Similar to our warning that a project is not an accomplishment, today we’ll talk about what may be less obvious but is nearly as important.
Capturing promotions on the resume is super important — it’s actually one of the main opportunities for optimization we see over and over when people go through our Reworking Your Resume App Accelerator.
But — and this is important! — a promotion is the result of something.
Nobody except a despot’s children gets promoted simply for being there. You have to earn it.
So, simply telling the adcom in an essay that you were promoted just doesn’t get you very far, and it’s a major missed opportunity. All the fact of the promotion does is say “Hey look! Somebody thought I was worth keeping around and they wanted to give me more responsibility!” (And presumably more money, but that, too, isn’t that meaningful in your apps, not as a sole datapoint at least.) While it’s a helpful signal to the adcom, that you are in fact adding enough value that they’ve decided to invest something in you, and that you’ve apparently been competent enough with your original duties that they’ve given you a bit more to take on, that’s literally all it does. It says you’ve been meeting at least the minimum standards and possibly more.
This doesn’t sound very compelling yet, does it?
This is why it’s really important to capture what you did to earn it.
“But EssaySnark. I didn’t do one thing. It was all the things.”
Yeah, we know. But somewhere in that “all the things” answer you need to dig out some evidence of why everyone there loves you.
Or why the one person (your boss) does.
And how you convinced her not to fire you and instead to keep you around and allow those paychecks to keep flowing.
What have you done?
What were your contributions?
Ideally, focusing on the one or two big ones that closely pre-date the promotion will let you demonstrate your worth to the adcom.
Then, you tell the story of that contribution or how you solved a big problem or where you suggested some new way of doing things, that big idea that made its way to the CEO or up the chain of command at the client site, where suddenly someone else you don’t often work with knows your name, or requests you be assigned to their next initiative…. You lay out this example in a snapshot story in your MIT cover letter or Columbia or Wharton’s essay 1 where you talk about your goals… And then like a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae, you carefully position the outcome of that story — your promotion — at the end of it. Along with the important results that the actions you took generated and the difference those actions made to your team or your company or the client. That’s the best way to capture the promotion: You convey it in context. You show WHY you got the promotion. The adcom reader sees it’s well deserved.
If all you have to work with is the fact of the promotion, then it’s actually more impactful for a recommender to mention it than it might be for you. In other words, if it’s only going to be included as a bare fact with no context or discussion, then letting a recommender mention it instead of you including it in an essay could have more value.
If a recommender says “Oh and yeah we love her and decided to promote her last summer” then that carries some weight (presumably they’ll be writing in a slightly more formal style than that, of course!). For recommenders too though, talking about the why of the promotion — and even more significantly, if relevant, the timeline of the promotion, if you were promoted ahead of schedule or faster than your peers (which always sounds better when the adcom hears about it from the recommender instead of from you) — these are the details that really help your adcom reviewer understand things.
If you’re still struggling with how to identify and properly capture the important things you’ve done in the past for the benefit of the MBA admissions team — or you want feedback on which ones are really important and potentially essay-worthy, and which ones aren’t going to move the needle much — our Accomplishments & Achievements App Accelerator gives you a chance for feedback and helps you learn the important “show, don’t tell” skills that will let your candidacy stand out.
Getting a promotion is not, on the face of it, evidence of leadership. What you did to earn that promotion very well could be.
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