Personal branding strategy is a crucial component of your MBA application—but how do you get across your brand? Danae Anderson, senior admissions consultant at Menlo Coaching explains in this Applicant Question.
When hearing the term ‘personal brand,’ many people jump to self-marketing techniques, or think about how to ‘spin’ past achievements to their own benefit.
In the context of MBA admissions in top-tier business schools however, building a strong personal brand refers to succeeding academically and professionally and differentiating yourself from other highly-qualified applicants through a strong MBA profile.
Below, we discuss what a strong MBA profile actually means, and how starting to prepare as early as possible can give you an extra edge.
Prep early for the GMAT to give yourself an edge
While your GMAT score isn't everything in MBA admissions, it’s a very compelling component of your MBA profile and a difference in 10 points could make or break your acceptance into a competitive program.
Securing a good GMAT score is a great first item to check off your list once you know that you will be applying for an MBA, because GMAT scores are valid for five years. MBA applications can be a lot of work—written essays, video essays, application forms—and when doing all that and working full time, it would be great to have the GMAT off your plate.
The exact score you will need depends on your background and the schools that you are applying to. Researching the average GMAT scores for your target schools is helpful to understand what a good GMAT score is for you personally.
Building the ideal MBA resume
Naturally, you need time to build the main element of your MBA resume, work experience. By keeping in mind your goal of applying for an MBA, you can plan ahead and–for example–start in a new role to show career progression, or take on an additional project at work to show your leadership skills.
Remember, the MBA resume is probably the first aspect of your entire application that the admissions committee is going to see. You want it to be brief, comprehensive, and specific. This means it needs to cover work experience, education, and extracurriculars. It also needs to present your individual results throughout each section–as opposed to team successes. And don’t forget that the admissions officer likely doesn’t have experience in your field, so hold the industry jargon!
Extracurriculars in your MBA application
The ideal MBA extracurricular is connected to a cause that you genuinely care about, and with early prep, you have ample time to make a longer commitment which will likely provide opportunities for you to take on a leadership role.
Other than to showcase your leadership skills, these volunteering activities can be a great way to show the admissions committee that you will be an active participant in the MBA program and will contribute to the success of the whole cohort in the same way that you contribute to that community.
Ultimately, admissions committees want to get to know you as a person; where and how you are spending your free time says a lot about you, so make your extracurriculars count!
Is networking really necessary?
Networking can give you real, unique insight into the school and its resources and help you understand how you could get involved, for example student clubs that you might be interested in.
This will in turn provide you the opportunity to show the admissions committee that you are a good cultural fit for the school. It shows that not only are you genuinely interested and committed to that particular school, but you’re also outgoing, proactive and enthusiastic. Additionally, networking will give you an understanding of what the school can do for you and the ways it can help your post- MBA career.
In a post-pandemic world, good ways to network include campus visits, informational events organised by the school on- or off-campus, and MBA fairs.
These days, there are many virtual events, so make sure to regularly check school websites. You could also connect with students and alumni of the school through LinkedIn, or reach out to student ambassadors.
Start building your personal brand early
All in all, if you think of your personal brand as the epitome of your achievements, interests, and skills, it is not surprising that it could take a long time to build.
And if you’re asking yourself how early you should start building your MBA profile, it might appease you to know that there is no such thing as ‘too early’.
At Menlo Coaching, we help applicants who are starting to prepare years ahead, in some cases as early as college freshmen. Through our Early Birds program, we can work with you on all aspects of your application, including planning your first career moves, selecting the right extracurricular activities, networking with MBA programs, and preparing for the GMAT.