It sounds cliché, but you get to know yourself.
Introspection and self reflection is one of the most important aspects of your MBA application, as it allows you to get a thorough understanding of yourself, both personally and professionally. Introspection gives you access to understanding yourself, self reflection lets you process what you learn, and insights are the answers you come up with and that you can act upon. The whole idea is to create a thorough personal mapping that you will therefore “transform” and adapt to create your MBA Applicant Mapping. Over the years, we have changed our approach from being very methodical to a more lean approach relying on casual conversations to get the most relevant information about them.
You will need to cover several aspects during this process to really build a comprehensive mapping. We wanted to share with you our unique process when working with applicants to help you refine yours.
Use this comprehensive Introspection framework
Last year, one of our applicants informed us that he had to push back a meeting because he had to fly back to his home country for a board meeting. It sounded odd because he was a surgeon and it led us to learn that his family was operating a family asset management firm. It changed the fate of his application and he ended up being accepted by Stanford – a school that was not on our initial list. Following our approach will allow you to not miss crucial aspects to build a strong MBA application.
01 Life Experience
You want to understand and define the main factors that have influenced your personal development. As MBA coaches, there are a couple of factors that we are going to be looking for quickly.
People who have lived overseas have usually developed skills that business schools are looking for: interpersonal, adaptable, open-minded, self-aware, etc.
People who have been entrepreneurs (or exposed to entrepreneurship) have developed a complimentary set of skills that is sought by top MBA programs: curious, analytical, problem-solver, risk-taker, etc.
You want to know the circumstances that have partly shaped your personality (e.g.first-generation college graduate, family business, growing up as a minority, etc.). This kind of circumstances will help you define a set of strengths/skills.
You want to start to build a rationale about your academic choice – take time to review your transcript to see where you performed well and where you struggled more.
02 Extra Curricular
We recommend that you first list all extra curricular activities you have taken (from university time) and are taking upon. The key here is not to list them only, but to list the candid reasons that have motivated you to take such activities. It is fine to have taken up an activity to enhance your MBA profile. Introspection is about you. You will have time later to change the narrative for your MBA applications.
03 Work Experience
This is the big one here. Your work experience will mostly determine the success of your MBA application. You really want to spend time on this one.
The first thing you want to define are the reasons behind your career choices; e.g. choice of industry, change of company (or having been with the same employer since graduation).
You want to assess quickly how you compare to your peers in your company (e.g. are you being promoted on time or faster) but also try to assess your value at the industry level.
Here you want to first list the skills and experiences that you have gained in your role(s). That will help you start mapping the list of the skills and experiences that are missing from your repertoire. By defining your professional strengths, you can easily define your areas for improvement.
04 Your Value System
Having spent time to introspect on your life and career, the next big step is to start defining your personal value system; i.e. the set of principles and/or ideals that drive you. This is surely one of the hardest (if not the hardest) parts of your application. If you decide to not engage a consultant for your MBA application, we strongly encourage you to involve a close friend or a mentor to help you define your value system. Though certain values can also be a strength, be careful to not confound values and strengths.
Perhaps the lightest part of your MBA Applicant Mapping but not irrelevant. Here you want to think of what you really enjoy doing – don’t think about what a school may want to hear but really the honest truth between you and yourself. Do you like reading more than meeting people? Do you enjoy meeting new people rather than spending more time with your friends? Do you enjoy running or are you more in team sports? Do you hate sport but love traveling? Just list your top 10 interests. You will come back to those once you have completed your MBA Applicant Mapping.