Duke Daytime MBA Student Blog
How To Tell Your Story
The value of business school truly is your network. And in building that network you must become skilled at telling your personal journey, your background, and your story.
It’s July, and you find yourself at a pool party at Station 9 (a popular apartment complex for Fuqua students), singing karaoke with a bunch of strangers at Tavern (the local bar and grill), or getting to know people while moving furniture into your apartment. It’s the week before orientation and you knew you’d have to go to events and gatherings to meet classmates and potential friends, but you didn’t realize how much talking you’d have to do.
The value of business school truly is your network. And in building that network you must become skilled at telling your personal journey, your background, and your story. Sometimes this is a 30-second version summed up in a breathless fashion, repeated in recruiting sip circles and coffee chats. Sometimes this is a 30-minute version told over drinks and food, with friends getting to know each other and forming lifetime bonds.
As the VP of Communications with the MBA Association, I initiated a series called The Humans of Fuqua, featuring students, staff members, faculty, and members from the administration on social media and highlighting their journeys to Fuqua. It began as an attempt to showcase the wonderful stories of people within our community, bringing us closer and aware of each other’s achievements. Nonetheless, an overwhelming number of them wondered out loud, “What made you pick me?”
We go on to compare our stories against those of our peers—our above-average, high-achieving classmates and discount ourselves in the process. In that vein, we begin with, “Well, it’s nothing special…” However, in recruiting, one must master the skill of overcoming this impostor syndrome and telling this story with pride and confidence, as we’re being evaluated to become future leaders and inspire communities.
So, how do you tell your story?
Own Your Story
Firstly, it is extremely important to own your identity. Oftentimes, the lack of this is what leads to the self-inflicted question of “Why me?’” and furthers the non-appreciation for your personal journey. Own the fact that you come from a different country and speak a different language. Own the fact that you don’t know what an accounts receivable is but can play four different instruments. Own the fact that you aren’t exactly sure where you’re headed, but you sure as hell know where you came from.
Highlight Your Favorite Moments
Secondly, find parts of your story that you love the most. What makes you you? If someone randomly asked you for a fun fact, would you shudder and spit out, “I’m no fun!” Or would you think about a time you were careless and made a mistake but then learned immensely from it? You are fun, I guarantee you. And if you were 25 times fun the way you described in your ‘25 Random Things About Yourself’ essay, you surely love something about what brought you to business school.
Identify What Sets You Apart
Think about what makes you stand out from this crowd of high-achievers. This is easier said than done because of how incredible everyone here is, yet you are no less. During these 30-second versions of storytelling, also known as the TMAY or “Tell-Me-About-Yourself,” the listener is bombarded with multiple such versions from everyone at the table and will more often than not find it difficult to remember who said what. You want to be memorable and say something worth holding onto. What is it that makes you different? Lean into it.
Lastly, be proud. Tell your story with the confidence it deserves and don’t be afraid to correct some details along the way. “No ma’am, I’m actually not a stereotypical Indian who only eats butter chicken and biryani.” When you tell it from a position of strength, everyone else listens.
I came into Fuqua not knowing at all who I was and where I was headed. However, through numerous coffee chats, lots of panel discussions, and an infinite amount of small talk, I have found a way to talk about myself with conviction. It took an immense amount of patience to listen to myself and gain self-awareness. Nevertheless, it is a story that will continue to morph and transform as I discover more things that I like about myself and more ways in which I am different.
Telling a compelling story is no easy feat, but if you’re at Fuqua and ready to make a difference, the story may perhaps just come to you.