Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Components of your application - III - Essays

Many applicants have complained over the years that they find writing the essays among the most cumbersome part of the MBA app - something they approach with trepidation as an unavoidableburden. But my clear view is that essays should rather be seen as an opportunity to be utilized to its maximum. Let me illustrate with a story.

Early in my career, I worked at a large multi-division, multi-location company. I was in-charge of one of its profit centers. There was a strong internal audit setup wherein auditors periodically reviewed the operations of each profit center, and raised queries about its deficiencies, mistakes and wrong-doings. These had to be replied to by the profit center head. In the end, the auditor's notes, his queries and the division head's responses, altogether made up the audit report.

All of us operations managers abhorred this exercise because it could potentially highlight our mistakes, that too in front of the most senior Directors in the company. The audit report was the one and only report about individual profit centers that it made its way all the way up through the company hierarchy - such was its importance.

But this attitude changed one day, when a senior gave a bunch of us youngsters a completely new perspective. He pointed out that since the audit report was read by all the senior people, who could ultimately make a difference to our careers, we should see them as our direct line of communication to them. He pointed out that no other report we made, including our monthly or annual profit reports, reached them intact. Rather they got aggregated at the location level, or the product division level, and in those aggregate reports, a single individual's performance never stood out. Even our performance appraisals were not always read individually by people at this rarefied level of the company to which the audit reports reached intact.

From then on, we looked forward to the audits and while replying to the audit queries, ensured that all our important achievements, intitiatives and contributions made it into those reports. And as you might rightly anticipate, a few months later a senior director, when he visited our branch, called me separately and I found he actually remembered my key achievements from the last audit report, and in fact appreciated them in front of my local seniors.

The lesson with the MBA application essays is exactly the same.

The application form, resume, etc. force you into a certain format which firstly limits what you can write in them and is also quite similar across candidates. On the other hand are your essays which form the only part of your application which you get to write fully on your own. This is where you can tell your story in your own words, in your own style, and in such a way that you can paint your own picture of yourself for the AdComm. This is where you can truly make a case for why you deserve to be admitted. Your resume gets them interested. Your essays have them convinced.

So go ahead and appraoch your essay writing with the a sense of anticipation, like when creating a work of Art :) Grab the opportunity to speak directly to the AdComm through the essays. A good way to start I found, is to imagine yourself sitting across the table from the AdComm members and get your story down on paper in the same way that you would tell it to them orally. Then of course you condense it because understand that when the AdComm members are taking the trouble to hear you out individually, you too must show respect for their time.

Which is why when writing your essays, always remember - Clear, Concise, Compelling and Authentic.

No comments:

Post a Comment