That MBA Hustle and Flow

Dusting off this post from the drafts bin because it brings to mind a couple of conversations I’ve had recently with folks applying to MBA programs about how to frame their experience in their applications. (No, it’s not just an excuse to share this oldie-but-goodie video of Taraji Henson behind the scenes on Empire.)

This article by Stacy Blackman for 10Thoughts, “Filling in the White Spaces for the Job Hunt,” does a great job of explaining how and why the way you craft your story matters:


“What those choices were is far less relevant—or interesting, frankly. The real story is not the what or the when: it’s in the whys. […] What were the transitions that got you from your education to your work experience? Make sure the stories and examples you share give the interviewer a sense of your interests, passions, goals, values, decision-making framework, and personality. […] You are not just your resume. You are the white spaces in between, which can tell a story that’s just as important as the bullet points on your resume.”

This article is about job hunting, but storytelling is also incredibly important for MBA applications. Telling a compelling story (for jobs, a story weaving together the reasons behind your career choices so far; for MBA applications, a story showing the MBA as the missing link between your experience and your goals) shows the person evaluating you that you have a strategic, goal-oriented outlook about the choices you make.

And in your MBA applications, great storytelling is about even more than showing that you’ve got your sh*t together. Business schools want to admit people that they know will be successful, and your great application story is a signal that you’re directed and strategic enough to get yourself hired, which is incredibly valuable.

So as you prep your applications, here are some questions that might help you tease out your story:

  • The big one: How does an MBA from this school help bridge the gap between my past experience and my long- and short-term goals? What skills and knowledge do I need to achieve my goals, and what resources at this school will help me get those skills and knowledge?
  • For each job that you’ve had: Why did you take this job? What did you learn from it, and why did you leave it? How do those reasons tie into one another and into a larger narrative about your career trajectory?
  • For your goals: What is your short-term career goal? What is your long-term career goal? How do they tie together, and what are other ways that you can go from an MBA to your long-term goal?
  • Once you’ve thought about these things: What’s a one- or two-sentence shortened version of your stories (why MBA, career progression to date)? Bringing your stories down to a simple, crystallized form should help you focus and internalize them.

Hope that’s helpful! Happy MBA hunting!

Image courtesy of Paramount Classics.

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