Check out all the blog posts in this series:
- Identifying the Ingredients of a Winning Essay
- Finding a Theme for Your Statement of Purpose
- Writing Your Career Goals Essay
- Revise and Polish Your Application Essays
Your career goals essay demands a laser-like focus. A personal statement, by contrast, allows for some flexibility in its content, though you can – and often should – discuss your career goals. But a career goals essay has a particular and packed agenda. In fact, the prompt for a career goals essay could actually include multiple questions, and in such cases, you want to make sure you address each of them.
For example, in 2022, Kellogg asked applicants to its one-year program to respond to the following prompt: “Please discuss your post-MBA career goal, the current experience you will leverage to support the transition, and the Kellogg 1Y opportunities that will help you reach this goal.”
This prompt has three parts: (1) What do you want to do post-MBA? (2) Why is the 1Y program appropriate for you? And (3) what experience has so far prepared you to succeed in your target role?
So, always pay close attention to your target school’s prompt to ensure that you answer all the questions within its “single” question.
Three elements of a successful career goals essay
In addition to having a distinct theme, your career goals essay should achieve the following:
- Highlight specific career achievements.
Choose from your most notable or defining experiences. These could be related to your work, community involvement, or extracurricular activities. The experiences you select should showcase your leadership skills, creative thinking, collaborative abilities, and personal reflections about what you learned or gained.
- Explain why your experiences and influences make your career goal a logical and wise choice.
- 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 prove your knowledge about industry trends and suggest how your abilities and strengths can help you contribute to that field.
It’s a very tall order to achieve all this.
Putting these elements together to create your goals essay
Let’s take a look at a sample MBA Goals Essay and see how these three key elements are incorporated.
You should be able to easily recognize why the writer’s opening is attention-getting for all the right reasons. The writer introduces herself as the supremely busy executive she visualizes becoming in the future. She trades large amounts of stock, rushes off to a Zoom conference, hurries downstairs, flags down a taxi, then hops on a plane. As she describes this whirlwind of activity, we can practically feel her heart pumping.
After establishing her voice and personality in this opening, she offers 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 the field, her bilingualism, and her specialty area as an auditor. This information is her springboard to explain why she is pursuing an MBA: she’s bursting out of her limited role as an accountant. Her eyes and ambition are set on a larger playing field as an international investment manager.
Write an essay, not a list or CV
Outstanding career goals essays are not lists of an applicant’s roles and achievements. Instead, they have a narrative flow and arc that convey the candidate’s palpable excitement about their career choice. This writer’s enthusiastic, dreamy first paragraph achieves this, and she returns to that image at the end, where she paints her idealized (if frantically busy) future. She also proves her seriousness by noting that she registered for the CFA exam.
Connect your career goals to your reasons for choosing a particular program
Many essay questions, especially those for MBA programs, will ask why you have chosen the school you’re applying to. Be prepared to respond knowledgeably and enthusiastically. And the only way to become knowledgeable – and enthusiastic – is by visiting campus in-person or virtually, attending student recruitment meetings, participating in forums, reading student blogs, watching videos of students speaking about their experiences, communicating directly with students and/or recent alumni, and otherwise doing your homework. As part of your research, make sure you have familiarized yourself with the courses and specializations that are relevant to your goals.
- Focus on answering each and every question asked in a career goals essay prompt. Often, there is more than one.
- Highlight specific achievements vividly and in a way that shows that your career choice is logical for you.
- Do the research so you can write about why the school is a good fit for you and do so with genuine enthusiasm.
In the next post in this series, we’ll explain how to take all this advice and apply it to create an exemplary first draft.
Work one-on-one with an expert who will walk you through the process of creating a slam-dunk application. Check out our full catalog of application services. Our admissions consultants have read thousands of essays and know the exact ingredients of an outstanding essay.
By Judy Gruen, former Accepted admissions consultant. Judy holds a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University. She is also the co-author of Accepted’s first full-length book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
- The Winning Ingredients of a Dynamic MBA Goals Essay, a free guide
- Grad School Personal Statement Examples
- Focus on Fit, podcast Episode 162