especially during my MBA application process, I had to convey how my Liberal Arts background still prepared me to handle a heavy quantitative workload and enabled me to be a data-driven leader. Below are a few tips I picked up along the way on how to frame my ‘less-quant’ background as one of my strongest traits.

Channel the Growth Mindset

During one of our first Orientation sessions, MIT leaders stressed the importance that we must embrace the ‘Growth Mindset’ during our first year – and hopefully throughout the rest of our careers. While I may not have known the formal term for this, I realized I already embodied this philosophy that intelligence is not static but can be developed. Instead of viewing every challenge, setback, and failure as a reflection of my intelligence level, I view them as a learning opportunity and continue to persist in the face of obstacles. With every work project that took me longer to analyze than I wanted it to, or the multiple problem sets I got wrong when studying for the GRE, I grew resilient and added to my toolkit a new experience I could leverage in the future when faced with a similar task.

Hone & Highlight your Coachability

As a former collegiate athlete, I honed the skill of being coachable and used it to my advantage throughout my career. Early on in my career, my proficiency in Excel was lack-luster, however, once a colleague coached me, I improved and became more efficient. Furthermore, I went on to be the go-to Excel person in the office and later contributed my Excel prowess to a newly developed employee Excel training program.  Having the ability to receive feedback, adjust, and then create impact based off this change in behavior is more important to an employer than one’s ability to be a ‘data whiz’. Finding a way to weave moments like this into your ‘story’ will make you more memorable.

Utilize Your People Skills

What I lacked in formal quantitative experience, I made up for in my ability to bring people together to create strong teams. I have often been referred to as ‘the glue’ of a group. While I may not have a quantitative heavy background, I could still use my strong interpersonal skills to build cross-functional teams that include data-focused individuals that complement my background. Together, we successfully helped companies be more data-driven and grow their bottom line. Highlighting and leaning into my Liberal Arts background allowed me to recognize and identify other team members to align myself with who were able to bring to the table the quantitative skillset that I at the time could not.

Having a Liberal Arts background does not put you at a disadvantage. If anything, it just means there are additional areas of opportunity for growth. You can teach analytics, but you cannot teach other skills like resilience to setbacks, receiving feedback effectively, and navigating team dynamics to increase productivity. Any smart employer or admissions team will see the value in these leadership skills and would jump at the opportunity to have you on their team, even if that means taking time to upskill your quantitative side.

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