Most business school applications will require you to articulate your career goals. After all, your ambitions for advancing your career are likely what is motivating you to apply to business school.
Career goals are a critical component of your application (granted, they are more important for some schools than for others). Business schools want to know how you will make the world better when you leave their campuses and what your unique mark will be.
The best career goals essay will do five things:
1) Connect your past career to your future goals: Whether you plan to take your career in a completely different direction, make a small career pivot or return to the same job post-MBA, it is important to connect your past accomplishments to your future goals. This does NOT mean that your essay should include a chronological history of your career to date. You will submit your resume to cover all of the details. Instead, you want to think about a few highlights from your career and link them to your future. What are your strengths? When did you truly shine at work? For some essays, you will have the space to spell out a few leadership accomplishments in detail; for others, you will only be able to share a sentence or two. Either way, making this link is important.
2) Be specific: Your goals essay should generally include both a short-term and long-term goal (though for some schools, there will not be space for both). These goals should be specific. I generally do not recommend using OR in your essay. Pick a set of goals and run with them. That said, if you do have multiple ideas in mind, some schools are comfortable with understanding your thought process and decision-making criteria, while many others will want that very clear plan laid out before you arrive on campus. Your goals may very well change while you are in school and this is expected – no one will hold you to what you put in your essays. However, you should put a stake in the ground and be specific for your applications.
3) Communicate passion: A strong career goals essay will communicate passion for your future field. This does not mean that you need a long explanation for why you selected your career, but as you provide the context and discuss your future, it should be clear to the reader that this is a profession you are excited about.
4) Share how you will be unique: Even if you have a very common career goal, such as becoming a management consultant, you want to share with the reader how you will make your unique mark. You must go beyond simply stating what position you are hoping to achieve. Think deeper and show what change you hope to drive in your chosen field and how specifically you plan to do so.
5) Discuss an attainable yet ambitious goal: Your career goal should also be attainable. As valuable as an MBA is, you likely will not be running a department on the first day out of business school. Do your research and figure out what jobs are realistic for you. This does not mean you should not be ambitious, of course! This is part of why I tell clients to have two goals in most essays, short-term and long-term.
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