Let’s start by talking about what ISN’T a goal. When an applicant says something along the lines of: “I’m interested in investment banking or consulting or marketing,” then I know there’s significant work to be done, because THIS is NOT a goal.
A strong, clear MBA goal should guide your admissions research and your choice of target schools. A goal is something you want to do (not just study), and for MBA admissions purposes it should relate to a specific function and ideally to an industry. For some applicants, geography is also an important element in their goal. Your goal should be based on your experience, not on television, not on what your parents/significant other or friends think you should do, and not simply on what will make you a lot of money.
I am not saying that you can’t change careers. After all, roughly 50% of MBA students are career changers. But you need to have a realistic vision of your future based on skills and character traits you have developed and based on experiences that you have had.
Let’s return to our initial point of what ISN’T an MBA goal. What’s the problem with stating that you want to go into marketing, for example? There are numerous dimensions and opportunities subsumed under the heading of “marketing,” including business development, market research, brand management, and channel management.
Do you see how general and unfocused you seem if you say your post-MBA goal is “marketing,” not to mention a goal of “marketing, investment banking, or consulting”?
On the other hand if you are a software consultant who has worked on software marketing projects or a software designer who has worked in product development and you now want to go into brand management in the software industry, your goal makes sense. It is focused. It is clear. It is an asset to you in the application process.
There is a Proverb that goes, “Without a vision, the people will perish.” The adcom readers will note the red flags when they see your lack of vision. Know where you’re going before you start packing your bags. And certainly before you start applying.