The Brand Essence of Success? Know thyself.

Jean Gekler, Senior Associate Director, MBA Career Management, welcomed onstage as co-recipient of the 2019 MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance Innovation Award for the Brand Essence process.

Walking the walk comes easy to Foster MBA students, developing invaluable business savvy and ingenuity through participating in competitions and consulting projects, in addition to digesting a stunning amount of lectures and texts throughout their business education. 

And when it comes to talking the talk? Foster’s award-winning Brand Essence Program sees to it that graduates know how to brand and market themselves as they move into the competitive realm of MBA-level employment. 

Developed by Jean Gekler, Senior Associate Director, MBA Career Management and Naomi Sanchez, Assistant Dean at Foster, Brand Essence is a step-by-step process aiding students in effectively creating a personal brand that projects “a clear and focused image in a prospective employer’s mind, establishing a connection at an emotional level.” 

Gekler and Sanchez’s process engages students in facilitated dialogues analyzing résumés, distilling what a student is all about and what they bring to the table for employers. Identifying their own “brand attributes,” students create their own “brand essence statements,” then distilling these notions even further into a convincing, concise tagline crucial to any elevator pitch for employment.

Deep reflection is the engine driving the Brand Essence process. Its prompts are at times blunt, and students must truly reflect on what makes them not just unique, but a true standout from the pack. The end goal is to “effectively create a brand for themselves to project a clear and focused image in a prospective employer’s mind, establishing a connection at an emotional level.”

At the program’s inception, Gekler and Sanchez were surprised how little time students have had to reflect on themselves and their unique personal brands. “Most of our feedback has been for more time for the exercise and how much they appreciated doing it.” says Sanchez. “Knowing yourself can impact the way students talk about themselves in future work situations.”

Now, the “essence” of every full-time Foster MBA alum is a dedicated discovery made before grads get their diploma. 

“As part of Pro Dev Labs this year, we trained 100% of the incoming Full-Time MBA class. Together we trained our fellow professional association members at the MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance Conferences (MBACSEA), at both the Global Conference held in the U.S. and in Paris at the MBACSEA European conference. We have used it with current students and others who reside in the U.S., Europe, and China. In all situations, it has gone well and participants seemed positive in discovering their personal brands.” says Sanchez, detailing the broad breadth of the program’s appeal. 

Naturally, MBACSEA awarded the team with their “Innovation Award,” noting that “While many MBA programs offer branding programming, this tool is innovative in that it has been packaged in a way to allow replication across academic programs, corporations, professional associations, and other organizations. In fact, this one has been used in full-time, evening, executive, and global MBA programs, and at corporations such as Microsoft.”

Foster MBA alumni have found immense value in participating, noting that the Brand Essence Program not only helps them convey who they are to potential employers, but also helps to cultivate their sense of self and purpose. 

“Coming from a consulting background where I worked on a wide variety of business projects, I initially struggled to identify my brand. This exercise helped me think through my most significant accomplishments and attributes, and form a clear picture of who I am as a professional. Not only did this exercise help me understand and communicate my brand to others, but it also served as a basis for identifying career opportunities that matched well with my professional profile.” recalls alumni Zach Gretch, MBA ‘14, a Brand Essence participant.

If the key to post-MBA success is “know thyself,” one might call it prudent to get to know Foster’s Brand Essence Program along the way.