Most business school applications will ask you to think about your career goals. This is a very important question. Business schools want to know how you will make the business world better when you leave their campuses and what your unique mark will be.
The best career essay will do two things:
1) Your essay will connect your past career to your future goals. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior and we have all left a mark in one way or another. Whether you plan to take your career in a completely different direction, make a small career pivot or return to the same company post-MBA in a higher role, it is important to connect your past to your future. This does not, however, mean that your essay should include a chronological history of your career to date. In fact, in nearly all cases you DO NOT want to do this. Instead, you want to think about a few highlights from your career and link them to your future. What are your strengths? When have you shined? Take an example or two and draw the connection for the reader.
Regardless of your goal, this link is important. If you are not planning a major career change, there should be plenty of ways to make this connection. But even if you are, there are links to me made. Here are some examples:
- Perhaps you are a great public speaker. If so, show how you have used this to your advantage in the past, how your performance at work has reflected this and detail how you might use it in a future role, combined with certain key things you will absorb from the MBA.
- Maybe instead your strength lies in working through ambiguity. This is another example of a skill that could be leveraged regardless of your career.
2) Your career goal will be focused, attainable and if possible, unique. Your career essay should generally include both a short-term and long-term goal. This goal should be specific! Do not use OR in your essay. If you don’t know for sure, that is ok! No one is going to hold you to what you put in your essay, but it is important to think through and convey your plan. There are many different strategies to think about when deciding how to narrow down your career goals. In fact, I plan to write a whole blog in the future on just this and I spend many hours counseling clients on how to arrive at their ideal career goals. What is most important, however, is that you are decisive and consistent. Whatever you choose, do not waiver. Your short-term goal should also flow logically to your long-term goal. I have seen candidates with a short-term goal of working in marketing and a long-term goal of becoming a CFO. Sure, some might make this leap in their careers but this isn’t the norm. If you want a finance career, both your short and long-term goal should be in this field.
Your career goal should also be attainable. As valuable as an MBA is, you likely will not be running a department the first day out of business school. Do your research and figure out what jobs are attainable for you. This does not mean you should not be ambitious, of course! This is part of why I tell client to have two goals in most essays.
Finally, uniqueness can also work in your favor. If you have your heart set on a career at McKinsey, then you should write about that. (I talk my clients through when this is and is not a good strategy based on your background and long-term goals). However, don’t simply put this as your goal because that is what you think AdComs wants to hear. Not everyone goes into consulting and having a unique goal can often work in your favor. It may make it easier for you to stand out and be memorable, but at the same time do not forget that it has to be realistic and achievable.
The career goal essay is very important. After all, you need to convince admissions committee members that you know WHY you need an MBA and that you will use it effectively so give it the time it deserves!
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See examples of career essays from a few different business schools
Columbia Business School
Admission Counseling, Personal MBA Coach
Upon graduation I wish to lead the fiber-optics product management team in one of the world’s largest optical communication companies (such as Alcatel-Lucent and AT&T), supervising a group of 5-10. Striving to promote myself within the organization, I wish to become the Vice President of Marketing in the fiber optics segment, supervising several dozens of employees.
My mid-term goal is to become the founder and CEO of an innovative fiber optics firm. I desire to position the company as a profitable, international and leading company in its industry, and aspire to establish a sustainable organization, creating workplaces for thousands of employees and turning an underdeveloped area into a flourishing industrial zone. Passave, an optical communication company, which was lately acquired for $300M, is a model for such a successful company.
After fulfilling this goal, I intend to follow the growing trend of successful executives who moved to the public service sector. My plan is to become a senior manager in the Prime Minister’s Office.
I chose my first full time position in the Optronics Division at the military because I knew it will introduce me to the diverse optical communication community in my country, equipping me with basic hands-on experience in the field. The first two years I worked as a Physicist and a System Engineer and then I was promoted to the position of Electro-Optical Projects Manager in the division’s headquarters. There I set the goals, supervised and directed 9 Project Mangers in optical projects performed by 7 different companies in the defense industry.
At that point I realized that for developing the managing tools required for a senior manager I’ll need to gain more experience in bigger organizations. Therefore, I persuaded the head of the R&D directorate to be reassigned to a classified Intelligence unit. My first mission as an Optical Engineer was to lead a group of 4 in building a module which was the heart of a $100M system. One year later I was appointed to a Team Leader where I commanded a team of 8. Two years later I was promoted to Project Leader.
I understood I lacked the financial and international experience of technological project management to lead a global optical communication company. I therefore became a Project Leader in a classified unit of the PMO. I supervised a team of 20, and managed all financial aspects of a $2M project (presented to the Minister of Defense), where I also had the marvelous opportunity to negotiate with highly ranked officials of three foreign governments.
While considering studying for a PhD, I worked as a part time an Internal Consultant of 5 Project Leaders. I then became an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) in Precede, an entrepreneurship and investment firm, in hope to learn more about becoming an entrepreneur. Working in Precede, I matured in my understanding. I realized I still lack some Finance, Marketing and General Management foundations, which an MBA will enable me to develop.
In light of my long term goal to become a founder and CEO of a technologically oriented company, I’ll need to gain the strongest possible general management skills. The finance and marketing foundations will compensate for my inexperience in these fields. The structured formal general management education I’ll acquire in Wharton will broaden my view and give me the tools to leverage my experience and create a successful company. I believe an MBA is the most structural way to learn how to build organizational values, culture and design organizational structure and hierarchy.
Moreover, most of my leadership experience was developed in governmental organizations, where a leader is defined in terms of his values, inter-personal skills and professionalism. However, looking into the future, I will need to lead in the private sector where leadership is also characterized by the talent to lead corporate players in global, competitive markets and an understanding of the cultural, economical and financial forces that drive the marketplace. Hence, I believe studying by the researchers of the Center of Leadership and Change Development like Prof. S. Kaplan who composed Framing the Future will help me build and lead a high performance optical communication firm.
My experience is mainly based on large and established organizations. Hence, learning from Prof. Dushnitsky on the various dimensions of new venture creation and growth in Entrepreneurship, will show me his perspective on the trail I wish to follow as a founder. Desiring to build a sustainable company, I am looking forward to taking Strategy and Competitive Advantage, where I hope to learn how to create and maintain such an advantage. Learning how to identify entrepreneurial opportunities and how to exploit them where “Creating Values” was contemplated, will lay a solid basis for achieving these goals by myself.
In a world which is growing ever flatter, I find international exposure and experience important for the global company I wish to found. The Multinational Management major courses, such as Global Strategic Management, and participation in the Global Immersion Program will prove valuable in helping me understand other cultures which will be important when penetrating new markets. This international exposure will improve my ability to establish contacts with other nations, hence supporting my longer term career goal of rejoining the PMO.
Wharton’s mindset and student body imply numerous benefits. The exciting opportunity to participate in school’s management would contribute to the fruitful interaction between students and faculty. I plan to take part in the leadership development activities and the various student clubs to create strong friendships. These connections, combined with the great global alumni community, can be especially relevant as an eco system for the company I plan to start and for recruiting its management backbone.