It’s that time of year again at my old business school, Warwick; the time when MBA students’ thoughts turn to dissertation.
Regardless of what school you are at though, if you are a student thinking about an upcoming dissertation or thesis, ask youself how it can help you to build your personal brand. If you are in a position to influence the direction of your study, then think about what would help you most in your upcoming career.
What companies would you like to make contact with? What people in those companies would it be most useful to know? What topic would give you an excuse to contact them professionally? Is there a company that supplies those people, with a complementary interest to your own?
For example, say you want to go into operations consulting. You want access to the COOs of half a dozen of the larger FTSE/Fortune 500 companies, but you don’t think they’ll talk to you. How about a dissertation on the role of logistics companies in the supply chain. Now, is there anyone in your school’s alumni network who works for a large commercial carrier, who would sponsor your dissertation. They may be able to get you in front of their key clietns, or you may be able to use their name to get an appointmnet.
Suddenly you may find you’re being paid to build your professional network, and getting put in front the very people you most want to know for the future.
So far so good. But now think about how you can help the people you are interviewing. Will the sponsoring company allow you to share the results of your study with the companies you interviewed? Could you introduce your interviewees to each other and help them grow their own network?
At the end of the day, your personal brand is not so much about the value you create for yourself as the value you create for others. So look for ways in which your dissertation can create value for the people who can help you carry it out: they’ll be more inclined to help you, and when you call them up after graduation they’ll remember who you are.