Defining Career Goals for the MBA Application

setting MBA goalsIf you’re applying to business school, you know it’s time to get serious about defining your career goals.  For most applicants, career exploration is the impetus for considering an MBA, and the majority of programs will spend time evaluating your career goals for realism and passion.

I have no idea what I want to do.

Many applicants want to go for an MBA, but no clue what specific career will be interesting afterwards.  While an MBA program will expand your horizons and open doors you never considered, having a clearly formulated goal is integral to success.  Therefore, it’s worth taking the time now to do a bit of soul searching.  Think about…

  • Extracurriculars you have been involved with over time – Is there a theme?  Do you have a passion for sports or music that you would like to incorporate into a career?
  • Best moments in your job – What has been most exciting in your current career?  Are you excited about every consumer products company you have consulted for in your management consulting job?  Do you enjoy discussing the quarterly results with the finance team?  What functions seem most appealing to you?
  • Personal goals – Are you interested in work/life balance?  Helping others? Being a leader within an industry or company?

Passion for your career choice will show as you tell your story through essays, discussions with recommenders, and interviews, and it’s worth articulating your own dreams to yourself in advance.

Is my career goal realistic?

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 graduates who are successful in their careers and will contribute to the community.  When evaluating career goals, ask yourself:

  • Is this an industry that typically hires MBAs?  Certain industries are clear feeders for MBA programs, while other industries may require more research. Many MBA programs have a list of typical companies that recruit at the school, and it’s worth investigating the industries that seem to value an MBA.
  • Does my career goal require an MBA?  Even within non-traditional industries, an MBA may be valuable in certain functions.  While a film director may not benefit from an MBA, the finance director at the studio may require formal business training.
  • 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 typical 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 decided what your career goals actually are, know that you’ve made a great first step in your application journey.  The next step is spending some serious time reflecting on how you can tie your career goals clearly with your background and accomplishments thus far to create a cohesive story that will intrigue the admissions committee and–fingers crossed–trigger a coveted interview invitation. Good luck!

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