Walter: Taking the Technical Out of MBA Applications

by on June 1st, 2013

walterOh hey guys. Eric coming at ya. I’m a Senior Consultant here at Admissionado, and I’m working with Walter this year on his reapplications. As you’ve seen already, Walter’s a pretty cool guy with a lot of good stuff going for him. I mean, hell, he got an interview at HBS last year, so he’s obviously doing something right.

We kicked things off last week with two calls (there was so much to chat about that one call wasn’t enough!), though I gotta admit…a few minutes were spent schooling me on Ankur’s engineering speak. I have worked with a number of engineers in the past but am quite impressed with all that Ankur has accomplished. But we’ll come back to that in a minute.

Word of caution for all those of ya out there with technical backgroundsYou are not applying for a master’s in mechanical engineering or computer science. You are going for a business degree…where clear, concise, easy to understand communication is paramount. Remember that…that is probably the number 1 pitfall for anybody with a technical background (and by technical I don’t just mean software engineers; but really any field that chats in its own language/technical speak).

So back to Ankur. He has a lot going for him. He has a laundry list of accomplishments at work, has been given a lot of responsibility for his age, and will knock the socks off any interview he gets (yes, from just two conversations I can tell that). Overall, he’s got a great background. Where he needs help is really telling his story and tying everything together with some clear, concise long-term and short-term career goals. Ankur is a re-applicant and failing to be clear in his goals and clearly explaining his major selling points were likely his undoing.

But…we’re gonna change all that this year.

The good news is that we are right on schedule and will have plenty of time to get this all worked out. The number 2 most common pitfall I see: rushing your application. Maybe at work you can procrastinate and get that presentation done the night before the big meeting…but that’s just not the case with bschool essays. The essays are an introspective, thought provoking process that by nature take time. Don’t fall into that trap – plan ahead and start early. If you aren’t able to manage the app process, what does that tell the adcoms about your business capabilities? Give yourself a good six weeks for each school if it is your first two schools that you are applying to…4 weeks minimum for others. And no, doing all the apps in parallel doesn’t count.

So, I’ve got some work to do pushing Ankur on clarifying his career goals and bringing out his leadership experience. But I’m excited for the challenge because with everything he’s got going on, it shouldn’t be a challenge at all.

But that reminds me of one more huuuuge lesson that Ankur’s already started to learn. And that is about work accomplishments. Ankur has some great ones. In fact, he had no problem listing them. But the thing he had to learn (and most people have to learn) is that its not the accomplishments that the adcom is interested in…it was HOW he accomplished them. No one is interested in the fact that Ankur managed to save a failing project. What is interesting is HOW he did this. For Ankur, it was a breakthrough technological accomplishment…but more importantly it was a breakthrough management and leadership accomplishment. As it turned out, Ankur mobilized resources throughout his company to come to the rescue of the customer, used his interpersonal skills to get people to drop what they were working on and help out, and convinced the client to take a completely different approach. This has the makings of a great essay! And, unfortunately, it was all lost  in the technical details when we first discussed the accomplishment.

So when you start working on YOUR applications, keep in mind your audience (the adcoms) and what you are applying for (a business degree, not a technical engineering degree). If Ankur and I can take this advice to heart…the results are going to be great! And yours will be, too.

Can’t wait to see it all unfold.

– Eric

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