The MBA program you choose will polish your business qualities and teach you new managerial skills. But in order to get there, you first need to showcase the individual qualities you already possess when preparing your business school application.
Depending on the university and program you pick, you will have the freedom to focus on different accomplishments from your life and career. For example, applying for a program with a focus on technology or the IT industry may require you to bring forward your quantitative experience. It’s always important to craft the MBA application essays and other documents with the specific program requirements in mind.
Nevertheless, there are skills that are universally appreciated and should be demonstrated in your business school application.
In an economy with so many consumer products, services, and different managerial approaches, critical thinking is becoming increasingly important as a skill. Put simply, this means looking at both the positive and the negative aspects in your field of work and recognizing how to deal with gray areas since nothing is merely black or white.
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If this is starting to sound too vague, here is an example. One way for MBA applicants to showcase their critical thinking is to refer to professional failures and mistakes they have made. How did you manage to overcome them? An article by Ellin Lolis Consulting explains more about this strategy when crafting your business school application essay:
People with experience are people who have made mistakes. This doesn’t mean that the [admissions committee] is looking for people who are failures. Instead, it means that they seek candidates who have learned from their mistakes and failures. This is great for MBA admissions essays.
How do you measure communication? As you can imagine, this is not an easy quality to showcase for MBA applicants. Sometimes, especially in delicate situations, communication needs to be tactful and is not just about what you say, but also about how you behave. One example could be your approach to clients or partners from around the world who have cultural traits different from your own. Good communication should bridge the divide between people, organizations, or entire regions.
In light of this, here is what MBA consultant Stacy Blackman advises for US News & World Report:
Highlight experiences that show you work well with others and that prove you can make a presentation in a persuasive, professional manner. Or, show how your effective communication skills have helped you land a client or seal a deal.
Ms. Blackman also suggests tackling this area early on if you know it’s not your forte. Reach out to mentors or supervisors whose communication skills you admire. They could give you specific tips on how to approach different audiences and develop your interpersonal abilities to succeed.
People sometimes forget that leadership can be demonstrated by everyone and not only by top managers and CEOs. Leadership can also mean taking initiative, being proactive in your work, and advocating change and innovation in your organization. Admissions committees of international MBA programs are interested in recruiting professionals who believe in the power of good leadership.
Of course, this skill can be showcased in different ways. American consulting firm MBA Prep School points out that one way to talk about leadership is in terms of teamwork:
Some candidates struggle to distinguish between an individual accomplishment story and a leadership story. The best way to tell the difference is that a leadership achievement is something that you couldn’t have accomplished on your own. Leadership is about achieving your goals by harnessing the energy of other people.
There are other important terms that you could use in your application such as thought leadership and innovation leadership. As Manish Gupta, Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, suggests, you might be a research analyst who produced a report that brought your company positive PR. Although this is not a classic example of teamwork, it can show how you have managed to inspire others or bring in new clients.
Although it might seem like an obvious quality to describe in your business school application, do not underestimate the power of collaboration. MBA admissions committees are interested in what you want to learn from the program but they also need to know what you can give back to the rest of the class.
Education experts are right to say that in some cases, MBA professionals gain more inspiration from their classmates than from teachers. This happens often because MBA participants have diverse backgrounds and unique professional stories that can help you overcome real business challenges.
In other words, your business school application should prove that you are eager to share your know-how with fellow professionals. As MBA Prep School notes:
The admissions committee wants to know that you are going to be the type of student who will go out of your way to help your classmates learn and grow. Remember that evidence of a collaborative nature is what counts.
Ultimately, what skills you highlight in your MBA application mostly depends on the focus of your chosen program. Take every opportunity to work on your interpersonal qualities – it might help you both in business school and at work.