Your professional experience probably isn’t all that different from that of other Master’s in Finance (MFin or MSF) applicants. And you worry it won’t stand out. Maybe you feel it’s not interesting or dramatic enough to captivate adcom readers.
Only you have your experience; in a sense, you are your experience. So, it is inherently unique. That is why your experience should form the core of your essays.
And all of your MFin essays – your personal statements, statements of purpose, and goals essays – should include your actual experience. The more your real experience forms the muscle, bone, and sinew of the essay, the more individual, distinctive, and interesting the essay will be.
Which experiences should you present in your Masters of Finance application?
Different people will present different types of experiences. Follow these tips to choose the best experiences for you:
- Be strategic about the selection of experience to bring into your essays.
I often suggest to my clients that, when possible, make the essays, and the experiences portrayed in them, do “double duty,” e.g., a given story might underscore your ability to handle a quantitatively demanding role and simultaneously spotlight your teamwork skills or deftness in managing up or willingness to mentor a less quant-savvy colleague.
- For early-career applicants, delve into your internships.
Select experiences/stories that show you effectively navigating the organizational arena and interacting effectively; perhaps displaying leadership (formal or informal). In addition, mine senior thesis research projects, club participation roles, volunteer and extracurricular experiences, etc. for experiences that are both relevant and distinctive.
- For experienced applicants, bring in professional experiences showing you adeptly handling current challenges.
And show that you understand the realities in the finance world and have integrated that knowledge and experience into your toolkit, perspective, and/or goals.
- Provide anecdotal evidence of leadership.
This applies to experienced and inexperienced applicants. Demonstrate your leadership skills, even though it’s not usually explicitly required by MFin adcoms.
- Use stories that contain relatively recent experiences.
Recent experiences reflect the current person who is applying (some people are fast out of the starting gate but don’t have staying power), and they give the adcom a sense of the talents and attributes you will bring to the table.
- Discuss an older experience only in certain situations.
If you do decide to share an older experience, (a) make sure that you ALSO have a recent one or two, and (b) link it to the present somehow, e.g., show you’re applying a lesson learned, or a quality gained, or insight developed.
- Use experiences that show you conversant and engaged in a given area within finance.
MFin applicants come from and are interested in a range of industry segments – and this is fine, so highlight your specific area of expertise!
How should you present experience in your Masters of Finance application?
Imagine sitting at a café (or a bar 😉) and recounting to a colleague or friend an interesting recent experience you had. You don’t cite every detail but rather convey just the details relevant to that particular conversation, and you supplement the facts of the story with brief reflections or elaborations of what you were thinking or feeling at a pivotal moment. You slow down when approaching the turning point. You wrap up with a brief comment or look back (“I learned a lot, but I really hope I never have to go through that again!”).
Well, that is the approach you’ll take in presenting experiences in your essays – simply narrate the story as you’d tell it to someone. Adapted, of course, for length and relevance.
Managing length and relevance in your storytelling
The story of an experience may comprise a whole essay, a paragraph within an essay, or a sentence or two within a paragraph. To incorporate experiences within a goals essay, which I encourage you to do, most likely it will be the last situation. And yes, you can tell a story in one sentence: “After weeks of preparation, a cancelled flight caused our team to miss the presentation in Kuala Lumpur, but to my dejected teammates’ surprise I found telecon resources at the airport and we did the presentation from there!”
The ABCs of narrating a story:
• Attract the reader’s interest by setting the scene, which includes where, when, what, why, and who (or at least most of these elements).
• Be a storyteller: tell the story as it occurred.
• Conclude the story by relating results, changes, and outcomes that stemmed from the story.
Three additional tips to make your experience as interesting, exciting, meaningful, vivid, and memorable as possible:
- Be specific. I’ve seen many sentences like, “On the highest profile project involving the most complex systems at the global client organization, we achieved ground-breaking outcomes that satisfied all stakeholders.” Well…
• What project specifically, and what makes it “high profile”?
• What complex systems exactly?
• What global client organization? (if you can’t name the client, at least indicate industry)
• What specific outcomes? What was the actual impact?
• What stakeholders exactly – who are they?
- Clarify what’s at stake. The higher the stakes, the better.
- In a story, something changes; the starting point is different than the ending point. Frequently the main character has evolved (sometimes you and sometimes your team, department, and/or organization). Make sure to spotlight this development.
Learn more about applying to Masters in Finance programs by reading these additional MFin-focused posts.
Looking for one-on-one advising to help you through the MFin application process? Check out our Master’s in Finance Admissions Services for more information on how we can help you get ACCEPTED.
Cindy Tokumitsu has advised hundreds of successful applicants, helping them gain acceptance to top MFin, MBA, EMBA and other graduate management programs in her 15+ years with Accepted. She would love to help you too. Want Cindy to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!