“I plan to apply to the top business schools in 2-3 years. What can I do during this period to build my profile for Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, INSEAD, London Business School, ISB…?”
This is another of those frequently asked questions (FAQ) that we come across on various discussion threads that MBA Crystal Ball is active on. Typically the question comes from freshers i.e.folks who have just graduated from Engineering (B.E), BCom, BSc and many other streams. But quite a few students who haven’t even completed their basic graduation are also anxious to know how to make their profile irresistible to many of their dream schools.
The simple answer we could give you is that there’s no such magic formula to aim for. And that’s true as well. But that’s not the answer you came here for.
So rather than completely dashing your hopes of being enlightened about the secrets of what will get you in, let’s look at some factors you can still focus on to improve your chances of getting into the best Bschools.
Earlier we posted an article that focused on how 4 specific soft-skills can get you into the top schools. This time we are talking about the hard-skills. Parameters that you can put your finger on. Things you’ll be able to pick up in a regular company if you are committed and diligent.
5 ways to make your profile irresistible to the top bschools
1. Choose an under-represented industry or role
It’s not that the Information Technology (IT) industry is bad. No way. In fact, the salary, perks, opportunities in the IT industry are far better than many other conventional industries.
But the problem is there are far too many applicants applying from this field. And the mainstream roles (such as software development, testing / quality assurance, business analysis, project management) also won’t get you that ‘Oh, is that what you do?’ kind of an awe-inspiring reaction.
So if you have the opportunity, choose an industry that you love (very important, but tough to decide when you’ve never worked before) and possibly one that you would want to continue in, even after completing your MBA.
2. Be part of an exclusive club
Once you’ve chosen your target industry, aim for the market leaders in the field if you can. For instance, a huge number of consultants who get into Harvard, Stanford or Wharton have already worked for McKinsey, Bain or BCG. Each industry has its list of companies with a halo around them. Within technology you have Google, Facebook, Amazon (Retail? Technology? Take a pick), IBM.
If the company you work for has a very competitive and tough recruiting process, it gives Adcoms the feeling that you are the cream-of-the-cream in your chosen industry.
3. Take on responsibilities that your peers can’t or won’t
Most of your colleagues at work would complain about getting overloaded with responsibilities. Evaluate your situation differently. If you are doing the exact same thing 5 days a week and 12 hours a day, you aren’t making much progress in terms of getting an exposure to new aspects of the business.
Create new learning curves for yourself. Apart from the technical skills you are picking up, keep an eye out for opportunities that need business skills.
See if you can volunteer for special projects that have a strategic importance for the management.
4. Have a life outside work
Even if you are the most brilliant professional in your company and your bosses think you are the next best thing after sliced bread, your MBA classmates may not agree. You don’t want to be the uni-dimensional professional nerd in the study group.
At work, your roles and responsibilities are more stringently defined. Outside work, you are the king of your universe. Rather than while away the free time, see if you can use it productively.
Be part of a sport that you like, join a social cause early on in your career, start a small entrepreneurial venture on the side. Experiment with many things in the earlier days and them focus on a few that truly excite you. By the time you are ready to apply, you’d be amazed at how much you’ve been able to achieve in your spare time.
5. Show EQ as well as IQ
Well, this isn’t exactly a hard-skill. But your Emotional Quotient (EQ) is a good glue to bind the earlier 4 points.
Whether you are at work or play, nobody likes a jerk. A high IQ without a high EQ would push you into Jerk-land (and no, that doesn’t put you in an exclusive club).
While you are working on the top 4 aspects, show some maturity, professionalism, modesty and other attributes that separate the good human beings from the rest.
There you go. The 5 ‘secret’ ingredients to make your profile irresistible to the best MBA programs at the top bschools. We’ve left out factors like a high GMAT score (most Indians score high anyway) and excellent academic grades (not much you can do if you’ve already messed this up).
What if you’ve never worked with a market leader, and never been exposed to the post MBA industry you want to work in, and never done anything that your peers haven’t? Most candidates who work with MBA Crystal Ball fall in this category. We can’t alter their profile for them and it does make things tougher for the top bschools.
So we explain to them why it might be a good idea to spread out the risk of applying. Then we work together to choose a mix of schools that go across Ambitious, Stretch and Practical categories. Then we jointly create an application strategy (including a solid storyline) that presents their profile in the best possible manner.
If you want some support on personalizing and executing the ideas mentioned above, here’s what we do at a professional level to help MBA applicants build their profile.
Read these related posts:
– How to get into Harvard Business School
– How to plan your MBA Application Timeline
– What is most important in MBA applications?
– What Admissions Officers of top business schools look for in MBA applicants
– How can I improve my Profile in College?