By Jeremy Dann
Many candidates see business school as a great opportunity to figure out what sort of career path they want to pursue in the future. MBA programs tout their career services departments as excellent places to find information about a variety of industries and jobs. They hype their alumni networks as great resources for getting the inside scoop on certain careers and companies. And they promote the b-school summer internship as an opportunity to “test drive” any new sort of occupation you are considering.
So, since business school is a place of reflection on careers, can applicants just put a big fat “TBD” in the essay where they discuss their career goals?
Not a chance.
Even if you view b-school as your figurative mountain-top retreat for career path contemplation, your business school application needs set forth a fairly definite plan of what you would want to do with your degree. Don’t worry””they won’t limit your course offerings based on your stated career goals or withhold your diploma if you deviate from your essay when actually choosing your career.
MBA programs basically want to know that you’ll make good use of the one of the limited spots in their classes. From personal experience, I can tell you that people who have a “learning agenda” related to their chosen career path are more impressive academically and generally have achieved more in their first few years out of school.
You don’t need to get incredibly specific””and as a matter of fact it might sound contrived if you focus in on a certain company (e.g., “I want to be a consultant in McKinsey’s San Francisco office”). However, you should have an “opportunity set” that appeals to you (e.g., “I want to be in a consulting role where I can work on critical technology issues. I love the variety and learning opportunity consulting offers.”).
If you plan on making a fairly significant transition from your current career path, mention the specific things that spurred the change. A banker who wishes to get into marketing post b-school may mention that his favorite project dealt with consumer products. A consultant who wishes to follow an entrepreneurial path may mention the fun she had running a business while in college. Etcetera, etcetera.
The essay writing process is a great opportunity in itself to reflect on your goals. After all, you may have to pick a school in part based on specialties they might possess in certain disciplines. Plus, you’ll be all the more convincing in your essays and interviews if you’ve thought through at least one possible career path in great detail.