Highlighting Your Leadership Experience in Your Application

By - Jun 7, 08:04 AM Comments [0]

Mike knew that an intern on his team was struggling with speaking up on client projects, so he mentored the individual throughout the summer and encouraged them to take on a key role on a final presentation. 

Amy worked part-time throughout college but still found ways to volunteer as a Big Sister, all while earning stellar grades all four years as an undergrad.

During his deployment as an army captain, Jack worked closely with civilians and diplomats to ensure that his troops had buy-in from the community while working to accomplish his assigned tasks.  

As a social worker, Maria visualized a better, more efficient way for the agency she worked for to perform new client intakes, which would allow the clients to obtain services faster, and she convinced her manager to give her proposed system a try.

What do these examples have in common?

Mike, Amy, Jack, and Maria all demonstrated several traits of successful leaders, including exceptional communication skills, the ability to earn trust through empathy and honesty, a willingness to pitch in to help one’s team complete a difficult task, transparency and accountability, creative thinking and salesmanship, and empathetic listening. Whether they were leading groups or individuals, they showed their target programs that they had the raw material to grow into mature leaders. 

Whether you are applying to business school, law school, medical school, grad school, or college, admissions committees are looking for candidates who inspire trust – people who can lead. These leadership qualities are closely connected to the personal character traits that colleges and grad programs value. 

Leadership takes many forms, and you probably already have meaningful leadership experiences that you could write about in your application essays. But how do you go about conveying these experiences effectively?

Breaking Leadership Down into Its Component Parts

It can be challenging to show leadership in a highly specific and meaningful way. Too often, applicants write about their leadership generically, making themselves sound similar to other candidates rather than distinguishing themselves. Generic writing is uninteresting, and dull writing can hurt your admissions chances. Furthermore, admissions committees are all about diversity, which by definition is what makes you unique. Writing about very particular experiences and qualities that are the ingredients of outstanding leadership will ensure that your essays won’t sound like those of anyone else; they will sound like you.

Keep these key leadership elements in mind to help you pinpoint your strongest, most distinct leadership qualities and experiences:

When you present evidence in your essay of interwoven attributes such as these, you will distinguish yourself from your fellow applicants. Admissions committees will see you as an individual with distinct experiences and skills – someone they just might want as a member of their class.

You Have More Leadership Experience Than You Think 

Many applicants worry that they lack leadership experience. If you work in a flat organization, your title might not reflect the extent of your actual influence. If you work on the bottom rung of a hierarchical organization or on a team at a nonhierarchical organization, it might be more difficult to find opportunities for leadership, but there are many ways you can flesh out your leadership accomplishments in your essays, resume, and recommendations.

And here’s the good news: you can still be a leader, even if nobody reports to you. You might also have leadership experience that is separate from your work experience. 

You lead when you inspire members of a team, club, or committee to take a course of action you have suggested. You lead when you propose a new policy to higher-ups, gather support for the policy, and convince your supervisors to accept your proposal. And yes, leadership often involves leading others, but this is not necessary for you to be able to show leadership.

Don’t think of leadership in narrow terms, such as having a title or overseeing other employees. Admissions committee members recognize the many flavors and nuances of leadership. In fact, they know that titles can be flawed or inadvertently misleading indicators of leadership, responsibility, and character. Whether you have a title or not, your goal in your application is to demonstrate that your leadership flows from caliber, not status. Caliber is based on trustworthiness, integrity, and a focus on group goals; it reflects the change and impact you’ve had. 

What Makes You a Leader?

You have the ideal opportunity now to begin presenting yourself in your applications as someone who has accomplished – and will accomplish – much as a leader. Within your sphere of influence, you have demonstrated vision, boldness, commitment to a cause, excellent communication, empathy, and other elements of leadership. 

Sift through your inventory of significant achievements to select the strongest examples you can write about. As you do, ask yourself the following questions, which can help you frame answers of substance:

  • What was the obstacle, challenge, or problem you solved or overcame? A tight client deadline? A complex merger transaction? A new product launch amid fierce competition?
  • What did you do to rise to the challenge you are writing about? Motivate your team to work overtime? Sell senior management on the deal’s long-term upside? Identify a marketing profile for your product or service that no competitor could match?
  • What facts demonstrate that your intervention created a positive outcome? Did your team submit the project deliverables three days early, despite being 20% understaffed? Did your client approve the $500 million merger, the largest ever in its industry? Did your new product reach 20% market share after only one year?

When you discuss your leadership, look for opportunities to incorporate strong verbs that illustrate your strengths, such as the following: 

Writing about your leadership skills and experiences takes time and thoughtfulness. It requires introspection about the qualities you possess, the challenges you have faced, and the people you have inspired and motivated. If you need help preparing and writing about leadership for your application essays, schedule a free consultation with an Accepted admissions expert.

Kara Keenan Sweeney has more than 15 years of experience in MBA admissions, having worked for some of the world’s top business school programs, including Columbia Business School, INSEAD, and The Lauder Institute’s joint degree MA/MBA program with The Wharton School and the MA/JD program with Penn Law at the University of Pennsylvania. Kara has guided, coached, and counseled thousands of MBA and EMBA applicants, reviewed innumerable applications, sat on admissions committees, and interviewed countless applicants, including while running Wharton’s Team Based Discussions both virtually and in person. Want Kara to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch! 

Related Resources:

The post Highlighting Your Leadership Experience in Your Application appeared first on Accepted Admissions Blog.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

[0] Comments to this Article