An acceptance letter to a top business school is not a blue ribbon for past achievements. Admissions committees do want to know what you have accomplished thus far, but that’s because they are forecasting your potential to achieve even greater things in the future. Because admissions officers don’t have a crystal ball, they expect you to shed some light on your future plans. That’s the reason just about every MBA essay set includes a career goals question like this one:
“What are your short-term and long-term career goals?”
Many MBA applicants wonder why business schools expect them to know what the future holds before they apply. Shouldn’t the MBA years be a time to explore the possible MBA career opportunities and to formulate your career action plan?
Admissions officers defend the career goals essays by explaining that they believe that candidates who have a clear career vision will be able to make the most of their time in graduate business school. In fact, the truth is that there is little time for self-reflection and career planning once classes begin. Therefore, they want prospective MBAs to invest time in career visioning before they apply.
The first step toward acing the career goals essay is to adjust your attitude. If you view this business school essay as an opportunity to chart an exciting plan for your future and to set yourself apart from the other candidates, then you are on the right track. You want admissions officers to get excited about your potential; so your enthusiasm for the future you describe must shine through in your essay.
Acing the MBA career goals essay requires you to persuade the MBA admissions committees that you have outstanding “potential.” In this case, we will define potential as a collection of strengths fueled by passion and directed by purpose toward a defined set of career goals. An outstanding career goals essay will communicate your career purpose, career goals, and career action plan. Let’s take a closer look at the three building blocks of an outstanding career goals essay.
Your career purpose is what you hope to achieve in the world in a larger sense. MBA programs were founded on the belief that business leaders can play a powerful role in contributing to the prosperity of society. Consequently, schools are looking for future leaders who have a strong desire to make a social impact. Expressing your Career Purpose is the foundation of an outstanding career goals essay. Your career purpose has nothing to do with climbing the corporate ladder or making loads of money – it has to do with how you will make a positive difference as a leader in the future.
We are not suggesting that you have to write about plans to start a non-profit organization to get into business school. The world needs passionate investment bankers, consultants, and corporate CEOs too – perhaps more than ever! If your career purpose is pointing you toward a more traditional business career, you just need to work that much harder to convey why the career path you envision fills you with a sense of purpose.
Success on this MBA application essay has nothing to do with manufacturing a statement of purpose that is engineered to hit the admissions committees’ hot buttons. Remember, admissions officers read thousands of these essays and can tell the difference between a career vision that has integrity and one that is simply engineered for effect.
For many applicants, the discovery process begins with the field they are currently working in or simply one that they have always dreamed about working in. If your Career Purpose has yet to reveal itself to you – it’s time to go looking for it.
By design, your career purpose will probably relate to addressing a large-scale problem as a future leader. Because there are many different ways to attack any one problem, there are probably many different career opportunities that you could pursue to fulfill your career purpose. The long-term career goals that you write about in your MBA application essays will describe the type of company that you would like to work for and the particular leadership role that you would like to play in that field. Don’t feel that you have to name a specific company that you want to work with, but it is definitely okay to give a few examples of the types of firms that you could imagine working for.
To define your career goals, take your unique strengths and past experience into account. Your short-term career goals should position you for the "Dream Job" you want many years in the future. You can think of a long-term career goal in concrete terms, like CEO of a high technology company, but we believe there is something powerful and exciting about searching for and describing your "Dream Job."
Career Action Plan
An outstanding career goals essay will also persuade admissions officers that your career aspirations are achievable. To do so, you want to convince the admission committee that you possess many of the skills, talents and experiences that you will need to achieve the ambitions you write about in the essay. Many candidates undermine their chances for acceptance by proposing a set of lofty career goals that don’t appear realistic when viewed in the context of their past experiences and strengths. Grand ambitions are welcomed, and even expected, by the top business schools but the other components of your other MBA application such as your resume and reference letters need to convince admissions officers that you possess many of the assets you will need to achieve your future aims.
Defining your career goals is an important step toward earning an acceptance letter from a top MBA program. An effective essay will explain how you plan to become a leader of consequence once you graduate. The coherence and clarity of your career goals essay can serve as an elegant proof of your potential. If you can fashion the three building blocks we’ve introduced in this article and assemble them into an excellent MBA career goals essay, then you will increase your chances of being accepted by one of the top business schools.
Unfortunately, none of us has a crystal ball to tell us what the future holds. As such, crafting an outstanding career goals essay requires both soul searching and determination. We believe the hard work is well worth it. When you finish your MBA career goals essay, you will have more than just a great business school essay, you will have a clear vision of what you want to achieve in the future and a plan for fulfilling your aspirations.
MBA Prep School has created a four-part, step-by-step video series on how to ace the MBA career goals essay. Please visit MBA Prep School to find a suite of powerful on-demand videos and web-based tools that will help you build an outstanding application and realize your dream of attending one of the top business schools.