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Lots of talk lately about the CBS application--as many applicants are starting to get that work submitted. So here is a quick reference for all the folks out there wondering about the role of the resume versus the essays.
And as usual, we will try to keep things niiiice and simple. We always talk about the difference between SHOWING and TELLING. Well here is how it works: the resume is where you should TELL us what youve done. The essays are where you will SHOW us HOW youve done it all.
Lets dig a bit deeper. The resume will read this way: achieved 70% savings in team, spearheaded cost savings initiative, led $30 million development project, etc. But in the essays, you will need to tell us HOW you've achieved this success. What did you actually DO to achieve that 70% savings? HOW did you spearhead the initiative? What specific steps did you take?
In the essays, you need to SHOW us ALL of these things. Simply telling us will suffice for the resume. After all, you dont have a ton of space.
A simple tip for all our readers. : ) Good luck to everyone, as always.
We have revamped...everything. Our blog is up and running daily, as is our Twitter--we have (yet again) changed the game juuust a bit. : ) So have a look--we are very proud indeed. The website indicates how we approach this business--juuust a bit differently than everyone else out there. MBA consulting is NOT a commodity--dont let your consultant treat it like one.
Now, on to new topics.
Today I want to return to REAL ESTATE. As many of our followers know, I own and manage real estate here in Chicago, and after graduating from HBS I worked at Trammell Crow for years. As a result, we work with a large number of RE professionals each year. So today we will talk about real estate MANAGEMENT. And for those not in the RE biz, you may not find this post to be very interesting...
This is not the sexiest area in the biz, as you know. But there IS a way to skin it for adcoms, and to get a ton of credit. The fear when it comes to management is that youre a paper pusher--simply paying bills, dealing w accountants, etc. But we need to project a very DIFFERENT image. Our job is to describe ourselves as ASSET managers, not property managers. If you are in the management business, you are a true entrepreneur--you run your own business! (That business, of course, being the property). Pitch yourself as a business owner, and you should be juuust fine.
THAT is the way (and perhaps the only way) to skin an application that is based largely on property management...
Today we humbly offer up two shameless plugs. The first, is again to check out our new website. It is pretty frickin cool--and we would hope, the best of breed. We hope you agree.
Secondly, we would like to explain (even if only briefly) what we believe makes our company so unique in the MBA consultant space. We see the world VERY differently than the others out there. Certainly, there are a few consultants on GMATclub and beyond who offer 5+ years of experience, actual MBAs editing the work, and free consultations. To sign up with a company that doesnt offer each of these things as a bare minimum would be very risky indeed.
More importantly than all that, we believe that it takes MORE than an MBA's perspective. I graduated from HBS and I work personally on all the apps that my company sees--but that MBA experience alone (even from HBS) isnt enough to make yourself stand out. It takes DRAMA--it takes a sense for what excites people, and how to tell stories. That is where my co-founder Raj comes in; his background is in film, Hollywood, etc.. There is more to this game than a simple MBA, or experience alone. Crafting killer apps is actually an art form.
Aaaaanyway, forgive my shameless plug. But for better or for worse, we are PASSIONATE about this stuff. Anyway. Last plug for a while, I promise. : )
Today we would like to talk about a situation that came up while talking yesterday with a client.
Her question was perfectly reasonable: does the adcom REALLY expect us to stay with the career goals we list on our application? Dont they realize that most people come to bschool to reevaluate their career goals? Will they really give me a hard time if they dont think that my career goals make perfect sense? After all, doesnt everyone know that this is just a guess? Just a projection?
The answer is...interesting. Of course they know that you arent 100% sure of your career goals. Of course they know what its like when you get to school, and that everyone will be submitting for the same jobs, and trying to experience new things.
But here is why it is SO important to convey clear career goals gang: adcoms are judging your JUDGMENT. Schools wanna know if you are SMART about your future. They wanna know how you think. They want to know if you are the type of person who plans things carefully, or who does not. They wanna know if you are the type of candidate who develops clear, realistic career goals? Or if you are a dreamer. Of course they dont expect you to stay with the career goals that youve laid out--but they WILL judge you based on how smart, realistic, and clear your goals are. After all, that is a powerful window into how you think.
So. An interesting way of looking at things, wouldnt you say? Hope this helps gang. And as always, feel free to reach out with any specific questions along the way.
Today I want to talk about the ENTERTAINMENT business. My co-founder Raj is a screenwriter, and for that reason we work with a number of folks in the field of movies, music, writing, etc. Its a bit of a sub-specialty.
There are three things that prospective MBAs should know before pursuing entertainment-related fields, post-MBA:
1) You will take a pay cut. When I worked in the record business during the summer between my first and second years at HBS, I learned a TON about the business. The music business was failing at the time--and I did receive an offer to join the firm (Interscope Records) upon graduation. For $60,000. : ( And while some folks may have the ability to live on that kind of money (especially after HBS loans) I certainly did not. So you pay a premium to enter the biz. 2) You will not be "a creative." It was very frustrating for me to spend meetings at tables with real creative folks. Iovine, Geffen--all these cool cats who make great, creative decisions. But as a business guy, I was NOT allowed to weigh in on creative decisions. There was a clear line in the sand--you were either creative, or you were business. And with the letters HBS tattooed across my butt cheeks, I was definitely NOT in the creative camp. I found that to be VERY frustrating. After all, I am very creative! : ) 3) An MBA will help with connections...but thats about it. You will get connections out of the degree, and you will have doors opened to you (just as I did). But unless you go to a school that focuses on entertainment, there will likely be NO classes for you to take. There will be VERY few contacts in your class who are pursuing the stuff. So why bother? Because you will have new access to Presidents of most major studios--these dudes DO have MBAs. And to be honest, I didnt see that coming.
So if you are passionate about entertainment, we can help. An MBA can be a GREAT tool for you. But dont kid yourself--you will make sacrifices to enter the business.
Okay gang, today Id like to talk about some good old fashioned WRITING skills. Devices, if you will.
The most important pieces of your essays happen at the very beginning, and the very end. Your intros and your conclusions. So, lets talk about each one, shall we?
Anyone who has worked with us (even for a free consultation) knows that we love intros that POP off the page. If ever there is a time to SKIP those gnarly four-line sentences, and the 50+ word thoughts, your intro is that time.
Stick with something short, exciting, unusual, intriguing--you get the idea. Your poor reader has been sitting in the same chair for the past seven hours, and read 25 apps that day. And now another person is starting his essay with that same god-forsaken sentence, "My short term goal is to join a management consulting company, such as Bain or McKinsey..." Give your reader a break folks! Start with something fun. My personal favorite so far, has been "When I was in second grade, I was the president of the dominoes club." Ha! And this cat goes on to explain why his real estate development company will be so successful...
Conclusions though are a bit tougher. We have two main goals in our conclusions--one, to sum up what we have accomplished. But in 400 words or so, we wont have a TON of space to do so--we will have to sum up briskly.
Now the second (and harder) part of a conclusion--the best conclusions anyway--is the part when you offer up one FINAL, THOUGHTFUL, ADDITIONAL idea. So for example, you might conclude "Clearly CBS is the place for me, given my background in finance, PE, and New York City yadda yadda. But perhaps the MOST important reason for me to go, is that YYYYYY." Somehow, this FINAL PARTING shot can add something brand new to your essay, something that makes your reader think, "Well gosh, that is neat. Unusual. I like it."
Leave a taste in the reader's mouth beyond simply a repetition of what youve already said. After all, essay real estate is very precious. Dont simply repeat...anything. This time, in your conclusion, bring something NEW to the table.
So. Intros need to POP off the page. And conclusions must tie things together--and ideally, even deliver one additional idea. Drop us a line if youd like, and we can explain this in more detail...
Weve seen it a bazillion times before. A client submits some essays for us to review--and we mark it up. I mean, REALLY mark it up. Then, the following conversation ensues:
Us: "Client, SHOW me, dont just TELL me. Be more specific. PROVE that youve done what youre talking about, dont force us to simply take your word for it."
Client: "But Jon, if I provide all of the specifics and details that youre asking for, I will be way over my word limit! How can I possibly provide all the detail youre driving for? After all, I have six examples above that I allude to--I cant possibly "SHOW YOU" all six and still hit my word limits! Can I?"
And the answer, of course, is NO. You cant--we are asking for you to SHOW us everything not because we actually wanna know everything. Nope. The point is that we cant say ANYTHING that we dont back up. If you tell me that you "won an award," we will always ask you why. How. How many other people won the award. If you dont have space to explain these things, well, then dont even mention the award.
Make sense? Just some tough love, PE-style. SHOW me, dont just tell me. Better to provide one example well, than three poorly.
Jon Frank Tough Love Specialist, PE _________________
As many of you know, we like to keep things niiiice and simple at Precision Essay. So today, I will provide an outline that everyone can use.
The following is a simple template for skinning the "Short Term/Long Term Goals/Why MBA" Essay.
1. Introduction. Something nice and catchy, that JUMPS off the page. "When I was eleven, I was president of the Dominoes Club." Then get your long-term career vision out EARLY. That way, everything that follows is framed nicely. 2. Walk us through your resume. Not a "life story" per se, but tie the thing to your life goal. You want to do this life goal, and therefore, you embarked on this specific journey. That life goal will inform EACH of the decisions in this second piece. 3. But as you connect numbers 1 and 2 above, there are missing pieces. Blind spots. You dont yet know how to do AAA or BBB. And to achieve your long term goal, you NEED to learn that stuff. Thats where the MBA comes in. If I were to stay at my current job, I wouldnt learn these skills. 4. Not just any MBA, YOUR MBA. Do the research, and prove that no average MBA will do the trick--there is only ONE that will work, and its the one youre applying to. 5. Directly after school, you will take a job as a NAME THE TITLE, at a company such as NAME COMPANY 1, COMPANY 2, or COMPANY 3. Ideally, they recruit at the school youre applying to. Explain why this makes sense, and how it will prep you for your long term goal. 6. Conclude.
See that? Five years and 5,000 applications of experience, captured for your viewing pleasure. Who needs to hire a consultant, when we make it so easy...for free! : )
Let's all give two quick woot-woots for Europe. Who doesn’t enjoy chasing a lovely, buttery snail or two with a swig of Chateauneuf du Pape? Spending winter vacations swishing down the Alps, the summers coasting around the rock of Gibraltar after a quick visit to the Alhambra?
Say what you will, but Europe gave the world Da Vinci, Pizza, Radiohead, and Sophie Marceau. [Please respect this.] These days, with the struggling American economy and US banks losing favor, Europe is looking more attractive every day.
But what about European MBAs? Is this the right choice for you? Well, that all depends. On you and your goals. First thing to consider is this: Where do you want to work afterwards?
Although the job market in Europe is quite open, you are more likely to remain in the country where your school is located, than if you were an international MBA student here in the US. So, fold that into your planning… a possible nesting ground, on account of the rich job prospects that will await you.
Quick rundown of some of the more famous and successful European schools:
In Spain, there is the Spanish “Trinity” which consists of IESE, Instituto Empresa (IE), and ESADE. In Italy, you have the lone-gunner SDA Bocconi. Switzerland gives us the estimable IMD, located in Neuchatel. An excellent choice with older candidates with some executive experience. [If you do end up in Switzerland, pay a visit to Lucerne. Haven't been to a more beautiful city, yet.]
France offers the renowned INSEAD and HEC programs, as well as several other “grande ecoles” that are only known to those who speak French.
In Her Majesty’s Dominion, LBS and Said Oxford are the two heavy hitters, and last up is Rotterdam’s (that’s Holland for those of you who are clunky in geography) Erasmus.
Surprisingly, Germany, despite producing several world-class industrialists, has no (not yet anyway) world-class MBA program, but isn't that just a matter of time?
“Fair enough gents, but I don’t care what country I live in!” you tell us, “I just want to go to a respected MBA program, learn business skills, and break the glass ceiling that is holding me back.” It's all well and good, and there are many folks like you. But don’t make a point of it to a European school, that you don’t care which country you end up in. So what are the main differences between American and European business programs?
1. Internationalism – Although many American schools are made up of lots of International students, they are still faaaaaaar less “international” then any European program. To give you an example, Wharton, one of the US’s most international business programs, has about 40% international students, whereas HEC has more than 80% international folk!
2. Time – European programs are shorter. For the most part (with the notable exception of LBS) European programs run from 12-18 months... at least a half-year shorter than US programs. So this might be ideal for those of you in situations where you have to get back to work immediately, or have other circumstances feeding your timing needs.
3. Money – As everyone knows, time is money, and the less time you spend in the school, the less you pay. _________________
As everyone can tell from our last posting, that was my co-founder Raj checking in. While I tend to be the one on these boards, Raj is always behind the scenes and doing as much (if not more!) work daily on Precision Essay. It is our partnership that makes the thing work.
Which leads me to a quick point here, worth making. As you choose to work with a consultant, do yourself a favor and as one very critical question gang: Who will actually be editing my work?
Too often, clients are duped by companies who THINK they know who will be doing the actual work! But unless you ask, you will NEVER know. Be sure that the guy you're hitching your wagon with offer the right blend of two things:
1) Experience. If a consultant doesnt have hundreds (if not thousands) of apps under his belt, you are taking a big risk. Every year, even WE learn more. Simply getting accepted does not make you an application expert.
2) The personal touch. If a consultant has a team of people working for him--and NO interaction with you along the way, be wary. Reach out to the company's founders--if they are accessible, and if THEY will do a free consultation for you, you are half way there.
If I were to describe the single most common mistake we see in applications, I could do it in one word: JARGON.
Nobody actually knows what "designing CRM software" means, or what you actually DO all day if you "structure and source tax-exempt debt financing transactions for sovereign wealth funds."
Remember folks, your readers are NOT business people. They are HR people. At Precision Essay, we remind people of this every day. Here are some tricks that we have offered up through the years:
1) Pretend that youre talking to a waitress/waiter at a bar. But an attractive one. One that youre trying to impress. If he/she doesnt understand what youre talking about, youre doing it wrong.
2) Pretend that youre talking to your bright 14 year old sister. Shes no slouch, but shes definitely never worked a day in her life. If she cant follow what youre describing, youre doing it wrong.
3) Pretend that youre talking to your dentist. Once hes taken his hands out of your mouth, of course. Smart dude, but not a business guy. If he cant follow what youre doing, then youre doing it wrong.
Do not fall into this same trap that everyone does, my friends. Keep things so simple that any of these three groups above can follow you. I am not exaggerating--this is a solid smell test...for everyone.
Okay gang, we have spent a ton of time talking about specifics. How to make LORs SING, how to write compelling Career Goals essays, etc.
Today we wanted to take one giant step BACKWARDS, and talk about something that many applicants miss--our first time clients especially.
Schools Judge Your Judgment.
Schools often look for the abstract concept of “good judgment.” For example, if someone blows the word limits to an essay out of the water, and writes 200 words too many, or skips a section, or calls the adcom every day after submitting… they will think that that cat has bad judgment. This will not reflect well on an application. Adcoms are judging not only what you’ve written, but also the choices you make along the way. And frankly, that is smart business.
After all, what do we think about the guy who submits a resume littered with typos? At that point, who cares what the resume actually says…
So what does this mean for us? Only that we need to be careful--no typos, no risks (that an expert hasnt approved) etc.
No matter what you write, if you approach the process incorrectly, all of your work may be in vain...
But inspired in a bad way, by some clients this week who arent doing a good job of PROVING themselves.
One client writes that she wants to run a PE fund in the long-term, that focuses on minority owned business. I say, of course that sounds juuuust fine to me. But do such funds exist? Name one. Name three--prove to me that this isnt just a pipe dream. When we lay out our career goals, we need to prove that we're not just sitting alone in a room, saying (to ourselves) "Gosh wouldnt it be cool if I could do THIS..."
Another client writes that he wants to start a social enterprise fund, focusing on investing in India. In fact, may clients seem to be writing that this year. To which I say, "Well sure, we know that such funds exist. But...what experience do YOU have in that area? How are you going to prove that you are credible in this field? What proof do I have, given your IT background, that you are good at the stuff? That you can get a job doing the stuff? Or that even if you DO get a job, that youll even LIKE it?
You get the idea, gang. PROVE yourselves. Make your stories more than believable--make them EASY to believe. Make your achieving your goals seem OBVIOUS to the adcoms.
Ah, another day, another batch of new "consultants" posting online. Beware my friends, it takes more than a freshly-minted MBA to become an expert at getting OTHER people into school...
Now, today we are going to return to a topic near and dear to my heart, REAL ESTATE. As many of our die hard readers know, before going off into my own entrepreneurial ventures, I worked in the real estate business--at ING before attending HBS, and at Trammell Crow after HBS.
As a result, working with RE candidates has become a specialty of ours.
This morning I was chatting with a client who wanted to get into DEVELOPMENT, out of finance. And of course, many folks do. For the guy who enjoys staying late at City Hall meetings, meeting with community groups, and getting the sh*t beat out of him by newspapers, development is the way to go. And Ive always enjoyed it.
But the question is, can that "finance" guy move into "development?" That is, is there a smooth way for that dude to argue that his experience is development-related, and therefore he wouldnt be a dreaded "career change candidate?" The answer is a resounding YES. Yes he can--finance becomes his HOOK. Even if he were a construction guy, THAT would become his hook. Let me explain.
Any real estate developer would LOVE to understand the finance piece. He needs to. Same with construction, legal...whatever. Take advantage of that aspect of your background. Dont shy away from it (as this client wanted to) or lie about your aspirations ("should I just say I wanna stay in finance?") Take advantage of your unique background, and play it up--it will only make you a better developer. Adcoms get it--I made the same case, back in 2003...
The bit on the entertainment business is stuff I was always curious about, because my best friend comes from that world and he's a behind-the-scenes agent sort of guy. I may convince him to go to the MBA-way
What do the following two questions have in common: 1) What matters most to you and why? 2) Describe your international experiences, and how they will impact your MBA classmates.
These two questions seem quite different, dont they? After all, only one school asks #1, and only a few ask #2. So how (on earth!) are the two are similar?
I'll tell ya: whether the schools ask the question or not, you NEED to address BOTH in your apps. Let me explain.
Stanford asks What Matters Most to you--but even if they hadnt asked the question (as most schools wont) you need to answer it. What makes you tick? What do you LOVE? Why? What drives you? What do you hate? Get PERSONAL, and let us in juuust a bit, into your hopes and dreams. So Stanford does us all a favor by asking the question point blank--but your answer to that question actually needs to be baked into your essays for ALL schools.
The same is true for the International question as well. What international experience do you have? Where? How has it affected you? How will it make you a better candidate? Will you bring this experience to bear in your class comments? Will you share your insights? What ARE your insights?
The key here is that BOTH these critical questions need to be answered in the apps...whether schools ask the questions explicitly or not. Too many people dont get into any of it--and that is a big mistake.
Good luck to all--and as always, feel free to reach out.
Friends, we have had a number of requests to discuss CBS' curious request to post a picture of yourself. How should you choose such a picture?
The answer (and I hope this isnt disappointing) is that you should select a shot that captures who you are. So if you are describing yourself as a button down banker, doing deals, taking over the world (and CBS loves dudes like that) then your picture should reflect that. Perhaps a bit more formal, perhaps a bit more serious, reflecting the picture (and strengths, really) that you have written about.
Now on the other hand, if you are painting a more untraditional picture, you should be able to post a picture that reflects THOSE traits--more informal, NOT wearing a suit (especially given the fact that you wouldnt wear one after your MBA anyway). Pick a picture that reflects the brand that youve developed. A picture that is true to yourself, and your application.
Avoid extreme formality (a professional shot), and avoid extreme informality (drinking beers with your buddies in Phuket. Beyond that, where you fall on the spectrum should simply reflect the app youve crafted...
Hope this helps gang, and good luck! _________________
We have been asked a very good question, and I want to share it with everyone. "Do we need to focus on international WORK experience in our apps, or is it good enough to simply discuss our own INTERNATIONAL experience." Our personal experience being raised abroad, for example.
And the answer (as usual) is simple: both can work very nicely.
International work experience of course is the most relevant, because you can make it niiiice and easy for schools to picture your future. If youve already worked as a consultant in SE Asia, then your long-term goal to do the same thing is a breeze. Schools will buy it--after all, youve done it already.
But personal international experience can also be solid gold. After all, who will be the most comfortable in NEW international situations? Well, the kid who's been brought up in those circumstances throughout his life. Personal experiences that are international can be very powerful indeed--especially in proving to the adcom that you have the gene--you have what it takes to succeed internationally. Even if you havent done it yet in a professional setting--the chances are, you will when the time comes.
Both types of experience are good my friend--if youve got em, you should flaunt em BOTH.
Okay gang, lets turn our sights over to the issue of LOCATION.
Too many clients seem reluctant to make the school's location PERSONAL.
One client works at a hospital in NYC, and she is looking to go into hospital management after school. And she's applying to schools in New York--so lets make it personal gang! "I want to stay in New York City, because this is where my contacts are. Also, after graduating from Stern I hope to stay in NYC--perhaps even working for NYU, since they have the biggest budget of all hospitals here in NYC."
You get the idea--this is RELEVANT. NYC makes sense for this client--lets come right out and SAY it.
Another example--"And finally, my family is located in Singapore. And while I have spent the past four years living and working in Europe, it would be great to finally be reunited with my parents and sister, whom I havent truly seen in quite some time. This is yet another reason why INSEAD is the perfect and only true match for me..."
You get the idea gang--dont shy away from this stuff--it is solid GOLD. It PROVES to schools that you really wanna go there. And that is valuable indeed.