Thursday, April 01, 2010

Build your unique brand in your MBA application

My class at Wharton was very diverse, very international and one that had the best of the best from various walks of life. A few students had accomplished unparalleled feats. Sample this, we had amongst ourselves -

1) An Olympian athlete and a medalist
2) Few people who had climbed Mt. Everest and other top peaks in the world
3) Someone who had fought for and survived the Tiananmen square protests
4) Someone who had worked in the poorest of nations in the world and had made international development their lifelong goal

For a regular applicant, it would be difficult to beat these accomplishments. However, could you think like a marketing pro and build your unique brand in your MBA application and the rest of your MBA journey? Consider this:

Many a times, applicants focus most of their time and energy in answering the 4 or 5 essay questions posed by the school in the MBA application. And little attention is paid to understand how all these pieces fit together to describe “you”- the person, your unique story and positioning & differentiation within the fiercely competitive MBA applicant pool.

Most of the application components provide you ample space to write about your professional achievements. This is only one side of the picture. Draw the rest by writing about yourself, about activities or interests that you are passionate about or where you have spent a good time and have made a difference to a group of people or transformed an organization.

The MBA admissions committee wants to know about the whole person and how that person will evolve into a business leader using all his qualities and make a difference within their community and this world at large. Make sure to write about your unique story and stand out!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Craft a realistic MBA application story

Over the past few years, I have received a good number of emails regarding MBA applications – ranging from the really basic “How should I kick start the application process?” to the rather direct “Could you post your essays?”

Having completed the program, I now have a different perspective on how I would have thought through my own applications as well as courses/things I would have done in my school to companies I would have recruited for.

While I will not be posting my application essays, I plan to write a few blog posts covering some important questions before I bid adieu to this blog. Let me start with the first one – Should I do an MBA?

This is where it begins! Some professions require that candidates should have a MBA degree, while others “prefer” MBA candidates. While considering an MBA degree, it is important to have a very good idea about your short term & long term aspirations and whether a MBA degree is needed for those. If so, how a MBA degree could serve as a bridge between where you are currently and how you can get to your goals.

I know of several candidates & friends that have worked in financial services industry and were required to have a MBA degree to move to the next level in their career. At the same time, the MBA program is a strong requirement for candidates wanting to switch into investment banking roles for a few years. These candidates could then move into industry finance positions such as corporate M&A or PE or other.

Given the number of applications pouring in at schools, it is very important to show that you are aware of these career trends and craft a “realistic” application story based on what you have achieved currently and where you intend to go.

While reading applications of some MBA hopefuls, I found that some applications are not necessarily realistic or tangible in their goals or aspirations. For example, one candidate wrote about becoming the “best CEO” in his industry and not more. Its fine to write about becoming the “best CEO”, but it is even more important to show how the MBA program will help you in becoming one, based on where you are right NOW.

To sight another example, one candidate with 4+ years of telecom experience had drafted a very convincing application about they envisioned themselves to be shaping telecom strategies in emerging nations in the future. To achieve that, they wanted to move into corporate strategy roles after spending few years working with a top strategy consulting firm. A realistic and winning app- because the candidate had goals based on where they were - strong industry experience & knowledge in the telecom domain), global projects with strategy experience and working alongside with telecom leaders and a knowhow of moving forward in corporate strategy.

There are exceptions to almost all rules. There are people who haven’t felt the need for an MBA or have not pursued these programs and have achieved unparalleled success in their career. Remember to have a realistic & tangible side to your application story to show that you have really reflected on why you want to do an MBA.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stay tuned

I started this blog when I began applying to MBA schools and went to Wharton. Now after graduating, I am continuing the journey to document my thoughts and experience regarding the MBA application process (questions I have received from MBA applicants)

A few posts that I plan to post soon:

1) MBA application: how should I begin?

2) Why MBA and now?

3) What makes me unique?