In math an inflection (or inflexion) point is the point on a curve where the it changes sign and therefore shape. By analogy, our lives and careers have inflection points too: those events that where suddenly everything is turned around, or moments where everything changes.
In the MBA admissions process, inflection points can be “achievements.” But they don’t need to be and often are not.
More often they are mixed, bitter-sweet events, or moments of self-understanding and personal transition. Identifying and communicating these moments is key to convincing Adcom of your individual growth and self-awareness.
You can also connect these “aha” moments to a motivation for MBA study and career beyond it.
Note that the MBA itself will is also commonly a career inflection point, and it’s good to communicate what that inflection will lead to: what is the new path that you plan to be on, that relates to the past, but also transforms it?
Sometimes when I talk to clients during profiling–when we sift through their past and present scouring for admissions value–they will blow right past an inflection point such as a change of college major, or death of a parent, or visit to the national gallery in Berlin (or whatever), and I have to slow them down to fully explore and capture the value therein.
Due to confidentiality, I can’t tell client stories. But when this post was first written I shared an example from the (now offline) BusinessWeek MBA Journal site, where a then-current INSEAD student shared his “Road-to-Damascus” moment:
“A favorable exchange rate and good salaries enabled us to enjoy a hedonistic lifestyle in New York, which included fancy dining, live music and sporting events, and parties on most nights. Yet, during all of this, I witnessed an act of kindness that changed the way I view the world and my aspirations. This moment of humanity would ultimately drive me to pursue an MBA at INSEAD.
“Midway through my training in New York, my friends and I went to see a Yankees baseball game. We caught the subway to return home and sat down next to a homeless man named Sam. Two stops later, another homeless man, J, boarded and sat next to Sam. They proceeded to talk and we overheard parts of the conversation. It became apparent that Sam and J had never met before.
“Then, Sam asked J if he would like to share some dinner, and J gladly accepted. Sam pulled out a tin of Vienna sausages and some dry crackers, which they shared. We watched all this and lumps gathered in our throats. Sam had no wealth and bleak prospects, yet was willing to share his food with a complete stranger. Would we have shared something worth as much to us with another stranger?
“This act of generosity humbled my friends and me… I was inspired to seek more in life than those parties and materialistic pursuits. I didn’t want to waste my precious time, and I wanted a challenge. I wanted to make my mark on the world.”
So. Powerful stuff. Note, however, that you don’t specifically need a “bleeding heart” story to have an inflection point, or to get into business school. But you do need to be sensitive to the real transitions and inflection points in your life, which by definition will be highly individual to you. And be able to say how they have shaped your outlook, motivation and aspirations.