Stop Branding Yourself in MBA Applications!

If you want to stand out in the MBA admissions process, build a strong relationship with the adcom and actually improve your chances of getting into business school, one of the very worst pieces of advice is to build an “MBA personal brand.” Far from making you stand out, personal branding is a great way of suppressing your authentic personality until only a generic and boring façade remains. All that and more from Angela Guido in this week’s MBA Monday!

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Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

If you've done any research on MBA application advice, you've probably come across the guidance that in your application you need to create a single strong brand to your candidacy. I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol. And I think that is the absolute worst advice anyone could give you in your MBA applications. Welcome back to MBA Monday today I'm talking about why you need to stop trying to brand yourself.

Brands Aren’t People, And You’re Not A Brand

When I hear people talk about their personal brand and how they're going to build their brand for their MBA applications, I seriously want to pull my hair out. This is the absolute most backwards advice anyone could give you. Just think about the notion of a brand, Coca-Cola, Nike, Apple. The whole point of branding came about in the consumer goods industry when companies were trying to give personality and character to inanimate objects. They wanted to make a can of Coca-Cola be something that you could love and feel an emotional connection with. The concept of a brand exists precisely because the thing you're trying to brand is not human and the marketers want to make you think of it as human. So ironically, when you try to brand a human and reduce yourself to a few simple concepts, a few simple ideas, a few simple buzzwords, you remove all of the humanity from who you are and you become just a trite, basic series of soundbites. Not only is it impossible for the admissions committee to really understand what's great about you through your narrowly defined brand, but you end up looking like absolutely everyone else to help you understand how the admissions committee actually makes decisions about your candidacy.

The MBA Application Pile Game

I'm going to show you a quick video called The Pile Game. Roll the tape, Jonny. When you're applying to business school, the admissions process and how the school makes decisions about your candidacy can be confusing and even a bit scary. I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol. In this short video, I'm going to explain how MBA admissions really works so you can relax and focus on what really matters. You can think of the admissions process as a game of piles. Let me explain.

  • Step one, someone reads your entire application in
  • Step two after the first read, your application lands in one of two piles. tes or no. At this stage, the no pile is also the ding pile. If you're in the yes pile, then you advance to the next step.
  • Step three, you have your interview.
  • And step four, the committee revisits the completed applications of the entire tes pile and makes a final decision on who stays in the yes pile, who moves into limbo, or in other words, the waitlist pile, and who moves over to the ding pile. This last step is the hardest to understand, but you can think of it like this, they have to cram as many interesting, strong and different candidates as possible into the fixed class size. They start with the people they love, the yes pile post interview, and then they winnow it down to the right number, taking into account a variety of dimensions of diversity, academic background, industry experience, gender, nationality and other demographics.

How To Land In The Yes Pile

So how do you get into the final yes pile? Tactically, you need to do three things. Number one, don't get knocked out in the first round for too many major weaknesses in your candidacy. Everyone is allowed one weakness, a major weakness, or having more than one puts you at risk. If you want to find out how you stack up against school expectations, check out for your personalized MBA application game plan. Step two, crush the interview. That's a whole separate conversation. For more tips on MBA interviews, check out Interview Hero. And finally, number three, be someone that the admissions committee genuinely loves throughout every aspect of your application so that they simply don't have the heart to take you out of the yes pile. If you do those three things, you're in. Don't forget, the admissions committee is human and humans make decisions based on emotion, not purely on facts and statistics. So if you want them to love you, you have to be your authentic self through your entire application to learn how to tell your personal story with authenticity, humility and inspiration, talk to us. We're here to help you shine.

So you can see why people tell you that you need to brand yourself, because the idea of branding was to try and help a human being come to love a consumer product. But you're not a consumer product. You're a human. Humans are innately lovable, just as they are. So as you approach your MBA applications, please don't try to reduce your candidacy down to a few simple concepts and brand yourself. Instead engage really authentically with the questions that schools are asking you and tell brilliant, vivid stories about your life so that the admissions committee can get to know who you really are and your authentic best self. This is what we do with our clients at Career Protocol. It's what we're known for. If you're interested in talking with us about telling your own epic story in your applications, just click the link in the description below and talk to us. But whatever you do, please, please don't try to brand yourself. You're so much better than that. I'll see you next week.

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Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

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