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Defining Your Post-MBA Career Goals

Having clear and realistic post-MBA career goals is essential to the business school application process.

Though essay prompts tend to vary year to year, the two things that nearly every prospective student can count on being asked are “What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals?” and “How will Business School X help you achieve these goals?” Even if this sort of question doesn’t appear in the essay portion of the application, rest assured that you’ll be asked this question in the data forms and/or during your interview.

Identifying clear post-MBA career goals will help in everything from creating a list of target schools to communicating effectively with recommenders and interviewers down the line.

To help you get started, here are some general pointers:

Whether the essay is 1,000 or 500 words long, the adcom is looking for applicants who offer fully defined long- and short-term career goals, sound reasons for pursuing an MBA at this point in their careers, well-informed interest in the school in question, and specific plans to contribute to the campus community should they be admitted.

Specificity of Post-MBA Career Goals is Key

In presenting future goals and explaining your motivation for seeking an MBA, it is crucial to present well-defined and feasible objectives. Unlike the undergraduate experience at many U.S. colleges and universities–where students might not declare a major until several years into their studies–MBA admissions committees believe that students need a clear direction at the time they enter the program in order to take the right classes, join the appropriate clubs and seek the best internship. Everything is oriented towards preparing for the post-MBA job, so identifying a specific post-MBA industry and/or job function for the short-term is of the utmost importance.

Provide Context for Your Post-MBA Career Goals

It is also important that applicants explain why they are interested in a given path, as well as what they hope to accomplish in their target positions. The admissions committee will have an especially easy time following your post-MBA career goals if there is some link between the past and the future. Perhaps an experience at work or in a volunteer activity inspired you to pursue an MBA in order to transition to a more meaningful or rewarding role.

Covering your work history is also helpful in highlighting your transferable skills. Not every school asks for this explicitly, but in most situations a career goals essay (or interview response) is more compelling when it includes a brief career history summarizing the applicant’s work history to date. This should reveal the continuity between one’s previous professional experiences and goals for the future, and touch on the ways that your prior experiences have prepared you to succeed in your post-MBA career goals. A great response to this kind of question manages to thoroughly and efficiently address each of these elements, with a nice balance between the “career progression,” the “career goals/why MBA” and the “why School X” questions.

Let Each School Know Why You’re Interested …

Speaking of the “why,” it’s also critical to explain why you’re interested in a particular program as part of your career goals narrative. One reason for this is that admissions committees are always trying to assess how likely an applicant is to enroll if they are admitted. Individuals who name specific classes that are relevant to their goals, identify student clubs that they would join to advance their professional development, or share what they’ve learned from conversations about the career paths of alumni and students will be in good shape. The aim is to convey the fact that you’ve conducted extensive research and are making an informed decision in applying.

… And What’s in it for Them

Beyond convincing the adcom that you are genuinely interest in the program, it is also important to keep the following concept in mind: Any fair trade necessitates mutual benefit. In other words, in addition to showing that School X is the best MBA program for your needs, you should also aim to should demonstrate that you will enrich the school community. A strong candidate describes insights he or she could contribute in class, and offers detailed intentions for getting involved in campus activities.

Get More Advice with Clear Admit Publications!

For more details on developing your goals, and much more about application strategy, download our admissions book: Becoming a Clear Admit: The Definitive Guide to MBA Admissions.

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