Think About Your Purpose in Life

your purpose in life

Before applying to business school, it can be helpful to think about your purpose in life and how that aligns with your future career goals. As a prospective MBA, you’ll benefit enormously from taking time at the beginning of your application process to contemplate the path you’re about to take. Now is the moment to ask yourself critical questions, as self-evaluation and reflection are crucial to any MBA application journey.

In a recent MBA Voices post, Harvard Business School professor Ranjay Gulati says many of his students look to the MBA to gain the tools they need to solve today’s complex challenges. “I have found that my most successful students are also guided by a personal sense of purpose,” he adds. “Their unique personal narratives – combined with a strong moral compass – clarify which direction they want to take in their MBA studies.”

Thankfully, you don’t need to go into full monk mode as you contemplate the bigger picture. Try the following thought exercises before you get serious about applying to business school.

Uncovering Your Purpose in Life as an MBA Applicant

Reflect on your values. Take time to think about what matters most. What are your core values and beliefs? How will you stay true to them throughout your life? Your values can be a source of inspiration and help guide your choices, including your decision to pursue an MBA.

Several top schools tap directly into applicants’ values in their MBA essays. For example, Stanford has asked, “What matters most to you, and why?” for years. Meanwhile, Kellogg School of Management notes that values are what guide us in life and work. This year Kellogg asks applicants, “What values are important to you and how have they influenced you?”

Consider long-term goals. Think about what you want to achieve long term. Do you want to make a positive impact on the world, start a business, or climb the corporate ladder? Having a clear vision for your future can give you direction and focus as you pursue your MBA.

“Certain career choices and job opportunities are more lucrative and ensure financial stability,” says career coach Elizabeth Houghton on LinkedIn. “However, if they contradict your core values, you may find yourself feeling like a fish out of water with your work.”

Find opportunities to align your purpose with your career. When considering your MBA options, look for programs that will help you match those goals with an actual job. This ensures that you pursue a meaningful yet realistic path.

As we explored last week, there’s growing recognition of the role companies can play in addressing social and environmental issues. “In my classes I show how it is entirely possible to build a business that both makes a profit and improves the lives of all its stakeholders, including society as a whole,” Gulati says.

Find Your Yoda

Seek mentors and role models. Find people who are living out their values and ask them for guidance. They can be a powerful resource showing you how to align your purpose with your long-term career goals. Sometimes, we need help visualizing the next steps we need to take to reach those important milestones. By finding someone already in that position, we have a clearer picture of what a purpose-driven career looks like—and how to get there.

Don’t be afraid to pivot. Your life’s purpose may evolve over time. Feel free to change course if your current path or company no longer gels with your principles or long-term goals. “Ask yourself whether the values you have match the values of this company,” says Ellen Taaffe of the Kellogg School. “How do they show up in behaviors and not simply signs in the lobby?” Taaffe notes that the pandemic pressured many companies to walk the talk on issues such as climate change and racial and gender equality. 

We hope these suggestions have started you on the path of self-reflection that’s so vital for business school aspirants. Having a clear sense of purpose can keep you motivated and focused, help you make decisions aligned with your values and long-term goals, and set you up for success as you pursue your MBA and beyond.

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from Wharton, Booth 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 Kim, who was an Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Chicago Booth.

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


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