Values are what guide you in your life and work. What values are important to you, and how have they influenced you?
This is a new essay for Kellogg this year, replacing their longtime “growth” essay with something that closely resembles Stanford’s classic “What matters most to you and why?” This type of essay is HARD. It’s so easy to think you’re making an awesome point here, but end up coming across as canned, out-of-touch, disingenuous, etc. The problem is that most values are pretty much universal, so appealing to them directly sounds pat. “I value family,” “I want to make the world a better place,” “I believe in truth and integrity”…. These statements are all so common that they have essentially no meaning.
For example, comforting a grieving parent who lost their child in some horrible accident doesn’t reveal an impressive set of values. What the hell ELSE might you have chosen to do, NOT comfort them? The same goes for NOT cheating on a test, or NOT stealing credit from a coworker on a shared project. Of course you don’t do those things—but that’s just the baseline expectation of being a decent person, not an interesting statement about your values.
The best way to ensure that you don’t fall into this trap is to find a moment where you came upon a dilemma, a FORK in the road where you were tempted to pick fork A, but something about your values compelled you to take fork B instead, when many people would have chosen fork A. INSTEAD is the key word—there needs to have been a real temptation to have gone fork A, or a bunch of reasons why the choice was “good” for you (promotions, money, advancement, stuff that would appeal to most people), BUT because of your value system, you put a greater weight on something else. It’s challenging questions, with no obvious “right answer,” that illustrate your value system.
When answering this, it will serve you well to explain what all the options/choices were, and to SELL US on why the alternatives would have been perfectly acceptable, strong, even expected choices. Why did you opt to do THE OTHER THING? We might spend roughly one third of the essay describing the dilemma, one third describing what you did, and one third explaining how the values this decision demonstrates have shaped your goals and career choices to date.