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March 10, 2009


  • Describe the individuals that you look up to as role models in your professional work. (Michigan)
  • Describe the characteristics of an exceptional manager by examining someone whom you have observed or with whom you have worked. Illustrate how his or her management style has influenced you. (Tuck)
  • If you could walk in someone elses shoes for a day, whose would you choose and why? (Chicago)
Business schools learn a lot about your professional development through your description of your mentors. They can determine not only what you have learned but the types of people from whom you have learned. However, like the accomplishments question, this question shows a lot about your values and standards. It is a little like getting to know a person by the people with whom he or she chooses to spend time. If you are skeptical, consider the different impression you would have of the candidate who admires a dynamic, colorful, public leader compared with someone who looks up to an accomplished but soft-spoken academic.

Who you chose is more important than how you portray that person. In other words, do not choose a person because you think it will impress the committee. Name dropping is not only obvious, it is ineffective. If your mentor is a public figure, be sure to demonstrate that you have a real, direct relationship with and that you learned tangible lessons from the person. Keep your essay short and simple. Never elevate your mentor at the expense of yourself. Show admiration, not awe. In other words, choose a mentor, not a hero. A mentor is someone whom you realistically aspire to emulate, whereas a heros qualities are beyond our reach.

If the question calls for more than one mentor, try comparing two very different people or people from two unrelated areas of your life. Show how you incorporated the best pieces of wisdom from both. As always, use concrete examples both when describing these people and when demonstrating the effect they have had on you. Do more than list their qualities-tell a story that shows how they have put these qualities to use.

You can follow these steps to structure this essay:

  1. Introduce the person and the context in which you know him or her.
  2. Describe a few of the mentors key qualities that you most admire.
  3. Relate one or two particular scenarios that demonstrate these qualities.
  4. Describe what you have learned from the person. What do you now do differently as a result of having known your mentor? How have you or your actions changed?
  5. Be concrete. Cite specific examples of things that you have learned. Describe the situations in which you learned these things. Show how you have used this knowledge to your professional advantage.
A variation on the question is, If you could walk in someone elses shoes for a day . . . . This is a cross between an ideal career question and a role model question. Whereas the other role model questions ask for mentors, this question asks for heroes. You do not need to make your response as realistic-feel free to loosen up and have fun. However, always consider what committee members will infer from your choice. Answer this question more concisely than you would the role model one. Simply state who you would choose and answer why. Did you choose this person because he or she is similar or dissimilar to you? Did you do choose your mentor for what you can learn from that person or to effect a change? Would you ever seriously consider this persons life as a career, or are you just having fun?


Note: This essay appears unedited for instructional purposes. Essays edited by EssayEdge are substantially improved. Read samples of EssayEdge editing.

Describe the characteristics of an exceptional manager by examining someone whom you have observed or with whom you have worked. Illustrate how his or her management style has influenced you. (Tuck)

In management consulting, strong analytical skills are valued as much as, if not more than, effective managerial and leadership skills. Unfortunately, for some consultants, these characteristics, at times, are mutually exclusive. I was fortunate, however, to work with [name] on my first major project at [consulting firm]. As my project manager, he demonstrated a superior combination of leadership, managerial, and communication skills. As a result of our interaction, I learned several important lessons and tools that I used on subsequent projects to improve my effectiveness as a team leader.

To begin, [name] is a true leader who exhibits courage and dedication. A powerful trait rarely found in the realm of business, courage is unique in its ability to unify and motivate people. Moreover, his courage is balanced appropriately with professionalism, strong values, and humility. He is sensitive to others feelings and recognizes that different people require different types of direction and treatment. Although he often works with diverse and difficult groups, he always seems able to reach consensus and create a shared vision and purpose. Furthermore, he excels at establishing priorities and proactively setting direction.

As an effective manager, [name] also is able to translate his broad direction into discrete, tangible tasks. Since consultants often use difficult or creative analytical approaches, clearly articulating tasks and defining outputs is very important. In addition, he exercises the appropriate level of supervision. Rather than micro-managing his team members, [name] establishes clear accountabilities and expectations and pushes work down to the correct level. As a result, he creates a strong sense of ownership and leverages the skills of his team members. Furthermore, he excels at creating a supportive environment and, when necessary, coaching team members to help them develop new skills.

Finally, [name] is a masterful communicator. He is the only project manager I have had who gave me consistent and constructive feedback, importantly, both positive and negative. Such feedback not only provides clear developmental objectives, but also signals to others that he values their contributions. This type of balanced and open communication quickly forms the foundation of mutual trust and respect. Furthermore, [name] excels in the art of negotiation and debate. He states his points with remarkable precision and is expert at remaining objective and recognizing all sides of an argument. And, regardless of the volatility of a situation or the strength of his feelings, he always listens to all positions patiently and effectively controls his demonstration of emotion, thereby gaining the respect of others and lending additional credibility to his positions.

Given my limited experience managing teams, my exposure to [name] was central to my early success at [consulting firm]. For example, although I had considered myself a leader in athletics, I had not learned to translate those skills into the business arena. [Name] taught me several effective methods to lead teams. Admittedly, as a highly motivated young analyst with very high work standards, I also lacked many of the skills required for effective team leadership. However, I quickly learned the importance of flexibility and became more comfortable providing feedback and directing the work of others. Furthermore, through his example, [name] taught me the importance of objectivity and the utility of several effective communication techniques. For example, I learned to use my sense of humor as an effective tool to persuade, disarm, or motivate others.

Early in my career at [consulting firm], I had several rare opportunities to lead client teams. In part due to the lessons I learned from [name], these projects were a great success. As a result, I went on to manage a half dozen diverse and difficult client teams that ranged in membership. With each project, I further refined the lessons I learned from [name] and developed new techniques for leading and managing teams. Due to my rapid development, I was promoted to [position], a managerial, post-M.B.A. position at [consulting firm], signifying that I can progress to the partner level. Although I realize my tool kit is far from complete, these skills will be invaluable both in business school and beyond.


This is another essay that stands out because of its solid writing and superior organization. It starts with a bold assertion to catch the readers attention and then uses the assertion to introduce the mentors most outstanding quality. Each of the next three paragraphs clearly asserts and describes an additional supporting quality. The essay concludes with examples of how the mentors influence has tangibly affected the writers actions and work performance, resulting in rapid promotion.


Filed Under: Education|Grad School

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