Many MBA application essay sets include a career goals essay question in one form or another, questions like:
- Chicago Booth: “What are your short-term and long-term career goals?”
- Wharton: “What are your professional objectives?”
- Kellogg: “Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing an MBA.”
- Stanford GSB: “What do you want to do—REALLY?”
In this article, we examine the different elements that comprise an effective career goals essay and provide excerpts from a sample essay to illustrate lessons that you can apply when writing your own career goals statement. We would never want to want to suggest that there is only one structure that works when writing your career goals essay. Rather, the example and lessons are to help you to develop an approach to writing the essay and to evaluate whether or not your drafts are achieving the desired effect.
Lesson 1: Articulate your career goals clearly and directly in the introductory paragraph.
One effective way to begin an MBA career goals essay is to begin with a clear summary of short-term and long-term career goals. The sample essay was written by a private equity analyst who intends to work in private equity in the former Soviet Union after graduation. He opens his essay as follows:
Directly out of business school, I want to move to Moscow to work for a leading private equity group, such as Baring Vostok. Long-term, my goal is to start my own fund in the former Soviet Union, ideally based in Kiev, where I was born and where most of my extended family still lives.
Lesson 2: Summarize the connection between your career history and career goals.
You want to establish that your career goals are realistic by explaining how your career so far has prepared you for the future roles you plan to pursue. When possible specify relevant skills and experiences that have prepared you for your future professional objectives. The key is to be brief, especially if you have not been asked explicitly about your career progress.
In the example essay, our applicant emphasizes his private equity experience:
Although I was honored to be offered a 3rd year analyst position at Deutsche Bank, I decided to join Astrix partners, a private equity fund with $2 billion in assets. At Astrix, I have excelled by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of target companies and by building effective, trusting relationships with the management teams of our portfolio companies.
Lesson 3: Explain your motivations and why these career goals matter to you.
MBA programs were founded on the belief that business leaders can and do play a powerful role in contributing to the prosperity of society. Consequently, MBA programs are looking for future leaders who have a strong desire to make a positive impact in the world. Schools also want to know that the career goals are meaningful to you.
Later in his goals essay, our case study candidate reveals his motivations and sense of purpose:
We moved from Kiev to the U.S. when I was eight, but I have managed to maintain strong ties to my native country. On frequent trips to the former Soviet Union, I have seen first hand that there is a tremendous need for the kind of investment fund I envision starting.
Lesson 4: Summarize your career action plan.
Another important building block of an effective career goals statement is your career action plan – it includes the jobs and organizations you plan to work for along the way toward your long-term career goal. For each job on your path, explain briefly how the position and role will move you a step closer to your long-term aspirations in terms of things like additional skills, essential experiences, and a stronger network.
In his career action plan, our example candidate emphasizes his plan to work for an established fund in the part of the world in which he intends to start his private fund:
By working for a firm in Moscow like Baring Vostok for five to seven years, I will gain regional private equity experience and key business relationships in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (“CIS”).
Lesson 5: Share your career vision.
Ending the essay with a career vision statement can be powerful. Admissions officers at top business schools welcome grand ambitions, some even expect them. The statement should describe your vision for fulfilling what you believe to be the underlying purpose of your career.
In the later stages of his career, the writer of the example essay explains that he want to spur economic growth in the former Soviet Union both as an investor and eventually an economic advisor to the government:
Eventually, I want to serve as an economic advisor to the Ukrainian government. New energy and optimism not to mention capital are critically needed in the former Soviet Union. I want to be an investor who provides all three.
Sharing your excitement about your future career path with admissions officers via your MBA application essays is an important step toward earning an acceptance letter from a top MBA program. The coherence and clarity of your career goals essay can serve as an elegant proof of your desire to be a leader of consequence once you finish your MBA studies.
The lessons we’ve shared in this article can help you to ask yourself the right questions at the outlining phase and afterwards to gauge of the quality of the essay you write to answer those questions. Ultimately, the goal of your career goals essay is to convince admissions officers that you are a candidate who will use your MBA education to make a positive difference in the world. If you succeed, you will almost certainly increase your chances of being accepted by one of the top business schools.
How to Write a Successful MBA Career Goals Essay
The MBA application essay; it’s the most feared part of most applications. Whether you have to write 1,000 words or just 500, saying everything you need to say in a concise, intelligent, and appropriate manner isn’t easy. In fact, it can be incredibly frustrating. And while every school asks different essay questions, there’s one question you’re almost guaranteed to see, “What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA career coals and how will School X help you achieve these goals?”
The career goals essay is one of the most common and also most difficult essay questions. On the surface, it seems simple, but there’s a lot of work required if you want to wow the admissions committee (adcom). It all starts with the question.
Breaking Down the MBA Career Goals Essay
Before you can write your career goals essay, you have to break it down into digestible and answerable pieces. There are six pieces to the career goals essay that you’ll need to consider before you begin writing.
1. Where are you now?
Before you can talk about your goals, you have to know where you are now and so does the adcom. This means that your essay will need to concisely describe your current position so that you can better explain your goals.
2. What are you short-term goals?
Short-term and long-term goals are not the same. Short-term goals refer to your immediate plans after graduation. Is there a particular industry where you want to work? Do you have a job or promotion in mind? Where do you see yourself in the immediate months post-MBA?
3. What are your long-term goals?
Long-term goals take a little more thought. You might not be as specific about companies or job titles when talking about your long-term goals, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan. Think about where you want the MBA to take you in ten or twenty years.
4. Why will an MBA help?
Next, you need to discuss how an MBA will help you achieve both your short-term and long-term goals. You’ll need to discuss technical skills, analytical skills, focus areas, and more.
5. Why is the School vital?
You need to make your essay personal. Not just any MBA should work for your goals. You need to explain specifically why School X is vital to your success. Get as specific as possible.
6. Why now?
Finally, you need to discuss why NOW is the best time to get your MBA and pursue your goals. Make a case for why this year, this class, and this moment are vital to your life.
Writing the MBA Career Goals Essay
Now that you know all the components of the essay, it’s time to start writing. To successfully answer the question, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.
You need to be as specific as possible when answering each of the six parts of the question. MBA adcoms want to see that you have a specific direction in mind and that you have valid reasons for your choices. If possible, you should be able to specify your preferred industry, job function, skills, ideal company, and more.
For example: Talk about how you want to move into a career in Finance and gain a job at Goldman Sachs. Then, talk about how the MBA will help you gain technical skills in Finance and Accounting as well as analytical skills in Corporate Strategy and Strategic Planning. Finally, discuss how the case competitions at School X, as well as the MBA Finance Club, will prepare you for this career field.
Adcoms want you to dream big, but they also want you to be realistic. There’s nothing impressive about an MBA career goals essay that describes a future path that is unreachable or illogical. Unrealistic goals will not serve to demonstrate that you’re ready for an MBA. Instead, you need to walk the fine line between thinking big and demonstrating that your career path has been well thought out and planned. Look up hiring trends, services, organizations, market status, and competitive concerns within your desired industry and companies.
For example: It’s okay to talk about your goals of managing a billion dollars, but you should indicate that this is a long-term goal, and you have a plan to reach it. Go step-by-step to illustrate that you know what it takes to reach your high aspirations by first talking about starting as a Finance Manager and slowly working your way up over twenty years.
Adcoms can smell BS. You have to convince them that you are genuine in your interest of not just the MBA but of earning an MBA from School X. Take time to do your research and dig deep for those specific offerings from the program that will best serve you and your goals. If you can name specific classes, on-campus impressions, or information you’ve learned from alumni to demonstrate your genuine desire for an MBA, you’ll be in a much better place.
For example: Set up an interview to talk with an adcom or alumni before you write your essay. Then, during that interview, ask questions that will give you the information you need to beef up your essay. If you can talk about how an alum took the same career path and succeeded, you not only demonstrate your interest but your keen intellect.
Finally, make sure you write an essay that is clear and easy to read. Don’t worry about crafting the next great American novel. Instead, focus on answering the question as simply as possible and including all the necessary pieces. This is not a creativity contest. Instead, create a simple outline that you can fill out to answer the six components of the essay.
For example: You should write out the six questions (career analysis, short-term goals, long-term goals, why MBA, why School, why now) and come up with your answers separately. Then, once you have the outline and all the pieces, compile them together into a cohesive story. Don’t try anything fancy.
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