Every year the ad com goes through thousands of applications ranging from average to great. Needless to say that the average applications don’t make the cut but what is surprising is that not every great application makes the cut either.
Traditionally 3 things were required to be admitted to a great B-school:
b) Good academics and work experience and
c) Good essays
But nowadays due to the extremely competitive nature of the MBA selection process ensuring the above three is no longer enough. The sheer volume of applications making their way to the ad com these days necessitates making your application memorable. The real world is replete with examples of doing just that.
What is memorable in our daily life?
Is it the broker across the road operating out of a one-room shack or the snazzy building of BNP Paribas? Or are they the cheap running shoes available in the supermarket or the customized Nike that instills trust and comfort at the mere sight. As with the real world, an MBA application is all about developing a brand, in this case your personal brand. A personal brand makes your application memorable to the members of the ad com. It instills confidence in the committee that you will be a good addition to their institution and do exceedingly well both within as well as outside the boundaries of the institution. A personal brand is an image a person exudes to others. For an MBA application, it is the image a candidate leaves with the reader. Most applicants have an extremely short window to make this impression but it will have a large bearing on the result.
But how does one come up with a personal brand?
Many candidates try to follow a top-down approach where they fit their application to the mold of what they believe a “perfect applicant” to be. Their approach couldn’t be more wrong. The diversity of any admitted class alone would discredit the idea of a mold of a “perfect applicant”. Your application is all about you and while others can provide useful inputs it is only YOU who holds the answers to all the questions.
The best way to start the process is through introspection. Dig deep and try to find a theme around which you can weave your ‘personal-brand story’. For e.g., if you have worked as a consultant for big-pharma then it would make more sense to highlight your pharmaceutical expertise then to call yourself out as just another consultant. It helps the reader visualize the applicant’s background and personal brand.
The second step is to understand and accept the positives as well as negative aspects of your personality. Though most people know their strengths it is important to present them appealingly. For e.g. you may be extremely hardworking but then so is the construction worker working at the nearby site. What differentiates you from him is ‘a result-oriented approach while keeping the bigger picture in mind’. Remember ad com is looking for future pioneers! Certain parts of your history maybe not induced confidence in the mind of the reader. E.g. a software engineer working in isolation may lead the committee to doubt his ability to collaborate with a team. The best way to balance these gaps would be by quoting relevant examples where such collaborative abilities came to the fore. The final step of the process is to bring it all together to create a crisp and clear picture. Creating a novella on your life is not the purpose of the exercise. The most effective brands sum up their values in a few sentences. Your personal brand statement should be concise like an elevator pitch.
E.g. A successful personal brand statement could be: “Result oriented, team- a driven leader with a passion for solving problems who plans to leverage big pharma consulting experience to build a world-class consulting firm.”
In short, your personal brand statement constitutes the 3 Ws:
1. Who you are?
2. What have you done? and
3. Where do you want to be in the future?
The goal is to launch a product (you) to your target market (the ad com) to fulfill a need (an exceedingly promising application). To reiterate there is no longer a set shell in which candidates can fit in their applications. An application requires introspection and being true to yourself and these feats require honest work.