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.
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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