Tag Archives: career goals essay

Think Through Your Post-MBA Career Goals

While you don’t need to have your career goals set in stone when you apply to business school, you should have a very clear idea of how the MBA degree will help you prepare for …

career goals at Chicago Booth

While you don’t need to have your career goals set in stone when you apply to business school, you should have a very clear idea of how the MBA degree will help you prepare for your future career.

The full-time MBA admissions blog at Chicago Booth School of Business has published an informative and insightful post written by Nima Merchant, a new member of the admissions team who has just transitioned from Booth’s Career Services employer development department.

“I’ve gained a very clear perspective of what employers who hire at Booth are looking for — and how those values can be important to highlight in your application.”

Merchant suggests applicants start by studying the Booth Full-Time MBA employment report. You can get an overview of the career paths students pursue under the Profiles tab, and the Employers section details the top companies recruiting at Booth.

You’ll see trends in the career interests of students through the Function and Industries tabs, which provide a break down of full-time positions and internships accepted—plus salary ranges and the number of hires per company.

The report also shows where students find work, and the Job Source section indicates that more than 75% of all employment offers last year were facilitated through Booth, which Merchant calls a “glowing example” of the powerhouse that is the Chicago Booth alumni network.

As you prepare your MBA applications, think about your future career goals, how the program can help you reach those goals, and what you will contribute to the school as well.

“It will be essential for you to connect with students and alumni to get their personal perspectives how the MBA, and Booth, helped them get where they wanted to be,” writes Merchant.

To that end, here’s a link to Chicago Booth’s upcoming online chats, where you can engage with current students and career services staff to get answers to all of your burning questions about the resources and opportunities available at Booth.

image courtesy of Chicago Booth School of Business

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Considering a Second MBA Degree?

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com The idea of pursuing a second MBA degree may sound strange, but it happens with a small number of applicants during every admissions …

get a second MBA

Applicants who received an MBA abroad can use a second MBA to strengthen job prospects.

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com

The idea of pursuing a second MBA degree may sound strange, but it happens with a small number of applicants during every admissions season and can make sense under the right, very specific, circumstances.

Some applicants consider a second degree after earning an MBA from a for-profit university or an unaccredited program. They may find they have hit a ceiling with their employment prospects as they vie for positions against candidates from better-known schools.

More often, people who seek a second degree are international candidates who have discovered that their professional dreams cannot be fulfilled with their current degree alone.

In India, for example, it’s common for a student to jump into an MBA program straight out of university, which makes for a very theoretical learning experience rather than a practical one in which to contextualize management problems. Once these MBA grads get into the workforce, they discover they must further develop various skills to become strong business leaders.

For professionals working in international firms who aspire to relocate abroad, a degree earned in-country will not open doors the way a highly ranked MBA from a name-brand university will. A second MBA is seen as an efficient way to move out of a stagnant career and enhance their competitiveness, allowing the degree holder to shift into a new function, industry or geography after completing their studies.

Creating a rich classroom experience through diversity is a huge focus of the top business schools, offering students the opportunity to interact with peers from an array of countries and professional backgrounds. While the educational component of the degree in South Asian business schools, for example, may sometimes rival their international counterparts, the ability to create networking ties across the globe is nowhere near as strong. For career switchers looking to break into competitive industries such as finance or consulting, earning an MBA from a globally recognized brand becomes paramount.

As with any blip or oddity in candidates’ background, they need to think through their story as they prepare application essays.

What did you not get from a prior MBA that you can get this time around? How is the target program different, or a better fit? Or maybe it’s a matter of timing, and the first one was a mistake you need to acknowledge. What skills are you looking to gain, and why couldn’t you acquire them with your first degree? An applicant needs to show why it would make sense to repeat the same degree from a different school. It can be a hard narrative to flesh out and tell in a compelling way, but it’s not impossible.

When I first read through the profile for our client Vijay, I saw strong academic numbers, volunteer involvement, an interesting entrepreneurial venture – and that he already had an MBA from one of the Indian Institutes of Management. My first question was the same any admissions committee member would ask him: “Why do you need a second MBA?”

Vijay entered an IIM program when he was a university student to supplement his engineering coursework. While he had received an MBA credential, he considered the degree as an addendum to his undergraduate diploma. Also, his degree did not provide the same career advantages he would get from one of his target schools in the U.S., which were the MIT Sloan School of Management, the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania and University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

For his career goals essay, we discussed exactly what this second MBA degree would do for Vijay’s career. We also used the optional essay to clearly outline how specific coursework in entrepreneurship, international experience and networking opportunities at each program made a second MBA absolutely necessary. His hard work and compelling argument paid off, and Vijay pursued his second MBA at Sloan, where he made some great contacts for future entrepreneurial ventures.

Many top business schools in the U.S. and Europe welcome applicants who already hold an MBA degree. If your first MBA is from a smaller international school, the elite programs are well aware of their advantages over the initial degree. Fortunately, your prior MBA degree won’t be a problem for on-campus recruiting, though you should be able to explain why you needed the two degrees. Assuming you have a solid story, the emphasis will be on your work experience and skills. If you are admitted to a strong program, the degree — combined with your skills — will enable you to land a great job come graduation.

Contact the admissions department at the programs you are interested in to find out the specifics for each school, and be ready to make a rock-solid case for why a second MBA is the next logical step for you.

Image credit: KMo Foto (CC BY 2.0)

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Define Your MBA Goals Before Applying to Grad School

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com The career goals essay is perhaps the most common of all topics posed in the MBA application, so it may surprise you to …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com

The career goals essay is perhaps the most common of all topics posed in the MBA application, so it may surprise you to learn that many prospective students don’t have clearly defined career goals. If that sounds like you, the first step to remedying this situation is taking a long look at what you think an MBA degree will do for you.

B-school offers clear skill-building in teamwork and leadership, as well as practical skills like accounting, marketing and finance. For many, the strong professional network you’ll build with classmates and alumni is the most alluring aspect of the experience. If you want to advance in a career where an MBA is valued, it may be an important next step.

However, if you’re simply feeling bored in your current position or hoping to earn a higher salary, make sure that an MBA is the right professional degree for you. Applying to business school is an expensive and time-consuming proposition. Without real dedication for the path upon which you’re embarking, your journey will likely stall before getting out of the gate.

Show me the passion: Remember, a goal is something you want to achieve. Therefore, simply stating, “I want to work in investment banking,” is not a goal. But how do you go about defining your career goals? Like most of the important decisions in life, it begins with a bit of soul searching. Think about your history of extracurricular activities. Is there a recurring theme or interest area that you would like to incorporate into a career?

Then take a closer look at the best and least-favored moments of your work trajectory thus far. What functions seem most appealing to you? What aspects do you dislike? Consider your personal goals as well. Are you driven to be a leader within an industry or company? Are you interested in work/life balance? Keep in mind, some flexibility with your goals is fine, as long as there’s a common thread linking what you’ve done so far with what you plan to do post-MBA.

One thing I tell people to tap into when they’re thinking of their career goals is envy””in the best possible sense. When you think about envy, it probably means you’re thinking about people doing things that you wish you were doing. Ask yourself, “Who is this person? What about them would I like to emulate?” That can help you define your goals in many ways. Passion for your career choice will come across as you tell your story through essays, discussions with recommenders, and interviews, so it’s worth articulating your own dreams in advance.

And keep it real: Along with passion, realism is an important aspect of your MBA career goals. Consider the application process from the school’s perspective: MBA programs want to launch productive, successful graduates who will contribute to the community.

When evaluating career goals, ask yourself: Does my career goal require an MBA? Even within nontraditional industries, an MBA may be valuable in certain functions. While a film director probably won’t benefit from the degree, the finance director at a studio would certainly benefit from formal business training.

Is this an industry that typically hires MBAs? Certain industries are clear feeders for MBA programs, while other industries may require more research. Finance, banking, and consulting are the obvious industries, and there’s growing demand for MBAs in the fields of IT and technology, manufacturing, healthcare, and at nonprofits. Many MBA programs have a list of typical companies that recruit at the school, and it’s worth investigating the industries that value an MBA degree.

Is the level I am seeking in my short-term goal realistic? Investigate the typical post-MBA title for your chosen industry and function to make sure you understand the usual career path. If you have significantly more work experience than your classmates, you may be qualified for a step up. However, typically companies recruit for standard new-MBA positions.

Once you’ve come up with a clear, cohesive vision of your career goals, tying it all together with your background and accomplishments is a great first step in a successful application strategy.

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SBC Scoop: An Older Applicant

A lot has been said in recent years about schools like Harvard and Stanford taking a greater interest in younger applicants and denying older applicants, with many top schools following suit.  In fact, I have …

A lot has been said in recent years about schools like Harvard and Stanford taking a greater interest in younger applicants and denying older applicants, with many top schools following suit.  In fact, I have seen posts in forums that basically tell people there is “no chance” past a certain age.  Whereas ten years ago there was buzz about getting as much work experience as possible, more recently, applicants have feared having too much experience, being too old.  This case study is meant to demonstrate that older applicants do get in, and can and should apply.  But I also want to provide a context and explain why older candidates do often have a tough time.  Since our client ended up at HBS, I will speak to HBS, but this really applies to all top schools.

Harvard values great leadership.  If you are applying to Harvard when you are 34 or like our client, 37, you better have already developed terrific leadership skills and have a lot to show for them.  The problem is that many people with great leadership skills have achieved so much by the time they are almost 40, that they are not interested in going back to school.    However, if one of these people is interested, and can demonstrate great achievement balanced with a legitimate need/desire to return to school, than they have a good chance.  You see, proving that you are a strong and accomplished 40 year old leader, and balancing that with the fact that you want to improve in order to get to the next step, is tough to pull off.  But it is pulled off and “old” people are admitted every year!

Our client, Max, was 37 and applied to a full range of schools.  Harvard was actually a re-application for him ”“ the others were all first time apps.  In a nutshell, his numbers were just average (3.5 GPA from mid tier school and 670 GMAT), and he had a nice, though not outrageous record of extra-curriculars.

Max’s work experience was stellar.  He had advanced quickly and impressively, and had significant P&L responsibility at Nestle.   He had rock solid evidence of strong leadership and communication skills, and he clearly had a lot to offer peers in classroom discussion.  Recommendations were also very good.  In drafting his application, he struggled with the balance between past experience and articulating ambitious, reasonable goals that supported his desire for an MBA.  Ultimately, he had a very big, high impact vision for his career.  But it was not a “pie in the sky” type of pipe dream.  His prior experience informed and inspired his future goals, and made them appear to be realistic: ambitious and realistic.  He was also able to tie unique personal experiences to his goals, showing how his career plan had personal meaning for him and was about more than just “making money”.

Even though he emerged from the process with admits from HBS and Tuck, it was not a smooth road.  His initial results were not so happy as he was waitlisted and then denied first from Wharton and later also denied from Columbia and Stanford.  At that point he seized upon the only aspect of the application that was still within his control and prepped like crazy for his Round 2 interviews.  Guess it helped tip him over the edge!  A very happy ending.

Facebook Contest: Answer the question below in the comments section for a chance to win an account from Apply in the Sky ($75 value). The winner will be chosen by the Stacy Blackman Team on 05/15:

How do you see an MBA degree helping you achieve your goals post-graduation?

To read more SBC Case Studies, click HERE.

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Tuesday Tips – INSEAD MBA Essay Tips

INSEAD’s essay questions offer unique challenges addressed in this week’s Tuesday Tips. Two campuses, multiple degree options and a diverse and international class set INSEAD apart from its competitors. INSEAD focuses separately on the job and personal portion of your MBA application essays, and we will guide you to address both questions thoroughly.

INSEAD has released the key dates, deadlines and essay topics for the 2011/2012 Fall and January intake.

INSEAD’s range of essays seeks to understand both your career path and your personal motivations. Fit with INSEAD’s unique program will be important, and the focus on international experiences is clear through the final essay in the set. Two campuses, multiple degree options and a diverse and international class set INSEAD apart from its competitors. In addition, you have the option to enter INSEAD either in the traditional Fall intake or in a January intake option.

INSEAD focuses separately on the job and personal portion of your MBA application essays, seeking to understand candidate’s roles in detail and career progress before delving into the personal aspect. While most MBA programs combine all aspects of your career goals trajectory into one essay, INSEAD provides three separate opportunities to discuss your current job, past experiences and future goals. Though career is covered in three essays rather than one, you should make sure that all of the essays work coherently together. As INSEAD states on the website: “We evaluate each applicant against four central criteria: leadership potential and work experience; academic capacity; international motivation; and ability to contribute to the INSEAD experience.”

Job-Related Essays
1. Please give a detailed description of your job, including nature of work, major responsibilities; and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, number of clients/products and results achieved. (250 words)

This question should focus entirely on your current work situation. Though you will want to provide relevant context for your current role, make sure you are devoting most of the essay to describing the details of your day-to-day responsibilities and oversight. If you are lighter on supervising others or managing a budget, you have the opportunity to highlight some key responsibilities and results.

When you are composing this essay make sure you focus on what you uniquely have contributed to the role, rather than reciting the job description. What have you done that is above and beyond?

2. Please give us a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (250 words)

This is essentially a walk through of your resume using the essay format to allow you to provide a unifying thread through the narrative. INSEAD is seeking to understand your career trajectory and how you have grown and progressed through your career. Think about the choices you have made in your career, and how your past experiences have combined to provide you with your current skill set. If you have a fairly straightforward career path you can take the opportunity to comment on some of the learnings from each position. The second part of the question also needs to be answered. Think about the next step at your job, and where you might land if you did not leave to pursue an MBA. While this is a straightforward question, you may need to demonstrate that you can’t get where you want to go from here ”“ and that you will need an MBA to achieve your goals.

Essays
1. Give a candid description of yourself, stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors, which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (400 words approx.)

Strengths and weaknesses are a common topic for MBA applications. This is a great opportunity to highlight some of your skills and attributes that demonstrate leadership, teamwork or other qualities of a future business leader. Demonstrating self-awareness and the ability to assess your own performance will be impressive. While examples aren’t required, consider that adcomm is reading a vast number of essays and that solid examples to prove your points will help you stand out.
When describing weaknesses you will want to focus on those weaknesses that you have taken concrete steps to address, or that have been a route to learning more about yourself. Often strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin, in which case you can even tie your key weaknesses to your key strengths. Because it is often difficult to write about one’s weaknesses this is an especially important essay to share with others to seek feedback on tone and impact.

2. Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date, explaining why you view them as such. (400 words approx.)

Similar to the HBS question, this is an opportunity to describe two of your most important accomplishments. While impressive accomplishments are great and will certainly enhance your overall application, you should pay equal attention to explaining why these accomplishments are valuable to you. If you concisely explain the accomplishment and how you were able to bring it to fruition, you will have room to provide the context for your personal pride in the accomplishment.

Consider using personal or extracurricular examples in this essay, as most of your previous essays will be career focused.

3. Describe a situation taken from school, business, civil or military life, where you did not meet your personal objectives, and discuss briefly the effect. (250 words approx.)

Modeled after the failure or mistake essay, this essay asks you to discuss a situation that was disappointing to you. The most important aspect of this essay is to demonstrate that you are able to learn and grow as a result of a mistake. Everyone faces disappointment; it’s how you react that determines your effectiveness in an organization.

A strong essay will include a clear and concise description of the situation; describe your objectives, and how you did not meet them. Then you can devote significant space to discussing what your reaction was and how you moved forward. Demonstrating that you learned something from the situation is crucial to demonstrating self-awareness and emotional intelligence. If you have the room, either applying your lesson learned to a current situation or a subsequent experience would be an excellent way to wrap up the essay.

You are provided the freedom to pull examples from multiple areas, and this is an opportunity to demonstrate another side of you that has not been explored in the previous personal or career essays.

4. Discuss your career goals. What skills do you expect to gain from studying at INSEAD and how will they contribute to your professional career. (500 words approx.)

This essay is a continuation of the first two essay questions. Here you should make a case for why an MBA is the appropriate next step in your career and life, and why INSEAD is the right place to do it. You already laid the groundwork on where you have been in essay 2, and where you are right now in essay 1, and this essay should be part of the overall career trajectory. Consider what you said about your next position in the job related essay 2, and how an MBA will change your future career for the better.

INSEAD seeks MBA candidates with a range of experiences and the school wants to clearly know why you are seeking an MBA. Your future career goals should flow logically from where you have been in your career and your education at INSEAD. If you are confident about where you are going the admissions committee will be more confident about your ability to take advantage of the unique MBA experience.

5. Please choose one of the following two essay topics:
a) Have you ever experienced culture shock? What did it mean to you? (250 words approx.), or
b) What would you say to a foreigner moving to your home country? (250 words approx.)

Both of these essay choices seek a response that will demonstrate your awareness of the world outside your home country. INSEAD is a highly international program and seeks candidates that both demonstrate and value diversity. Either one of these essay offers an opportunity to highlight any international or cross culture exposure you have had, whether while traveling outside your home country, or when experiencing foreigners within your home country. You will want to demonstrate cultural sensitivity, but also an awareness of the real differences between people and nationalities.

Culture shock can be a result of visiting or living in a new country, an unfamiliar group of people, or even a novel situation. Because INSEAD is such an international community it would be best to use this opportunity to discuss your awareness of other cultures and people. Choose an example that is easy to understand, and then spend some time explaining why you felt the culture shock and what it signified to you.

Option b allows you to act as host in your own country, describing the customs and challenges that may await a foreign visitor. This essay can demonstrate your skills of observation and empathy as you step into a strangers shoes and evaluate your own culture and values.

Whether you choose option a or b, it will be important to make sure you are highlighting your ability to conduct business across cultures. As a highly international program INSEAD will want to see demonstrated international savvy.

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