Lesson #3 of a five-part series for drafting exemplary essays.
The MBA career goals essay, a close cousin to the graduate school statement of purpose, demands a laser-like focus. Unlike personal statements, which may discuss career goals but also allow for more flexibility in content, the MBA career goals essay has a specific and packed agenda. In fact, most MBA career goals essay questions contain several questions in one, so make sure to address each of them. (For example, some ask “Why is now the right time for you to earn an MBA?” or “What do you hope to gain from the XYZ program?”) Your essay must have a theme, of course, but should also do the following:
1. Highlight specific career achievements. Choose among the experiences you have had, either at work or through a community or extracurricular activity, that will showcase your leadership, creative thinking, and collaborative abilities.
2. Explain why your career goal makes sense in light of your experiences and influences so far.
3. Demonstrate why you are suited to a particular field as a result of your education, experience, abilities, and enthusiasm. Ideally, the material you choose to include will also allow you to demonstrate your knowledge about industry trends, and point to how your particular abilities can help make a contribution to that field.
That is a very tall order.
Let’s see how this was achieved in the sample Goals Essay from Accepted.com’s MBA section. Based on our first two lessons, you’ll easily recognize why the opening is attention-getting for all the right reasons. The writer introduces herself as the supremely busy executive she envisions herself becoming in the future: She trades large amounts of stock, then dashes to a teleconference, rushes down stairs, hails a taxi, then catches a plane. With all those busy verbs, we can practically feel her heart pumping as she rushes towards her flight.
She establishes her theme in this opening, and then gives the context for her MBA goal. Notice that in writing about her work as an accountant for a major firm, she provides relevant details, including how many years she has been in this field, her bilingual abilities, and specialty area as an auditor. This is the springboard from which she explains why she is pursuing the MBA: Her role as an accountant is too limited for her to achieve her career goals as a money manager.
Outstanding career goals essays don’t simply list what the applicants have done and what they want to do; they also convey real enthusiasm for the applicant’s career choice. This writer achieved this in the first paragraph and returned to it at the end, where she painted her idealized (if frantically busy) future. She also proved her seriousness by registering for CFA examinations.
Some career goals essays also ask why you have chosen that particular school. If you are faced with such a question, make sure to leave enough room to write knowledgably and enthusiastically about that specific program. This will be easier if you have made campus visits, attended student recruitment meetings, participated in chats, read school blogs, communicated with current students or recent alumni, and otherwise familiarized yourself with the program and the courses and specializations it offers that are relevant to your goals.
In our next lesson, we will plan the actual essay draft. It’s about time!
1. Focus on answering each and every question asked in an MBA career goals essay; usually there is more than one.
2. Be specific when writing about your experiences so that your achievements and motivations are clear and compelling.
3. Do your homework about why the school is a good fit for you so you can write about it with genuine enthusiasm.
By Judy Gruen, MBA admissions consultant since 1996 and author (with Linda Abraham) of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.