Personal Branding: What MBA Candidates Can Learn from the Spice Girls |

Personal Branding: What MBA Candidates Can Learn from the Spice Girls

By Thomas Ahonen

Updated March 30, 2021 Updated March 30, 2021

WANTED: R.U. 25-45 with the ability to manage/lead?

Perhaps one of the most simply written ads of all time was in the February 1994 edition of The Stage magazine which led in with: “WANTED: R.U. 18-23 with the ability to sing/dance? R.U. streetwise, outgoing, ambitious and dedicated? ”

It was simple call-to-action with respondents who would spark a British pop culture revolution and put the words ‘girl power’ together in a way that was not only a mantra, it was a demand of an entire gender group to be empowered with positivity. That they became Spice Girls, the worldwide best-selling girl group with only eight active years of service wasn’t an act of coincidence; it was a carefully staged lesson in personal branding (more on the subject of personal branding); once grouped together, could clearly achieve a business goal. Too much of one type of persona wouldn’t have allowed any of this to happen and those who became the Spice Girls needed to differentiate themselves from the 400 others who came to the open casting call.

While most of the business world won’t want to associate with elements of a pop group like Spice Girls, there’s no arguing that five people who were chosen for their personal brand demonstrates that talent alone needs a unique vessel to both impress and be differentiated in the workplace.

MBA courses are designed to teach you just that - but to get your foot in the door, you’ll need to have a plan and devise your personal brand so that you make the cut of admissions. You’ll remember, we recently spoke with MBA program managers to get their thoughts on what they’re looking for in a candidate and the common theme was be yourself, be unique and do your research… but what does that mean in practical terms?

SPICE your way to a personal brand


Self-assess:  Identify your qualifications and strengths and think about your weaknesses. There’s also no harm in asking a friend or respected colleague some probing questions that might make you think from an outside perspective on areas where you might need some leadership development.


Plot your course: Know where you want to go. Do your research on what types of MBA courses will be the best for your background and learning style. Some MBA courses evaluate on class participation more than assignments whilesome MBA courses will rely heavily on group work. Which of these will be most beneficial to the type of work you’ll want to do in the end?


Industry Experience: Build a resume/CV that speaks to your achievements and use concrete examples of how you’ve excelled in past roles with numbers so that any admissions director can clearly see how you’ve contributed to projects.


Correspondence: Every email and telephone call you make will be an opportunity to showcase your personal brand. Remember to choose an appropriate tone, proofread for errors and be courteous and confident, not cocky, when marketing yourself on your resume and cover letter.


Evaluate: Assess your interview skills and practice with a colleague or mentor who could help you hone your skills to better deliver in a concise and confident manner. Your interview stage will be the first and sometimes only chance you have at making an impression either with an MBA admissions director or in the workforce, so know your strengths and weaknesses going in.

If there’s nothing else you can learn from the 90s, remember that MBA admissions directors, like the creator of the Spice Girls, know what they’re looking for going into an interview and it’s up to you to showcase how you can stand out and be a unique asset which will ultimately fit into their overall program and mission statement. Be yourself, be unique, do your research and don’t forget to add some SPICE to your life. It may not be the best acronym on the blog… but like any of their songs, hopefully it’ll get stuck in your head.

Image: Featureflash /

This article was originally published in May 2014 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Written by

Senior marketing manager - Asia Pacific at QS.