Thursday, July 12, 2012

Can I Contribute to an MBA Program?

I met an MBA applicant the other day who told me something that I have heard many, many times before.  "I am worried about my chances to contribute to an MBA program, because I don't feel I have much to offer to the people there."

This is a common refrain because it is difficult to look at your own experiences (professional, academic and personal) and be able to understand quickly what makes you different or special from other people.  

It is also common for me to hear this because I think that many applicants "sell themselves short" - i.e. they imagine an MBA world full of elite consultants and investment bankers, and somehow feel inferior to them.

In reality, the idea that you have nothing to offer an MBA program couldn't be further from the truth.  Here are some areas in which you may have something to offer:

a) Industry-specific knowledge

Whatever you do for a living has offered you the chance to develop knowledge about customers and trends that could be of interest to your future fellow students or even professors. Maybe you have participated in the process of getting medical equipment approved in Japan, or maybe you've helped an NGO gain local funding. These experiences of yours will be of interest to your classmates, who may confront similar challenges in the future.

b) diversity and cultural representation

If you come from a place that doesn't have a lot of representation in MBA programs, then you could help your classmates become more culturally aware and global people. Your experiences and understanding of your culture might not seem unique to you - but once you leave your home country and surround yourself with people of different backgrounds, you'll see just how unique you are. 

c) personal passions

Whether you are a determined tennis player, a championship-calibre swimmer, or just someone who enjoys football, you'll find like-minded people with similar interests in your MBA program. You may even be able to join forces with others and create events or activities that make a lasting impression on the school.

All you need to show is some tendency towards initiative, teamwork or leadership, and you are well on the road to developing a few concrete examples of what you can offer your future colleagues in an MBA program.

If you are struggling to figure out what makes you different or special, or what you might be able to offer to an MBA program, talk to someone with experience going through the process or better yet - experience helping others go through the process.  Several MBA admissions consultants have experience working with many, many applicants just like you - and so they can know what makes you unique, even if you don't.

John Couke