In what is a totally understandable impulse, we frequently get BSers asking us what career goals are “best” to use in their MBA essays. It comes up over and over again.
We know where that question comes from. When faced with the task of applying to bschool, it seems that you’re dealing with one test after another.
Are your grades good enough? (a test)
Do you have the right work experience? (a test)
Are you the right age? (a test)
What about your GMAT, or GRE? (literally, a test)
It’s only natural that you would assume that things like career goals are also a test. That the adcom will be evaluating the goals to determine if you pass muster, and should be accepted.
It feels like a test.
But it’s not.
This again is part of that authenticity thing that we’re harping about.
A long-ago Booth Admissions blog post on “What is Your Application Strategy? said this:
[S]chools care more about how strategic you are in utilizing the tools provided than how well you can fill in an application.
If your career goals are not a test, then what on earth do they mean by that?
Let’s look at it this way:
Your MBA apps are a chance for you to figure things out for yourself.
Getting an MBA is a means to an end – it’s not the end in itself.
The MBA is a tool for you to use to get somewhere else in life.
In order for the adcom to evaluate whether what they offer is the right tool for you, so they can tell if you’re the right person to grant the rare privilege of attending their high-value program, then they need to know what you plan to do with the opportunity.
The opportunity is really what comes after the MBA.
That’s the part that counts.
So, career goals for them are a tool that they can use in evaluating whether you are taking this seriously, and know what the MBA is about, and to see that you’ve put some thought into your future plans and understand why you’re pursuing this at this stage of your life.
Because the MBA is such a high-prestige, me-too type degree, then the career goals are a tool for the adcoms to use in filtering and sorting their applicants.
But!! The career goals are much more directly a tool FOR YOU to use.
How in heck do you even know that you need an MBA in the first place if you don’t know what you want to do with it?
Sure, you could punt on that question, kicking the can down the road, to figure it all out later.
But that’s having the tail wag the dog. The MBA is not the goal. Your goals are the goal.
When the Booth adcom said way back when that they want to see how their applicants leverage the tools available in the application, this is what they mean.
It also comes down to pure tactics. When you know that your GPA is low, and that your college academics were questionable, do you have the foresight and wisdom to take action on that? Are you able to leverage the resources available to you, to make amends for that blemish from the past in order to a) show that you’re prepared and ready for the challenge of grad school today, and b) demonstrate to your adcom reader that you’re willing to do what it takes to get in? That you value what they offer, and know that it’s competitive, and are putting your best self forward?
When you’re thinking about your career goals, it’s not about will this get me in?
It’s about, will this make me happy?
Have you done the research? Conducted the informationals? Tapped your network, to learn about options, and see where different paths might lead?
Has all this research convinced you that yes, the MBA is indeed the right route to go in order to pursue these plans?
That’s how you use the tools.
Keep in mind, too: You’re not saying to the admissions officer that you WILL go do this one particular future career, 100% absolutely.
You’re saying that, given all the options you’ve thought of, and what you know of the careers available today, that this one path LOOKS LIKE THE BEST OPTION TODAY.
Always keep sight of the fact that you’re going through these planning exercises with the objective of building the very best future for yourself – NOT to make yourself look good for the adcom. Yes, you do need to have a logical plan, but don’t try to second-guess the process. It’s not about convincing someone else just as a way to pass a test and make them accept you. It’s about showing them what you believe in for yourself.
Authenticity, Brave Supplicant. Authenticity.
- Are your goals real? Or did you just make them up last weekend?
- Pitching the adcom with career goals that work
- More on career goals in apps: What if you have multiple ideas?
- Just Be You
- How to Show Your Authenticity: Storytelling