MBA Career Goals: Inspo, Intel & Advice

MBA career goals

Every business school application asks about your MBA career goals in one form or another. Typically, you’ll need to discuss your short and long-term goals as part of your essays, your application data form, and likely during your MBA interview.

SBC admissions consultant Chandler, co-host of our B-Schooled podcast, says, “This is something I worried about as an applicant personally, and I can definitely say that it is one of the topics our applicants worry about the most. One error many applicants make is delaying thinking deeply about this. Career goals are one of the elements people tend to ‘put off’ until later in the application. I promise you that it is so much better to tackle this question head on sooner rather than later.”

Well-defined career goals will give you a clear North Star that you can reference as you weave together all the various elements of your application. It’s a way to present a clear, cohesive picture summarizing what you have done in the past, where you are now, and where you want to go.

Across our team, the admissions consultants unanimously say they love this work because we help advance the professional aspirations of each of our clients. “One of my favorite things in the world is getting to work with amazing young professionals and students from many different geographies, fields, and walks of life on shaping their goals and supporting them in taking the next steps in their educational and professional journeys,” says SBC consultant Christina.

The Value of Having Clear MBA Career Goals

MBA career goals

Why are MBA career goals important? Admissions committee members want to understand the threads between your past, present, and future career. Sharing your professional goals gives business schools a sense of the impact you’d like to make–and your plan for achieving that vision. Your goals should authentically reflect who you are. The AdCom member reading your application should also see how their MBA program will help you reach your dream. Sharing meaningful, clear goals is crucial not just for your MBA essays and application forms. It’s also vital for your overall business school application journey and thought process.

Can the stated career goals in your applications actually hurt your admit chances? Yes. Here’s why:


All MBA application elements including career goals must work together to increase your admit chances. Case study here; see why he was dinged from HBS. #hbs #sbcyourfuture #mba #mbaadmissions #careergoals

? Chill Vibes – Tollan Kim

Three Common Categories We See

MBA applicants usually fall into one of three categories regarding their career aspirations and goals.

  • Applicants with a reasonably good grasp of what they want to do but who may still need to figure out all the details. So, we look to get specific with these clients and dive into the details. That way, you can present a crystal clear picture of what you have done before, how it led you to where you are today, and how an MBA and your future career plans are the clear/logical/realistic/exciting next steps.
  • Applicants who have some sensibility around what they want to do but feel torn between two or three potentially very different paths.
  • Applicants who genuinely have no idea how their future career might look. These professionals know they want to make a change and feel it’s time to take the next step in their careers. They also know they likely need an advanced degree to do this. Maybe they want to change industry or function and understand that an MBA is an excellent way to do that. But often–if they are honest with themselves –they don’t yet have a clear idea about how this will look. We are HERE TO TELL YOU that this is okay. We’ve got you.

Group One: Those Who Know What They Want to Do

For clients lucky enough to have a firm grasp of their short- and long-term career goals, we encourage them to paint a clear picture for the AdCom. They should explain what they want to do and why and what they need to learn to prepare for what lies ahead.

Is there a specific problem you see in the world? What are your ideas on how to solve it? What skills, experiences, etc., do you need to build up to reach this goal? You want to share MBA career goals that you feel genuinely excited about and that are meaningful, attainable, and relevant to MBA programs.

“It is almost like an MBA Career Madlibs,” jokes B-Schooled host Chandler. “You can imagine an applicant staring at a form and forcing themselves to fill in the following blanks: Immediately after B-school, I would like to do ROLE X at ORGANIZATION A or B, learning SKILLS A, B and C. Longer term – say ten years out–I would ultimately like to leverage these experiences in something like ROLE Y at an ORGANIZATION C or D learning SKILLS D and E to advance my long standing passion/commitment passion for TOPIC A.”

While MBA programs don’t hold you to your goals once you enter the program, they want to see that you can adequately articulate a path forward. Many schools also like to know how their MBA program can help you succeed in that pathway. We always encourage our clients to share the sector, function or department, and geography in which they’d like to work.

SBC Client Case Study

For example, a recent Stacy Blackman client with some insurance industry experience shared why and how excited he was about the sector and the tough challenges he’d like to help solve.

His short-term goal focused on diving deeply into industry innovation by joining the strategy team of a game-changing fintech startup in a part of the world where there’s been lots of industry disruption. Long-term, he wants to transform what’s currently a very bureaucratic sector into a much more customer-friendly experience that effectively protects billions of people and organizations worldwide. The client gained admission to several top business schools, including Harvard, Wharton, Chicago Booth, and UC Berkeley Haas.

Group Two: Those Who Feel Torn Between Two Different Paths

For these applicants, a great strategy is to walk through the exercises we just described for each of the career options you’re considering. Challenging yourself to get specific about what you would be doing immediately, five, ten, and 20 years post-MBA in terms of each path can be illuminating. We also strongly recommend doing due diligence into each career pathway, which could involve connecting with professionals in those fields to reading LinkedIn profiles.

Another effective approach is to think about a career path at the intersection of those two fields of interest–even if they seem entirely unconnected.

For example, we worked with a woman with a mechanical engineering background who was very committed to social change. Initially, she was wrestling between going into a hard-core leadership role at a mechanical engineering company versus spending her career working with low-income populations in her home country.

At first glance, these seemed like entirely different paths. But as we dug deeper into the situation, she realized these two paths could intersect in exciting ways. For example, her future career could include anything from developing new solutions for drilling wells to purifying water to generating electricity to business opportunities for women and girls connected to emerging technologies.

Another client was passionately committed to both retail and gender equity. We explored both career pathways separately, and in our discussions, it became clear that intersecting them made a lot of sense. There was a real opportunity to become a leader of consequence in the retail world while advocating for social impact and supporting women in the field.

The client’s sincerity in sharing her MBA career goals helped her earn admission to several leading business schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg School of Management, and Chicago Booth.

MBA career goals

Group Three: Those Who Have No Idea 

For clients who think they have no idea when they start the process, we encourage them to dream big and without limits. For example, questions we might ask would include the following:

  • Who do you want to be when you “grow up”? What is your dream job?
  • What problems do you want to solve, and what “white spaces” – professionally and personally – do you want to fill?
  • Which of these ideas connects the dots most compellingly to bridge where you are coming from and where you want to go?

Remember, you aren’t bound for life to your stated MBA career goals. Admissions officers 100% understand that many applicants aren’t sure about what they want to do. They also know that your plans might change during your time of exploration in business school. It can be valuable to pick a boat that feels genuinely exciting to you and sail it to create a plan/vision for yourself. Yet there’s also space to try out different boats during the MBA experience–and beyond.

An SBC client a few years ago had been very successful in finance. She wanted to try something different but didn’t know what that would be. As we went through several career goals exercises, she shared that she felt passionate about entertainment and media. While the idea initially seemed a little far-fetched, as the client had zero experience in entertainment, her enthusiasm was genuine.

We began discovering the sector together–identifying ways she could contribute and what she needed to learn. She took proactive action in building toward her goals as she was applying, and today, she’s successfully graduated from a top MBA program and works at one of the largest blue-chip entertainment companies in the world.

Find Your Ikigai

For further inspiration, we leave you with a model that illustrates the intersection where your passions and talents converge with the things the world needs and is willing to pay for. Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means your ‘reason for being. “Iki’ in Japanese means’ life,’ and ‘gai’ describes value or worth. Your ikigai is your life’s purpose, what brings you joy, and what inspires you to get out of bed each day.

Your MBA career goals are a central part of your B-school applications, and we hope that the inspo, intel, and advice here have helped clarify the road ahead.

Curious about how to compare MBA programs? Check out our Face-Off series here.

Request a free MBA advising session with Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how we can help with your complete MBA applications. Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.

View our complete consultant team.

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from Harvard HBS, Wharton and every elite business program in the US and Europe.  These MBA Admissions Officers have chosen to work exclusively with SBC.

Just two of the many superstars on the SBC team:
Meet Anthony, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he dedicated over 10 years of expertise.

Meet Andrea, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions Marketing at Harvard Business School (HBS) for over five years.

Tap into this inside knowledge for your MBA applications by requesting a consultation.


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