How to Develop Your Personal Brand

In our recent series on developing compelling MBA career goals (click to read Part I and Part II), I discussed how these goals are an integral component of your ‘personal brand’. So, what is a personal brand exactly and how do you go about discovering yours?

What Is a Personal Brand and Why Does It Matter?

The personal brand you present in your MBA application is essentially its thesis statement. It clearly and concisely describes the unique perspective or skillset you will contribute to your target program’s class. Additionally, it presents the ambitious and inspiring goals you have for your future career and communicates how an MBA from ‘School X’ will help you achieve them.

Said a slightly different way, your personal brand is a marketing pitch – it sells you and your vision to the school you hope to attend.

Why is having a cohesive personal brand so important? Remember that the admissions committees at top MBA programs are reading thousands of applications. After reading yours, you want them to be able to easily summarize to the other members of the committee who you are and why they should be excited to have you on campus. If they can’t, you risk having your application lost in the pack.

When and Where Do I Start?

For those of you planning to apply this year, it is never too early to start nailing down your personal brand. It will be the backbone of your application, particularly your essays. I can’t stress enough how important it is to give your personal brand the focus is deserves.

Separately, in addition to crafting a stellar MBA resume, this is something you can do before schools release their applications in early summer.

To help you get started, below is an abbreviated version of the process we take our clients through to discover and refine their personal brands. Take a few moments to walk through the exercise and see what you come up with. To refine your brand, seek multiple opinions and talk it through with someone you trust.

The ultimate goal is to have a clear statement (comprised of no more than three sentences) that describes you and your goals.

Initial Framework  

Answer the questions below to establish the key components of a good personal brand:

  • What skills / experience do you have today?
  • What is unique about you?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What will you accomplish in the future (long-term goals)?
  • What do you need to do to accomplish your long-term goals (work experience, skills, etc.)?

The “Personal” Details

Next, answer the following questions to determine which personal details can support and enhance the initial framework above. What about you is the most unique and can help explain your passion and/or vision for the future?

  • What has made you who you are today?
  • Who has made you who you are today?
  • What has been the most influential experience in your life to date?
  • What is unique about the way you grew-up or your career to date?
  • What are you most proud of and why?
  • Whom do you most admire – which qualities in particular and why?

Tying It All Together

Now, look back at your initial framework. What connection can you draw between your personal details and your vision of the future? Did a particular personal experience spur your interest in your long-term goals?

Tying your formative experiences and future goals together is undoubtedly the hardest part of this exercise. This is where it is often helpful to get an outside opinion or two, as it can be challenging to take an objective lens to your own life!

Remember, your personal brand should be a sincere representation of you and your goals. Don’t try to tell a school what you think they want to hear. The best personal brands are authentic and rich with depth and thoughtfulness. For most people, nailing down a personal brand takes a good bit of iteration until you have that coveted “aha moment”!

If you would like some assistance homing in on a strong personal brand, or with anything else related to the MBA application process, click here for a free consultation.


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