Why You Need a (Great!) College and Graduate Educational Consultant

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A great educational consultant doesn’t do the work for you. He (or she) pushes you—like a tough athletic coach—to go from good to GREAT in all aspects of your candidacy.

Lebron James has undeniable natural talent. He couldn’t be less than “good” at basketball if he shot the ball from his couch with his other hand wrapped around a Pringles tube. But if you want to be Major League, you need someone outside your own mind and body to push you to a new level.

Sammy’s application to MIT Sloan’s MBA program is an excellent example. I enjoyed Sammy’s optional personal expression essay. It was clever, well-produced, and bold. And yet it was missing something crucial.

MIT Sloan’s optional essay allows the applicant to create something original, something that reveals his or her personality.  Sammy made a video, a clever takeoff of Apple’s “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” commercials, explaining that he was no typical finance guy in the way that Macs aren’t typical computers. In making good points about who Sammy is, it did exactly what that essay is supposed to do, no more and no less.  AND THAT WAS THE WHOLE PROBLEM.

At Forster-Thomas, we refer to the upper echelon of elite schools as the Major Leagues of Admissions—Harvard College, Columbia Medical School, Haas B-School, Stanford Law, USC Film.  We do that for a reason.  It takes something special to make it to the major leagues.  Talent is a given.  Most people applying to those schools have talent.  Effort matters—a lot—but not all effort is created equal.  Some effort is wasted on things that don’t count.  That’s why major leaguers need COACHES.  You know, that guy on the sidelines in a suit or uniform (or in the case of Bill Belichick, a grungy hoodie) screaming at you to slide or bunt or whatever it is you do in baseball.  You need someone to take your clever essay ideas, your interesting interview responses and your competent resume from “effective” and “polished” to “authentic” and “compelling.”

In Sammy’s case, his optional personal expression essay was missing that one, teeny-tiny, indispensable ingredient: HEART. While the Forster-Thomas crew enjoyed and nodded at the video when we saw it, a day later, none of us could recall a thing about Sammy—other than the fact that he’s not a PC.  And that is a BIG, BIG problem. If I don’t remember Sammy, neither will the adcoms.

While Sammy had worked with us on his applications to other schools, he did MIT Sloan on his own.  Imagine if he had had someone there to push him, to make him sweat the small stuff.  Imagine, if instead of a perfect Mac, we saw a guy who showed off two amazing things about himself like his academic ability and a great club he led. And then imagine Sammy stops. He looks down, and then back up at the camera and says, “Wait. I don’t wanna put anyone else down—not PC or anyone.” And then he reveals something not so great—like his struggle organizing thoughts, a truth about his insecurity about transitioning from law to business. And then he asks MIT for help giving him the life his really wants. And maybe he cuts to this part when he’s “backstage,” setting everything up. See?  It not only takes it past the clever “Mac/PC” commercial, but it humanizes him. Now MIT doesn’t just like Sammy. MIT remembers Sammy. We all do.

That’s what a strong, experienced, savvy educational consultant does. He or she takes you from D-League to Major League—by helping you find and express your HEART, not just your resume.  Odds are, Sammy considered doing something personal and warm—but rejected the idea. Without someone to give him permission to get real, he backed off because admissions is scary. The more your put yourself on the line, the harder it is if you get rejected.

You may be Superman, but you have Kryptonite buried somewhere in your candidacy, and it will suck all the power out of it if you let it.  We all have a blind spot—you, me, everybody.  We all need a coach to be great.

I have a confession to make: I have a bit of an ego.  That is why it is extra hard for me to admit what I’m about to admit: I’m not a Mac.  I’m not slick, or polished.  I wake up every day and ask myself, “Was I a phony yesterday? Does anyone really care what I have to say today?”
That fear is not “slick” or “polished”—it’s just the truth.  My media consultant, Hank, otherwise known as my personal pain-in-the ass, is my secret weapon that never lets me merely be good. He helps me be great. That’s why I hire him.  And that’s why you should hire us, or another educational consultant that is the right fit for your personality and needs.

You worked hard to give yourself a shot at a top program or school.  Why settle for second best in your candidacy and your applications, the final and most telling stage of the entire process?  That’s why you need a GREAT educational consultant.  The good news is, I have a couple suggestions about where to start looking.  HECA, IECA … I’m looking at you!

—Auntie Evan

Job Talk Daily Live – October 1, 2014

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Job Talk Daily Live – September 24, 2014

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Job Talk Daily Live – September 17, 2014

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Job Talk Daily Live – September 10, 2014

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HOW TO LIE (THE RIGHT WAY) TO GET YOUR NEXT JOB

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SHOW DATE: OCTOBER 1, 2014

You know it’s true.

You lied to get your job. Eventually, you have to put up or get out.

If you say you know how to work with Excel, eventually you’ll have to learn Excel.

What’s brought this subject up is our office manager, Roberto.

Roberto said he could be a copy edit during his interview. Obviously one of the things you need to do to be a copy editor is spell. When we asked him to read over some client work, the ugly truth was revealed.

He didn’t see a difference between “desert” and “dessert.”

But seriously, this is not the worst sort of lie. There’s all types of lying. Half of Americans admit to lying at some point during a job interview.

We are not in favor of lying. However, our personal belief is that you should do everything you can to get the job. But you have to be able to rise to the occasion if you plan on stretching the truth a bit.

In Roberto’s defense, he was good at English. He had good grades in his English classes. So when he saw that we wanted someone who preferably knew how to copy edit, he said he could.

Our problem is not that Roberto said he was a copy editor. Our problem is that when he got the job he didn’t get ass over to The Learning Annex and learn copy editing.

Just because you have an English degree doesn’t mean you know how to copy edit. Just because you know how to use a computer doesn’t mean you know how to use Excel.

You have to be cautious. This is where the lie gets crazy.

Sometimes you don’t know that you lied. And you find out later that what you said you know how to do you don’t actually know how to do.

What you do then is take a class.

There’s a big misconception. It’s never too late to learn the skill you said you could do (but can’t). Even when you’re found out.

But what’s the difference between an acceptable lie and an unacceptable lie? It’s fine to stretch the truth a little to get the job, but it needs to be something that you can back up.

An example would be saying you can copy edit, if you’re not going for a copy editing job.

If you have 4 out of 5 skills and the 5th skill is something you can learn, say you have all five.

Heath Ledger supposedly got the lead role for A Knight’s Tale by saying he knew how to stage fight. Which he didn’t. But when he got the job he immediately went out and learned how to stage fight.

Here’s an unacceptable lie. If you’re not 6’2”, don’t say you’re 6’2”. This goes for acting gigs, shoots and online dating. If you say you’re 180, and you’re actually 280, that’s a big fat lie.

If you say you worked at Morgan Stanley when you didn’t work at Morgan Stanley, that’s unacceptable.

If you say have a Bachelor’s and you don’t, that’s unacceptable.

These are career destroyers.

These are usually lies made up from thin air.

There’s a difference between faking it till you make it and flat-out lying.

You know in your heart when you’re hustling and when you’re just making shit up. It’s the same feeling you had when you were five years old and knew you were doing something wrong.

HERE’S HOW RELIGION CAN GET YOU PROMOTED

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SHOW DATE: SEPTEMBER 24, 2014

Every single year, our office manager, Roberto, makes appointments during this time when he should know—just as he’d known for the past five years—that we’re off.

Who makes appointments on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

Be aware of your boss’s traditions and holidays. Or else it’s just going to be embarrassing.

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In fact, be aware of the holidays of people you work with directly. If a co-worker you interact with on an almost daily basis is celebrating year 5774, send him a Happy New Year email.

It doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish, Muslim or whatever. It’s about being aware of your network’s traditions. So when time comes and the holidays roll out, you not only know not to schedule appointments, meetings or events, but also that this is the time you should be wishing people a happy holiday.

Uncle David and Roberto always celebrate the Night of a Thousand Stevies, “the largest and most beloved Stevie Nicks fan event in the world.” Auntie Evan never forgets that this day is off-limits.

And that’s exactly how you should operate in the office.

Honor other people’s cultures, traditions and holidays. Don’t throw a banquet or anything. Just ask them if they’ll need help around the office that day. Acknowledging that you know is enough.

Let’s say your boss is gay. And you just put a little equality flag on your desk on Gay Pride Day. Or you put the flag up on your Facebook profile pic for a day.

The acknowledgement makes all the difference.

It can get you a lot of respect. It’s how you network and get jobs. Don’t miss the opportunity to show that you are aware of what others find important.

It’s also vital to be aware of what you’re entitled to during your holidays.

Private employers can make employees work on holidays. There’s no state of federal law against that. However—and here’s the catch—there are laws that ban religious discrimination.

So it’s illegal to let your employees off on Christmas but not Hanukah if there are both religions in the office.

What a lot of companies do is give you a set number of personal days you can take off.

If your boss isn’t giving you these but she is giving others a day off for their holiday, you need to tell her to give you the equivalent days off.

(The Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to accommodate employee’s religious holidays.)

Wrapping it up, it makes a huge difference if you reach out and acknowledge your employer’s, co-workers’ and friends’ religions and traditions. It’s enough to warrant you respect, grow your network and even grant you a job opportunity.

Also know your own rights when it comes to taking days off. You’re entitled by law.

Till next time.