Tag Archives: finance

Round 1 MBA essays are taking shape: but why have many applicants turned into monks and saints?

It’s busy season, so I have to blog short, but here’s what I have to say today as MBA application Round 1 deadlines approach — and this is to my clients as much as anyone else out there (although the clients have heard it before):

“You are not applying to join a holy order. You are not applying to Amnesty International. You are not applying to save the rainforests or unmelt the ice caps or feed the starving or create Middle-East peace.

“You are applying to business school.”

At business school, yes there will be electives around well-meaning things, but by far the main agenda is to present you with and test you on classic curriculum stuff to do with finance and operations and marketing and strategy and so on. They will not teach you to weave sisal or wash Aids babies.

Now of course you are a good human being. And you should certainly communicate to Adcom (with evidence) that you are a good human being, which includes being concerned about major domestic or world problems. And not just concerned: wanting to play your part in fixing them too. It’s fine to want to and plan to improve social welfare at home or abroad.

But you are applying to business school.

So the material question is: how will you make a business or take a business in the direction of social welfare and human development? How and why do you need business and management skills to make the difference you plan to make?

Here’s a clue to hitting the right note: one person or a group of well-meaning people can make a little difference somewhere. But a business, or a large organization innovatively led, professionally managed, properly financed and running at optimum efficiency can make a whopping difference. We’re talking “order of magnitude.”

Best of all, your MBA application will retain its credibility. If you say you want to run an education business in Ho Chi Minh City, Adcom will believe you. If you say you want to teach long-division to Vietnamese orphans, they won’t.


The iPad launch and the evolution of the MBA applicant ‘type’

Last time I spoke about applying for an MBA like Steve Jobs would, by which of course I mean not ‘as if’ you were Jobs, but going about it in the way he would — staying true to yourself and your motivations. Anyway, speak of the devil, the Apple iPad is out and I, like millions around the world, have been drawn into the media extravaganza surrounding its release. So I find myself watching Jobs doing the promotion keynote.

There is Jobs in his blue jeans and sneakers and polo-top, just being completely his geeky self, and it inevitably makes me think about what ‘the image of success’ is these days in the business world, and how it’s changed.

Now, make no mistake, these launches are rehearsed and choreographed and fine tuned for mass marketing appeal – a bit like yesterday’s ‘State of the Union’ address come to think of it. Because projecting an image of success is important. And it is as important in MBA admissions as it ever has been. But Jobs is the poster boy for how that image is has changed. Bankers in dark suits and power ties loosing quantum fortunes and asking for taxpayer handouts somehow ain’t it right at the moment.

I think of the issues I have (and I know other MBA admissions coaches have the same problems) in getting applicants to free up and be themselves, and go beyond being trying to be a ‘square’ or a ‘suit’ in their applications. Why be another young guy in banker dress trying to get himself taken seriously, when the image of business success is currently so … not that.

I know Jobs is in the media-entertainment-electronics industry and a finance guy or even a mainstream consultant couldn’t dress like this – or not yet anyway. And I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone go to an MBA admissions interview in blue jeans. At your MBA interview you do need to show you can play the game.

But there is still plenty of room in what you say, and what you plan to do, and how you present yourself across your MBA application, to show what makes you ‘you’ and therefore unique. It’s definitely what Adcom wants. And chances are it’s what you really want too.