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Personal Branding – Learning from Current MBA Class

Personal Branding Identifying CompetitorsThe goal behind personal branding is to be a signal in a world of noise, and you cannot do that without identifying traits of the previous class. For MBA Applicants, this can be tricky. Beyond the demographic and academic data, the profile pages offer very little information on the personality, and the drive of the Alumni and current students.  Instead of second-guessing your competitor, find out more about current students and alumni. Ask why they were selected? If the only thing that you can see is academic qualifications, then it is time to research further. We would recommend applicants to visit the profile page of current MBA students. Here is a simple 3-Step process:

1) Summarize Academic Qualification

It can be a daunting task to create a database of over 600 to 800 students but in most cases, Business Schools are under pressure to maintain the diversity in nationality in an MBA program, and therefore, by shortlisting current students from your country, it would be a much more efficient exercise. For US applicants, this can be tricky as 65% of the class in US based MBA programs are natives, but after entering information about the 20th MBA student, a pattern will emerge on the entry criteria: GMAT, GPA and Years of Experience. The summary on the median GMAT and range of scores would be an indicator on what you are competing against.

2) Mine Social Media

You might argue that, identifying motivation of current students is the biggest challenge. But the amount of information publicly available is enough to create a profile of the candidate. A combination of Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Blog and Forum Profile is enough to gauge the lifestyle of the student. We are not recommending stalking the student but with simple Google Search, our personal information and activities are readily available for consumption. Lifestyle reveals a lot about the student’s beliefs and interests. Blogs and Forums are great sources to understand the candidate’s opinions and values. Twitter and Instagram meets with regular feedback, and forces most applicants not to reveal too much about themselves but forums and blogs hold mines of information.

3) Associate Attributes

This exercise involves associating attributes with activity. If an applicant is an avid traveler, it shows that she seeks autonomy, adventure, and new experiences. Within the traveling category, applicants can be sub-categorized. For a mountain climber the attributes are persistence, determination, & goal orientation. For an International traveler, they are heightened sense of purpose, and curiosity. By looking deep at the applicant’s activity, we can create several sub-categories.

This exercise will eventually list out the motivation of the candidates. Even though you are guessing, the exercise forces you to ask a simple question – “From 100s of other travel enthusiasts what made the AdCom select the candidate? It is not just the academics. What point did the applicant articulate convincingly to beat 99 other applicants for the same position?”. By asking relevant question, and following it up with appropriate search, you will learn a lot about the candidate, and find that “x-factor” that got the candidate through the program.

Remember - most top MBA programs have selection rate of less than 5%. Without understanding current student’s academic and personal profile, developing a strategy for your competitors is impossible.

Differentiating does not necessarily mean customizing your profile according to a successful profile or creating an outlandish profile. The balance comes when you have a sense of what made a current student stand out. You are unique, and by highlighting traits that are authentic and valuable for the Business School, you are two-steps ahead of your competitors.

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