Once you’ve assessed who you are and what your skills are, you’ll need to determine why it is that you want an MBA.
Before you apply to a top MBA program, you’ll need to have a rather clear (albeit flexible) idea of where you are and where you’d like to be going. Certain programs cater to students with different goals, and in order for you to best establish school fit (which is key in the school search and application process), you’ll have to clarify what your goals are.
Define your goal in terms of industry and job function. Include location if that is important to you. Deciding that post-MBA you’d like to be an entrepreneur is really only the first step. Why are you interested in starting your own business? What sort of business are you considering? What skills and tools do you need to achieve those goals? Do you want to work for a firm that does what you’re considering before starting up on your own? If so, which firms would you ideally work for? B-schools, and then later on recruiters, love motivated, goal-oriented students, and then potential employees. Again, nothing here is set in stone; but you should have goals that excite you and that motivate you to push forward in a given direction.
As I often do, before defining what a goal is, I’m going to give a few examples of what a goal is not.
First, a goal is not a statement of general interest or a field you’d like to study. “I’m interested in consulting or investment banking or marketing,” is not a goal. (Not only is it not a goal, but it is very likely a red flag to the adcom, and eventually, a ding.)
Second, a goal is not a general field you’d like to work in. “I’d like to work in marketing,” does not constitute an MBA goal. As a person who has probably had some pre-MBA work experience, you should know better than to suggest that “marketing” is a proper job description.
Now, what is an MBA goal?
- An MBA goal is something specific that you want to do (not just study) in a particular field. While answering, “Marketing” to the goals question won’t cut it, explaining that you want to go into channel management in the software industry, will certainly pin you as a goal-oriented, focused MBA candidate. Include as many details as possible to show that you’ve thoroughly thought what you what you are looking to learn and how you plan on utilizing those skills post-MBA.
- An MBA goal should be strong and focused enough to help you narrow down your school choices. An applicant with an undefined MBA goal will face a serious challenge when it comes to whittling down that list of 20 MBA programs to a reasonable 5 or 6 (or even 7 or 8). You’ll know your goals are solid when you look at School X and say, “There’s just not enough of an emphasis on product development and technology for this school to be included on my list.” Different schools offer different strengths and cater to different goals—you want a school that fits your strengths and goals. Therefore, as Socrates (or according to some Pythagoras or Heraclitus) would say, “Know thy goals.”
- An MBA goal is flexible. Yes, you want to present yourself as a highly focused, motivated, and goal-driven individual, but schools also know that many students modify their goal as they become aware of opportunities in business school. That’s okay. If you develop a cogent plan for your career given your past experience and your goal for your MBA application, you will be able to do so again and again, as your goals and interests change both in business school and beyond.
Like the advice you see in this post? Download Accepted’s new special report, MBA Action Plan, for more practical tips on what you can do now to increase your chances of getting in to a top business school next year. (P.S. It’s free!)
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