In working with many applicants on their MBA essays, I have seen people use several different strategies to pick and write about their career goals.
Playing it Safe
A very common strategy is to think about what would be “safe” in terms of their profile and their chances of being admitted. So applicants who come from a tech background often talk about going back to tech, just to the business side, and people from operations talk about moving to supply chain management, and so on. These applicants think that by picking an easy route that is very likely to happen, they are increasing their employability post-graduation, therefore making themselves look like strong candidates. While schools do like realistic candidates, if the transition is not meaningful or does not truly require an MBA, then that entire application will not hold water.
Trying to Stand Out
Many candidates who want to go into consulting, banking or private equity are worried that they will blend in with the rest of the people seeking to do the same thing. So applicants write that they want to go into completely different fields, just to grab the admissions committee’s attention and sound like a unique applicant. Let me tell you this: it ain’t going to work. The schools are going to spot that you wrote something just to sound special. For example, I’ve seen an entrepreneur with a background in finance and real estate writing that she wants to go into media and entertainment, just because someone told her that NYU loves candidates with that career goal. As you can guess, this didn’t work – NYU Stern already gets all the applicants that want to do media and entertainment, and they actually have the right motivation (and also background) to make them successful in that business. I’ve seen a successful investment banker turned private equity manger telling Harvard Business School that he wants to manage hospitals. Why? He had worked on a deal in health care, and thought this sounded interesting and realistic. Here as well, Harvard didn’t bite. What a shame – the guy was such an over-over-achiever, with all the right stats and background to make it into HBS.
The Perfect Career Goal
Yes, it exists. It’s a career goal (or two, or three) that you have seriously thought about and are truly passionate about. It might be being a finance manager within TMT (telecommunication, media and telecom), or running a sports for development program in developing countries. It might be going to work for McKinsey or Goldman or Google – as long as you have the right reasons and believe that you can make an impact in that role.
Let me help you articulate your career goals in the most interesting and exciting way possible, and convince your dream MBA program that you deserve a seat in their class. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this form to schedule an initial consultation.
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