7 Ways to Market Yourself Like a Pro
Market the “real you” to a school’s admissions officer so they’ll know if you’re a good fit for their program.
Graduate business schools look for candidates who demonstrate dedication, leadership, self-knowledge, and solid career goals. By getting to know the real you, they will learn if you’ll succeed in their program and, most importantly, if their program is right for you.
A person with good academic performance and multiple accomplishments outside of class may be viewed more favorably than someone with a perfect GPA and no outside activities. Plus, if you lack significant work experience, your activities can show how successful you will be in the “real world.”
In this video, hear from two schools on how to best market yourself.
Here are our 7 tips on marketing yourself like a pro:
1. Showcase Your Positive Qualities
Use every opportunity to showcase your strengths – in essays, interviews, follow-up correspondence, and any other contact you have with a school. Together with your work accomplishments, your extracurricular and community activities are a great way to demonstrate your skills.
If you discuss extracurricular or community activities, keep in mind that:
- Schools are interested in your personal contributions and how you helped make a difference
- Sharing highly personal information may not be valuable; focus on pertinent information only
- Religious or political affiliations may be perceived negatively
If you’re unsure of your strengths, talk with people who know you well. Their insight will help you understand how others see you, and you might even learn more about yourself.
2. Link Your Strengths to Your School's
When interviewing with schools, be sure to link your strengths with those of the school – and vice versa.
For example, you could explain how your experience and background will contribute to the program and your class, as well as what you hope to gain from them.
3. Emphasize Your Leadership Skills
Business schools want to do more than teach you specific functional skills – they also want to develop your leadership skills. During the admissions process, demonstrate your existing leadership skills and talk about how you’d like to develop them further.
For example, you can highlight experience working on a team that had specific goals, and give specific examples from your background that demonstrate you can manage a successful project, program, or business. Relevant leadership experiences can come from internships, volunteering, and other activities, not just the office.
4. Acknowledge Your Shortcomings
No one is perfect, and business schools know that. If there are any inconsistencies or problem areas in your academic and/or professional background, don’t be embarrassed. Instead, be open and forthright about them – schools will appreciate it. Inconsistencies could include:
- Gaps in your resume or academic record
- A succession of jobs you didn’t hold for very long
- No apparent increase in job responsibility over time
- A poor academic performance or grade point average (GPA) for one semester or longer
Don’t worry about dreaming up elaborate explanations. Simply explain the situation, what you learned, and how it will not negatively affect your future.
If you are weak in certain academic subject areas, find out if the schools you’re applying to will want you to complete certain courses before enrolling. If so, complete all prerequisite coursework as early as possible (definitely before enrollment).
5. Highlight Your Uniqueness
The saying “variety is the spice of life” is just as true in business school as elsewhere in life. A diverse student body enriches an MBA program and enhances the learning experience for everyone.
Business schools look for students with diverse backgrounds – geographic, ethnic, cultural – and varied work and life experiences. In your application, highlight your individuality and talk about how you can contribute to a school’s diversity.
6. Be Honest
While some schools spot check résumés, some conduct full background checks by security contractors (yes, really!). Business schools don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to be honest.
If you have been laid off, there is no reason to lie about it. Being laid off is a reflection of the economy and an unfortunate reality that thousands have faced. Business schools know that as well as anyone.
If you are currently unemployed, use it as an opportunity to become a stronger applicant and a better job prospect after business school. Take refresher mathematics courses, volunteer for organizations or causes you believe in, or take on a leadership role in a civic organization as you prepare for the GMAT® exam.
7. Make Good First Impressions
During the admissions process, it is likely you will meet with a wide variety of people: admissions staff, students, professors, and alumni. Whether the occasion is casual or formal, focus on making a great first impression. As busy as they are, admissions officers listen to their colleagues’ opinions, so a positive interaction with one person can go a long way.
If you have a formal interview, be prepared to talk about your strengths and weaknesses, especially as compared with a school’s published applicant pool. For more guidance on marketing yourself, check out Writing a Killer Résumé: A Primer for MBA Candidates.