Although giving blood, participating in charity runs, and making financial contributions to worthy causes are noble endeavors, they are not viewed as leadership or community involvement by admissions committees at top MBA programs. Similarly, you do not have to start a nonprofit or sit on the junior boards of multiple organizations to demonstrate your leadership expertise.
We realize that you are a busy professional, but so are those you will be competing against to get a seat at Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, or another top MBA program. Your level of engagement now is viewed by the admissions committee as a determining factor in how involved you will be during your MBA program.
If leadership skills and community engagement are weak spots in your MBA profile, here are a few suggestions for getting involved that are based on real Stratus clients!
Late English language learner?
An Indian client who had limited exposure to English during his primary and secondary schooling understood the struggles that others would face in the college classroom. He took initiative to establish English language tutoring on weekends in a local school district so the next generation will be better prepared than he was.
Woman in male-dominated industry?
Many women recognize that it would have been helpful to have had a female mentor during their undergraduate years as they navigated their career choices. Think about establishing a formal mentoring program that brings together women who have established themselves to provide guidance and insight to the next generation of female leaders in your industry.
Aspiring amateur boxer?
Do you work out in a gym that also serves as a haven for low-income kids in the local community? Consider establishing a tutoring/mentoring program at the gym to keep at-risk youth off the streets and encourage them to stay in school. Better yet, connect with your undergrad alumni club to get other young alumni engaged to serve as mentors.
Future impact investor?
Think about how you can engage now with communities you hope to influence positively post-MBA. If your interests lie in health care or education, look for opportunities to gain hands-on experience with real challenges and develop insights into the core issues that need to be addressed—volunteer in a local medical facility or mentor a student.
Reach out to the local Boy Scouts council and get certified as a merit badge counselor or troop leader. Leverage your professional credentials and personal interests when determining what merit badges you might assist with: First Aid? Railroading? Digital Technology? Sustainability? The beauty of re-engaging with Boy Scouts is that doing so will allow you to demonstrate that your habit of leadership started when you joined scouting at a much younger age. (Hint: You can volunteer even if you never were a scout yourself!)
Passion for environmental stewardship and the outdoors?
Find the local organization that maintains hiking trails in your area and offer your skills as a crew leader to build and maintain usable trails. Perhaps you can rally colleagues or a group of young alumni from your college to participate in a workday.
Interested in niche industry such as fashion or healthy foods?
Find an incubator that supports entrepreneurs in this space and volunteer to help with market research or another project that leverages the skills you have developed in the workplace. Getting exposure to entrepreneurs in your target industry will allow you to develop relationships that you can tap into as you make your transition.
Committed to helping individuals with learning disabilities?
A client who grew up with a learning disability and struggled with the side effects of currently available medications had a vision for developing new therapies with fewer side effects. He found a local organization that supported early teens dealing with learning differences (and their parents) and offered seminars to share the challenge faced and how he worked to overcome them.