If you are applying to the top international B-schools, a crucial aspect of your essay will be presenting your professional goals. How you visualize your career, and how the MBA plays a role in it, is extremely important to the admissions committee! To craft the best career vision for the MBA, you must present a coherent narrative that links your personal reasons for pursuing an MBA with your past experiences as well as your short and long term goals.
Understanding the differences between these goals and how they work together will enhance your capacity to articulate a compelling case to the admissions committees of MBA schools. Let’s start by understanding what they really mean.
What Are MBA Goals?
Your long-term MBA goal is generally where you plan to be 10 years after graduating from the MBA program you are applying to; while your short-term MBA goals are the stepping stones paving the way to get there.
Short-term goals involve your near-immediate plans such as an internship and/or professional plans two to three years post B-school. During this period, you should be acquiring specific expertise or skills that are essential for you to reach your long-term vision.
You are expected to have complete clarity on the skillset required to do this role, the key responsibilities you will be handling, and the results that you are expected to showcase in the next 1-2 years. The admissions committee wants to understand the above from your essay and then ascertain whether ‘you’ have a realistic chance with the MBA education and current experience to gain that role in light of the skillsets required for that role and the competition presented by the typical MBA class.
Your long-term vision defines your end goal, the peak of your career. It should basically answer the question “what you want to be when you grow up”, but in a highly coherent way. But, this does not mean you go into excruciating detail. Instead, your focus should be on the impact you want to have throughout your professional career. The admissions committee wants to know your values and motivations and how you plan to influence an industry or community.
Alternatively, for the short-term goal, you do want to get specific. This goal is usually more important to the admissions committee and should reflect thorough research down to the function, industry and even possible companies you hope to be working for. It’s also important to communicate your understanding of the business school recruiting process and what it will take for you to land your post-MBA job. That said, you might consider a few options, to demonstrate that you have a plan B if your ideal path doesn’t work out!
Taken together, it’s imperative to show a rational thread between your past experiences, the MBA, your internship and your post-MBA goals. You want to show how the skills developed from each of these experiences relate to your professional vision.
Once you get into the B-school, there are new interest areas and new avenues that you may end up exploring or change your mind. But it’s important that the story you present in your essay showcases your ambition in a logical way in line with your current career path and also in line with how the school can place you.
Key distinctions between the long and short-term MBA goals
Long term career goals
Time frame: 10+ years
The end goal: What you want to be “when you grow up”
Reflects your values
Focuses more on desired impact
Both inspirational and aspirational
Expresses the motivation behind your short-term goal
Short Term Career Goals
Time frame: internship and up to 2-3 years after graduation
Stepping stone to your long-term MBA goals
As specific as possible, reflecting considerable research and thought related to: geography/industry/function/potential companies
Achievable and realistic
Focuses on building capacities, expertise, and experience
Displays an understanding of the MBA recruitment process
How to present a career shift in your MBA goals
This is typically a part of your short-term goals, but can also blend into your long-term goals. It is quite common to want to shift to a more exciting role in probably a more exciting industry and organization. So basically, you are looking to change your industry, role profile and probably geography as well. This scenario accounts for more than 60% of the candidates who want to do MBA. For example:
I am a project manager in IT services firm in India who wants to get into product management for a B2B SaaS product in US
I am a team lead in a semi-conductor firm who wants to get into business development roles in an IT services or IT product firm
I am a software engineer in a tech firm who wants to move into a business strategy role with a bigger tech firm/start-up
I am a client-side consultant with an IT-services firm who wants to into corporate finance role with a top-tier tech firm
I am an entrepreneur who wants to become a product manager in a tech firm
Such shifts require a lot of introspection and research. The B-school would like to see what is your understanding of the role, what skills are ‘transferable’ from your current role into the new role and on top of it, how will the MBA help you gain the skillsets that are missing. They also want to get a clear understanding of the role from your viewpoint in terms of key responsibilities, performance metrics and impact areas.
This helps convince the admissions committee that you stand a good chance of being shortlisted for that role based on your application! But be warned, presenting unreal career switches in your MBA application can work against you. Here is a video that delves deeper into the subject of career switch through an MBA: