MBA programs are looking for several key factors in applicants, but leadership is always a particularly important one. Why? The admissions committee is assessing what you would bring to their program, and you will need leadership skills when working on team projects. The admissions committee also want students to be involved in leading student clubs. And if you have leadership experience, you can share with your classmates what you have learned from it to help them develop as well.
Is not having team leadership experience an admissions deal-breaker, then? Thankfully not. Leading a team is certainly a great form of leadership, but do not worry if you have not done that specifically. Leadership can take many forms. Mentoring others and contributing to their development is also leadership. You might have also led a project, or even part of a project, where you set the vision, made key decisions, and solved problems, even if the others working on the project were not your direct reports. You could have also championed an idea and gotten others’ buy-in, which shows initiative and a willingness to take risks.
Certainly, you want to be able to show examples of leadership from your workplace, but you can also exhibit leadership in other parts of your life, such as community service, including serving on a committee, leading a program or event, or being a mentor. Perhaps in your personal life, you stepped up to care for or support a family member or friend, or you overcame a significant personal challenge. You also might be heavily involved in organizations related to your personal interests, such as a running club, for which you led or drove an initiative. These are all leadership examples. Offering the admissions committee a broad range of examples shows a depth of leadership throughout all aspects of your life.
As for how to build your leadership story in your MBA application, start by brainstorming what you have done at work, in your community service, and in your personal life. Use a broad definition of leadership to identify a variety of examples, and write them all down, making sure to clarify exactly what you did that shows leadership and the impact you had on the person, project, or organization involved. Pinpoint the ones that are the most significant and show the depth of your leadership experience; consider requesting others’ input to get their objective viewpoints. Then, strategize which examples fit best with your target school’s essay topics, and include your professional and community service on your resume. You will want to discuss your primary leadership examples with your recommenders so they can include complementary leadership examples in their recommendation submissions. Finally, when you are invited to interview, identify some more recent examples of leadership that you can discuss to build on the experiences you have already shared with the admissions committee. If you take this approach, you will be able to effectively convey your leadership story to your target MBA programs.
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