People used to refer to it as an “image.” In these monetize-before-you’re-commoditized days, the hip term is “personal brand.” You are who you’re perceived to be, they say. If you’re stay self-aware, play to your strengths, and show passion, you’ll create “curiosity,” foster “engagement,” “differentiate” yourself from the pack, and ultimately become “memorable.”
Clichés aside, your brand – the sum total of your qualities and beliefs (and how they stir the others’ imaginations) – ultimately determines how far you go. If you spout accountability – and then duck out when it’s time to get your hands dirty, you undercut your message. And everyone’s BS detectors are finely tuned to pick up any whiff of hypocrisy.
So what is your personal brand – and how do you convey it? And how can you leverage it to get into the right business school? This week, Stacy Blackman, MBA consultant extraordinaire, shares her advice on this very topic.
First, she counsels applicants to think like a marketing strategist. And that starts with “brag-storming.” Basically, you jot down “every possible unique, exciting, wonderful, dazzling thing you can think of about yourself.” A brag-storm is a regular exercise, where you keep “a notebook handy or start a memo in your smartphone, and write down ideas whenever inspiration strikes.” From these seeds, you’ll discover underlying patterns and lessons from these experiences. Ultimately, these observations will form “brand messages” and add “color” to your essays.
Second, clients often struggle because they write what adcoms want to hear. But Blackman believes you should flesh out your core strengths first. And that’s often done by writing the story first and then figuring out the lesson. To start, Blackman recommends that students list “personal achievements, leadership achievements in and outside of work, times when your actions made an impact on a person or group, instances when you motivated others or a time you solved a problem with ingenuity.” Even failures are welcome, as they demonstrate your thought process and ability to learn and adapt.
Finally, Blackman encourages applicants to peel away the details to “figure out precisely which aspects of your skills, talents, strengths and character contributed to your accomplishments.” In particular, she counsels clients to detail how an experience “shaped [their] life and made [them] stronger.”
Remember, in Blackman’s words, that “admissions committees seek out well-rounded candidates who have experienced life, pursued their passions and achieved as much outside of the professional setting as within it.” To them, the process and the discovery, more than the achievement, are what truly set applicants apart.
Source: U.S. News and World Report