MBA Career Goals – Part I: Crafting a Compelling Short-Term Vision

As an MBA admissions consultant, one of the first – and most critical – things I do with clients is help them develop their ‘personal brand’. A strong, authentic personal brand is the backbone of a successful application. It is the marketing pitch you present to schools that demonstrates three key things: 1) the unique perspective and skillset you bring to the table, 2) how an MBA from their program will build on your existing experience, and 3) how #1 and #2 will work together to enable your career goals.

The topic I’d like to delve into today is the third item on that list – career goals. When schools refer to career goals, they’re typically delineating these into two buckets, short term and long term. Short term refers to the job you will seek directly after graduation and perhaps an intermediate step directly thereafter. Long term career goals refer to where, in a perfect, ‘pie in the sky’ world you see yourself 10-15 years down the road.

While clients usually have a general sense for the type of post-MBA career they are targeting, I find that many are seeking assistance refining their goals and ensuring that they will resonate with the admissions committee (or ‘adcom’). In Part I of this series, we will be focusing on how to craft and communicate your short-term career goals in your MBA application. Of course, this is a highly personalized discussion, but there are some overarching principles that can guide your thinking.

When it comes to the role you will target directly after business school, the adcom is looking for it to check three boxes:

1. It is something employers hire for out of their program.

Note that I’m not suggesting you have to say you will target the same five or so career paths that every other MBA is looking to pursue (consulting, tech product management, private equity / venture capital, etc). I’m not even saying your short-term goal has to be something companies recruit for ‘on campus’ as opposed to something that will require a little leg work on your part.

Instead, I’m suggesting that you convey a realistic understanding of the seniority level at which a company may recruit a new MBA and whether your targeted industry / function is somewhere its program has placed graduates in the past. Specificity is important here, even going so far as to spell out the position you will target (i.e., Associate Marketing Manager) and a few companies you would be excited to work for.

2. Your background makes it realistic that employers will consider you for this position.

Some post-MBA career paths are more restrictive than others when it comes to the specific skills recruiters expect you to have. For example, in my experience at Kellogg, investment banks were open to people from a wide variety of pre-MBA fields so long as the person was willing to work hard and could demonstrate aptitude in the interviews.

On the other hand, breaking into product management at a large technology company can be difficult without prior technical work experience and/or an engineering degree. I’m not saying it can’t be done and would never discourage someone from trying for the role of their dreams. That said, the adcom at top MBA programs may be weary of someone who doesn’t at least acknowledge that they are fighting an uphill battle and perhaps present a more realistic ‘Plan B’.

Like it or not, top MBA programs are laser focused on their employment statistics relative to peers. And, as this Poets & Quants article demonstrates, many programs took a big hit to their placement rates this past year. As such, it’s reasonable to assume they will use even more caution than usual and focus on accepting people with realistic post-MBA plans.

3. It is a logical steppingstone to your long-term goal.

Long-term career goals will be the focus of Part II in this series, but I’ll briefly touch on them here, as they are inherently intertwined with your near-term plans.

It’s ok for long-term career goals – where you dream of being 10-15 years down the road – to be less of a sure bet than your target post-MBA role. In fact, they should be both aspirational and inspirational, tying into your core values and passions.

But, while it’s great to dream big, you also need to have a vision of how to get there and this is where your short-term goals come in. The role you target out of business school should set you on the path towards your long-term goal, building the skills you will need for success in your dream career.

A Few Examples…

To help put theory into practice, here are a few strong examples of short-term career goals from past clients:

“My short-term goal is to join the financial institutions or technology group of a leading investment bank, which will provide the valuation and due diligence skills required of a well-rounded investor and enable my long-term goal of investing in growth-stage FinTech companies that foster progress in financial education and decision-making.”

“A post-MBA role in strategy consulting will build upon my deep experience in the education industry and allow me to put the skills gained at [X school] into practice across a wide variety of business challenges, setting me up for success as the founder of an educational technology company.”

Look for an upcoming article on crafting compelling long-term goals! In the meantime, if you would like personalized advice on your post-MBA plans, reach out to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.

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