When preparing personal statements that require significant information about career progress (for Chicago Booth, Kellogg or Wharton, for example), many applicants choose to discuss their accomplishments in chronological order. Although the simplicity of this approach makes it an attractive one, we encourage you to consider an alternative—showcasing more recent and thus potentially stronger accomplishments first. By choosing this alternate approach, you may capture your reader’s imagination more quickly and reduce the risk of being lost amid similar candidates.
Consider the examples of a software analyst who is now a project manager, managing a budget and leading a team of 20 programmers, and of an investment banking analyst who is now in his/her third year with a company and has been sent abroad to work directly with a CFO:
The Project Manager:
Chronological: “Joining ABC Technology as a software programmer, I…”
Reverse: “Scrutinizing my plan one last time, I waited to present my team’s $3.7M proposal to our client…”
The Investment Banker:
Chronological: “As an investment banking analyst at Deutsche Bank, I started…”
Reverse: “Arriving in Taipei, I was admittedly nervous to finally meet the CFO of XYZ Co. and lead my firm’s due diligence process…”
In these examples, the candidates immediately present their standout accomplishments and thrust the reader into the excitement of their stories. Although this kind of reverse introduction is not “all purpose,” it can be a feasible option in many circumstances. Still, in choosing this approach, the candidate must also be able to fluidly return to earlier moments in his/her career later in the essay—a task that requires creativity and skill.