Your Personal Marketing Plan

As I often state, the MBA application process is very much about marketing yourself to the admissions committees. Some of my clients find it helpful to actually create a Marketing Plan, consisting of the four …

As I often state, the MBA application process is very much about marketing yourself to the admissions committees. Some of my clients find it helpful to actually create a Marketing Plan, consisting of the four P’s: Positioning, Product, Place and Promotion. A Marketing Plan is designed to launch a product thoughtfully and effectively. Here, the product is you. This will help you focus your strategy by articulating several key elements outlined below. Once these elements have been clarified, you can more effectively put your strategy into action. You may want to try this exercise yourself before diving into your essays. Below is a sample using Wharton as the target school.

Positioning Statement:
General Statement – Inside and outside the office, I am known as a key contributor to every team. I am a self starter who not only takes initiative, but also energizes those around me. I bring strong communication, an open mind and respect for others to every setting and work with diligence and focus to bring about strong, positive outcomes.

Specific Background – I have a strong background in strategy consulting, primarily in the technology industry, where I have been involved with all stages of the product lifecycle ”“ from market research and development through to product launch. Most recently, I was part of a team that advised a high profile security firm on a new product launch into a competitive space. I also serve on the boards of the Stanford Alumni Club and Nature Support, where I initiate positive change for causes about which I am passionate. I want to combine my current knowledge and skill set with an MBA to successfully manage my own brand after business school.

Goals – I am pursuing an MBA to facilitate a transition into a brand manager position with a large consumer products company, and to enhance my personal growth. Ten years from now, I plan to be CEO of an innovative consumer products company, focused on environmentally friendly products.

Product = Key Competencies (Skills, Knowledge, Traits):
Skills – leadership, teamwork, analytics
Knowledge – client services, non-profit, technology industry
Traits – compassionate, self-starter, strong communicator

Place = Characteristics of Target School:
Values – Leadership, diversity, initiative and focus
Teaching Methods – Case and theory
Geography – East
Size – Largest program
Culture – Collaborative, innovative, creative, team based

Promotion:
1) Apply first round
2) Campus visit
3) Side letter from current student
4) Attend local presentation
5) Highlight accelerated career progression
6) Highlight board positions, especially Nature Support
7) Clearly link personal and professional experiences to future goals
8) Demonstrate passion for Wharton curriculum, culture and non-traditional programs

Do I Have Time?

Today is August 12, 2005. Approximately 2 months to first round deadlines. If you have not yet started your applications, do you still have time? The answer to this question is personal. It depends on …

Today is August 12, 2005. Approximately 2 months to first round deadlines. If you have not yet started your applications, do you still have time?

The answer to this question is personal. It depends on how much time you have in your schedule, how difficult it is for you to write essays and how focused and motivated you are. In general, two months is enough time to submit at least some applications first round. Although you will be working very hard, this is a very realistic timeline.

On the other end of the scale, I have had applicants call me a week before applications are due. They want to submit in the first round, are going to take the week off of work, not sleep and devote all of their time to writing essays. They figure that 100 hours of work should do the trick. While 100 hours may be plenty of time, I am a big believer that the time should be spread out. Because this is such a personal, soul searching process, sometimes you just need to call it a night and sleep on it. Tough to do when you only have a week. While this may work for some, it is not a recommended strategy!

The other piece of this puzzle is “have you completed the GMAT and are you satisfied with your score?” If you still need to take the GMAT, you may have a lot of work ahead of you. Depending on where you are in the process, you may have to sign up for and take a class, and perhaps take the test more than once. If this is the case, first round may not be a realistic option.

Bottom line, we are right now in the thick of things for most schools. So, if you are planning to apply this year, now is the time to get started, be it on GMAT prep, writing essays, selecting recommenders or just generally piecing together your strategy. It is not too late to begin, you do still have time, but it is also not too early.

Posted in General |

Turning Weakness Into Strength

One of the most dreaded questions asked by business schools is, “Tell us about a time you failed.” It can feel like a double edged sword: you have to come up with an honest answer, …

One of the most dreaded questions asked by business schools is, “Tell us about a time you failed.” It can feel like a double edged sword: you have to come up with an honest answer, but you are afraid to reveal too much. You have just expended a ton of energy trying to prove you are fantastic and now you need to reveal a failure. My advice here: be as brutally honest as possible about your failures. By being honest about how you failed, you are actually revealing a strength: self awareness. Self awareness is key to growth and success, and to being admitted to business school.

Last year, I had a client who was laid off three times throughout his four year career. He was terrified of revealing this to the admissions committees. However, when he finally did tell the truth, he also demonstrated self awareness, an ability to learn from his mistakes and the mistakes of others, maturity, resilience, determination, and a whole host of qualities that business schools are looking for.

Honest introspection allows the admissions committee to get to know you. Discussing failures with honesty and maturity is the key to turning weakness into strength.

Be Part of The Solution

One key to business school admissions success is understanding that you are marketing yourself to a school just as a product is marketed to a consumer in the grocery store. The school is your target …

One key to business school admissions success is understanding that you are marketing yourself to a school just as a product is marketed to a consumer in the grocery store. The school is your target market. By understanding the school’s “needs”, you can successfully position yourself as part of the solution. For example, consider Columbia Business School. Located in the heart of NYC, and well known for its finance curriculum, you can imagine that they receive many applications from individuals wanting to launch a career in finance. Columbia, however, is also interested in being known as a top general management program. Columbia is looking for well rounded leaders, entrepreneurs, managers, marketers, innovators and more. As you submit your Columbia application, think hard about what they may need and try to become part of the solution.

This is true for all schools: in order to be successful, you need to step away from your needs. Think about the school’s goals and needs and how you can contribute to fulfilling those needs. When you finish telling the admissions committee why you want to attend and what they can do for you, don’t forget to show them what you can do for them as well.

The School Visit

I frequently am asked whether or not to visit target schools. A visit is certainly not necessary and most schools will tell you that it has no impact on your application. However, if it is …

I frequently am asked whether or not to visit target schools. A visit is certainly not necessary and most schools will tell you that it has no impact on your application. However, if it is financially feasible and fits into your schedule, I always recommend a visit. This is for several reasons:

1) A visit can help you decide where to apply. Many applicants look at the business school rankings and make decisions on where to apply. However, walking across a campus, sitting in on a class and interacting with students can greatly influence your decisions.
2) When you visit the school, you develop a better understanding of the school’s culture. This is sure to come through in your essays and interview. While others will be referencing the school website, you can site specific first-hand experiences. When you visit, you will meet people and have specific experiences that you can highlight throughout your essays and interview. This adds color and individuality to your application.
3) Although schools understand that many people cannot make a visit, it definitely shows a strong interest in and commitment to a program when you make the effort to visit. This is particularly true if you are traveling a long distance.
4) Occasionally, on a school visit you can hit the jackpot and meet with a member of the admissions committee or other influential person and really impress them!
5) If you are fortunate enough to be admitted to several top schools, a visit often can help you decide where to attend.

If you do decide to visit, you should call the admissions office ahead of time and ask them about the following opportunities:

1) Can you sit in on a class?
2) Can you go on a tour of the school?
3) Are other types of information sessions available?
4) Can you interview on campus?

Thus, you are making it known that you are visiting and doing your best to take full advantage of this experience. Dropping in unexpectedly is discouraged because you will not be able to make the most of your visit.

If at all possible, you should make arrangements to stay with a current student. Perhaps you have a friend, or a friend of a friend who is a student. Doing this will allow you to see the more informal side of the school and help you to meet current students.

Enjoy yourself and be open minded. This is a fun opportunity to start planning a very exciting next step in your life.

Welcome

After more than five years of private one on one consulting and larger group work in corporate settings, I have decided to disseminate my knowledge on a larger scale through the Stacy Blackman blog. I …

After more than five years of private one on one consulting and larger group work in corporate settings, I have decided to disseminate my knowledge on a larger scale through the Stacy Blackman blog. I will post answers to questions that I am asked with regularity, direct attention to topics that I believe are interesting, and hope to be a valuable resource to anyone applying to business school.
Enjoy and learn!
Stacy