How to Develop Your Personal Brand

An insightful applicant asked me last week “when have you seen an applicant fail?” I love this question. And as I thought about the applicants who had come to us asking for an assessment of what went wrong last year, there was one thing their applications had in common: lack of a clear theme. At Vantage Point MBA, we call your application’s theme your “Personal Brand”. After all, an MBA application is a marketing pitch – you’re selling yourself and your vision to the schools you hope to attend.

For those of you planning to apply this year, now is the time to start nailing down your personal brand. It will be the backbone of your application (especially your essays!) To help you get started, below I’ve laid out an abbreviated version of the process that we take our clients through to discover and refine their personal brands. Take a few moments to walk through the exercise below and see what you come up with. To refine your brand, you’ll want to get multiple opinions and talk it through with someone you trust as a thought or brainstorming partner. The ultimate goal is to have a clear statement (comprised of no more than 3 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 in order to accomplish your long term goals (experience you need, skills you need etc)?

The “Personal” Details: Now answer the questions below to determine which personal details can support and enhance the initial framework above. Which aspects are the most unique and different that 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?
  • Who do you most admire – which qualities in particular and why?

Now, look back at your initial framing details. What stories from your life, interests, experiences or overall opinions and feelings can you bring in to help better tell that story (and make it more interesting)? Did a particular personal experience spur your interest in your long term goals?

We have our clients distill their stories down to 2-3 sentences and make it a sticky note on their laptops so that as they consider each aspect of the application, they can look back and make sure that their applications align with their brand.

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”!

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