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MBA Admissions: How to Create a Personal Brand

Create Personal Brand MBA Admissions“What you want to do with your life?” This was a question that we were asked in 2006 by my ex-boss, who also happens to lead a workshop – “Perspective”, a three day program to unearth our purpose in life. Yes - ”Life”. We were asked to create one-sentence mission statements and then shout it out to other participants. They were the judge and decided if the statement was authentic. The audience was brutal.

On average, they rejected the mission statement, at least 10 times. We had to modify the statement, or internalize the feeling and shout it out again, until our authentic self was revealed. For a lucky few, the exercise lasted 1 hour and for others it stretched to 3-5 hours. It was exhausting but had a lasting impact on what I wanted to do with my life. When I remember that exercise, the one thing that strikes me was that there were no guidelines on what to say or even what to aspire. My personal brand was up to me with infinite possibilities.

There were no right answers.

When someone chooses to do an MBA, personal brand is defined by the limited job functions, industries and short-term goals. It’s a top down approach of fitting your ambition with the personal brand. What it results are thousands of wasted hours on Business School Research, MBA Application Essays and GMAT preparation – all to fit the mold of the ‘perfect applicant’. And guess what - a top down approach fails 99% of the time. AdCom is bored out of their mind reading about another applicant nurturing a dream to be part of McKinsey. They want to be inspired by your life story and personal brand.

You might argue that the competition is high and your authentic self is the lazy, sports addict with a job. No! That is your lazy self. We all have one. What inspires you to pursue work without categorizing it as ‘work’?.  “I have one but that is just a hobby”, you might say. It is not. That is your ‘authentic self’. Dig deeper and reflect on the emotions that you feel when that self is on a roll. An MBA will not magically transform you into a superstar. It will neither transform you if you are not aware of your authentic-self and what it wants. Without a clearly defined personal brand, an MBA would be just a 2-year break from full-time employment. You don’t want that with a $175,000 investment.

Here are the first action steps:

1) Accept the Authentic Self: Accept who you are – the raw emotions, the ludicrous ambitions and the unique thought process.

2) Note your Negative Emotions: Whenever we search for the authentic-self, the doubting self will start the inner dialogue about the authenticity of the task or even the result. Don’t beat it out. Note it down in a piece of paper.

3) Acknowledge the Negative Emotions: Read the inner dialogue aloud and acknowledge the negative emotions. Even the world’s best athletes have negative ‘inner dialogues’. They don’t hide it. They acknowledge them, head on.

4) Positive Emotions: Beat each negative emotion with more than two positive emotions.

For Example:

Negative 1: “I don’t know what to achieve with an MBA”

Positive 1: “I will discover my true values, goals, purpose, and ambitions”.

Positive 2: “I will create a clear mission statement for MBA Admissions”

Create the positive internal dialogues until negative emotions fades out.

You have crossed the first hurdle!

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