Another submission under our attempt-for-a-freebie-review program came in:
Just discovered EssaySnark but love the work you do. Genuinely mean it, not sucking up. Have submitted my comprehensive review to you (which is due tomorrow). Meanwhile, request you to kindly provide high level feedback / public critique of my Kellogg essay. Have spent quite some time on it but have no one other than my wife to critique it, so I am clueless how it sounds to someone who does not know me. Older Indian candidate with not the best stats so essay is very crucial. Feel free to be brutal but in the remotest of possibilities that you find it decent, please don’t paste parts that you think “may tempt others” on the blog 🙂 I am not on Twitter, so please let me know if you review. If you decide not to review, I will still have good wishes for the fantastic work you guys are doing. Way to go!
Awww!! Even if it was sucking up, we still appreciate it!
Kellogg’s first question is NOT an easy one. Here’s the prompt:
Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip & inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Tell us about a time you have demonstrated leadership and created lasting value. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn?
(FWIW, their second question is not easy either!)
And, this is what our kind Brave Supplicant sent over:
I interpret ‘lasting value’ as an organizational or societal improvement that sustains itself beyond the stipulated timeline, and outlives the individuals who enabled it. The $100B lighting industry in which I have worked for the last 4 years has been undergoing tectonic changes driven by a shift from conventional to LED technology. Because manufacturing LED-based fixtures is less labor and capital intensive, there has been an influx of new entrants, leading to rampant commoditization and price wars. In order to address declining profitability and revenue growth in 2015, I, in my role as Transformation Specialist, proposed to the LatAm CEO an organization-wide transformation focused on two differentiated business models, ‘Systems’ and ‘Services’ (S&S).
We got a little hung up even on that very first sentence.
It’s not that we didn’t understand what the BSer was saying.
It’s just that the way it is said feels very stiff. This is a classic example of, “Look! I’m in Essay Writing Mode!”
A way to test for this is, are you using fancy words and complex sentences that you wouldn’t do in an email to a friend?
Not that essays should devolve into text-speak. But there’s a happy-medium between writing that’s overwrought, and writing that’s too casual.
The way you write — word choice, language, construction of the sentences — this has an effect on how your reader perceives you.
This comes back to the advice on authenticity. You don’t mean to be coming on strong, or to be posturing. You don’t intend to sound like a suck-up. But…. that’s sometimes the effect that it has.
Try reading your essay out loud.
Does it sound like you?
If not, you need to rewrite it.
Now, obviously we don’t know this BSer IRL. Maybe this person does actually speak like this! But even if so, there’s some angles here that are contributing to this sense of it being overdone.
That first sentence is defining “lasting impact” which we would assert, does not even need to be done. The way you answer the question is you answer the question. Starting such an essay with a direct statement of how you had a lasting impact would be a much better way to go.
Something like, “In my job as a [whatever] working at [company] I have had an impact when….” and then just state the impact.
The whole opening is setting the bar REALLY high for this person.
Too high, in our opinion.
Our definition of “lasting impact” definitely does not involve impact that outlives our own life. Like, that’s a LOT of impact!!!! And it’s really not necessary — nor is it feasible for most applicants to have done anything so grand.
Setting the bar this high runs the risk of causing an unforced error. (Related: When an essay prompt does not ask for something but you include it anyway)
Since it’s so difficult for ANYONE — like, any human being on the planet, not just all you BSers — to have done anything that results in impact that extreme, then it’s putting a very high burden on you as the applicant to define things in this way in your very first sentence. You’re basically setting up the expectation in your reader that you are going to share a story that’s so far beyond what most normal people ever do, that it’ll knock their socks off.
Which is great! If that’s actually what you have done.
The problem of course is that if the story you tell falls short, then the reader is left with a conundrum.
“Does this person THINK that this story is showing ‘lasting impact’ to the degree that they have defined it?”
“Does this person REALIZE that they have not, and they think that I won’t notice that the story has not followed through?”
As you can see, both are not positive places for your reader to be in, as they consider what your intentions were with the essay.
That first sentence is not even clear on what’s going to be presented. Will this person be talking about an organizational improvement? Or a societal one? Why bring in a broader definition when you’re only going to focus on one or the other?
So this first paragraph might be introducing a good story to use for this question. Or it might not. But either way, it’s setting things off on not the most positive foot.
The first paragraph contains all of these words that are fancier than necessary:
- societal improvement
- stipulated timeframe
- tectonic changes
- rampant commoditization
- differentiated business models
None of those phrases are impossible to figure out, but none of them is actually saying anything either. And, there’s some oddness to how a few of the ideas are written.
How does the lighting industry have a “tectonic change”? Isn’t “tectonic” related to the earth? Ya ya ya, we know what you mean, but this is one of those tiny little things that gets under our skin. Many readers will never even notice it, however it just feels off in some way. (This is just us being persnickety.)
The bigger problem is the “differentiated business models.” That’s just hand-wavy stuff. Since we don’t know anything about your business, or about your business model, then we don’t have any clue what the proposal of transformation to “Systems” and “Services” is about.
Like, we have NO CLUE.
Those are just words.
The bigger issue with all of this is that you’re setting up expectations for the reader with the first sentence that you’re going to focus on societal improvement and you have all this unnecessary stuff about the $100B lighting industry and you say that it’s undergoing these tectonic changes based on a change in technology — but literally NONE OF THAT is about YOU. Your last sentence is finally starting to talk about YOU but it is meaningless as written.
That instantly tells you that the entire first paragraph is not doing what it needs to be doing.
The first paragraph is where you set the stage for the story you’re going to tell.
All this first paragraph is doing is it’s talking AROUND the story you are telling.
We’re not including the rest of the draft, but we can tell you that there is not nearly enough discussion thereafter on WHAT YOU DID.
It’s burying the reader in data and not actually laying out the story.
This essay came in quite some time ago and presumably this person applied in Round 1. We’ll be very curious to learn how they did! When coming from a crowded Indian male candidate pool, then the essays matter A LOT. We can’t say if this topic is the right one to be used in this question or not; the opening paragraph itself is not serving the purpose that an intro should serve. However, based on this person’s promise of impact, then we have hope that there could be something that attracts the adcom’s attention!! Provided that the execution of the story in the essay follows through on the promise.