Tag Archives: career goals essay

Work in Finance? Don’t Make These Common MBA Application Mistakes

As an MBA applicant with a background in finance, you’re no doubt wondering how to stand out from your equally impressive peers. No matter how remarkable your pedigree, the truth is that no business school …

As an MBA applicant with a background in finance, you’re no doubt wondering how to stand out from your equally impressive peers. No matter how remarkable your pedigree, the truth is that no business school wants an entire class filled with individuals of the same profile.

application mistakes finance professionals make

While this information may be sobering and have you wondering how in the world can you ever earn an acceptance letter, keep in mind that MBA programs welcome candidates with your background. In fact, every year the classes at top MBA programs are filled with former finance professionals.

Because applicants from finance are overrepresented in the admissions pool, your goal is to stand out as much as possible from peers with similar backgrounds. As we pointed out last month when we started this Top 10 list of common MBA application mistakes, there’s a right way and a wrong way to attract the admission committee’s attention. Let’s dive deeper into what finance professionals should avoid, and what makes for a successful MBA application.

Mistake #4:   Failing to leverage your interests outside of work

While most of your peers will have similar work examples, you are the only one with your particular hobbies, interests, friends and family. What are your passions outside of the office? You’re missing out on a critical opportunity to connect with the admissions committee if you don’t tap into your personal pursuits to add another dimension to your MBA application.

When you reflect on your life, think about the differences that can help you stand out. It can be anything from education to family to activities and interests. What do you spend your free time and money on? What values have you inherited from your family? Take those differences and create a nugget of a story to include in relevant essays to reveal more about you than your GPA or work history.

Mistake #5: Overlooking work accomplishments that fall outside the norm

Everyone in the admissions committee knows what an investment banking, hedge fund or private equity analyst actually does all day. Many of your peers are also working hard to gain admission, and thousands of applications later, your work experience may start to seem similar to all the others in the pile.

As you survey your peers, think about what you do at work that is outside your typical deal or investment focused work (and theirs). Instead of talking about the analysis you conducted or the due diligence you performed, think about the time you trained the interns or organized a community service event for your colleagues.  Maybe you created a new process or led recruiting efforts. Any of these “extra-curricular” work activities can be an asset to your application and help you stand out.

Mistake #6: Not explaining the meaning behind your career goals

Whether you are staying on your current career path or switching to something completely different, it’s important not to assume that the MBA admissions committee will understand why you are pursuing your specific career goals. Your task is to explain that you have consciously selected your future career plans through research, evaluation of your own strengths and weaknesses, and other intangible factors. In short, your career goals have to have meaning to you, and you’ll need to communicate that meaning through your application materials.

Aim to demonstrate exactly how your career goals and personal history have come together into a path with real purpose. Obviously not every candidate is planning to save the world after pursuing an MBA, but even if your career goals are not inherently altruistic it’s important to show that they have deep meaning for you personally.

Mistake #7: Not showing your collaborative side

How do you demonstrate teamwork when you are sitting solo in front of a computer screen all day? What if you work largely on your own projects for your associate, and very little with other analysts? Overall, it’s sometimes tough to feel like you are part of a team when you’re always performing tasks for senior level meetings and pitches. That’s the dilemma facing many of you as you answer questions that ask for your ability to work collaboratively as part of a team.

The most successful teams take the strengths of each person to counteract any weaknesses of others. As you enter your MBA program you’ll bring specific skills that can be an asset to any project. Taking these key strengths and applying them to your business school environment can be a great way to showcase how much you will contribute to your learning team, your cluster or cohort, and any club leadership position.


We’ll be back next month with the final installment addressing the common mistakes finance applicants need to avoid. Until then, please follow SBC in social media and sign up for the SBC newsletter, where you’ll receive expert advice on all aspects of the MBA application process delivered straight in your inbox each week.

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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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