The specific focus of your post-MBA goals colors almost every aspect of your application—from school selection (based on goals-relevant study tracks and courses, clubs and extracurricular events geared to your industry, number and quality of organizations recruiting for your industry, etc.) to the content of your non-goals essays to the guidelines you provide recommenders. For this reason, you should begin work on a basic goals essay very early in your application process.
That means figuring out what your post-MBA goals are. If you’re unsure (for example, because you hate your current career but haven’t worked out yet what else to do), consult your university’s career services department; an accredited career coach; books like What Color Is Your Parachute? and Do What You Are; or sources such as CareerLeader, The Birkman Method, or Strengths Finder. If you do have a vague inkling about your career track, flesh it out by doing some due diligence. Do some serious informational interviewing with alumni or industry elders. Read industry magazines, attend meetings of professional associations in your area, or cruise the websites of organizations you’d like to join, noting the career paths of their top managers. Integrate your new knowledge into your post-MBA career story.
Let’s assume you do have a rough sense of your post-MBA path but just need to refine it so it passes the high muster of a B-school’s application review. Stating that you want to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 consumer goods corporation is a start but is not nearly enough. For most schools, you’ll need much, much more. Think of your post-MBA career not as a destination but as an evolving narrative, and take a hint from the short- and long-term language often included in business schools’ goals questions to map out a career trajectory that evolves over time. Goals defined and schools selected, you can begin to map your goals essay.
This article was originally published on Paul Bodine’s blog. Paul is a graduate admissions consultant with over 13 years of experience, having helped hundreds of applicants get into their dream business, law, medical, and graduate schools. He has also published several books on graduate admissions.