For most MBA hopefuls, application essays are an excruciating exercise. Applicants are asked to pinpoint key moments, find meaning in them and connect the dots as to why these events make them a standout candidate.
But for Richard Battle-Baxter, an application essay was more than a means to sell himself as the ideal MBA. It was also an exercise in self reflection.
While tackling a question that required him to explain the most challenging obstacle he’d ever overcome, the 31-year-old New Jersey native knew his answer right way: coming out as gay. But at the prompting of an admissions consultant he realized coming out was the easy part – he did that in 2005 after college with an accept-me-or-don’t attitude. The real struggle was admitting it to himself, he says. So he wrote about the process prior to coming out.
The essay allowed him to grapple with the experience – one that he would eventually share with some of his classmates at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. “It allowed me to be candid no matter what I was doing,” he says. “Classmates would thank me for just being comfortable with myself.”
That’s not to say Battle-Baxter didn’t have confidence before. He spent two years back flipping in front of full stadiums as a cheerleader for Rutgers University, where he completed a BA in economics. He later landed a job with interactive ad agency Atrinsic in New York City and then worked his way up to Bloomingdales.com to help implement the retail giant’s e-commerce and mobile marketing strategy.
Despite his interests in retail, luxury items and marketing, Battle-Baxter couldn’t shake the feeling that Bloomingdales.com wasn’t a perfect fit. The department store was focused on merchandise – he was inspired by digital marketing. “Our priorities weren’t aligned,” he says. He noticed that Bloomingdale’s VP of marketing made decisions he didn’t always understand, so he thought perhaps business school could offer some answers.
Battle-Baxter recalls the applications process as a brutal one – GMAT study sessions, essays, applications. But he took his experience online and started blogging about it with an aim to smooth the path for other MBA hopefuls. His online diary offers a rich and colorful window into the daily life of an MBA with posts ranging from “Is this the Beginning?” to “Business School Graduation Already???.”
After graduating last month Battle-Baxter faces another challenge – employment. He’s interviewing for marketing roles with tech companies in San Francisco and New York. He’s also working on a book that compiles his own experiences as both a MBA hopeful and student admissions interviewer to give prospective MBAs the inside scoop. Meanwhile, here’s his story…
Why did you decide to go to business schools?
I had been working for ad agencies for about three and half years, and I decided I wanted to move over to the client side. I love to shop, so when I saw a marketing position at Bloomingdale’s, I thought perfect, I’ll apply. There I was doing search engine marketing, display, retargeting, mobile and a little bit of social media. At that time I thought I would stay in luxury retail for the rest of my career, but I realized that my passion was really digital marketing in the tech industry. That wasn’t the key focus at Bloomingdale’s – their focus was on merchandise and buying, so our priorities were not aligned. That’s when I started to think about my next move.