A “profile” represents the quality of our endeavours, the diversity of our interests and is a great indicator of various skills like leadership and persistence. The approach towards building a profile differs with the purpose for which it is being built. This post summarises my learnings derived from the process of building a profile to get into one of the top business schools in the country and land a consulting job. The fact that I made it to ISB and landed a job at PwC Advisory should add a little bit of credibility to my claims.
- Never pursue anything for adding a point on the resume – This should be the biggest takeaway from this post. I have seen friends and batchmates forcing themselves into pursuing activities in which they were not even remotely interested just to mention it on their resume. The important point to understand is that participation doesn’t count, excellence does. You can only excel if you involve yourself in activities that you enjoy.
- A good GPA/percentage is the only constant – Irrespective of the pursuit, a good academic record is always a positive thing to have. If you have the potential, interest and the drive, then aim to be a rank holder (it adds brownie points to the profile). In all other cases, make sure you’re in the top quartile of your batch. Why is this important? Because, as students pursuing any stream of study, our primary duty is academics. Poor academics are a reflection of you not being honest with your duties.
- The process of profile building should start with a thorough understanding of the ultimate goal – The profile should be in sync with where you intend to apply.
- For instance, someone aiming to get into top MS programs in the USA should focus their energies on publishing research papers, doing innovative projects, securing research internships (preferably international) at top institutes and building a good portfolio of their work (GitHub).
- Likeways, prospective MBA candidates should consider gaining business experience through pursuing internships at top companies, assuming positions of responsibilities for demonstrating leadership experience and excelling at a couple of extra-curricular activities to form a well-rounded personality and gain good communication and teamwork skills.
- Internships at reputed organisations add a layer of credibility to your profile – Internships are a great way of showing your interests to the admission committees. Try securing internships at top organisations (tech giants – Amazon/Microsoft, growing startups like Uber or Paytm, the Big 4, banks such as JP Morgan/Goldman Sachs, big conglomerates like Aditya Birla Group/Tata etc.) or at top universities (IITs, IISc, IIMs or other international schools). The experience of working on real-world challenges goes a long way in gaining a lot of perspective and recommendations from folks working at these places also adds value to the profile.
- Volunteer for the joy of giving back to the society – Volunteering experience shows that you have essential life-skills such as empathy. When done with the right intention, volunteer work instils a great degree of satisfaction and pride for having contributed to the well-being of the society. Join a local NGO or volunteer for the NSS or Rotaract wing of your college. If you are in the early years of your college life, I’d recommend joining Make a Difference (MAD) which is an organisation working for the education of underprivileged children. They have a very structured program which enables individuals to not only volunteer but also gain management and leadership skills.
- Quality over quantity – In terms of extra-curricular activities, focus on a couple of them and try to excel at them. Sustained participation in a couple of activities enables you to get better and shows that you’re really interested and driven. Inter/Intra-college achievements are no less by any means, but it really starts to make a difference when the achievements are at the national or international level.
- Societies are overrated – Almost every one of us has witnessed our seniors emphasising on the importance of joining the societies for landing that coveted job during the initial days of our college life. Well, believe me, it is a frivolous claim. Societies are a great way of getting involved in something you like, gaining relevant operations/logistics experience, developing a good network and learning a lot of other life-skills. But not joining a society doesn’t have any detrimental consequences. That time and effort can be put into other areas such pursuing online courses or building a portfolio.
- Pursue online courses to develop new skills – With the advent of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), learning has become readily accessible. Completing online courses will help you explore your degree of interest in a particular future endeavour. It also enables you to have a holistic education. I knew that I wanted to pursue a business degree post my engineering but was not sure of the kind of specialization that I’d like. I explored corporate finance and business strategy through courses on Coursera and Udemy and found that strategy interested me more. This in turn also helped me in writing my essays for the ISB selection process, where I was able to discuss the clarity of my career goals with concrete examples.
- Take up projects and try to apply your current education to something that you’re aiming to do in future – This serves a two-fold purpose. It shows that you know how to apply classroom teaching to solve problems while also exhibiting your inclination to extrapolate that learning to other allied areas. My engineering degree in Mathematics and Computing has equipped me with the knowledge of programming, statistics and data science. So, when I decided to do a project, I thought of applying my technical knowledge to the realm of finance (which is something that I’ll be learning at ISB). In one project I applied the various data science techniques to form an optimized investment portfolio while in the other I predicted the movement of the NIFTY stock index using machine learning.
- Nurture a hobby and build a portfolio – A lot of discussion in the application essays and interviews revolves around how you are as a person and having a distinctive hobby and a portfolio to showcase your work enables you to present an entirely different dimension of your personality. I remember explaining my article on the “Sunk cost fallacy” in the PwC interview. The interviewer was really impressed by the idea. I also had a great conversation about a book that I was reading with the panelists in my ISB interview. The point being it really helps. It can be anything from maintaining a blog to reading books on diverse topics, from running a Youtube channel or having an Instagram page for your photography interests. Find your interest area and do something about it.
I have listed the most common ways in which you can build a strong profile. Remember that this is not a check-list. You can either choose to excel at a couple of these or be above-average at a lot of these. If it is of any interest then I fall in the latter category.
Building a profile is a long-drawn and constant process. It takes a lot of hard work but the dividends are great. When you get that elusive admit or land that dream job, the ecstasy and contentment derived vindicate your efforts and sacrifice.