A better way to put it: A kitchen-sink strategy is not a strategy.
Your goal in applying to business school should not be to dig up every little detail and aspect of your life, academic and professional and extracurricular, over the past ten years and cram it in somewhere in the application – or cover it all in your HBS essay. You’ll end up with a Frankenstein monster if you do that. Or you’ll look like this guy:
Is he armed and ready for the most amazing Labor Day party that’s ever been?
Or is he preparing to go live under a bridge?
No matter what, we see that guy on the sidewalk, we’re crossing to the other side of the street.
Your goal is to craft an impression of yourself for the adcom to hang onto as they read through your application materials.
Just because there’s five random things that you could share about yourself does not mean that you SHOULD share them. (Unless the school has asked for a list of “Random Things”, in which case, obviously you should!)
If you’ve worked at three different jobs in the past four years, then you’re at risk for being perceived as a drifter.
If you’ve been helping out with your family business on the side, then you should only incorporate that fact into your pitch if your contribution has been meaningful, and long-term, and if you can show how it’s relevant to what you say you want to do in the future.
The other oddity that reinforces the “kitchen sink” feeling is all the stuff we sometimes see jammed in an online app under the Extracurriculars section. Often, many of the things cited don’t really seem like extracurriculars. Lists like that can sometimes come across as a little desperate. This is especially true when the majority of them are 5+ years old, like from college.
Or this real-life example:
It’s great if you served as advisor to your buddy’s home brew operation. Do you include that in your app?
Sure, if this home brew thing is a fledgling business, and if you added real value to getting it off the ground. If it’s just a hobby? And your contribution was taste-tester of the brews? Well…
Consider what impact each element of your application will have. The whole needs to add up to greater than the parts. Sometimes what we see from applicants is a jigsaw puzzle – unassembled, just the pieces tossed in a pile. It’s up to YOU to develop the messaging that shows the reader – someone who’s never met you, who’s forming opinions about you based on what you share with her – you need to show her who you are and why those elements are important, in the context of getting an MBA and potentially making a contribution to her bschool community.
The goal of an application is not to shove in every last bit of data about what you’ve ever done with every waking moment of your life. It’s to craft a picture of yourself for the adcom. Which you do, based on what you include. We recommend doing so INTENTIONALLY.
Here's what others have said about this:
I think once you really have your game together and have all your strenghts, accomplishments, history and future plans in a single picture, it’s very easy to trimm things and build a lean profile…
If you don’t really know these things, it’s tempting to start filling evetything you;ve done, even though it might not be relevant to youir case. And then it becomes counterproductive.
At least that was the case with me until I started putting things together
We really should have a ‘like’ button on these comments. 🙂