Career Goals for MBA Admissions Essay Writing and More

When it comes to MBA admissions, a captivating personal story and high test scores are not enough. MBA programs are in the business of boosting your career, which boosts their stats and reputation in turn. In preparing your application, you will need to think carefully about career goals for MBA jobs that are realistic for someone with your background, and then formulate achievable short- and long-term career goals that support your overall application narrative.

This article will cover the basics of how to best articulate your career goals for MBA admissions committees, with tips on how—and how not—to make your case.

MBA Career Goals and MBA Rankings

In order to frame your career goals for MBA Adcoms in the right way, you need to understand why career goals are so important to them in the first place. It comes down to two reasons: 

First, let’s consider the effect of your post-MBA career on school rankings. Even if you are sick and tired of hearing about the MBA ranking and how it factors into every aspect of your application, you have to accept that business school admissions committees (or “AdComs”) think about their ranking constantly, and admitting the right applicants is their best bet to improve it.

As you are likely aware, every MBA program publishes an employment report that details the statistics of the most recently graduated class: how many people have a job, its location, its starting salary, its sector. For top-tier MBA programs, these numbers are always high. 

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In 2019, for example, Wharton reported that 98.5% of their graduating student body had job offers. And with fierce competition for top-rankings, MBA programs pay close attention to even the smallest movement of the needle in either direction. Selecting candidates with ambitious-yet-realistic career goals is an excellent way to maintain a prestigious ranking.

That is not to say, however, that rankings are the only factor when evaluating your career goals. More generally, admissions committees want to ensure that applicants will find success after an MBA, as career success often translates to satisfaction with the decision to pursue the MBA in the first place. AdComs really do consider whether you can benefit from their program, and you want them to believe that you’ll secure a job that satisfies you when you graduate.

Of course, this is not totally selfless thinking. Admissions officers know that graduates who are happy with their post-MBA careers make for involved alumni who are more likely to speak positively about their MBA experience and to give back, whether by donating money, volunteering their time, or both.

All this means that you want to present the very best case for your future employability, keeping the rationale of the AdCom in mind. 

MBA Ranking

Your Career Goals Should Help Define Your MBA Plan

In order to convince an admissions committee that you will be able to land a good job after graduation, you need to demonstrate exactly why a given MBA program will help you advance your short- and long-term career goals.

This might run counter to your personal desires surrounding your MBA aspirations. After all, you have been working hard for years at your job and the MBA may seem like a two-year respite: traveling, international exchange, and cocktail receptions for recruitment events.

But the AdCom knows something you don’t: even if you have been working an extremely demanding job like consulting or private equity, you will probably be working harder during your MBA than you ever have before.

After all, while the MBA will temporarily halt the stressors from your work, you will still be in a situation where you have to network with 300-900 classmates, return to the classroom after five years of freedom, do your research on which clubs to join and which corporate info sessions to attend, and learn how to prep for your job interviews. It will be incredibly stressful and busy. (Sponsored students are the rare exception.)

We even recall an HBS alumna who talked about the public service announcement posters all over campus informing stressed students that free counseling and trained emotional support dogs were available. Those services are advertised because they are necessary.

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The admissions committee wants to know that when you are at your breaking point, stress-wise, you have a plan for making the most of the MBA program, since “figuring it out after you arrive on campus” is not going to work reliably.

Finding the Creative “Sweet Spot” In the Career Goals Essay

We’ve already touched on it in this article: your post-MBA job plans should be focused and realistic. This is not the place to talk about pie in the sky ambitions that reasonable readers would find totally unrealistic.

You also don’t need to try and distinguish yourself–and your application–by listing career goals that are different from every other applicant’s. Let’s take a closer look at the most common post-MBA career paths to see why.

First, many MBA candidates are sponsored by their employer and they will return to a job there after graduation. This is the least creative career goal possible! And it is perfectly acceptable to admissions committees. Usually, these sponsored applicants will write more about what they hope to accomplish after their return, since getting the job is a given.

Second, consulting or finance tracks are also common even for non-sponsored applicants, and MBA programs may send >50% of the class into these fields. Just take a look at Harvard’s employment report from 2019.

Snippet from Harvard Business School’s Employment Report

Post-MBA IndustriesConsulting Services:21%
Financial Services:29%
Venture Capital / Private Equity / LBO:20%
Investment Management/ Hedge Fund:4%
Investment Banking / Sales & Trading:3%

So What Makes a Goal Realistic and Interesting?

It is perfectly acceptable to write in your career goals essay that you want to work in the consulting or finance industries—even if many other applicants will have similar goals—so long as you can explain why that is your goal. Too much idiosyncrasy in your career goals will make you look like a wild card. For example, an investment banker with no volunteering experience has no business stating their post-MBA goal is to become an impact investor, since the reader won’t believe the goal is sincere.

At the same time, you don’t want to be underwhelming. Saying that you want to “be promoted from consultant to senior consultant” is thinking too small and too transactionally. MBA programs are designed to transform your career in bigger ways.

So aim for the “sweet spot”: state a realistic career goal, explain how the MBA program will help you to achieve it, and use your story to explain why the goal is personally meaningful to you.

Use these employment reports to research the most common placements at your target schools, and craft your MBA career goals accordingly.

Employment Reports

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