So, tell me about yourself.
This is a question you can expect to receive, in various forms, from any personal interaction related to the business school application process – from virtual coffee chats with second year students or alumni to your MBA admission interview. While the Covid-19 crisis has relegated networking to an online experience, reaching out to forge connections, gather information and deepen your understanding of your target programs’ offerings is mission critical – especially as campus closures or travel restrictions make a visit impossible.
Positioning yourself to be memorable, likable and interesting to the contacts you hope to create requires an effective self-introduction. Think about this as your MBA elevator pitch.
Your personal MBA elevator pitch is a compelling and concise conversation starter that conveys who you are, what you’re passionate about and what’s motivating you to pursue the MBA. It should also be tailored to the audience you’re hoping to reach. You can’t say it all – and you shouldn’t. Your pitch is about inspiring interest and opening the door to further conversation in about the time it takes to ride an elevator a few floors (under 60 seconds).
In essence, your MBA elevator pitch is an expression of your personal brand.
“Everyone has a personal brand, whether or not you consciously manage it,” says my Fortuna colleague Curtis Johnson, a Wharton alum and brand-builder at the Walt Disney Company (view his excellent piece on Brand-building & Storytelling for the MBA). “In essence, your personal brand is what you represent, what you stand for, what people think of you when they see your name. What qualities, strengths, and values does your personal brand summon in the minds of others – particularly those in a position to evaluate your candidacy for the MBA program of your dreams?”
I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of pitch statements – from my career in admissions and student affairs at Berkeley Haas and Carnegie Mellon Tepper to my coaching role at Fortuna Admissions. With MBA interview invitations circulating, having a powerful personal pitch should be front of mind.
Here are my top five tips to developing your personal MBA elevator pitch – along with an example pitch to get you started.
5 TIPS TO MASTER THE ART OF THE ELEVATOR PITCH
- Clarify your goals.
To riff on Curtis’s insight above, your overall branding should be consistent across all aspects of your business school application. At the same time, your personal pitch should be responsive to your context. As you go into a conversation, clarify what you hope to get out of it. What is your goal? What are you hoping to learn or accomplish? When it’s over, what do you want to take away (and leave behind)? Perhaps it’s first-hand insight on a certain academic offering or new contacts from alumni. Think consistent and customizable, not canned.
- Customize for your audience.
It’s important to understand the key attributes top business school are looking for – leadership, the ability to work on teams, analytical thinking, emotional intelligence, respect for diverse perspectives. A deeper awareness of what your target schools care about will also help you make important connections to your personal strengths, passions and unique story. Authenticity is key, so as you draw these connections within your pitch, stay true to yourself and your personal style.
- Be concise and conversational.
While you do want to practice your pitch until it flows with ease, aim for a tone that’s conversational and not overly rehearsed. This means being able to adapt it to the situation, customizing it to be relevant to the context and whom you’re speaking. Don’t be afraid to sprinkle in an interesting anecdote or thoughtful insight that could serve as a conversational segue. For example, you might mention something about one of the four Defining Principles and how it personally relates to you or ask about how Dean Harrison is making her mark on Berkeley Haas. It creates a nice segue into conversations about the school’s vibe and personality.
- Convey ‘professional presence.’
It’s not just what you say, but how you present yourself. You want to have a solid handshake, strong eye contact, and an attitude of positively that conveys genuine curiosity about learning more. In her excellent article on Enhancing Your Professional Presence, Fortuna’s Brittany Maschal cites compelling research about three key elements of presence: Gravitas, Communication and Appearance. While well-chosen words matter, the impression you leave behind usually has more to do with how you make people feel than what you actually say.
- Leave them wanting more.
The MBA application is rife with questions that inspire substantive reflection, and your personal elevator pitch is just one component of the brand you’ll want to put forward. As you distill your brand to a succinct statement, consider the top three or so things you want to convey about yourself and your ambitions in a given scenario. Remember that your goal is to both create a positive impression and open the door to further conversation by generating interest, not to tell your life story or rattle off a roster of impressive accomplishments.
Once you’ve crafted your pitch-perfect elevator statement, practice it at every opportunity – with friends, colleagues, even yourself in the mirror. Solicit candid feedback from people you trust. You’ll want to feel confident and ready to enter any scenario – from a networking chat to an MBA interview to (hopefully) your first day on campus in the program of your dreams.
Here’s an example to get you started:
Hi, I’m [first name] and I am passionate about community health and how to better serve those in vulnerable communities. I chose to use my undergraduate degree in business and biology, from Penn, to go into healthcare consulting. While working full-time, I’ve also been a volunteer with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation for over five years. I’m interested in changing my career pathway and want to learn more about the Berkeley Haas dual degree MBA/MPH program. Do you know any current students who are pursuing the MBA/MPH degree that you can put me in touch with?
Please feel free to reach out to our team at Fortuna Admissions for a free consultation – we have expert coaches who can help you craft your elevator pitch and guide you through the business school application process.
Sharon is a director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Berkeley Haas Associate Director of Admissions. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.