Leveraging your performing arts background in an MBA program

Caitlin Abrams wasn’t always interested in the business world. In fact, she originally studied theater and spent eight years of her early career working as an actress in New York. She eventually realized she wanted a change that would provide her with more opportunities for growth. That’s when she started looking into MBA programs, eventually landing on the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University. Caitlin told us about how she leveraged her performing arts background in her MBA and how having an MBA can affect your professional trajectory.

In short

How Caitlin leveraged her performing arts background in her MBA

Even though acting isn’t a typical background for an MBA student, Caitlin’s performing arts experience gave her certain skills that helped her through her program.

Once Caitlin got accepted to Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, she was overjoyed. However, she admits that the first semester was hard because she had classes like accounting and statistics for the first time. Nevertheless, “the one thing that got [her] through it [was] the work ethic that [she] had developed throughout [her] career.” (06:31)

Indeed, working in the performing arts industry taught Caitlin the value of hard work and persistence.

After completing her first semester, Caitlin started to find her place and adjust to her new professional setting. She describes it as “a process of taking classes at Fordham, finding out what [she] enjoyed doing, what lit [her] up, what [she] was good at, and kind of combining that in a way that made sense.” (07:34)

Caitlin also points out that she “had a few professors that [were] very helpful on that pathway.” (08:34)

Fordham University embraces students with different career backgrounds

One of the main things that attracted Caitlin to Fordham University was how open they were to students from all kinds of different backgrounds. 

When she first went to visit the school for an onboarding session, Caitlin was nervous about her performance arts background. She wasn’t sure if it would be the right fit for an MBA program. Upon talking to one of Fordham University’s assistant deans, she was told “oh honey, you better apply. We have people from so many different backgrounds here.” (03:21)

Caitlin explains, “It was the diversity that pulled me in and the fact that [the program] wasn’t just targeted towards people who had worked five years in a financial, corporate place.” (03:45) She attended student panels where her peers were also going through career transitions, from journalism to accounting and recruiting to marketing. 

Encountering students with such a wide variety of past professional experiences and stories really inspired Caitlin. It made her feel like she could fit in at Fordham. It also motivated her to leverage her performance arts background in her MBA studies.

An MBA gives you the building blocks you need to be successful

In Caitlin’s view, an MBA doesn’t give you everything you want on a silver platter. However, it does give you the building blocks you need to get where you want to go. All you have to do is put in the work. 

What does Caitlin mean by “put in the work”? She elaborates that “you have to network, you have to do competitions at your school [like those that Fordham offers]…you have to continue to promote yourself to make that transition.” (13:40)

As a result of the work Caitlin has put into her own professional future, she’s getting “pulled in for more…senior-level roles.” She’s the same person she’s always been, but she’s much more confident and has extensive business knowledge in her toolbelt. 

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