The MBA Career Goals essay is one of the classic elements of a business school application. MBA admissions officers from top business schools ask about your career goals because they want to know that you have exciting plans for the future and to ensure that an MBA from their program makes sense given your specific aims. In this article, we examine some red flags in the area of career goals that might hurt your chances of admission:
- Undefined career vision
- Career goals lack a sense of purpose: passion, meaning, and significance
- Lack of evidence that candidate understands his or her future industry
- Dots don’t connect between prior skills/experiences and post-MBA career goals
- Unconvincing motivations for pursuing an MBA
- Weak case for pursuing an MBA from “our” school
Undefined career vision
When it comes to essay and interview questions about your career goals, the “I want to figure my goals out once I’m in business school” answer isn’t sufficient. If you haven’t determined what your career goals are, then how can an admissions officer be sure an MBA is your best next step? More importantly, how can you?
The bottom line is that your candidacy will not compare favorably with other applicants who know where they want to go and can explain clearly how an MBA will help get them there. Admissions officers know that once you’re in business school you’ll have more work to do than there are hours in the day – there’s simply not much time for self-reflection and career planning. In fact, within weeks of arriving on campus for your first year, you’ll be polishing your resume up and submitting it to recruiters for summer internships. If you don’t have a vision for your career, you probably won’t benefit from the MBA experience in the same way as other candidates who do have a defined career vision.
Career goals lack a sense of purpose: passion, meaning, and significance
MBA Programs were founded on the belief that business leaders can and do play a powerful role in contributing to the prosperity of society. Schools are looking for future leaders who aren’t just in it for themselves. Admissions officers are proud of the fact that their job is to find and accept future business leaders who will make a positive difference in the world. Therefore, if your career goals are a thinly veiled plan for climbing the corporate ladder and making loads of money, then your candidacy is in trouble.
Lack of evidence that candidate understands his or her future industry
Once your long-term career goals are in focus, you should further educate yourself on the industry you plan to work in. Admissions officers are skeptical when an applicant claims to want to work in a particular field like venture capital or sustainable energy or social enterprise but doesn’t seem to know much, if anything, about the industry.
Dots don’t connect between prior skills/experiences and post-MBA career goals
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. An admissions officer will examine your resume through the lens of future corporate recruiters. If your career goals essay says that you want to work in strategy consulting post-MBA, then admissions officers will evaluate whether your resume plus the skills and knowledge you will acquire in their program would appeal to a recruiter at a strategy consulting firm. If that equation doesn’t add up, your application will be less competitive.
Unconvincing motivations for pursuing an MBA
Your career goals directly relate to your motivations for pursuing an MBA. Therefore, defining those career goals is on the critical path to explaining why you want an MBA. Unconvincing motivations for pursuing an MBA can be another big weakness in your candidacy. If the only answer you can come up with for “why you want an MBA” is “I’m in a two-year analyst program and everyone goes for an MBA,” then we want to strongly encourage you to do some more thinking about your motivations and reasons for applying to business school. If you haven’t built a solid case for this huge investment of time and money, then admissions committees would be justified in wondering what kind of business leader you’re going to be in the future.
Weak case for pursuing an MBA from our School
Similarly, MBA admissions officers will want to know why you are applying to their school. If the only answer you have for that one is “You guys were ranked #1 in Businessweek,” then we want to persuade you that it’s time to start building a stronger case for your choice of schools.
Overcoming “Dings” in Your Career Goals
Question: I discovered I have some “dings” in my Career Goals. What should I do now?
Answer: In our How to Apply for an MBA! eBook and MBA Online Courses, MBA Prep School will show you how to proactively address each potential ding and increase your chances of earning an acceptance letter. For example, now is the time to do some serious thinking about where you want to be in ten years and how you plan to get there. Don’t wait until it’s time to write your career goals essays to start your career planning efforts. When the MBA application deadlines are approaching, it will be hard to find time to do any serious career planning.
MBA Prep School has developed a comprehensive program to help you to formulate an inspiring career vision, career goals, and career action plan. If you define your career goals in the way we recommend in our How to Apply for an MBA!™ eBook and Online Courses, you will be prepared to convince admissions officers that you have the capabilities, passion, and purpose to achieve something significant in the future.