Aiming Higher Than You Think You Can

Antoine achieved what was for him the unthinkable: he has been admitted to one of the top MBAs in Europe and the world. When Antoine considered pursuing an MBAdegree, he believed that his unusual profile would be a disadvantage rather than an asset. Luckily, some good advice proved him wrong, and his hard work, diligence, and willingness to aim high in his choice of programs paid off. Antoine discusses this and more in the following interview:

Could you give our readers a sense of your professional and academic background?

I studied advertising at a French Business School, Institut Supérieur de Gestion, and as soon as I have obtained my MBA degree, I immediately began my career with Havas at Euro RECG in Human Resource Communications.

What made you decide to invest in an MBA?

In brief, my job was changing, and I knew it was essential that I acquire new skills while broadening my perspective in order to continue in the field. Several of the work with the previously mentioned companies provides a good example: in order to meet their needs, both a global vision and deep understanding of the company were necessary. In general, a large part of human resource communications involves change management. All these tasks extend beyond the realm of advertising and into global management issues. At that point of my life, I realized that I would need to attain a greater understanding of these issues before fulfilling my aspirations of changing from advertising to consulting. The sector is evolving very quickly and will need strong leaders to determine strategies for the future. My hope is to become one of these leaders, and an MBA from INSEAD seems to be an appropriate step to take towards accomplishing that particular goal.

Did you find the application process difficult? If so, please describe the aspect that you found most challenging?

I think that the most difficult aspect of the application process was finding the relevant personal assets – a process that takes time and serious introspection. Coming from a relatively small and unknown field, my own tendency would have been to assimilate my experience as much as possible into another, better-recognized field on the application. It was my coach who insisted that I try to capitalize on my uniqueness. My distinctive profile, he explained, could bring much needed diversity to an MBA program. In stressing this as one of my assets, along with some other elements of my experience that I never would have thought to include, I would make myself stand out from other candidates in a very positive way. Yes, that has to have been the most difficult task: defining oneself, being objective about one’s experiences, and identifying which characteristic or quality makes you different. I am not naturally inclined towards performing these tasks.

Could you explain a little about Human Resource Communications, and what your responsibilities were within the company?

Effectively, it is very similar to internal communications or communications for employees: we develop communication strategies to explain new developments within the company, details concerning projects, as well as information campaigns for job candidates and recruitment. The task of our team, as that of a service provider, usually comprises listening to their stories, synthesizing information gathered, then converting these ideas into the words and images that composes the campaign. My progress in the company itself was rather linear: I began as an account executive, was later promoted to the status of a consultant, and then ended as an account director managing a team of three account executives. For the last two years, I have specifically dealt with communications for companies such as France Telecom, CSC, and Alstom, developing communication strategies for the human resource departments. For example, for Alstom, we created an international communication campaign targeting university graduates from all around the world.

How did you determine which MBA programs you would apply to?

Well, I knew I would like to be in a European program, specifically one in France, since I have a family that would make an international move difficult. However, I was uncertain of choosing which programs I would like to apply to. This was where my contact with you helped a lot. From my profile, a coach determined a list of MBA programs that would be appropriate for my given background, experiences, and aspirations. Together, we developed a list of dream schools and “safety schools.” In fact, it was the coach who encouraged me to apply to the top programs that I would have never considered. At first, the program I preferred was HEC Paris; however, het explained that I would need to achieve a very high GMAT score to ensure consideration. After I did quite well on the GMAT, he reevaluated my profile and suggested that I also apply to INSEAD. Before coming to your center, I would never have considered applying to INSEAD. Even when looking at the applications for HEC and INSEAD, I felt like the response to each question brought me farther away from admission. In the end, I was accepted at INSEAD before even completing the application process with HEC.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with other MBA candidates?

Above all, make sure you are using your preparation time wisely! A place like Sight test prep can save you time, since you can find a concentration of resources and information that would otherwise require a great investment of time and effort to obtain. It is definitely worthwhile to find someone knowledgeable to chat with before beginning the process. We all have to acknowledge that being steered in the right direction can save you a great deal of time and energy.

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