What career goals should you write in your MBA applications? How do you ensure that the short-term career goals are aligned with the long-term goals?
Vibhav Agarwal sure knows a thing or two about crafting winning MBA applications. He’s helped many applicants get into the most selective programs in the world.
In this post he shares some tips on tackling the career goals MBA essay.
Career goals Essay: Short-term and long-term goals
by Vibhav Agarwal
As an MBA aspirant in the post COVID world, you may be more aligned to think that you can never really define or predict your career path.
I may probably know where I can be in the next 3-5 years. But beyond that who knows, right?
Think of it this way. MBA education is going to be one of your biggest investments – not just with money, but with the time and effort as well.
So, it’s very important that you focus on the right things in terms of coursework, network, placements etc. during those 1-2 years that you spend in the college.
(Take it from us, time flies in a b-school, the more your priorities and goals are clear, the easier it is to navigate those ten thousand opportunities that you will get at the school to do something or be a part of something)
Now, who better understands the importance of this prioritization than the ad-com? And this is their rationale of asking this question.
They want to see and understand the clarity a candidate has in terms of being able to understand and showcase the clarity in their short-term and long-term career goals.
Let us tackle the key requirements for short-term career goals first.
Short-term career goals
Short-term goals are those where you see yourself as soon as you graduate out of the school. These goals need to be a very precisely defined in terms of industry, geography, set of companies you are aiming at and the role that you are looking for.
You are expected to have complete clarity on the skillset required to do this role, the key responsibilities you will be handling and the results that you are expected to showcase in the next 1-2 years.
The ad-com wants to understand the above from your essay and then ascertain whether “you” the candidate have a realistic chance with the MBA education and his current experience to gain that role in light of the skillsets required for that role and the competition posed by the typical MBA class.
In this context, there are typically 3 scenarios that candidates are likely to define their short-term goals. A quick disclaimer first.
Disclaimer: We’ll include some representative examples to clarify the key principles. Blindly copying these career goals in your essays, without understanding the bigger picture, is sure to backfire. More on this in the last section.
1. Career Progression
This is the scenario when you are already performing a role in the similar industry and you would like to accelerate your progress in terms of the career ladder or in terms of the organizational brand.
- I am a consultant in big4 consulting firm or KPO who wants to move into McKinsey or BCG
- I am a software engineer with product development experience who wants to move into product management role in a Silicon Valley tech firm
- I am a commerce graduate with CA or CFA background who wants to move into Investment banking or Private banking in a top-tier bank
- I am working in a corporate law firm and want to shift into M&A or strategy team for a big conglomerate
Such shifts are very logical and easier to explain and manage. The requirements remain the same when it comes to explaining in the short-terms goals essay, but your ability to visualize yourself in that role and showcase the skills you bring to the role are easier to explain since you are already have counterparts or seniors who are performing that role and can explain the difference between it and your current role
2. Career Shift
This is the scenario when you want to “shift” into a more exciting role in probably a more exciting industry and organization. So basically, you are looking to change your industry, role profile and probably geography as well. This scenario accounts for more than 60% of the candidates who want to do MBA. For example:
- I am a project manager in IT services firm in India who wants to get into product management for a B2B SaaS product in US
- I am a team lead in a semi-conductor firm who wants to get into business development roles in an IT services or IT product firm
- I am a software engineer in a tech firm who wants to move into a business strategy role with a bigger tech firm/start-up
- I am a client-side consultant with an IT-services firm who wants to into corporate finance role with a top-tier tech firm
- I am an entrepreneur who wants to become a product manager in a tech firm
Such shifts require a lot of introspection and research. The ad-coms would like to see what is your understanding of the role, what skills are “transferable” from your current role into the new role and on top of it, how will the MBA help you gain the skillsets that are missing.
They also want to get a clear understanding of the role from your viewpoint in terms of key responsibilities, performance metrics and impact areas.
In order to showcase all the above in the essay, we recommend that candidates leverage LinkedIn and their networks to connect with at least 2-3 people who are actually performing that role they aspire and have a frank conversation to gain a clear and deep understanding of the role.
Once they do that, they can also discuss their present roles and gain an understanding of the transferable skills that can be leveraged for the new role. This understanding is paramount to showcase in a good short-term goal essay.
This helps convince ad-com that you stand a good chance of being shortlisted for that role based on your CV and pedigree during the placement season..
3. The management consulting bug
Irrespective of their current roles and backgrounds, the consultant role is actually the one where your MBA performance and business acumen take precedence.
But even then, when you are showcasing it as your short-term goal, you need to have a clear understanding of the skillsets that define a good consultant and where have you demonstrated those skills in current roles.
For example, skills like problem solving, management communication, data analysis are cornerstones of any good consultant and they need to be showcased in your CV as well as essay.
Long-term career goals
Coming to long-term career goals, essentially the easiest path and the one taken by most of candidates is to showcase the career ladder growth as the long-term goal.
So, you see yourself as a partner in the consulting firm, you see yourself as a product management leader in the tech firm or as a CXO of a conglomerate.
These are all acceptable as long as there is a clear and straight-line path between short-term and long-term goals. The ad-com sees the logic and ambition here and that’s a tick from their side.
The other category is those who aim to turn entrepreneurs. That is also acceptable as long as there is a defined synergy in your short-term and long-term goals.
As long as ad-com sees that the skillsets you are gaining in short-term career and the industry knowledge and network you are building shall be used in the entrepreneurship venture you are aiming for, they are happy to give you the tick.
Now, if you have read till here, you get to know a little secret. The reality seldom matches the essay. Once you get into the school, there are new interest areas, new avenues that you may end up exploring or change your mind to take a safe bet and stick to same industry.
But it’s important that the story you present in your essay showcases your ambition in a logical way in line with your current career path and also in line with how the college can place you (Read How important are MBA essays).
After all, their reputation is built on the alumni they have the best positions in top-tier firms!
A strong application generally is one which is able to create a cohesive and persuasive story not only about the career goals of the applicant, but also dovetail it into his past achievements, his extra-curriculars and his personal highlights.
This is the most important ingredient to a successful application.
An admissions consulting team like MBA Crystal Ball, can not only help you discover the right set of career goals, but also help you create an overall impactful story. One that will impress the ad-com enough to invite you for an interview.
You’ll find some of Vibhav’s success stories at the end of this article: Career Change from Software IT to Product Management after MBA.
And here’s a success story of an ISB reapplicant who used career counselling for MBA admissions.