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Applicants with Finance Backgrounds

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Joined: 08 Oct 2007
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Location: Berkeley, CA
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Applicants with Finance Backgrounds [#permalink] New post 09 Jun 2009, 05:04
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What do people in the finance write in their essays regarding leadership? This has been bothering me for a while. The industry in general, unlike consulting, does not provide for "leadership" opportunities in its truest definition - leading a group of people. Even some seniors in my firm don't have direct reports.

How do you answer this? My background is in private equity, and most of my work requires analysis - almost no "leading". I can definitely talk about how I took initiative, and how I try to get things done in the team even though I'm the most junior person in the team (in spite of having 5 years of investment experience) - but is this really leadership? Additionally, many people in the financial field have long working hours and hardly have many ECs.

Apart from ECs, how do applicants from the finance industry (ibanking/PE/asset management) show leadership in their essays? Please offer your thoughts/suggestions.

Thanks!
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Re: Applicants with Finance Backgrounds [#permalink] New post 09 Jun 2009, 05:56
I don't necessarily agree with the concept that leadership should truly only mean "leading people" or that you need to demonstrate leadership via "extracurricular activities."

One, "Thought leadership" is a perfectly valid idea to elaborate upon in your essays, and going by your definition of "leadership," it provides you with an opportunity to offer an alternative interpretation of what leadership experience might comprise.

Two, to give you another idea that I emphasized upon heavily in my essays, think about what else personal leadership could mean to you. I took it to mean to be the ability to step out of my cultural comfort zones and take initiative to be more involved in the world at-large around me, and hence in my essays I spoke a lot about living and working abroad, learning a new language in unfamiliar cultural surroundings and that seemed to compensate for my lack of traditional leadership experience.

Hope that helps.
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Re: Applicants with Finance Backgrounds [#permalink] New post 09 Jun 2009, 13:54
stopper5 wrote:
What do people in the finance write in their essays regarding leadership? This has been bothering me for a while. The industry in general, unlike consulting, does not provide for "leadership" opportunities in its truest definition - leading a group of people. Even some seniors in my firm don't have direct reports.

How do you answer this? My background is in private equity, and most of my work requires analysis - almost no "leading". I can definitely talk about how I took initiative, and how I try to get things done in the team even though I'm the most junior person in the team (in spite of having 5 years of investment experience) - but is this really leadership? Additionally, many people in the financial field have long working hours and hardly have many ECs.

Apart from ECs, how do applicants from the finance industry (ibanking/PE/asset management) show leadership in their essays? Please offer your thoughts/suggestions.

Thanks!


Leadership means different things to different people, and admissions committees especially have a lot of meanings of leadership in mind. So I think some of the work examples you gave can really be applicable. Leading teams, leading initiatives, leading indirectly by example: they're all great aspects of "leadership" that you can incorporate into your essays. I bet that fewer than 10-15% of non-executive MBA applicants have had formal direct reports. I certainly didn't.

Hell, I think showing examples of less typical types of leadership while being the most junior person in a group is more impressive than showing leadership that was appointed due to seniority and tenure.
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Re: Applicants with Finance Backgrounds [#permalink] New post 09 Jun 2009, 13:58
Oh, and one other thing that I think is incredibly important is to try to lay out how it is you define leadership. Clearly you might want to avoid defining leadership as formally being a manager of other workers, since you then clearly don't have leadership in your professional history. But think more esoterically in terms of what leadership really means, and, of course, tie that into the experiences you have had. I think it's always good to connect actual experience with theoretical beliefs when it comes to B school essays, whether the topic is leadership, teamwork, success/accomplishments, etc.
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Re: Applicants with Finance Backgrounds [#permalink] New post 10 Jun 2009, 13:29
rca215 wrote:
Oh, and one other thing that I think is incredibly important is to try to lay out how it is you define leadership. Clearly you might want to avoid defining leadership as formally being a manager of other workers, since you then clearly don't have leadership in your professional history. But think more esoterically in terms of what leadership really means, and, of course, tie that into the experiences you have had. I think it's always good to connect actual experience with theoretical beliefs when it comes to B school essays, whether the topic is leadership, teamwork, success/accomplishments, etc.


So i take it we have a degree of flexibility with regards to what defines leadership. does it make sense to base it on theoretical frameworks or is there truly carte blanche in defining what it truly is( as that could potentially be subjective)?
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Re: Applicants with Finance Backgrounds [#permalink] New post 10 Jun 2009, 14:27
well, in my opinion, given that schools (not all) are trending towards younger applicants, the expectation of formal leadership on an applicant's leadership may have diminished in an AdCom's eyes. However, I think the display of the potential of leadership is much more important. In framing leadership appropriately can potential be demonstrated. While you may not have had formal reports, can you think of situations where you took ownership of workstreams? Perhaps you are a subject matter expert in a certain field and people come to you directly for help on related initiatives?
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Re: Applicants with Finance Backgrounds [#permalink] New post 11 Jun 2009, 02:43
HBS2011 wrote:

So i take it we have a degree of flexibility with regards to what defines leadership. does it make sense to base it on theoretical frameworks or is there truly carte blanche in defining what it truly is( as that could potentially be subjective)?


I don't think it's necessary to start referring to leadership frameworks (Authentic Leadership, Level 5 Leadership, etc.). I would focus more on how *you* define good leadership - and how you fit that bill.

One other point on leadership, don't just look for examples at work: use the whole spectrum of your life and activities to find good examples of where you have demonstrated leadership.
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Re: Applicants with Finance Backgrounds [#permalink] New post 12 Jun 2009, 10:19
Jerz wrote:
HBS2011 wrote:

So i take it we have a degree of flexibility with regards to what defines leadership. does it make sense to base it on theoretical frameworks or is there truly carte blanche in defining what it truly is( as that could potentially be subjective)?


I don't think it's necessary to start referring to leadership frameworks (Authentic Leadership, Level 5 Leadership, etc.). I would focus more on how *you* define good leadership - and how you fit that bill.

One other point on leadership, don't just look for examples at work: use the whole spectrum of your life and activities to find good examples of where you have demonstrated leadership.


Good point. I just dont want to full out of the remit expected by adcom especially as its supposed to be relatively competitive this year.
Re: Applicants with Finance Backgrounds   [#permalink] 12 Jun 2009, 10:19
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