Just about every school will ask you to write a career goals essay. Top marks are earned by demonstrating that you have passion for the career you describe and by convincing the admissions committee that your career goals are fueled by a larger sense of purpose. Furthermore, they will be looking for a credible career action plan that connects the dots between your current skills and experiences and your future aspirations. This Essay Professor lecture takes a closer look at the Career Goals Essay and provides you with the insights, tools, and examples you need to succeed.
First, we'll talk about why the admissions committee asks these kinds of questions and we'll share the characteristics of an outstanding answer, which we've summarized for you in an Essay Professor Scoring Chart.
Second, we will provide you with a set of Content Building Blocks for crafting a unique and powerful essay response of your own.
Finally, In the self-study materials you'll find an example essay, building block templates, and a scoring chart that you and your essay reviewers can use to evaluate your essay and plan your next draft.
You will have everything you need to create an outstanding essay.
So let's talk about the Career Goals Essay.
An acceptance letter to a top tier MBA program is *not* a blue ribbon for past achievements. Admissions committees are interested in what you've accomplished thus far in order to assess your future promise – your potential.
One of the primary ways to get the admissions board excited about your potential is through your career goals essay.
Schools ask a variety of essay questions, but the Career Goals essay regularly appears in some form on just about every application.
When it comes to answering these questions, top marks are earned by having clearly defined post-MBA career plans that go well beyond climbing the corporate ladder and earning lots of money. Admission officers want to know that you have passion for the career you describe and that your career goals are fueled by a larger sense of purpose.
Let's take a look at the Essay Professor Scoring Chart™ for the Career Goals Essay.
The Essay Professor Scoring Chart™ will help you understand the characteristics of an outstanding Career Goals Essay. You should pause the video, and download the scoring chart for this essay now.
You will use the Essay Professor Scoring Chart™ in two important ways. First, you should use it to help you choose between the various essay topics you are considering. Second, after you've selected your essay topic, you will use the Scoring Chart at each stage of your writing process to identify opportunities for improvement. You should continue your drafting until you've created an essay that you deem to be "outstanding."
Let's briefly review the characteristics on the scoring chart for this essay.
Defining Your Career Goals is a central step in your Application Strategy because a powerful Career Goals Essay will tell the admissions officers how you plan to become a leader of consequence once you graduate. The coherence of your career goals essay will serve as an elegant proof of your potential.
You'll also need to persuade admissions officers that your career aspirations are realistic and achievable. In other words, you possess many of the skills, talents, and experiences (i.e., assets) that you will need to achieve your ambitions. 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 fine but you must be able to convince admissions officers that the dots connect from your past accomplishments to your future aims.
Next, remember that admissions officers believe that their job is to find and accept future business leaders who will make a positive difference in the world. This is not an essay about your plans for climbing the corporate ladder and enriching your bank account. Think about how you can devote energy and your career to helping others in some way. This doesn't mean you have to go to work for a not-for-profit – no matter what field you are interested, I'm certain if you think hard enough you can identify ways that your career will make a positive difference in the world.
Even when the question doesn't include words like vision and aspiration or doesn't ask you why your career goals are meaningful, you should let admissions officers know the deeper motivations for following your career path and reveal that you possess a true sense of passion and purpose.
Finally, the caveat to all of this is that admission officers read thousands of these essays and so they can tell the difference between aspirations that have integrity and those that are simply engineered for effect. In short, admissions board members have world class B.S. detectors so make sure your career goals pass the sniff test.
To sum up, we've created this simple rubric that you will use to predict how your career goals essays might be "graded" by the admissions committee. By knowing where you stand, you will be able to assess how to improve upon the quality of your essay.
Your career goals, if properly developed and defined, can set you apart from other candidates competing for a spot at that school and that's exactly what you want them to do.
If you've followed the complete MBA Prep Steps Program, you've already defined your career goals and will have many of the inputs needed for the Content Building Blocks we will talk about in the next series of slides. If not, you may have a bit more career planning work to do to assemble the content you will need for this essay.
Next, we are going to go through each of these content building blocks and show you how another applicant assembled his building blocks into an effective Career Goals essay.
The four content building blocks for your career goals essay are career purpose, career meaning, your long-term career goal, and your career action plan.
Our example applicant is an investment banker who wants to return to private equity post-MBA.
As you'll see, by using the content building blocks he goes beyond answering the "what question" – as in WHAT are your career goals -- and answers the "why question" – setting himself up to write a Career Goals essay that will score highly on the Essay Professor Scoring Chart™.
Your first step is to develop a statement of career purpose. The building block question is "What is the purpose of your career -- who will it serve and how will it benefit others?" A statement of career purpose doesn't exist on an organization chart. It's not the job; it's what you hope to achieve in the world in a larger sense.
In regards to his career purpose, our example candidate, "Adam", was born in the Ukraine and his career goal is to help people in that part of the world by spurring economic development.
The next content building block is Career Meaning. Ask yourself "Why the career you envision is meaningful to you?" Admission officers believe that great ambitions are achieved when an individual's goals are fueled by the heart as well as the mind. Even if the application doesn't ask the question directly, you should tell the admissions committee where your motivation to pursue this career springs from. Tell them why these career goals matter to you.
In terms of career meaning and his personal connection to this goal, Adam plans to share how troubled he was by the hardships he saw while on a recent visit to Kiev, during which his career goals came into focus.
The point is that you should explain why you are driven to achieve your career goals and why they are important to you. This deeper motivation that goes beyond earning a paycheck will make your career goals answer much more powerful.
Once your career's purpose and meaning is defined, you can progress to building a succinct statement of your long-term career goals. Your long-term career goal may indeed be found on an organization chart -- include the job you want and the kind of organization you want to be leading in 10 years – CEO, founder, managing director of a non-profit, etc. What is *your* dream job?
Adam's long-term career goals are more unique than simply saying he wants to start a private equity fund – the fund he wants to start will invest in the former Soviet Union, providing much needed economic development in the region. His dream job is to serve as an economic advisor to governments in that part of the world.
"What's the path to your dream job?" -- The final building block is your career action plan – it includes the jobs and organizations you plan to work for along the way toward your 10 year career goal. In a career goals essay, for each job on your path, you can explain briefly how the job fits into your overall plan and moves you a step closer to your long-term career goal by providing additional skills, essential knowledge, and a stronger network.
For his career action plan, Adam plans to work for an established fund in the CIS region before eventually starting his own fund. In the long-term, as I have already mentioned, he'd like to be an economic advisor to the government in the CIS.
Let's take a quick look at Adam's content building blocks when combined.
Having completed his building blocks exercise, Adam has the content he needs to satisfy the criteria on the Essay Professor Scoring Chart for the career goals question. His answer will be comprehensive and memorable and will set him apart for other candidates who also have their sights set on a future in Private Equity.
In the self-study materials you will find an excerpt of the essay that resulted when these content building blocks were assembled. Review the sample essay carefully and then you should get to work outlining, drafting, scoring, and rewriting your own essay until you and your advisors feel you have an outstanding Career Goals Essay for your application.
Reference: Lecture Slides and Speaker Notes
Tool: Essay Professor Scoring Chart: Career Goals Essays (PDF)
Tool: Career Goals Outline Template and Sample Essay (Microsoft Word)