Why do schools ask you about career goals?
Not all of them do, but some of them do — and those that do often tend to care a lot about how you respond.
No you don’t really need to know what you will do in three years when you (hopefully!) will be graduating with that shiny new degree.
But actually yes you do.
The whole point of going to get an MBA is to either advance your skillset significantly to accelerate your progress in your current career path — say, someone in finance who wants to study much more advanced topics in finance, and specialize further. Or, the MBA is to help you switch paths completely.
Almost everyone these days is trying for an MBA for that latter option.
There’s something about your current career you’re not satisfied with, either feeling like you’re in a dead end, or you’re in a technical role when you want to move into management, or you’re in an analyst role and you want to move into tech, or whatever it is.
Or — hopefully not the case but for some of you — you’ve been laid off recently, lost your job as fallout from the crisis hitting the world.
Or maybe you’ve got that holy grail idea that you’re going to be the next Zuckerberg. You’re gonna blaze a trail to California and strike it rich in the Valley. launching the Next Big Thing, sweeping the world by storm. Or at least get a job at Facebook.
It’s true that sitting here right now, you likely have no frickin clue what exactly your life will look like in three years. Honestly, that’s true for every single one of us.
But the things that are worth working towards in life tend to take time and effort to actualize, and like the sage Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
So there’s this weird dichotomy, where you know you want to do something different, you’re pretty clueless what that might be, and yet the business schools want you to have answers you don’t have in order to jump through their hoops of admission.
Heck, you probably don’t even need the MBA to go do it.
Actually, that’s an 100% accurate statement: You do not need the MBA at all.
You’re smart. You’re already accomplished. You’re likely already in the top 10% of whatever measure you might want to use to judge yourself against your peer group. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t even be in a position to be considering higher education and advancing your career.
If the bottom line is that you want to make more money, and you know that those spit out the other end of an MBA program tend to command very sexy salaries, then that alone might be sufficient motivation for you to apply.
Yet you still need to figure out why you’re doing this and how you’re going to navigate your life.
It’s totally true, the immersive experience of two years in bschool is designed to help you figure yourself out. You’re surrounded by smart people, coming from all sorts of paths, and you’re exposed to massive amounts of new ideas and opportunities. You’re forced to take classes in subjects you never would’ve volunteered to learn about otherwise. The entirety of that experience will change you, and you’ll uncover new talents and interests, and (probably) realize what new path you want to explore.
Or, you’ll do it like so many others do, and you’ll just follow the herd into the career du jour, which these days is tech and product management (even though there’s actually a gazillion other jobs available in tech beyond that), or default to consulting if you can’t settle on anything else. In which case, you’ll still not really know what you want to do with your life, but at least you’ll be getting paid more to do it.
What we’re talking about today is not just figuring out the right thing to say in an MBA application when you’re asked to describe your short-term career goals. Yes, you can take the short-sighted view and try and finesse your answer so that it “sounds good” to the admissions committee (Pro Tip: This rarely works in reality. Read up on the entirety of this blahg to understand why. Or go here.)
What we’re talking about is figuring out at least a little bit what makes you tick, what you have learned that you’re good at — what you perhaps already know that you really don’t like. And researching the world of work to understand where you might apply those gifts that you’ve been given.
We’re all born with a certain set of skills that may need practice and training to sharpen, yet once they’re revealed, become so obvious in informing a path-forward in life that it almost is laughable. You likely don’t know fully what those innate abilities are yet, and absolutely, the MBA will be totally valuable in helping you to discern them.
But so can many other educational programs, whether other master’s tracks or a doctoral path or just a Coursera certificate. And many other life paths also can teach you. Sure, the MBA is a fun two-year vacation full of excitement and Instagram-worthy travel and do-gooder tasks. The MBA will make your mom proud. The MBA can easily get you somewhere new. It’s a proven track to a new destination, that by definition will be different from where you began.
Spending time now, before you even have your first application written, to explore some of those options in the Big Bad World and understand what the MBA can do for you, and how, is a worthwhile investment. You’ll continue with those tasks and that research all the way until you’ve signed the acceptance letter for that first post-MBA job, so this is not a one-and-done assignment we’re giving you. All of this is about learning who you are and having an appreciation for why you’ve been put on this earth. Yes it’s that big — and no, your purpose in life does not have to be some massive altruistic charitable effort. You might have been put here to be a consultant. The world needs consultants. Nothing wrong with that at all. You being a consultant might totally fulfill your destiny. Or it might be a stepping stone, to build more of those skills and shape more of those abilities into full-blown utility, so that when you realize, many more years post-MBA, that you’re again in a dead end and needing to make a change, you have the foundation of strength to build from, and the confidence in knowing how to navigate to something entirely new all over again.
Looking for more practical support in actually figuring out how to present your post-MBA career goals in an MBA app?
The Career Goals App Accelerator is designed exactly for that!