The Tuesday Q&A: Getting Specific About Short-Term Goals

MBA FAQ, MBA frequently asked questions, bschool questions, mba questionsQuestion:

How much detail – and what kind of detail – do I need to give when talking about my short-term goals in the application essays?

Answer:

When it comes to application essays, the granddaddy of MBA app essays has GOT to be the career goals essay. This essay is the place where you tell the adcom why you need the MBA degree and why they should be the ones to give it to you. It’s the “I think I’m awesome and here’s why you should agree with me” essay. Essentially, this is your distilled sales pitch for the rest of your superstar business career. This essay is the ultimate expression of the Admissionado mantra: connect your past experience to your future goals. Needless to say, it’s the most important essay in your application.

So, when it comes to these essays, how important are details? Well, let’s say two people offer you a briefcase full of money. The first guy doesn’t tell you what kind of money or how much money is in his briefcase. The second guy says that his briefcase has $50,000 in $100 bills. Could the first guy’s briefcase have more money in it? Sure, but you’re taking a MUCH bigger gamble by accepting the briefcase from the first guy.

The lesson here? You’ve GOT to be concrete with the details. Be as specific as possible about the important aspects of your plan right after graduation. What’s that mean?

That means that you tell them three things:

  1. Specific title and role. You’re not just going to get a job in finance. You’re going to be a Personal Financial Consultant, managing private investment portfolios and collaborating with analysts and brokers to maximize medium- to high-volume investor accounts.
  2. Specific industry. You’re not just going into private equity. You’re going into Southeast Asian private equity in the healthcare sector.
  3. Specific companies. You’re not just going to work for a finance consulting firm. You’re going to work for Deloitte or Ernst & Young.

Now, once you start talking more about the details of what you will do in this role, the key is emphasizing on-the-job skills and experience that LOOKS FORWARD to your long-term goals. If you’re going to be performing audits in your post-grad job, but don’t plan on doing audits in your long-term goal, don’t talk about auditing. If you want to start a venture capital firm in ten years, talk about making the important industry connections and gaining high-risk sales and management experience in your short-term goals.

Just remember, these essays (in the VAST majority of cases) have word limits, so they’re already telling you that you can’t get into TOO much detail. But make the details that you include SPECIFIC, and make them count.

— Jon Frank

The Challenges Facing Non-Traditional MBA Candidates