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Crafting Impactful Career Goals for Your MBA Essay

April 11, 2024 :: Admissionado Team

writing about post-mba goals

When applying to an MBA program, clearly articulating your career goals is crucial. Admissions committees seek candidates with ambition, a well-defined vision, and a realistic plan to achieve their objectives. This guide will help you craft compelling short-term and long-term goals that will make your application stand out and enhance your chances of acceptance.

Understanding the Importance of MBA Goals

Almost every MBA application devotes at least one essay to your goals. That’s the point of an MBA, right? To help you get where you’re trying to go? Because of this, knowing your goals (and having good ones!) is one of the most important aspects of an MBA application.

MBAs are looking to see whether you’re the type of person with enough ambition to strive to make a difference in your field, but also the type who’s thoughtful enough to have considered a goal that’s feasible based on your past experiences and one aligns with your actual skill set (meaning, not “save the world.”) It’s a tricky balance to strike between dreaming big and being practical. 

Crafting Long-term Goals

Your long-term goal is an opportunity to dream big and showcase your ambition. To make your long-term goal compelling, frame it as a solution to a significant problem in your field. This approach ensures your goal appears thoughtful and well-considered. For example, if you are passionate about sustainable energy, your long-term goal might be to lead a company that innovates in renewable energy solutions.

Making Long-term Goals Believable

The main way a long-term goal fails is when it doesn’t feel substantiated by the rest of the essay. If you use your introduction to really showcase your passion for your field, and you make the adcom feel that you are committed to this field, you can really dream big in your long-term goal and remain believable. The best approach to discussing your long-term goal is to frame it as the solution to a burning problem that you are set to solve. That way the goal doesn’t seem dreamed up on a whim. Instead, it seems like you’ve thought long and hard about a PROBLEM that means a lot to you, and that you’ve come up with something that you think could FIX this problem. If your stated goal is a solution to a problem you care about, it’s always going to seem right.

Formulating Short-term Goals

Short-term goals are critical as they represent the practical steps you will take immediately following your MBA to reach your long-term aspirations. Consistency is key; your short-term goal should align with your long-term vision. 

Avoiding Discrepancies

The short-term goal is a lot trickier, mostly because so many MBA alumni end up working for a big corporation like McKinsey or Goldman Sachs. There’s nothing that looks more disingenuous than saying your long-term goal is solving the poverty issue in a developing country and having your short-term be to work as an investment banker for Merrill Lynch.  Here, CONSISTENCY is important. Even if you actually might go work in a giant bank after your MBA, you need to make sure that your short-term goal reads as an important step TOWARD your long-term goal. Think about the MBA as a place in which you will acquire skills that you need for your long-term goal, but before you can utilize those skills, you need to put them to the test. Your short-term goal as a practice ground on which you can gain practical experience utilizing the lessons learned in your MBA before actually using them to solve the problem you set as your long-term goal. If you think about it this way, your short-term goal will always align with your long-term goal, and your MBA becomes an inevitable link in the chain toward them both.

Differentiating Yourself from Other Applicants

Every MBA application season sees its trending buzzwords. Recently, technology management has been a popular goal among applicants. While it’s important to address trending topics, you must differentiate yourself by leveraging your unique experiences and perspectives.

Using Personal Experience

Was there a time in your career when the ability to better manage technical teams would have made things a lot easier for you?

Let’s say as a consultant at Firm X you were tasked with leading a client’s IT team on a tech infrastructure implementation project. However, when meeting the client’s IT team, you realized that they would need significant training to meet your objectives. You had never trained an IT team before and weren’t up to date on the industry best practices for these situations. 

Tell adcoms about this challenge you faced and then, find courses and experiences at your target school that would have helped you better take on this challenge. Wouldn’t it have been great in this situation if you had had the experience of leading a team of engineers and programmers on a startup through School X’s Venture Capital Lab? Show the adcoms that you know exactly how their school’s resources will help you fill this technology management skills gap.

Looking to the Future

If you know that technology management is going to be a large part of your future career responsibilities, then it’s a good idea to let the adcoms know that you’ve done your research and have a grasp of the kinds of technology management challenges that you’ll be coming up against.

Are you planning on going into product management at a tech giant after graduation? Then you need to tell the adcoms that you know what your leadership in that product management role is going to look like. Tell them how at Company X, you’ll be leading teams of computer engineers and analysts to build industry-leading products. Then, make sure you write how, at their MBA program, you need to learn how to best utilize the technological specializations of those teams by taking Class X with professor Y, an expert in technology management implementation.

Crafting Sharp MBA Goals

Specificity is crucial in making your goals compelling and memorable. Compare these two examples:

  • Applicant A: “I want to join a top-tier management consulting firm and rise to the manager level within five years.”
  • Applicant B: “I plan to join McKinsey in their digital practice and develop a specialty in cybersecurity. After seven years, I will open my own practice in cybersecurity consulting in New Delhi.”

Who wore it better, Applicant A or Applicant B? The answer should be pretty obvious: Applicant B. When given the choice between a vague, generalized goal and a sharp, clear goal, the adcom will always prefer to hear the latter. Here’s why:

  1. Your essay, and you as a candidate, will be MUCH more memorable—specificity makes you stick. A hundred other applicants will want to be management consultants, but only YOU have THIS particular vision. Obviously, the adcom is more likely to remember the more specific goal than the generalized version they hear over and over.
  2. Sharper goals make you more credible. The adcom is investing in your future… would you invest in someone who didn’t have a clear business plan? Someone who didn’t know EXACTLY what he or she was going to do after graduation? B-school is a finishing school for future managers, not a place to find yourself. You will come across as smart and driven if your goals are well-defined, as opposed to the general befuddled “fuzziness” that comes with a vague vision.
  3. The more specific the goal, the more structured your essay is. You can draw on that goal to highlight the particular aspects of your professional experience and past achievements that are relevant to your MBA and your future. Work history in your essays should ONLY be used to prove your fitness and passion for your future plans, not as a general, rambling explanation of what you’ve done so far. They have your resume, there’s no need to restate.

Now here’s the plot twist: While the adcom wants to hear a specific, credible and ambitious goal, they don’t care WHAT that goal is. That’s right, you heard us. No one is going to follow up with you during your MBA, two days after you graduate or 20 years from now. The adcom does not have special teams out there, making sure you did exactly what you said you were going to do. You can change your goal as soon as you submit your application.

Presenting Realistic Goals

Here’s the deal: business schools are businesses. And businesses aim to make money. And business schools make money from alumni who go on to do great things and donate money, while also giving them a great success statistic to list on their site and lure in new students.

What all that means is that the schools are looking for students who are… well, going to go on and do great things. And while finding a treatment for AIDS is indeed a great thing (who’s gonna argue with that?!), it’s not the most realistic. And why would a school gamble on a guy with some huge (albeit, awesome) dreams, when they can accept the next guy who has a more realistic career path and the skills to get there?

Avoiding Unrealistic Goals

If your long-term goals are indeed to feed the hungry in Africa or rid the world of cancer, more power to you. The world can never have enough people like you. But for the sake of your application, dude, dial it back. Pick a long-term goal that is interesting and challenging, but still attainable.

Maybe that’s running a non-profit that raises money for cancer research. Or maybe it’s completely unrelated to those goals at all, and instead aligns quite nicely with whatever it is you’re doing now.

Discussing Family Business Goals in MBA Essays

Talking about your past work with your family’s business or your plans for working for a family business in the future in your MBA admissions essays can be tricky, and there are a few things to keep in mind in order to make your past experiences and post-graduation family business plans appear ambitious and worth investing in.

Explaining Your Family Business

Describe what your family’s business does, its importance within its industry, and its specific impact on customers. Avoid industry-specific jargon and proprietary terminology that might confuse the admissions committee. Instead, focus on clear, easy-to-understand language.

Demonstrating Passion

Show your passion for your family’s business by explaining why you are committed to it. Share personal stories and experiences that highlight the significance of your work and the impact you hope to make. This helps the admissions committee see that your commitment is genuine and not just an easy career path.

Showing Strategic Plans

Present well-researched plans for expanding or growing your family’s business. For example, you might explain how you plan to use networking skills gained during your MBA to secure government grants or expand into new markets. Show that your plans are based on sound business reasoning and a thorough understanding of your industry.

Common Mistakes to NOT Make

In our 15+ years in MBA Admissions Consulting, we have seen the same three mistakes again and again. And again and again. We’ll tell you what these are so you can avoid making them. 

Lack of specificity

The admissions committee at HBS, CBS, and Wharton want to know you’ve done your due diligence when they look at your application. They want to know that you have a plan to get from Point A to Point B to Point C, and that you’re not just applying to business school on some random whim. So, when you write about goals, a general rule of thumb to remember is that being too general is always a bad thing.

  • “I want to go into marketing for a big company…” Uh huh. Twitter big or Walmart big?
  • “I want to work at Amazon…” Where? In which department? Doing what?!
  • “I want to own my own business…” Cool. Got any ideas in mind for what that business will do?

All three of these are examples of goals that simply don’t stand on their own. First, not one of them proves a need for an MBA! I know plenty of business-owners without an MBA, and I can guarantee most employees at Amazon don’t have one! Even more, they lack the vital information that proves you have a plan in mind and the MBA is just a stop on your journey to get there. And that fact conveniently leads us to our next point…


One of the worst things an MBA applicant can do is present a goal that looks irrational or unrealistic. Listen, you should dream big (remember that whole “reach for the stars, grab them and do something baller with them” bit from earlier?); we’re not trying to dissuade you from having lofty goals! But we want the adcom to read your application and feel confident you’re going to get where you want to go with an MBA under your belt.

The other end of the spectrum, when the adcom instead feels confident that you are someone who is completely out of touch with your target industry… or reality – is what we’re trying to avoid. You are an investment to the school. You need the adcom to see you as a sure thing, and you are wayyy more likely to be seen as that sure thing when you choose goals that connect to your past experience. Make that connection and make it obvious; don’t make the adcom take a leap for you!


This one is pretty straightforward: you don’t need to go to business school to move from a position as a junior developer to a position as a senior developer. Similarly, you don’t need to go to business school to go from working in HR to working in project management. You also don’t need an MBA to become a professor of economics.

The adcoms at Stanford GSB need to see why they’re a logical part of the trajectory toward yours before they’re going to consider your application. They’ve got their eyes out for people who want to learn how to become a leader and/or make a serious (and might we add, ambitious) industry jump.


Writing compelling MBA goals involves a balance of ambition and practicality. Your goals should be specific, realistic, and demonstrate a clear need for an MBA. By tying your goals to personal experiences and presenting a logical career progression, you can create a standout application that convinces admissions committees of your potential for success.

Final Tips

  1. Make a connection between your experiences and goals: Ensure your proposed goals align with your past experiences and skills.
  2. Provide specific examples: Mention target companies and job titles you aim for, showing you’ve done your research.
  3. Show passion and commitment: Highlight what drives you to achieve your goals and how an MBA will help.
  4. Build a clear pathway: Detail both your short-term and long-term goals, showing a logical progression.
  5. Review for clarity and feasibility: Ensure your goals are rational, well-thought-out, and realistically achievable.

By following these strategies, you will enhance your chances of acceptance into your desired MBA program and set a strong foundation for your future career.