Calling all women considering an MBA: The New York Times’ “Girl Power at School, but Not at the Office” (August 30, 2008) was the outline for the topics in your application! In the article, author Hannah Seligson highlights some of the key attributes that women business leaders must demonstrate – and often have more difficulty doing so than their male counterparts: taking risks, accepting negative feedback, seeking greater responsibilities (and pay), marketing themselves and their accomplishments, and networking.
The women applicants that I worked with last year who were accepted to the top programs (for example, Wharton, MIT, Columbia, and UCLA) all demonstrated their abilities in these critical business skills. Here are just some small snippets of their essays that revealed these attributes particularly well*:
I was ranked among the top performers in my firm and then sought and earned the responsibility to lead the most prestigious projects for the most complex companies, leading teams up to five times the size of those of my peers.
In the ensuing months, I positioned the company into new business lines by building extensive partnerships and negotiating with Asian suppliers while devising market entry strategies for Eastern Europe.
I approached my boss for permission to pursue a solution for these obstacles. He said he appreciated my intentions but felt it couldn’t be done. I was enthusiastic to prove that, in fact, it could be done, and I succeeded in convincing him that I was the person to try.
While even women can come across as domineering or insufficient team players — and they too must take care to avoid this image — women’s greater difficulty is demonstrating that they manage their careers and take risks. Make a list of all of the risks you have taken in your career and make sure that the ones that paid off are discussed in your essays.
* Essay excerpts have been modified to respect the privacy and proprietary information of the applicants.
Senior Editor Jennifer Bloom has been helping women and men apply to the top MBA programs for 10 years.