How to Get the Adcom Excited About Your MBA Career Goals Essay Plus an Example

In last week’s article, we provided some tips to ensure the short-term goals you share in your MBA career goals essay will resonate with the admissions committee. We shared that your post-MBA goals should be specific, realistic, and logical. This is all true, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. While a strong short-term MBA career goal will demonstrate to the admissions committee that you understand the type of companies that hire out of their program, it won’t get them excited about having you as part of their incoming class. This is where the long-term component of your MBA career goals essay comes in. By long-term MBA career goals, we mean your end game – where you see yourself at the pinnacle of your career. 

Don’t think small or hold back here, it’s ok to be ambitious. Top MBA programs aren’t looking for people who are afraid or unable to dream big. Exactly the opposite – they want to educate the next generation of leaders who will leave an indelible mark on the world. Intimidated? We get it! However, with some deep reflection, research and soul searching, we know your dream job is out there (or maybe it isn’t yet and your plan is to create it – that’s fine too!).

So that’s the big picture. Here are some guiding principles to use as you think about your long-term MBA career goals. At the end of this article, we’re also sharing a strong MBA career goals essay example from a past client that really puts our advice into practice.

1) Your Future Should Connect to Your Past

A great place to start when brainstorming your long-term career goals is with your past. Think about situations – whether early in life, in college, or throughout your career – where you’ve felt truly fulfilled or energized. What was it about these situations that made you feel this way? Is there a common thread between them?

As an example, perhaps in college you built a new campus organization from the ground up and loved the sense of ownership you had during the experience. Fast forward to your current job, perhaps the most exciting project you’ve been involved with was helping your company enter a new market or launch a new product. The connection I see between these two things is an entrepreneurial spirit, which is something that could absolutely factor into your ultimate career goal.

Beyond a linkage to your underlying passions or motivations, your long-term goal should have a more tactical connection to your past. It’s hard to make the case that you want to pursue a certain path if you haven’t had even a touch of exposure to it in the past. For instance, if your pre-MBA career is in investment banking, it would be hard to justify a long-term goal as the founder of a nonprofit (unless another part of your background is heavily social impact focused).

Said simply, there has to be a solid ‘why’ driving your long-term goal that the adcom will understand within the confines of your application and specifically within your MBA career goals essay.

2) You Don’t Have to Reinvent the Wheel

A common concern I work through with clients is how to differentiate themselves if their long-term career goals are ‘typical’. For instance, someone who followed the investment banking / private equity pre-MBA career path and wants to remain in the private equity space throughout their career.

Rest assured that targeting a finance career (or consulting, etc.) is ok! Remember that large portions of the graduates from top MBA programs go these ‘typical’ routes (see statistics at the far right of this table) and a notable amount of them remain there for the long haul. Clearly the adcom is amenable to these goals.

I do, however, encourage my clients to make these types of goals ‘their own’.  Each of these careers has numerous areas of specialization, whether that be an industry focus, investing philosophy, etc. By identifying one about which you are passionate, rooted in past work or personal experience, makes the goal more unique and interesting.

If not an industry specialty, perhaps you are passionate about a certain leadership philosophy (like Ray Dalio, a Harvard Business School graduate, and his ‘idea meritocracy’) or a cause that could be tied in with your future career ambitions. The key, if you are targeting one of the more common post-MBA careers (and even if you aren’t, quite frankly), is to put your personal spin on the goal and tie it in with the values and passions that make you who you are.       

3) Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day – Your Career Goals Shouldn’t Be Either

As I said earlier, arriving at authentic, well developed long-term MBA career goals is hard – and that’s exactly why it matters to the admissions committees at top MBA programs. I find that many applicants rush to a conclusion about ‘what they want to be when they grow up’ without enough self-reflection and end up with a goal that is run of the mill and uninspiring.

Take the time to research where MBAs that have gone into your field of interest have ended up 10 to 20 years after graduation. Read about business leaders you admire and the path they followed to get where they are. Last and most important, network with alums of your target programs that have gone into your field of interest.  These things will get your wheels turning and help you develop a compelling narrative for your application, while inspiring you to set and achieve lofty goals.  

An MBA Career Goals Essay Example

To help put theory into practice, below is a career goals essay example from one of our past clients that does a particularly good job of incorporating the advice we’ve shared in this and last week’s article.

Prompt (Columbia Business School): Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)

As a first-generation immigrant to the US, I was raised on the principle of investing in the future. My parents gave up their life in <country> to invest in better education and career opportunities in the US for me and my sister. When I moved to New York and struggled to learn English in 6th grade, I spent two months of my allowance on several pocket-size notebooks and pens that I carried around to jot down unfamiliar words that I would later look up in the dictionary. This habit earned me a few jeers on the playground, but I knew the long-term pay-off – mastering the English language – would be worth it.

This long-term lens continues to shape my career. At <Company>, I have stepped up to become the biomass industry lead analyst because I believe in the potential of the industry to be one of the long-term environmental solutions for carbon emission. I was particularly excited to lead a meeting in 2019 with a multi-billion dollar <Client> to share my biomass industry analysis, helping drive their investment in sustainable energy infrastructure. However, given the scope of credit rating analysis, I often find myself disappointed that I have no stake in the investment decision outcome. I want to be in a position to directly invest in companies that have a positive long-term impact. As such, I want to become an investment manager focusing in ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) investing, which targets responsible investing opportunities.

In the next 3 – 5 years after CBS, I plan to work as a research associate for an asset manager or investment fund that has an ESG focus, such as Neuberger Berman or PIMCO. I hope to convert my summer internship into a full-time position at one of these funds, as did <Name> (’20). My goal as a research associate is to leverage my investing skills and application of ESG concepts garnered from my Columbia MBA, the Value Investing program and the Three Cairns Climate Fellowship in particular, to lead teams in crafting investment portfolios that meet the long-term investment objectives of ESG investors. From managing the entire investment process, I’ll understand every aspect that is factored into an investment decision, strengthening my analytical acumen and ultimately growing my network and reputation in the ESG investing community that will help me achieve my dream goal.

My dream job is to be the founder and CEO of a global ESG-focused investment fund that manages the entire ESG investment process in-house – from formulating the top-down ESG selection process to executing on the investment decisions – as most funds either offer ESG as one of many investment options or largely depend on third party analytics as an input to their ESG investment decisions. This tailored in-house investment approach would offer much-needed transparency, enabling investors and stakeholders to monitor the impact that their investments are making. From my personal experience, I fully understand what it means to “invest in the next generation”, and I firmly believe that ESG is a powerful way for investors to focus beyond monetary return.

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