Many MBA application essay sets include a career goals essay question in one form or another, questions like:
- Chicago Booth: “What are your short-term and long-term career goals?”
- Wharton: “What are your professional objectives?”
- Kellogg: “Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing an MBA.”
- Stanford GSB: “What do you want to do—REALLY?”
In this article, we examine the different elements that comprise an effective career goals essay and provide excerpts from a sample essay to illustrate lessons that you can apply when writing your own career goals statement. We would never want to want to suggest that there is only one structure that works when writing your career goals essay. Rather, the example and lessons are to help you to develop an approach to writing the essay and to evaluate whether or not your drafts are achieving the desired effect.
Lesson 1: Articulate your career goals clearly and directly in the introductory paragraph.
One effective way to begin an MBA career goals essay is to begin with a clear summary of short-term and long-term career goals. The sample essay was written by a private equity analyst who intends to work in private equity in the former Soviet Union after graduation. He opens his essay as follows:
Directly out of business school, I want to move to Moscow to work for a leading private equity group, such as Baring Vostok. Long-term, my goal is to start my own fund in the former Soviet Union, ideally based in Kiev, where I was born and where most of my extended family still lives.
Lesson 2: Summarize the connection between your career history and career goals.
You want to establish that your career goals are realistic by explaining how your career so far has prepared you for the future roles you plan to pursue. When possible specify relevant skills and experiences that have prepared you for your future professional objectives. The key is to be brief, especially if you have not been asked explicitly about your career progress.
In the example essay, our applicant emphasizes his private equity experience:
Although I was honored to be offered a 3rd year analyst position at Deutsche Bank, I decided to join Astrix partners, a private equity fund with $2 billion in assets. At Astrix, I have excelled by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of target companies and by building effective, trusting relationships with the management teams of our portfolio companies.
Lesson 3: Explain your motivations and why these career goals matter to you.
MBA programs were founded on the belief that business leaders can and do play a powerful role in contributing to the prosperity of society. Consequently, MBA programs are looking for future leaders who have a strong desire to make a positive impact in the world. Schools also want to know that the career goals are meaningful to you.
Later in his goals essay, our case study candidate reveals his motivations and sense of purpose:
We moved from Kiev to the U.S. when I was eight, but I have managed to maintain strong ties to my native country. On frequent trips to the former Soviet Union, I have seen first hand that there is a tremendous need for the kind of investment fund I envision starting.
Lesson 4: Summarize your career action plan.
Another important building block of an effective career goals statement is your career action plan – it includes the jobs and organizations you plan to work for along the way toward your long-term career goal. For each job on your path, explain briefly how the position and role will move you a step closer to your long-term aspirations in terms of things like additional skills, essential experiences, and a stronger network.
In his career action plan, our example candidate emphasizes his plan to work for an established fund in the part of the world in which he intends to start his private fund:
By working for a firm in Moscow like Baring Vostok for five to seven years, I will gain regional private equity experience and key business relationships in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (“CIS”).
Lesson 5: Share your career vision.
Ending the essay with a career vision statement can be powerful. Admissions officers at top business schools welcome grand ambitions, some even expect them. The statement should describe your vision for fulfilling what you believe to be the underlying purpose of your career.
In the later stages of his career, the writer of the example essay explains that he want to spur economic growth in the former Soviet Union both as an investor and eventually an economic advisor to the government:
Eventually, I want to serve as an economic advisor to the Ukrainian government. New energy and optimism not to mention capital are critically needed in the former Soviet Union. I want to be an investor who provides all three.
Sharing your excitement about your future career path with admissions officers via your MBA application essays is an important step toward earning an acceptance letter from a top MBA program. The coherence and clarity of your career goals essay can serve as an elegant proof of your desire to be a leader of consequence once you finish your MBA studies.
The lessons we’ve shared in this article can help you to ask yourself the right questions at the outlining phase and afterwards to gauge of the quality of the essay you write to answer those questions. Ultimately, the goal of your career goals essay is to convince admissions officers that you are a candidate who will use your MBA education to make a positive difference in the world. If you succeed, you will almost certainly increase your chances of being accepted by one of the top business schools.
For many applicants, drafting the goals essay is the most challenging element of their MBA application. It may also be the most important of the essays. Writing about your goals requires you to actually know how to define a goal; and for some of you, this may still be a bit fuzzy. In order to write a clear, convincing, and compelling goals essay, you're going to need to sit down and do some serious introspection.
Learn how to demonstrate your direction and goals as required by the MBA program of your choice.
Hone Your Goals
- Why MBA, a free guide – You can't apply to b-school until you know the answer to this question: Why do you need an MBA?
- Focus on Fit, a podcast episode – 4 steps for showing fit in your application.
- What is a Goal? – And you can't write a goals essay until you know the answer to this one!
- The Importance of Defining Your MBA Goal- Be sure you can define your MBA goals.
- How to Clarify Your Goals for Your MBA – And Beyond
- MBA Goals Essay: Get Ready, Get Set, Think! – Steps to take before you start writing the goals essay.
- Get Your MBA Goals in Shape – Clarify your goals to maximize the impact of your goals essay.
- 4 Things To Do If You Can’t Define Your MBA Goals – Because your post-MBA goals should be a guiding light in the application process.
Write About Your Goals
- The Art of a Gripping MBA Goals Essay, an on-demand webinar – Transform boring, drab essays into colorful, compelling, gripping essays.
- 6 Ways to Prepare for Your Compelling MBA Goals Essay – Tips for answering the "Why our school?" question.
- Writing the MBA Goals Essay – Review the essential elements of the goals essay.
- Sample MBA Goals Essay – See examples of winning MBA goals essays.
- Advice for Career Changers – How does the career changer's goals essay differ from the goals essay of a non-career changer?
- MAP Your Way to a Winning MBA Goals Essay – Discover the three key ingredients to a winning goals essay.
- 3 Ways to Back Up Your Social Enterprise Goals – Don't just say it, explain it!
- Common MBA Essay Topics – Choose essay topics that reflect the best aspects of your candidacy.
Subscribe to our blog for more information on how to construct a winning goals essay and any free MBA application advice.