We came across this awhile back: “Is 30 too old to work in a startup?” Hmmmm. If there’s a bias against “older” in startup recruiting, and “older” is defined as over 30, and there’s already a bias against MBAs in Silicon Valley… Peter Thiel and Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have all been on the…
We made some snide remark (shocker) yesterday in our “figure your life out” post about going to strike it rich in California. That’s not to say we don’t think you can launch a company!! We don’t see the majority of BSers who claim that they want to become entrepreneurs in their essays actually go on…
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 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!
We’re not exactly advocating this as an actual strategy for selecting your MBA programs to target. But it’s something to consider! It’s certainly more practical and intelligent (yes we said it) than using rankings as the priority tool to choose where to apply. If a top MBA program has a special scholarship fund earmarked only…
This is the second part in our reblahgged series for the crazy folks super-motivated ones. Yesterday we explained in broad strokes what a pre-MBA summer internship is and probably got some of you a little bit excited about it. However, there are also some important downsides that you need to be clear on, before you…
Every now and then we get a bulldog-type BSer come to us saying they’re going to do an internship. We usually get confused, thinking they’re talking about the internship that’s a standard part of the two-year MBA experience for most people. But then we realize that they’re talking about doing an internship like NOW. Before…
This post has little to do with Harvard, even though many if not most of you applicants will be Harvard-focused today. This post has everything to do with how you talk about your future post-MBA goals. The reason it has little to do with Harvard is that career goals may or may not come up…
Just a few weeks ago, many of you wrote these very impressive-sounding (we hope!) essays on your intended future goals.
What if you started implementing those plans today?
This is both a smart thing to do — because how else could you demonstrate that you’re a new-and-improved person if you end up (eeek!!!) as a reapplicant in the Fall?
And it’s a wise thing to do, since, after all, you claimed with these statements to the
Universe adcom that this is what you want to do with your life.
If you know what you want to do, and you’re motivated enough to apply to business school as a way to do it (which is a very lengthy and expensive way to get to a goal), then the intelligent thing to do would be to START NOW.
So how do you do that?
Well, the first place to start is to complete what we hope you have already completed in the process of building out your MBA applications:
Figure out what you need in order to qualify for that role you defined in the apps.
You’re starting HERE — Point A.
You want to go THERE — Point B.
What do you need to have THERE that you don’t have HERE?
While it may be true (should be true!!) that an MBA is a useful step to give you what you are currently lacking, there are also most definitely other ways to get those things. The MBA should not be the only pre-requisite that would fill the gap in getting you where you want to go.
(Hint: You can do this with all areas of your life.)
If you’re looking for bschool to make a career jump, which almost everyone is, then what new skill can you start to acquire today that will facilitate that transition?
If you want to go into consulting, then do you know what consulting is about? Do you know what types of firms would be most eager to hire you based on your existing background and expertise? Do you have a sense for what type of consulting? Is it Big Three only, and that’s it, and you don’t care what projects you’re on? (This seems a little short-sighted if you ask us.) Or do you know you want to go into healthcare consulting and you’ve identified the key players in that sector and you have already been talking to friends and colleagues to see about connections?
If you’re not in finance and you want to be, then do you know what hurdles you might face and what strengths you can leverage? Do you know how the recruiting cycle works at your target firm? Have you scoured the forums and signed up for webinars and done all that you can to stalk the space? Some areas of finance are fairly straightforward to break into post-MBA, even for those without prior experience, but many jobs on the buy side are pretty tricky to gain traction in unless you have a network established and can prove your chops already. It’s not enough to only have an MBA from a good school (particularly as an international candidate). You need to be able to show proficiency and you need to understand how the industry works.
Regardless of your career interests, have you exhausted the resources available to you in tapping your professional network and doing informational interviews with people in the area you want to work in later on?
There is a LOT you can be doing right now to build up your profile and lay the foundation for your future. The MBA is a means to an end; it’s a stepping stone. Yes, you’ve been consumed with the process of applying to bschool, and yes, the first step is simply getting in to one of these schools that you’ve become obsessed over for so long. But don’t lose sight of the fact that that is just one of a long series of steps that you will need to tackle and succeed at in order to reposition your profile and revamp your life.
Now is a great time to get started.
So tell us in the comments: What steps are you taking? What are your plans for the next three or four months? How will you be working towards these goals today — along with (hopefully!) all the interviews you’re landing for those Round 2 apps in the hopper?
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