A Good MBA Motivation Guide: People, Planet, Profit

Oftentimes the simple and clear strategy is the one that works.

When I was reviewing a client’s essays recently, there were many good themes there, and a lot to like. There was evidence of successful interactions with colleagues and teams that spoke well of leadership potential, and a powerful theme of innovation towards sustainable resources use, with career experience to back it up.

But there was no “business” there; or at least not enough. And this put me in mind of the now common mantra of managerial balance:



You’ve seen and heard it before, no doubt. But it’s worth a reminder. The leader of the 21C enterprise will have to do well by and for people (colleagues, staff members, wider stakeholders); for the planet in being a steward of sustainability and of irreplaceable resources; all while at the same time being a custodian of financial investment and ultimately rewarding it.

To balance these three imperatives is no easy juggling act. They drag you in different directions.

First prize in your MBA application would be to show some evidence of having juggled these priorities successfully already.

But even if you don’t have the direct experience, if you can show awareness that you will need to simultaneously satisfy these three competing stakeholder priorities, and give Adcom an idea how you plan to do it in your chosen industry area, you will be well on your way to positioning yourself as a values-driven, forward-looking leader of tomorrow.

7 Ways to a Better MBA Admissions Essay

If you look back through the 10-year archive of posts here on this site, and see my book, you’ll know I’ve written many times on how to write a winning MBA admissions essay.

There’s no formula. But as we look ahead to a new admissions season,  some particular issues come to mind when I look at the current crop of essays I’m reviewing and advising on for clients.

What is a good essay?

One may think, there are many kinds of good. Who’s to say? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, etc. Actually, not so. For MBA admissions, a good essay is one that gets the applicant admitted. Period.

(On the other hand, being dinged doesn’t mean you wrote a bad essay. It’s ultra-competitive out there.) But getting in does mean you wrote a winning essay.

How to win?

1. Be authentic. This doesn’t mean you are not also strategic in your communications choices. But if strategic is all you are, if there is not a real voice speaking, your essay will not have enough natural vitality, personality and drive. Be you, and only you, not what you imagine some ideal MBA applicant should be.

2.  Don’t talk business-speak. As a sidebar to the authentic imperative, don’t wrap your distinct self in jargon. If your text talks about how you achieved ‘synergies’ based on ‘actionable’ ‘imperatives’ that ‘drove’ a  ‘frictionless’ process ‘taking it to the next level’… that’s not the real you speaking. For authenticity, just use standard English words in the normal way.

3. Show don’t tell. Any claim you make about yourself is hot air unless you can prove it with a verified achievement, or clear example, or believable story. This is where the evidence for your positive self-assessment lies, and this is where Adcom will look.

4. Write brightly. It’s dull to read dull or generic text. One essay, fine; two, bleugh; three, sigh; four, pass the vodka. You will stand out if you make your points crisply and move the reader forward at a good pace.

5. Lead the reader. You are guiding your reader not trying to set her a  comprehension test. So don’t stint on structure. Use signposting and paragraphing to signal where you are going, which should be along a path that already naturally makes sense. (Then go where you said you would.)

6. Delete redundant staging. Signposting is good, but after that, don’t launch your points with extra padding like: “In this essay I aim to create an understanding for the admission committee with regard to a greater knowledge of my professional aspirations.” Delete all that, and just say what your aspirations are. Make space for real content.

7. It’s about you. Avoid telling the school how great it is, or how great the opportunities it will give you are. They are aware of their status. The question is, are you great? Will you use the opportunities to do great things. If so, how so?

Insights and tools to gain admission to the world's elite MBA programs