(Photo courtesy: Unsplash)

Most business school aspirants’ focus, when working on their applications, is on their GMAT scores, academics and professional progression. But if this is the strategy most applicants adopt, then how can you differentiate your application? How do you stand out from the crowd?

Increasingly, it has become an accepted fact that companies are no longer responsible for your career development. In fact, studies have shown that average life expectancy of companies, in general, have drastically come down. In this period of uncertainty, the only thing certain is that you and you alone are responsible for your career growth.

That brings us to our next question for you –have you taken charge of your career development?

Many of us would associate career growth with promotions, leading teams and people management. But as we had stated in one of our previous posts, with organizations adopting flatter reporting structures, these traditional indicators of successful career progression no longer hold good.

So, what can you do to strengthen your profile?

You should demonstrate how you’ve taken charge of your career, navigating choppy organizational waters to build credibility in your chosen area of expertise. The answer therefore is deeply linked to developing your personal brand.

Building an authentic self

The first step to developing a personal brand is to recognize your authentic self.

Misconceptions abound about the characteristics one must possess to be perceived well by peers or superiors. If you are someone who thinks well in solitude, who takes time to analyse a problem before coming up with or accepting a solution, then embrace those qualities. If being analytical or needing peaceful environ to think feels natural to you, then that’s what you should do. Pretending to be a gregarious chap or a quick thinker at all times is only going to stress you out eventually. Simply because it’s not your authentic self. By no means, are we advocating that you must discard your social self — we still need others to succeed, irrespective of whether we are in the corporate world or solopreneurs – but it’s crucial that you are self-aware about what comes naturally to you and what doesn’t.

Authenticity involves not just who you are as a person but also what you do.

Find your niche. Identify what you are passionate about – it could be at work or even outside it. Aspirants that we’ve worked with included a rock band manager, lead volunteer teaching young kids at a non-profit, painter who held exhibitions and more. They managed their professional lives while pursuing causes close to their hearts.

 Share your thoughts about your work

If you are an expert in a certain technology or enjoy volunteering, find ways to share your experience with others. For instance, we are passionate about technology and one of the things we work hard towards is writing on emerging technology trends and their impact on businesses. We ensure our writings are published on reputed platforms.  Blogging and getting your content published are therefore, solid ways to amplify your brand as you share your thoughts and expertise with the larger world.

Additionally, focus on building your social media profiles. Let’s say you want to establish yourself as an authority on “Customer Relationship Management solutions”. Then start sharing relevant content with others on your social networks and yes, give credit to those whose content you’d be sharing. You’ll also find more like-minded individuals who’ll share quality content and disseminate your shared content, further amplifying your brand in the process.

Build networks

Most MBA aspirants talk about building networks with peers and alumni body as one of the principle reasons for joining business schools. But how many aspirants can boast about having a strong network in their chosen field even before they have applied to a business school? Imagine you’ve built a network of subject matter experts in the field of digital marketing, your chosen area of expertise. Your credibility is boosted if you could talk about how you plan to tap into your network to invite experts to give speeches or persuade them to hire from the business school. There is no way Adcoms will not see the value you have to offer even before you have joined the school.

It requires effort to get started on one’s personal branding journey and even more effort to sustain it in the long term. For that very reason, personal branding still remains a largely untapped space. But the rewards namely, opportunities, learning, leadership far outweigh the hard work put into building their personal brands.

Deepthi Rajan