The decision to study for an MBA is closely tied to your professional development plans, so the question of how to present your MBA career goals during the application process should top your priority list.
You will be asked many questions as you go through the various MBA admissions’ stages. Two of the questions you are sure to encounter are those involving your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals and how the program you are targeting will help you achieve them.
Define career goals
To be able to outline your career goals and talk about them in an articulate and convincing manner, you need to define them first. Having a clear picture of your future professional development will not only significantly enhance your communication with interviewers and recommenders, but also help you select the right program and business school.
In general, admissions’ officers expect you to have answers to the following questions:
- What are your long- and short-term career goals?
- Why did you decide to study for an MBA at this point in your career?
- Why did you choose this program?
- How will you contribute to the program if you gain admission?
You may not be asked specifically to do it, but it is worth thinking about how you can connect your goals to your professional background and accomplishments. This will make your story orderly, logical, and coherent, which will certainly be appreciated by the admissions’ committee.
Another aspect you should consider is how realistic your goals are. According to admissions’ consultant Stacy Blackman, you should ask yourself a couple of questions in this respect.
Is this an industry that typically hires MBAs? Some industries, like consulting, are known to hire many MBA graduates. Research if the industry you are targeting recruits MBAs in general. You can also check the employment reports for the program you are interested in to see the industries in which graduates find employment.
Does my career goal require an MBA? Even if the industry of your choice is not universally known for recruiting MBA graduates, the degree can still be valued for certain roles. A football coach may not need an MBA, but the general manager of the club will certainly benefit from it.
Outline your professional plans in the essay
The essay is the part of the MBA application process that gives you the opportunity to describe your career goals at length in a structured manner. The essay should contain your short-term goals (first post-MBA job or role) and long-term goals (in 20 or more years).
Make sure the goals stated in your essay are clear. Let the reader understand what exactly you want to do and in what role and industry you see yourself in both the short and long term. Do not make admissions’ officers guess about your real plans. A vague description of your goals will hurt your admission chances.
The Economist writes:
Schools mostly want you to be direct and to the point. Try to spell out your goals early on and set the tone for the rest of the essay.
Why these goals?
Here, you will again encounter the necessity to tie your experience to your career goals. In a way, this is an opportunity to expand on the goals provided on your CV and let the reader understand the background for your plans. You can answer this question in the essay by following a simple equation: Past Experience + Present MBA = Future Professional Goals.
Ellin Lolis Consulting advises:
Your story should flow well between these components, building upon each of them and creating a unified narrative. However, that narrative shouldn’t follow a ‘past, present, future’ sequence at all, since it’s difficult to explain why a particular program is perfect for you if you haven’t stated your goals yet.
Instead, you can opt for the ‘past, future, present’ format to give the reader a sense of clarity and structure.
Link career goals to a specific program
You will want to explain why the program of your choice is the right fit. The easiest way to do that is by focusing on your areas of improvement and how the business school will help address them. Research the program well and link its constituent parts (classes, clubs, teaching methods etc.) to your goals.
Show your passion in the interview
In addition to setting realistic goals, you also need to show passion for your future. And what a better opportunity to do this than the interview. Admissions’ officers look for aspirants who are excited about the school and its potential to take them to the next level in professional terms.
Check out: 8 Challenging MBA Interview Questions
There is nothing wrong in showing a little emotion and excitement at what lies ahead. AdComs want to see applicants who believe in themselves and are optimistic about their future as business professionals.
The ability to present clear and realistic career goals will go a long way in helping you gain admission to your dream MBA program. Even though you may have your professional path ahead all sorted out in your head, you still need to work on your pitch to other people. The ability to articulate your goals may be the factor that sets you apart from other aspirants.