What Did You Actually DO? – Getting Specific in the MBA Application Essay

Not unlike The Transformers, there’s more than meets the eye in explaining your responsibilities for work experiences. What you tell your friends or colleagues is not the same info the AdCom needs to read about. You’re not passing info from one side of the table to the other, you are promoting yourself. It’s a pitch.

And that pitch needs to be carefully crafted. And exact. And very, very specific.

Let’s look at an example that’s not so hot:

Responsible for internal business communications and external media relations by working closely with Company X.

While it sounds kinda nice, we don’t actually know what the applicant DID. None. Ask yourself: What does it mean to be responsible for internal business communications? Does it take an hour a week? Four per day? Is the person sending out a dozen emails, making 100 phone calls? When he says he is responsible does it mean he is leading others or just polishing the shoes of the other guy who’s doing the leading? Managing an office? A budget? All of these things are super important for the AdCom to understand what you are actually doing. Otherwise, it’s management speak, the kind that David Brent resorts to.

And a second not-so-hot example:

I spent a significant amount of time on marketing this service.

What does it mean to “market a service”? Is the person writing presentations? Making them? Again, by using jargon and business lingo, the applicant is actually making it MORE difficult to understand what he actually did. Just as problematic in this example is the phrase “significant time.” Say what? For someone who hasn’t worked in the group in the company it could be anything from a day to two years.

In order for the AdCom to understand what is actually going on, this needs to be contextualized. We need to know how long. But that’s not enough either. After all, we all work for different companies in different industries, so it’s also helpful to know how long you spent relative to other company projects.

By contextualizing the information and actions you are doing, you allow the AdCom to know what you are actually doing, and that you’re not just “heading the project down the oh-so-vague path to unproven success.”

And now for a GREAT example:

Taking on end-to-end responsibility for our flagship summer event, I led the executive committee in conducting a fund raiser show featuring a professional theater troupe from China for a sold-out crowd of more than 400.

Specific.
Clear.
We can PICTURE it. And we’re impressed.
Solid.

See the difference?

From Our Consultants: Overcoming Application Obstacles