Motivational guru Stephen Covey wrote ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ which sold over 20 million copies in 40 languages. The book has critics but obviously also rings true for many. Anyway, the concept “seven habits” is synonymous with success, so I post my “Seven Habits” of Highly Effective MBA Applicants:
Habit 1. Know yourself. Self-knowledge, particularly in this case knowledge of the parts of yourself that count for MBA admissions—and being able to find these attributes in your profile—is the core of MBA admissions success.
Habit 2. Be yourself. If you don’t apply as “you,” you lose the authentic power of your own voice. Many applicants try to apply as someone else, or the “ideal” applicant. Being dinged for being you is hard. Being dinged for being someone else is pathetic.
Habit 3. Gain and demonstrate experience. Successful applicants have sought out many work and life significant experiences You don’t need to have traveled to the International Space Station to have had a significant experience. You just need to have taken the life chances that came your way, and be able to talk intelligently about them.
Habit 4. Develop and demonstrate character. Experiences, particularly challenging ones, create character. Good character is not just good ethics. It is the fully rounded resource base for individual decision-making and action that leads to positive choices for the individual and those around him/her.
Habit 5. Assume and demonstrate seniority. Successful applicants have reached for opportunities to become senior in their spheres of activity. Seniority is not a job type or a salary level; it is any position that implies responsibility, influence, and leadership of others.
Habit 6. Be bigger than you. Successful MBA applicants have walked the walk of doing something that is not entirely self-oriented. As I’ve written elsewhere, you don’t have to have fed the starving in Ethiopia: almost any form of unpaid community involvement counts.
Habit 7. Simplify. Push yourself to know what’s really important to say in your application, and say only that. Don’t throw everything at Adcom and hope something sticks.
Habit 7+1. Covey added an eighth habit, see below. My eighth is: A touch of class. You don’t need to listen to Dvorak while pruning your bonsai and sipping chai tea (see Habit 2.) But if your favorite book is Harry Potter and your favorite show is Love Island and you spend a lot of time on your sun tan… while there’s nothing technically wrong with this, you leave your competitors a plenty of room to beat you.
For the record, these are Covey’s seven: Be proactive. Begin with the end in mind. Put first things first. Think win-win. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Synergise: learn to work with others to the benefit of all parties. Sharpen the saw: keep yourself physically, mentally and spiritually refreshed through such things as exercise, reading, prayer and good works. He later added the eighth: find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.