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Posted by Chioma Isiadinso
Personal branding, to those who don’t understand it, can often seem like whistles and bells with little substance. In fact, I have heard it described as such.
Yet, at EXPARTUS, we know firsthand the power branding has on MBA applicants’ overall application and the exceptional results it yields when applicants utilize this powerful process.
It is why, in the nearly 16 years I have run EXPARTUS, we have not deviated from the tried and tested Personal Branding System I created after working on the admissions board at Harvard Business School.
So, I wanted to share with our readers why it works.
Who is the audience you are appealing to when you apply to business school? It is a group of mostly women, though a few men can be found in the adcom ranks. Most find their work to be meaningful and they care about their job.
Their number one assignment is to find the best applicants who will “fit” their program. The “best” encompasses many things including: academic excellence, test scores that are strong, impressive work histories and achievements, and confirmation that applicants are who they say they are. This last part is covered via an interview as well as the recommendation letters written by supervisors and those who can attest to your achievements and contributions.
The adcom is overworked. They travel around the globe in search of talented candidates. They work crazy hours during the evaluation season and have very little time to spare.
They have to make a decision very quickly, usually within 10-15 minutes whether your application merits a yes, no, or maybe. After reading an application they need to write a summary about the candidate to describe who they are and why they have made the admissions recommendation.
Many adcom would even be the first to acknowledge that their system is imperfect but that they are designed to help them get through as many applications in as reasonable a time and make an informed decision whether to push a candidate forward to the next level for evaluation or not.
The MBA admissions board has many challenges.
– Their time is limited.
– There are way more admissible candidates than there are spaces.
– Many of the B-School applicants look the same and it becomes really hard to differentiate them.
So, how do you overcome these challenges that the adcom has when reviewing applications? This is where having a differentiated story, your brand, sets you apart.
The personal branding process starts out putting all parts of your story on the table. You can then step back and look at what you have, with the help of a seasoned advisor, to then figure out what themes resonate and the best stories you have in your arsenal of experiences.
These stories, the footprints that make up your brand, are incredibly powerful, yet I’ve observed how they are often neglected by MBA applicants.
Stanford Graduate School of Business marketing professor, Jennifer Aaker describes the power of stories this way, “Information is up to 22 times more memorable when woven into a narrative”.
Where you have limited space to tell your story, having a clear and strong personal brand helps you pinpoint the best stories to share and the best way to share them so your application sticks in the minds of the adcom member who reviews it.
Here are a few reasons to use branding to get into your top schools.
– Branding makes you memorable. Yeah, I said that already and I can’t stress this enough.
– Branding helps you connect the right set of dots making your story cohesive and clear to the adcom who don’t have to try and “figure out your story”.
– Branding helps you avoid the bandwagon syndrome and it empowers you to more confidently tell your story instead of doing what most applicants do which is to copy others and in the end, they look like everyone else.
– Branding helps you develop a personal brand statement through the branding process and this ensures that the adcom will end up seeing you as you are and will then write a summary statement about your candidacy that fits with your brand.
– Branding removes the guess work of what to write since the introspection involved is exactly what is needed to dig in and discover the precious nuggets that are interesting, differentiating and unique to you.
– Branding helps you become more confident because it’s your story. No fakeness. You can confidently go into an interview and defend your brand because it is you.
– Branding helps you manage the stress of applying. You do a lot of the work up front allowing you to relax as you apply to your target schools.
– Branding saves you a great amount of time.
– Branding ensures consistency to your message across the essays, recommendations, resume and interview.- Branding empowers applicants beyond the MBA application. The secondary benefit of going through this process is that applicants are armed with clarity and insight that serves them well while in business school and when making important career and life decisions.
– Branding works! We have seen it used numerous times by reaplicants who have gotten admitted to the same schools they were originally rejected from.
I encourage applicants to discover their brand, regardless of whether they do so with our firm or on their own. It is absolutely a worthwhile process of self-discovery. Contact us if you want to learn more about our Personal Branding Services. You can figure out your brand now and get a head start in the B-School application process before the essay topics for this year are announced.