Most schools ask about your career goals, personal or professional reasons for an MBA, and why a particular school is of interest to you. Schools may ask all these questions or a portion of these questions. However, using our essay analysis below, you should be able to tailor your answer to the particular question being posed.
1 – What are your short term and long term career goals?
This is the standard career goals essay question asked by many schools. It is important that you clearly articulate your short term career goals with a degree of specificity. I generally like my clients to articulate what industry, function, role, and platform / specialization they wish to pursue immediately upon graduation. Your short term career goals should connect (or link) to your long term career goals. When specifying your long term career goals, you can provide less detail, but you should still give a sense of direction. Most importantly, make sure it all fits together – meaning your current work has led you to your short term career goals, which in turn links to your long term career goals.
I often get asked whether applicants should demonstrate if they are open to multiple career paths. This is a tricky line to walk, but very important point. First of all, it is important to specify what your true career goals are in an ideal situation – it needs to be conveyed with passion and conviction – almost like you’ve been dreaming of this since you were a toddler. However, MBA programs want you to graduate with a job (it helps their rankings) so you also need to convey that you are an opportunistic person. In other words, if your desired career path does not present itself, you will “be open” to other opportunities that may present. Sometimes this can be conveyed in the essay, other times it makes more sense to convey this at the interview stage.
2- Why do you need an MBA and Why School “X”?
It is important to explain why you need the MBA and to show that you are lacking particular skill sets – academics, leadership, managerial, etc. However, within those aforementioned categories, you need to dig deeper – what academics are you lacking (going beyond core courses), what leadership skills do you need to hone, etc. Once you establish why you need the MBA, you will be able to better establish the reasons why a particular MBA school is the right program for you. I encourage my clients to get specific here – look beyond reputation, location, alumni, small class size, and items of that sort. Instead, look at specific classes, clubs, professors, research methods, competitions, conferences, and/or special initiatives. Find the areas that are unique to both the school and your career development and you will create a niche fit with the program.
3 – Why do you need an MBA now?
Notice this question specifically asks you to explain why an MBA at “this point of your career”. I believe any good “Career Goals” essay will address this inherently, however you obviously need to make this very explicit for schools that ask it outright. Therefore, rather than just solely focusing on why you need an MBA, you need to also elaborate on the timing – why this year and not next year, or two years from now, or even last year? What about your profile is driving you to want the MBA now? You can focus on areas such as reaching a junction in your career, hitting a plateau, wanting to switch careers before getting “pigeon-holed”, wanting to capitalize on an emerging trend, etc. Make sure to focus on the timing and how you plan to bridge the gap in your experience.