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5 Ways To Get Your Best B-School Recommendation

If your boss had to write you a b-school recommendation right now, would you be confident of their good opinion? Would they be your champion? Or would the recommendation be average, or even negative?

It’s important to develop strong relationships with your immediate supervisors. They don’t have to be your best friend, but you do want them to be your advocate – in the workplace and during the MBA application process.

In the MBA application process, supervisors can become what I like to call brand champions – a credible third party who supports you, your goals for the future and your personal brand with their own sincere endorsements.

B-School Recommendation

The Value of Brand Champions

Some balk at the term “brand champion,” thinking perhaps it’s just another corporate buzzword. All it really means, though, is building a great relationship with a credible mentor or colleague.

In the business school application process – and in your post-graduation job search – such relationships can be the difference between acceptance and rejection. Why? Brand champions provide:

  1. Credibility– Promoting your own personal brand is great, but having that brand reinforced by an outsider makes it more believable and credible. Brand champions write b-school recommendations that reinforce your top qualities and convince the MBA admissions boards that you’re the real deal.
  1. Feedback– Brand champions help you shape your own brand and ensure that you’re portraying yourself authentically. It’s so helpful to solicit feedback from someone who knows your everyday work. They can often spot useful details and examples that you’re missing.
  1. Accountability- Brand champions help keep you accountable to your career goals, spot new opportunities, and push you to push yourself.

Sounds pretty good, right? So, how do you transform your boss into your biggest fan- your brand champion?

5 Ways To Make Your Boss A Raving Fan

1. Be Willing To Step Outside Your Role

At some point, you’ll likely be called upon to perform a task that’s not within the specific scope of your job. Don’t hesitate. Take on new tasks or roles eagerly, and give it your very best effort.

  • If you boss asks you to take on a role that’s normally reserved for more experienced positions… don’t let nervousness stop you from trying. Your boss clearly believes that you can perform the role, so do your best to believe in yourself. If you do get in over your head, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The best bosses appreciate effort and honesty, so make sure that you give them both.
  • If your boss asks you to perform a task that’s normally beneath your role… comply quickly and with a smile. This could include something as simple as setting up coffee for a morning meeting or helping out with booking airfare. Such one-off tasks are not difficult, and being an eager worker will endear you to your boss. If however, this becomes a pattern and the admin work begins to regularly distract from your job function, you should politely and respectfully point out that you have less time to devote to more important tasks.

Being flexible makes you an asset and could also provide valuable opportunities to gain insight into other operational areas and functions.

That insight could be very useful both in improving your current performance and informing future career decisions once you get into b-school.

2. Be Responsive

If you say you’re going to do something, just do it.

If you say you’re going to be somewhere, be there.

It’s important to keep your word and respond as quickly as possible. Here are a few common areas where even the most well-meaning employees can fail to be responsive:

  • Email– It’s pretty easy to forget about an email or let your response time lag. After all, you’ve got so many emails coming into your inbox each day, and so do your colleagues. Not answering a few might not seem like a big deal, but if you let such negligence become a pattern, it can be detrimental. Try to flag emails that need a response, and respond as soon as you have time to give a thorough answer. If your schedule necessitates leaving an email for later, send a quick note saying that you have received the email and will respond at X time, once you’ve finished up your current commitment. Then, follow through and respond when you said you would.
  • Phone calls- Employees often hesitate to pick up the phone for fear of bothering their busy colleagues. However, a quick phone conversation- within accepted business hours- can often accomplish in five minutes a task that would have required hours of back-and-forth emailing. If your business can be resolved with a quick chat, make the effort to call or seek out the person that you need. And if someone seeks you out, make yourself available and respond to voicemails quickly.
  • Meeting times– Even if everyone else is late, be the person that’s on time for the meeting. Show up when you said you were going to. Earn a reputation as the punctual one, and the prepared one.

waysGive yourself time to print out what you need, and maybe even print a few extra copies with others. Take notes, and make sure you know your action items when leaving a meeting. Then, act on them in a timely manner.

Doing these things will quickly make you a favorite, not only with your boss, but also with co-workers in general. You want to be the person that everyone else knows they can count on.

3. Keep Track of Metrics

Keep track of your performance and let your boss know when your initiatives have gone well. Support your assertions with statistics. How much revenue have your projects brought in? What percentage of your clients have become repeats? How much revenue have your changes brought in for your clients? Here are a few strategies:

  • Always round up metrics when you finish a project. It will give you a useful baseline for measuring your team’s performance and tracking them over time. If you notice any important trends, point them out to your boss. He or she will be impressed that you took the time to notice.
  • Keep track of positive feedback- If your work earns you praise from your client or others in your firm, keep a file of those words. You will have evidence of the value of your own contributions, both to present to your boss and to look back on when you are in need of a confidence boost.

Keeping track of all of this information helps you prove your value to your boss and gives you some great tools for your MBA application.

Applications and recommendations letters that cite statistics tend to be very impressive and stand out among a vast array of generalizations.

4. Take Feedback Seriously

Speaking of feedback, you should always be open to constructive criticism. Don’t automatically assume that you know better, or that your boss just doesn’t like you.

Be willing to receive feedback and review your performance to make future changes. And, a few weeks or months down the road, make sure you can prove how you took feedback into account.

  • Develop action items in response to feedback. Think about changes that you can make to your everyday routine to rectify weaknesses that your boss or others have pointed out. If necessary, discuss those changes directly with your boss. Then, follow through and make the changes.
  • Ask for feedback on your responses- After you’ve made changes, ask your boss if they feel your adjustments have been effective. If they don’t, continue tweaking your work and asking for feedback. If they respond positively to your changes, make sure that you continue to preserve them in your daily routine. Create new, beneficial habits that can become second nature over the long-term.

The world’s most successful people are often the most resilient. Welcome constructive criticism as a tool for self-improvement.

 5. Remember Details

Remember that your boss and coworkers also have personal stressors, joys and challenges. Take the time to show that you care about their lives and that you’re interested in hearing about them.

Building genuine relationships starts by genuine caring and being willing to keep track of what is going on in others’ lives. Here are a few ideas:

  • Birthdays– Enter birthdays into your calendar and remember to phone the person and say “Happy Birthday,” or send a quick card.
  • Families– Ask your boss and coworkers about their families, and remember what they say. Make an effort to keep track of names, important events, and little things, like your boss’ daughter’s ballet recital. Be genuine, ask with a smile, and be willing to share details of your own life.
  • Time constraints– Realize when your boss might be going through a tough time- or even just need to miss work for a doctor’s appointment. Make an extra effort to pick up the slack and alleviate their worries.

The best relationships are not only based on work. They’re based on genuine, human-to-human caring. Building these caring relationships should not be a matter of duty, but a natural outcome of your respect and regard for your coworkers. If you feel this attitude slipping, take a breath and remind yourself that everyone in your firm has their own journey to walk, their own obstacles to face. Respect that and try to be a helpful, friendly face to everyone.

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Conclusion

If you do these five things, your boss will respect you as an employee and as a person. You’ll build work habits that’ll serve you well in business school and throughout the rest of your work life. And, you’ll gain an invaluable brand champion- someone who’ll use their own talents, connections and enthusiasm to help you carve out the career that you want. That’s a pretty big reward for just a little bit of extra effort every day.

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