It’s the concern I’ve heard most this week from the business school candidates I work with privately. “I can’t think of any good leadership examples!” “I don’t have any time outside of work for extracurriculars!” “I can’t think of a time when I really, well, failed.”
Let it come
I conduct a number of speaking engagements, and I often begin my presentation with a section entitled: First and foremost… Slide #1 then goes a little something like this: BREATHE. It may not be hilarity, but it’s one of the best pieces of advice I can offer. A creative mind needs some breathing room – and the best ideas likely won’t come while staring stressfully at your computer screen.
Plant some seeds and sit with them for a while. Carry a small pad with you and capture ideas while you’re driving to work, out walking the dog, or laying at the pool. Pick your mom’s brain while cleaning up dishes after family dinner. Spend 10 min at Barnes & Noble flipping through one of those “essays that worked” books.
More specifically, think through every job you’ve had, every volunteer project you’ve done, every varsity team you’ve played on. Often, the most engaging essay topics come from outside of the workplace.
For leadership examples, think about a time you’ve initiated anything, contributed above and beyond, stepped out of the box, championed a project, successfully influenced others, or changed a group’s line of thinking. A time when you’ve inspired change, improved a process, or helped a team through an impasse. When you’ve created something new, left your mark, or impacted the lives of others.
And you’ve officially failed anytime you’ve looked back on your actions, wished there had been a better outcome – and then taken the time to self-reflect, identify the core issues, and improve upon them. It should be a pivotal learning experience that has shaped the type of leader/manager you’ve become today.
If you haven’t invested recently in your extracurricular life, then write about your past activities and future intentions. If you had the time, would you be exploring your history in Eastern Europe, getting back into triathlon training, or helping to run your family’s small business? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What are you most passionate about in the world? Let them see the real, authentic and undoubtedly fabulous you.
Yes you can
So, take a nice deep breath and know that you’re not alone. And the good news is, no one has any better leadership examples than you do. (At least as far as your efforts are concerned.) And know that there really is a big bright light at the end of the tunnel, when all this talk of essays and GMAT scores will be a thing of the past. Unless, of course, you become an MBA admissions consultant…
[For writing impactful essays, or for general MBA admissions advice, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org]
© Hillary Schubach September 10, 2010 6:31pm