A conversation between two Harvard students captures the perception of military students. Mike: “I’m concerned about how I will do in this class. It’s not easy jumping in to make my point in section. I worry about making intelligent comments on the case.” Sam: “I know what you mean. Can you imagine what Joe, the Navy SEAL in our class, thinks when he’s in class—This is a piece of cake. I’ll take many cold calls in section over another mission in Fallujah!” Military candidates have been in remarkably challenging situations and have had their leadership abilities tested numerous times. The challenge for them isn’t showing that they have leadership experience but that they can adapt to a nonmilitary environment.
Valuable Military Skill Set
• Excellent leadership track record
• Excellent team experience
• Strong communication skills
• Solid interpersonal skills
• Can be rigid and hierarchical
• Tough time adapting to the civilian world
• Disconnect between goals and experience
• Unclear that the MBA is vital for the career goal
What to Do
• Show that you can be flexible.
• Pick essay topics that show different aspects of who you are beyond your experience in the military.
• Demonstrate awareness and understanding of the civilian business environment.
• Nail the rationale for why you want an MBA and what it will help you achieve professionally. An example can betying your reconstruction work in war-torn regions with your interest in running an infrastructure development company in the emerging markets. Drawing parallels with your current experience and your future goals can help you create credibility.
• Share stories that show the lighter, softer side of your personality.