MBA Admissions: Be a Human Being, Not a Robot

November 2, 2012
Jonathan Wylie

I want to make an appeal to all the business school applicants out there to be a real person, not a robot!  A few weeks ago I was at a networking event here in Berkeley.  I was enjoying connecting with friends and potential business partners.  Then, up walks this very awkward MBA student.  He was clearly very smart and very nice.  However, the conversation went something like this:

Him: I think we met before. [Awkward pause while he stands too close to me for the culture]

Me: Yeah you look familiar, where was that?

Him: So what do you do? [Clearly checking off the box of ‘how to network’ and not listening to my question]

Me: I am working on a music tech startup that…What are you up to? [Planning my exit already – this is totally weird]

Him: So how are you liking the program? [Still no connection to what I just said]

[We have a 3 minute, totally boring and disconnected conversation about nothing while I drink my beer as fast as is socially acceptable so that I have an excuse to get out of there…]

This kind of thing goes on far to often.  Smart people go around checking off the boxes of “how to network effectively” at these events while totally alienating their audiences and leaving a wake of boredom and discomfort behind them.  If networking is not something you’re comfortable with, by all means, read up on how to do it well.  Read all you want. But when you walk into the room, toss the book out the window! Even though the room is full of consultants, bankers, engineers, and entrepreneurs, we are all, first and foremost, human beings.  Just act like a human being.  Talk to other people like they are human beings.  Ask them about their lives and how their day went? Listen to what they say…empathize.  Make a personal connection with people.  Talk to them about their stories and share yours.

This stuff is extremely important in the bschool admissions process.  We’ve spoken on this blog about the importance of crafting a great story for your business school application essays.  In order to do this, you need to understand the various aspects of your experience at a very deep level so that you will be able to find the common thread that connects your past experiences to your future goals in a compelling way.  However, while the essays are extremely important, their real function in most cases is to get you through the door for an interview.  If you write a great story and then act boring and awkward at the interview, the whole show is going nowhere.  You need to live and breathe your story, weave it into your life in a meaningful way, and learn how to share it with others when you meet them.

I’m not advocating that you bombard people with a canned bschool story.  That happens all the time and it’s very awkward.  What I am suggesting is that you internalize your story so that everything from your handshake and eye contact to the way you answer questions is congruent with the story you’re writing in your life.  Human beings are storytellers. That’s how we create meaning.  A great story draws us in and makes us care.  That’s what you need to do.   And to get there…focus on being a human being, not a robot!

Jonathan Wylie None entered

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