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.
Business school admissions committees care about more than (just) your GMAT scores and GPA —they want to know who you are and why you belong in their program .
Your MBA essays are your best chance to sell the person behind the résumé. They should tie all the pieces of your business school application together and create a comprehensive picture of who you are, what you've done, and what you bring to the table.
Here's a roundup of our best MBA essay tips to keep in mind as you begin to write.
How to Write an Unforgettable B-School Essay
1. Communicate that you are a proactive, can-do sort of person.
Business schools want leaders, not applicants content with following the herd.
2. Put yourself on ego-alert.
Stress what makes you unique, not what makes you number one.
3. Communicate specific reasons why you're great fit for each school.
Simply stating "I am the ideal candidate for your program" won't convince the admission committee to push you into the admit pile.
4. Bring passion to your writing.
Admissions officers want to know what excites you. And if you'll bring a similar enthusiasm to the classroom.
5. Break the mold.
Challenge perceptions with unexpected essays that say, "There's more to me than you think."
6. If you've taken an unorthodox path to business school, play it up.
Admissions officers appreciate risk-takers.
7. Talk about your gender, ethnicity, minority status or foreign background....
But only if it has affected your outlook or experiences.
8. Fill your essays with plenty of real-life examples.
Specific anecdotes and vivid details make a much greater impact than general claims and broad summaries.
9. Demonstrate a sense of humor or vulnerability.
You're a real person, and it's okay to show it!
BONUS: Don't Make These MBA Essay Mistakes
1. Write about your high school glory days.
Admissions committees don't care if you were editor of the yearbook or captain of the varsity team. They expect their candidates to have moved onto more current, professional achievements.
2. Submit essays that don't answer the questions.
An off-topic essay, or one that merely restates your résumé, will frustrate and bore the admissions committee. More importantly, it won't lead to any new insight about you.
3. Fill essays with industry jargon.
Construct your essays with only enough detail about your job to frame your story and make your point.
4. Reveal half-baked reasons for wanting the MBA.
Admissions officers favor applicants who have well-defined goals. However unsure you are about your future, it's critical that you demonstrate that you have a plan.
5. Exceed the recommended word limits.
This suggests you don't know how to follow directions, operate within constraints or organize your thoughts.
6. Submit an application full of typos and grammatical errors.
A sloppy application suggests a sloppy attitude.
7. Send one school an essay intended for another—or forget to change the school name when using the same essay for several applications.
Admissions committees are (understandably) insulted when they see another school's name or forms.
8. Make excuses.
If your undergraduate experience was one long party, be honest. Discuss how you've matured, both personally and professionally.
9. Be impersonal in the personal statement.
Many applicants avoid the personal like the plague. Instead of talking about how putting themselves through school lowered their GPA, they talk about the rising cost of tuition in America. Admissions officers want to know about YOU.
10. Make too many generalizations.
An essay full of generalizations is a giveaway that you don't have anything to say.
11. Write in a vacuum.
Make sure that each of your essays reinforce and build on the others to present a consistent and compelling representation of who you are, what you've done, and what you bring to the table.
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