Personal Brand Statement Examples for MBA Applicants

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Personal Brand Statement

If you had about twenty-five words to describe yourself, what words would you use? Many people refer to this as your one-minute introduction or elevator pitch. We refer to it as your personal brand statement (PBS). The PBS is important because it summarizes who you are in a memorable way. To improve your chance of writing a focused application that reinforces the core of your brand, it is important to have a clear PBS.

The PBS is made up of three parts:
1. Who you are
2. What you have done
3. Where you plan to end up
Here are some PBS examples of MBA candidates who have
gained admission to top programs:
• Gutsy Asian female with a passion for empowering women
who plans to transform family business by infusing fair-
trade practices
• Athletic, team-driven leader with passion for investing
who plans to leverage international investing experience
to build a world-class investment management firm
• Midwestern energetic female with accelerated cross-
functional leadership roles at media company who plans
to run an entertainment company focused on educational
programs for children
• African American bootstrapper with significant leadership
track record who plans to create and run a VC fund to help
revitalize inner-city communities
Why is the PBS important? The MBA Board reads thou-
sands of pages of applications and has the challenge of distilling
a candidate’s information into a descriptive summary, the equiv-
alent of a PBS. After wading through countless application
pages, the Board needs to be able to point to a clear takeaway
of what they think is distinctive and memorable about you.
When candidates start out with a personal brand statement, it

50 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS’ ADMISSIONS SECRETS
serves as a road map for their application. They are able to ask
themselves whether each story (essay) reinforces their personal
brand statement. Given the limited space allotment of admis-
sion essays, a personal brand statement allows you to maintain
a laser-like focus when selecting topics to write about as you
position your story. Also, by having a clear sense of your PBS
before you complete the application, you will be able to refer
back to it each step of the application process to determine
whether your essays, recommendations, and even the answers
you provide in an interview reinforce your personal brand.
So now that you know how important it is to complete a
PBA to understand your brand, you know what brand themes
look like, and you have reviewed PBS examples, let’s practice.
Try summarizing your story in one sentence (your PBS),
keeping in mind that although there may be different things
that you would like to cover, the law of focus is critical.
Your Personal Brand Statement
_________________________________________________
_________________________________________________
_________________________________________________
_________________________________________________
After you have developed your PBS, continue to refine it and
work on keeping it succinct (about twenty-five words).
Once you have completed this entire branding process, you
are now ready to tackle the application. In a couple of chapters,
I address the selection criteria used by Admissions Boards at
leading business schools to evaluate candidates. But before I

Building and Selling Your Brand 51
leave this branding chapter, I want to share a few thoughts on
Career Changers.
CAREER CHANGERS
No applicant is more in need of personal branding than career
changers. Applicants in this category have to convince the MBA
Board that they need an MBA and that the new career goal
makes sense given their current experience.
Although MBA Boards welcome career changers to apply,
the expectation is that there should be a strong connection
between who you are, what you have done, and what you wish
to do in the future. A derivative trader, for instance, with little
to no community service experience helping nonprofit groups
who simply says that she wants the MBA so that she can run a
nonprofit organization is going to have an extremely difficult
time convincing the MBA Board that her goals are authentic.
The immediate questions in the mind of the MBA Board are,
how realistic is the goal and does the applicant have elements in
her background that reinforce her identified passion of
nonprofit management?
Many career services offices have come under fire in the
past few years regarding the placement statistics of graduating
students. It is not enough to show interest in a new career;
applicants today must keep in mind that they will need to find
a job in the new career at the end of their program. The
bigger the gap between your experience and future role, the
tougher it is to convince recruiters to hire you in the new
career. Career changers are likely to be rejected if their goals
are inconsistent and don’t seem credible. I address the consis-
tency and credibility issue in greater detail in the chapter on
essay fundamentals.
The first step career changers should take is to find ways to
begin incorporating their passion into their lives. If you find
that there is a gap between what you want to do and what you

52 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS’ ADMISSIONS SECRETS
do currently, you may be able to create credibility for your goals
by using your extracurricular activities and community service
involvement to establish a track record of commitment to the
new career. Doing this will create more synergy between your
passion and your actions.
Successfully positioning yourself as a career changer requires
planning, time, and a good dose of patience. Simply stating that
you are an engineer who wishes to make a switch to finance will
not cut it. It is a huge career leap. Why does a career in finance
matter to you? How will you use the new career to effect
change? Career changers need to be very specific when making
a case for a new career. They have to demonstrate specific
knowledge about the new career so that it is clear that it isn’t
simply a passing fancy. In addition, having congruence between
your personal life and your professional life is equally impor-
tant. The following cases illustrate the importance of creating
consistency in one’s brand.
Case Study: Pre-MBA Career Changers
Ann: Auditor to Real Estate Entrepreneur
Ann had been working as an accountant and auditor for a some-
what obscure company and felt quite dispassionate about her
career. She enjoyed numbers and had studied accounting at the
university and shortly after became a certified public accountant
(CPA). After a few years as an accountant and auditor, she
noticed that despite having mastered her responsibilities and
having received multiple promotions, she was beginning to
plateau in her professional development. More than that, she
realized that as she ascended her career ladder, she was
becoming more specialized, leaving her less excited about
accounting. Ann began to question what was missing. Why was
she not excited about the prospect of another potential promo-
tion? Why was she more interested in closing the next real
estate deal for her sideline “hobby”? For the past two years,

Building and Selling Your Brand 53
Ann had been dabbling in buying real estate, but she always
considered it a hobby, not her bread and butter.
After completing a brand audit, Ann realized that her true
passion was indeed real estate and that an entrepreneurial track
was what was missing in her current role, where there was
limited room for innovation. Further reinforcement came
through her brand audit as she began to recall early memories
tagging along with her real estate entrepreneur uncle as he
made his Saturday rounds to review his development sites.
Delving deeper into what attracted her to real estate, Ann
discovered that she enjoyed the research involved in locating
the right deal, structuring the financing, negotiating with
lawyers and sellers, and managing the overall process. Ann care-
fully saved enough money and eventually quit her job to focus
on real estate full time.
Because her passion and brand are intrinsically tied to real
estate, Ann also became involved in community service organ-
izations to help low-income residents access affordable housing.
Ann has successfully rebranded herself as a real estate entre-
preneur in a consistent and credible way. Her passion and goals
come from the heart and are clear to anyone who meets her.
Her community involvement isn’t simply to check off the box
on the application but is a result of what matters to her. If she
decides to apply to business school in the future, she will have
the advantage of applying with a clear and distinctive brand,
which will likely lead to a successful application.
Jenny and Scot: Bankers to Nonprofit Managers
Not all career changers will have the luxury of quitting their jobs
and starting a business they are passionate about. So what else
could a career changer do to strengthen his or her application?
Take Jenny, an investment banker who had decided she
wanted a career in nonprofit management. Her challenge is that
she does not have community service experience and her

54 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS’ ADMISSIONS SECRETS
extracurricular activities boil down to some social events that
she planned through her sorority in college. Given her lack of
track record in volunteering for nonprofit organizations or any
related activities, Jenny’s goal of starting or managing a
nonprofit organization most likely will not pass the credibility
test in the application. If Jenny applies without developing a
track record at a nonprofit group, her brand will be strongly
tied to finance and it is unlikely she will be offered admission at
a top-tier MBA program.
Contrast Jenny with Scot. Scot, too, is a banker who wants
to run or start a nonprofit organization in the future. He has
spent most of his professional career working as an investment
banker. However, his extracurricular involvement, both while
he was in college and currently in his community, is strongly
tied to nonprofit leadership. Scot’s track record of having
started several socially conscious organizations in college and
beyond enables him to pass the credibility test. Clearly, an MBA
Board is more likely to admit Scot over Jenny because his
socially responsible interest is strongly tied to his brand and he
has solid evidence of having started organizations in this area.
In fact, Scot gained admission to Harvard and Stanford Grad-
uate Business School!
The lesson here is: if you want to change your career and
rebrand yourself, it is best to show a track record through work
or outside activities. Are there skills that you currently use in
your career that are transferable to your new career? Highlight
them in your application. Are there opportunities to work part
time or as a volunteer in the new career? A consultant who
discovered that her passion is in the restaurant business spent
most of her weekends working in a restaurant. She didn’t simply
fall back on the fact that she worked long hours. She invested
the time to gain some exposure to the new career. Some may
think this is too extreme, but it made the difference in her
acceptance to her top MBA program.

Building and Selling Your Brand 55
But what about after you gain admission to business
school? Career changers still have a tough road ahead of them
in transitioning to the new career. The two-year MBA
program is ideal for a career changer because there is more
time built into the curriculum to allow for hands-on experi-
ence in the new career.
Case Study: Post-MBA Career Changers
Felix: Engineer to Investment Banker
Felix was an engineer for five years and was interested in
switching to investment banking. After his first year in business
school at a top program, he interned for a financial advisory
firm during the summer. This experience enabled him to land
a position in a small private equity group in his home country.
His ties to his country coupled with a name brand institution
gave him an advantage in securing this position. His goal is to
build up his private equity experience to develop a track record
before making a move into a larger, more established private
equity shop.
Valerie: Nonprofit Manager to Marketing Associate
Valerie is another career changer who used the MBA to land a
job at a leading firm that is her passion. She had worked in the
nonprofit sector prior to attending business school. She knew
from the minute she arrived in business school that she wanted
to change careers and set out to build skills and gain experi-
ences that would make her competitive in the career search.
Her goal was to switch into marketing. Instead of targeting the
summer for internships, she realized that she needed marketing
experience to land a coveted internship. She joined the
marketing club and began networking with classmates with
marketing backgrounds and met with marketing professionals
visiting the school. During the winter break, instead of going on
a leisure trip with friends, she secured an internship with a

56 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS’ ADMISSIONS SECRETS
consumer goods company. At the company, she made sure to
network with key individuals in the marketing and business
development group. Her focused efforts paid off as she received a summer internship at the firm. When she graduated from business school, she had multiple offers from the top consumer goods companies.

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