How to Write a Successful MBA Career Goals Essay
The MBA application essay; it’s the most feared part of most applications. Whether you have to write 1,000 words or just 500, saying everything you need to say in a concise, intelligent, and appropriate manner isn’t easy. In fact, it can be incredibly frustrating. And while every school asks different essay questions, there’s one question you’re almost guaranteed to see, “What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA career coals and how will School X help you achieve these goals?”
The career goals essay is one of the most common and also most difficult essay questions. On the surface, it seems simple, but there’s a lot of work required if you want to wow the admissions committee (adcom). It all starts with the question.
Breaking Down the MBA Career Goals Essay
Before you can write your career goals essay, you have to break it down into digestible and answerable pieces. There are six pieces to the career goals essay that you’ll need to consider before you begin writing.
1. Where are you now?
Before you can talk about your goals, you have to know where you are now and so does the adcom. This means that your essay will need to concisely describe your current position so that you can better explain your goals.
2. What are you short-term goals?
Short-term and long-term goals are not the same. Short-term goals refer to your immediate plans after graduation. Is there a particular industry where you want to work? Do you have a job or promotion in mind? Where do you see yourself in the immediate months post-MBA?
3. What are your long-term goals?
Long-term goals take a little more thought. You might not be as specific about companies or job titles when talking about your long-term goals, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan. Think about where you want the MBA to take you in ten or twenty years.
4. Why will an MBA help?
Next, you need to discuss how an MBA will help you achieve both your short-term and long-term goals. You’ll need to discuss technical skills, analytical skills, focus areas, and more.
5. Why is the School vital?
You need to make your essay personal. Not just any MBA should work for your goals. You need to explain specifically why School X is vital to your success. Get as specific as possible.
6. Why now?
Finally, you need to discuss why NOW is the best time to get your MBA and pursue your goals. Make a case for why this year, this class, and this moment are vital to your life.
Writing the MBA Career Goals Essay
Now that you know all the components of the essay, it’s time to start writing. To successfully answer the question, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.
You need to be as specific as possible when answering each of the six parts of the question. MBA adcoms want to see that you have a specific direction in mind and that you have valid reasons for your choices. If possible, you should be able to specify your preferred industry, job function, skills, ideal company, and more.
For example: Talk about how you want to move into a career in Finance and gain a job at Goldman Sachs. Then, talk about how the MBA will help you gain technical skills in Finance and Accounting as well as analytical skills in Corporate Strategy and Strategic Planning. Finally, discuss how the case competitions at School X, as well as the MBA Finance Club, will prepare you for this career field.
Adcoms want you to dream big, but they also want you to be realistic. There’s nothing impressive about an MBA career goals essay that describes a future path that is unreachable or illogical. Unrealistic goals will not serve to demonstrate that you’re ready for an MBA. Instead, you need to walk the fine line between thinking big and demonstrating that your career path has been well thought out and planned. Look up hiring trends, services, organizations, market status, and competitive concerns within your desired industry and companies.
For example: It’s okay to talk about your goals of managing a billion dollars, but you should indicate that this is a long-term goal, and you have a plan to reach it. Go step-by-step to illustrate that you know what it takes to reach your high aspirations by first talking about starting as a Finance Manager and slowly working your way up over twenty years.
Adcoms can smell BS. You have to convince them that you are genuine in your interest of not just the MBA but of earning an MBA from School X. Take time to do your research and dig deep for those specific offerings from the program that will best serve you and your goals. If you can name specific classes, on-campus impressions, or information you’ve learned from alumni to demonstrate your genuine desire for an MBA, you’ll be in a much better place.
For example: Set up an interview to talk with an adcom or alumni before you write your essay. Then, during that interview, ask questions that will give you the information you need to beef up your essay. If you can talk about how an alum took the same career path and succeeded, you not only demonstrate your interest but your keen intellect.
Finally, make sure you write an essay that is clear and easy to read. Don’t worry about crafting the next great American novel. Instead, focus on answering the question as simply as possible and including all the necessary pieces. This is not a creativity contest. Instead, create a simple outline that you can fill out to answer the six components of the essay.
For example: You should write out the six questions (career analysis, short-term goals, long-term goals, why MBA, why School, why now) and come up with your answers separately. Then, once you have the outline and all the pieces, compile them together into a cohesive story. Don’t try anything fancy.
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Upon graduation I wish to lead the fiber-optics product management team in one of the world’s largest optical communication companies (such as Alcatel-Lucent and AT&T), supervising a group of 5-10. Striving to promote myself within the organization, I wish to become the Vice President of Marketing in the fiber optics segment, supervising several dozens of employees.
My mid-term goal is to become the founder and CEO of an innovative fiber optics firm. I desire to position the company as a profitable, international and leading company in its industry, and aspire to establish a sustainable organization, creating workplaces for thousands of employees and turning an underdeveloped area into a flourishing industrial zone. Passave, an optical communication company, which was lately acquired for $300M, is a model for such a successful company.
After fulfilling this goal, I intend to follow the growing trend of successful executives who moved to the public service sector. My plan is to become a senior manager in the Prime Minister’s Office.
I chose my first full time position in the Optronics Division at the military because I knew it will introduce me to the diverse optical communication community in my country, equipping me with basic hands-on experience in the field. The first two years I worked as a Physicist and a System Engineer and then I was promoted to the position of Electro-Optical Projects Manager in the division’s headquarters. There I set the goals, supervised and directed 9 Project Mangers in optical projects performed by 7 different companies in the defense industry.
At that point I realized that for developing the managing tools required for a senior manager I’ll need to gain more experience in bigger organizations. Therefore, I persuaded the head of the R&D directorate to be reassigned to a classified Intelligence unit. My first mission as an Optical Engineer was to lead a group of 4 in building a module which was the heart of a $100M system. One year later I was appointed to a Team Leader where I commanded a team of 8. Two years later I was promoted to Project Leader.
I understood I lacked the financial and international experience of technological project management to lead a global optical communication company. I therefore became a Project Leader in a classified unit of the PMO. I supervised a team of 20, and managed all financial aspects of a $2M project (presented to the Minister of Defense), where I also had the marvelous opportunity to negotiate with highly ranked officials of three foreign governments.
While considering studying for a PhD, I worked as a part time an Internal Consultant of 5 Project Leaders. I then became an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) in Precede, an entrepreneurship and investment firm, in hope to learn more about becoming an entrepreneur. Working in Precede, I matured in my understanding. I realized I still lack some Finance, Marketing and General Management foundations, which an MBA will enable me to develop.
In light of my long term goal to become a founder and CEO of a technologically oriented company, I’ll need to gain the strongest possible general management skills. The finance and marketing foundations will compensate for my inexperience in these fields. The structured formal general management education I’ll acquire in Wharton will broaden my view and give me the tools to leverage my experience and create a successful company. I believe an MBA is the most structural way to learn how to build organizational values, culture and design organizational structure and hierarchy.
Moreover, most of my leadership experience was developed in governmental organizations, where a leader is defined in terms of his values, inter-personal skills and professionalism. However, looking into the future, I will need to lead in the private sector where leadership is also characterized by the talent to lead corporate players in global, competitive markets and an understanding of the cultural, economical and financial forces that drive the marketplace. Hence, I believe studying by the researchers of the Center of Leadership and Change Development like Prof. S. Kaplan who composed Framing the Future will help me build and lead a high performance optical communication firm.
My experience is mainly based on large and established organizations. Hence, learning from Prof. Dushnitsky on the various dimensions of new venture creation and growth in Entrepreneurship, will show me his perspective on the trail I wish to follow as a founder. Desiring to build a sustainable company, I am looking forward to taking Strategy and Competitive Advantage, where I hope to learn how to create and maintain such an advantage. Learning how to identify entrepreneurial opportunities and how to exploit them where “Creating Values” was contemplated, will lay a solid basis for achieving these goals by myself.
In a world which is growing ever flatter, I find international exposure and experience important for the global company I wish to found. The Multinational Management major courses, such as Global Strategic Management, and participation in the Global Immersion Program will prove valuable in helping me understand other cultures which will be important when penetrating new markets. This international exposure will improve my ability to establish contacts with other nations, hence supporting my longer term career goal of rejoining the PMO.
Wharton’s mindset and student body imply numerous benefits. The exciting opportunity to participate in school’s management would contribute to the fruitful interaction between students and faculty. I plan to take part in the leadership development activities and the various student clubs to create strong friendships. These connections, combined with the great global alumni community, can be especially relevant as an eco system for the company I plan to start and for recruiting its management backbone.