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.
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.