Accomplished individual contributors in highly specialized fields – whether from finance, science, or technology fields – often face the challenge of sharing the scale of their responsibilities and the impact of their accomplishments. In this entry, I’ll share four tips on how MBA candidates in these situations can maximize their backgrounds while writing their application essays:
Out of habit, your first essay draft will likely be littered with jargons (industry terms that only few would actually understand). Often, the examples you choose to showcase – whether it’s leveraging a sophisticated financial instrument or introducing an advanced manufacturing process – are even more advanced and complicated than you realize, so that even those with a basic level of knowledge regarding your work will probably not comprehend the scope of your activities. Thus, remind yourself that you are not writing a paper for peer review or for your immediate superior, but instead, you are communicating to people without your level of expertise.
Share What Got You There
How can you communicate your expert abilities if the limited space you are given for your essays does not allow you to take non-industry readers through the minute details of your work experience? One way to do this is to show how rare it is for someone to get to your role. Highlighting selectivity and how qualified you are is a good way to show your career progress and accomplishments.
In this way, your story can flow naturally from academic performance, to previous successes at work, and, finally, to why you were entrusted with such a challenging role – saving on word space while still tying in the personal and professional components of your application profile at the same time.
Often, I find that applicants attempt to answer essay prompts that ask for examples of accomplishments and failures with stories involving the most complex, technical issues they have dealt with. This is understandable, as these examples are probably the most memorable and impressive in the applicants’ professional lives. However, the limited essay space also poses a problem, as as one’s essay must then be divided into setting up the situation, the action the applicant took, the results achieved, and the lessons learned.
One quick and effective way to handle this issue is to use analogies (quotations from leaders in your field could also be used) to describe the situation and demonstrate its complexity, probability of success, or scale of impact. This will make it easier for the Admissions Committee to understand the challenges you faced and complement your general description – think of this the same way you would make friends and family members at a dinner party understand what you have been up to.
Highlight the Impact
Lastly, validate the importance of your work by relating it to impact, both at the qualitative level, and in terms of quantifiable numbers (if possible). Use examples of personal stories and paint vivid pictures to touch the emotions of your audience (the Admissions Committee) and help them appreciate the impact of your work. Numbers such as profitability, processing time saved, or potential customers impacted are also helpful to substantiate the context of your role.
Following these tips can help you show yourself not only as just a brilliant individual contributor, but as someone with the ability to communicate like a future senior leader, making your unique profile stand out and be appreciated.
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Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.