Positioning ideas for B School applications: Consulting profiles
- Written by UnivAdmitHelp
- Category: Admission Application
- Published on 05 May 2022
The usual and time-tested strategy for a management consultant is to position yourself as a problem-solver, cite a few experiences to validate that positioning and then build up for aggressive anchoring in a more demanding problem-solving role. However, this has been tried multiple times over - with at least half the consulting profiles sticking to this script and usually this does not lead to M7 admission outcomes.
There are alternative scripts that you could try, or add variants to this generic positioning which can make it more interesting and differentiated. I will discuss a few of those which have been used successfully by our applicants in the past.
Enhanced problem solving positioning: In this positioning, one could try to highlight specific aspects of the problem-solving process as manifested in the consulting experience. Typical focus areas could include aspects like attention to detail, breaking up a complex problem in smaller-bite-size pieces, synthesizing process, an amalgamation of subject-matter skills and generic problem-solving skills, learning from failures, etc. Again, remember, a good narrative would have ample details and corroborative, validated elements which would make the positioning come alive. As a corollary, stating an aspect of problem-solving alone would not suffice. Rather, this has to be built through specific experiences of yours. I can highlight an example -
“Our client’s air-conditioning units (buses) were not performing well! The young kids, parents and staff members at schools - the finest brand ambassadors and influencers were complaining daily and the brand image of X started getting sullied. The client tried a bunch of quick fixes but none seemed to be working. Additionally, the client was under pressure to deliver a quick solution because summers in the North are unusually bad and people were literally feeling the heat! The team was getting demotivated and the already nascent business in North was getting nipped in the bud. At that time, I recommended that all buses be recalled and the existing AC units be replaced with those of higher capacity. It was a capital outlay of an additional $1 Million (spread over 100 buses) - an unacceptable expense for a business that was only $3 Million in annual sales.”
Here, the focus is on highlighting ‘non-conventional’ problem-solving. The applicant goes on to explain that this recommendation also puts the variable component of the fees under risk. He goes on to highlight a new way of consultative problem solving - one that puts a significant onus on the consultant, and more than 50% remuneration that is tied to results achieved. This was a nuanced problem-solving positioning that got the applicant into 3 of the M7 schools including GSB, and Wharton.
Sector specificity: In general, when you choose a particular sector, you enhance the differentiating power of your narrative. Simply by choosing a sector, you claim to move from a generic problem-solving positioning to that of a sector specialist. Additionally, you start competing in two subsegments: consulting, and that specific sector that you have chosen. If your sector is relatively exotic, your chances of getting in get multiplied even more! Here is an example -
“ As I recently have started working in the emerging prop-tech space, I have come to realize that many concepts from different sectors and technologies previously implemented can readily be applied in the sector to unlock tremendous value. For instance, we are currently working with a peer-to-peer storage platform - X, to democratize storage spaces, similar to what Airbnb did to the leasing market. I am also in the midst of creating a singular source for transactional data on all commercial real estate deals to drive transparent decision-making. This data is intended to be used for predictive analytics-driven deal sourcing and portfolio acquisition strategies.”
This student was able to position her profile as an emerging realty-tech/ prop-tech professional along with a problem-solver in the consulting domain. The sector-specific positioning did not even seem like a problem-solving positioning and allowed her to eventually compete for prop-tech jobs at the time of her graduation from Wharton.
Consulting impact: Impact is an overused anchor in MBA applications. However, when combined with consultative positioning, it could be more powerful. For instance, a consultant from MBB firms talked about her stint at Oxfam International, for which she had to forgo half her salary. She still talked about problem solving, in the financial services space, but in the context of impact at the bottom of the pyramid. Her story quickly assumed more nuanced and impactful overtones and found ready acceptance at LBS, Insead and Fuqua. Here is an excerpt -
“ I think the background of a problem is very important in defining its solution space. For example, when I was working with a large financial inclusion company in Africa, I realized that even before the financial knowhow could come into play, it was the people and contextual factors that impacted the solution development. Beyond the core financial product, the actual problems were many - 1) the users of the product did not understand English, 2) they did not have enough training, 3) they were unaware of the product values, 4) users changed frequently, etc. For a successful implementation, these problems needed to be solved first. Eventually, we invested far more resources in building the capability of the firm in managing this transition over and beyond delivering a technical product. This included extensive training, on-ground support, an extended period for hand-holding and a comprehensive recruitment program which ensured that there was lower attrition and familiarity with the new technology right from induction. It was more like a change management program than a technical implementation. But the nub of the matter is that it was needed and it solved the problem!
This essay is clearly talking about problem-solving, but the impact dimension makes the narrative more attuned to the human qualities of the applicant. Further on, in other essays and recommendations, these qualities were highlighted again, thus validating her character traits in a very robust fashion.
In summary, given that close to a quarter of the class of top B-Schools still comes from consulting backgrounds, it is a sought out hunting ground for B Schools. However, it behooves on you, the applicant, to not get lost in the sea of sameness, but strive for uniqueness and specificity. Once you do that, the likelihood of you getting into a top B School increases manifold.
All the best!
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