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Is your online image harming your MBA admission chances?

In the good old days, your chances of getting admitted to the best MBA programs (also read these related posts: top online MBA in the world & best executive MBA in India and abroad) were dependent pretty much on what you submitted to the admissions officers of the top MBA colleges – a high GMAT score, nicely written MBA essays, impressive MBA recommendations and a smooth performance in the MBA interview. Not any more. Since the popular social media became the boon and bane of the current age, the situation has changed quite a bit.

How to use technology to screw up your MBA admission plans

Earlier the best way to use technology to make a fool of yourself in public, was to do do something dumb, upload the pics on a local drive (or a common office folder) and share it within your peer group. A small intimate group would discuss this in the canteen during lunch amidst giggles & guffaws and all would soon be forgotten.

If you ever felt things were getting out of hand, damage control was relatively easy too. You could just revoke the access rights to the shared folder or delete the offensive files, and you didn’t need to lose sleep.

And then when nobody was looking, over a short span of time Facebook, LinkedIn, Orkut, Twitter, YouTube and hundreds other variants of the market leaders made an entry. It’s become easier than ever to reach out to intended and unintended audiences.

It’s also easier to let your hair down and not be aware that the posted content might have been shared, distorted and re-shared across many more pages. The most dangerous part is to assume that your online and offline personas are two distinct images that folks will respect.

How to use the WYSIWYG principle to confuse people

For people who know you intimately (like your close friends and immediate colleagues), that segregation may not be an issue. Your friends know how to treat those few pictures, comments and outbursts on your Facebook or Twitter page only represent a small part of your persona.

The real You might be mature, intelligent, level-headed and very different from the a$$hole who’s rubbing folks the wrong way on those social media pages.

Unfortunately, for many who might stumble upon your shenanigans on the internet (including admission officers from the top MBA universities) it’s easier to assume that the guy who comes across as a jerk online will never become a brilliant business leader that the bschool and its alumni network will be proud of.

It might also cast aspersions on the credibility of what you’ve written in your application. This is the What-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) principle we are talking about.

Imagine an admissions officer checking out your Youtube video where you are perfectly replicating the steps of Gangnam style or the variety of swear words that flow generously on your Facebook page or the offensive / politically incorrect tweets that you cherish sharing.

Now the admissions officer closes her eyes and tries desperate to shake off those disturbing thoughts and focus what you’ve written in the polished MBA application you’ve submitted.

She tries hard to visualise you as the high-flying management consultant or investment banker advising the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies on how to run their business. And in the middle of that million dollar proposal you are making to the board of directors, you start doing that eye-popping pelvic thrust move that got you famous on YouTube!

Even if the admission officer really likes your GMAT score and MBA essays, you aren’t making the decision any easier for her, my friend.

Your online actions speak louder than the words in your MBA essays.

How to get into damage control mode before MBA admissions season

Alright, so you are human after all and feeling just a little embarrassed about the potential damage that an overdose of alcohol in the bachelor party can do.

So here’s what you can do after you’ve finished reading this blog post.

Step 1: Head over to your Facebook page and see if there’s anything that can be categorised as being offensive, stupid or inappropriate.

Step 2: If you do find such content, spend 5 seconds thinking about what an admission officer might think after viewing this. Is it harmless or toxic?

Step 3: Take appropriate steps to ensure that the content either moves out completely from the public domain from the general public at large or at least remains hidden (if you want to preserve those precious little moments of stupidity, to share with your grandkids).

Step 4: If you can’t do anything about it (maybe because it’s gone viral and ended up in too many places), spend 5 more seconds in silence. This time say a little prayer and hope that the admission officer doesn’t land on this page.

Repeat the process as many times as needed, with Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Orkut, LinkedIn etc.

If you have friends who’ve posted something online that they might regret later, share this post on their page.

Let’s end this on a philosophical note.

During MBA admissions, when you are doing everything in your capacity to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward, focus a little on that naughty little dark shadow that might be following you doing the Gangnam style dance” – Swami Sameeranand

Over to you now. What’s the craziest thing you’ve posted on a public forum? Feel free to use a pseudonym to post. The most interesting one wins a standing ovation.

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

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