NYU Stern – Professional Aspirations Essay (2009)

Think about the decisions you have made in your life. Answer the following:

(a) What choices have you made that led you to your current position?
(b) Why pursue an MBA at this point in your life?
(c) What is your career goal upon graduation from NYU Stern? What is your long-term career goal?

These questions are cool because they’ve given you a great roadmap simply by breaking the question down for you. Giving you clear access to what they’re looking for, by asking it directly. Do yourself a favor, and answer them all in kind—directly. Let’s dig.

Section (a) —> What choices have you made that led you to your current position?

WARNING: This does NOT say, “describe your career path.” I can’t repeat and emphasize that enough. This does not say “describe your career path.” This question is far more specific and nuanced.

What CHOICES have you made… that LED you to your current position?

Let’s say you live three blocks away from the food market, and decide one day to go pick up some milk that you need. If you were describing your “career progress” you might say: first i took WASHINGTON STREET. then i went on BALBOA AVENUE. then i crossed the street to the other side and headed east for a block and took MAIN ST and arrived at the FOOD MARKET EMPORIUM.

This is a catalogue of events. It tells us nothing. You may as well have substituted hieroglyphics for street names.

When you’re dealing with CHOICES, there’s a REASON behind every move. And it might go something like this:

Due to the sniveling rottweiler approaching from the east, I decided to take the longer route and hung a left on WASHINGTON. This was going to tack on 2 extra minutes, but at least I would arrive with both legs in tact. Then I turned right at Balboa mostly to follow a very attractive female in front of me. It would have made much more sense to continue on Washington, but if you saw what I saw, you’ve have made the exact same. She could have led me to the South Pole and that would have been okay by me. Went she entered the HOUSE OF SEANCE I remembered my need for milk, and quickly crossed the street where the foot traffic was far more conducive to where I was headed. Finally, I arrived at Main St, and grappled with heading to the FOOD MARKET EMPORIUM versus the WHOLE FOODS, and realized that I only had $2 in my pocket. FOOD MARKET EMPORIUM it was.

Forget the length and the bloat, but this second example brings us into the DECISION-MAKING of each “node.” And now we have a sense for WHY this person went left here, went right there, did this and that and the other thing. When you’re telling us this aspect of your story, do NOT try to impress us with name-dropping and fancy jargon. Tell us WHY you chose what you chose. And show how A led to B led to C, and finally how C led to D—> where you are today. We’re interested in knowing how you think. And why you do the things you do. They don’t all have to have been genius choices. But we need to get a sense of how you operate. What makes you tick.

Section (b) —> Why pursue an MBA at this point in your life?


You’ll see responses similar to this elsewhere in this blog. Basically, something is preventing you from leaping forward to the next logical step. You’ve hit a ceiling in some capacity. The “at this point in your career” is a crucial element here, so pay close attention. Why not 3 years ago? Why not 3 years from now? Think about those questions seriously… the answer will lead you STRAIGHT to a focused and crisp response. Make a case for why an MBA will benefit you. What type of gaps in your skill-set will an MBA shore up? (that work experience along will not?) Be clear, don’t focus on NYU here, focus more on what you’re looking for in an MBA program, with respect to your goals.

Section (c) —> What is your career goal upon graduation from NYU Stern? What is your long-term career goal?

Their take on short term/long term. And maybe a touch more specific, so important to pay attention. UPON GRADUATING FROM NYU… what’s the next step? Doesn’t have to be an EXACT job at an EXACT company. The specificity here really rests in the QUALITY of what it is you’re hoping to accomplish. Identify what that thing is very specifically and go after it. Make it sound like you’ve thought this all through and have a plan percolating… ALREADY. A person with focus and drive is enticing. Someone without focus is liable to squander opportunities available to him/her. Impress upon us that you possess this drive and focus. Do this by laying out a very sensible goal after your NYU MBA.

For the second piece, you can relax your muscles a bit and have some fun presenting a dazzling image of what it is you WANT out of life and out of your career. They are indeed inter-related. The life part informs the purpose behind the career goal. What is the ultimate goal? Paint us a vision that we can easily picture. Think big, but still focused. Leave us with a “the world is his/her oyster” feeling. We’ve grappled with a lot of the specifics, have a sense for how you think, what motivates you, etc etc. Now we want to hear about your dreams. This is your time to exhale, lean back, get a far off look in your eyes, and picture…. the dream. We want to picture it, too.

Columbia Business School – Essay 3 (2009)