|Sent on:||Wednesday, October 19, 2011 12:51 AM|
Like many of you, I too have begun writing my essays for the schools I plan to apply to and turns out that the essay I thought would be the easiest of the lot has actually turned out to be the hardest - The goals essay : the one that requires you to tie up your entire career and connect it to your long and short term goals, one of which includes 'Why an MBA'. Just why is this essay so challenging? Allow me to spell out the ways:
Many of us have several reasons why we want an MBA:
1) The high salaries that usually come after graduating from a top business school
2) Several of our friends are in business schools and can't stop talking about how much that experience has changed their lives
3) Many people other than yourself want you to go to business school and you believe that they know better than you do so applying to b-school is the logical step to take
3) An MBA title looks awesome on a business card
4) You are bored with your job or see yourself moving sideways in your career and figure going to business school will be a good way to get away from your present situation and figure out what it is you want to do in school
If any of the points above are your PRIMARY reason to go to business school, it may be a good idea to delay your applications. Why? Because none of these are goals - they are either assumptions or selfish desires and , if there is anything my research has taught me, it's that your lack of vision will so obviously stand out in your essays that the admissions committee is almost certain to ding your application because your goals will most likely be made up and trust me on this - the admissions committee at top schools are professionals who are trained too discern the fluff from the serious. Even if you do manage to convince a school to admit you, you will most likely be setting yourself up for career suicide when you realize that you don't enjoy I-banking because you are not passionate about working with numbers or that the travels of management consulting are too hectic for you to turn into a full fledged career.
So how exactly does one right a compelling goals essay? Simply put, the goals essay needs to be a seamless road of interconnected dots that map out what you have done so far and how it can serve as a strong base to launch you into a successful career for whatever it is that you plan to do after business school.
Does that mean that 'being a brilliant computer programmer or an excellent nurse' leaves you with no chance to make a case to the admissions committee that you will be a successful 'investment banker' since you have had no exposure to the field? Absolutely not - more than 50% (supposedly up to 75%) of MBA applicants get an MBA so that they can transition into an entirely different field but you need to be able to demonstrate some sort of strong interest in the field BEFORE you apply else the committee will assume that you are bluffing.
If you plan to stick within your career field and use an MBA to move up a few notches in the corporate hierarchy, you can leverage your previous expertise in the industry, gain a good understanding of the responsibilities of the role that you plan to take up post MBA and connect the 2 together in your essays. However, if you plan to make a full career switch and have no past experience in the industry, your task becomes a lot more complicated but far from impossible. Using the example I stated earlier of a computer programmer aspiring to become a brand manager, you need to take a good look at your resume as well as your past accomplishments and see what it is that you have done to gain some sort of exposure to the world of finance - do you regularly read 'The financial times' ? Have you taken any 'finance' classes at a local school? Will you be able to answer what a 'leveraged buyout' is or 'how is a valuation placed on a company' if someone asks you today? If not, then chances are you may not actually be passionate about that field if you plan to wait until business school before you learn everything. 18 months is a short period of time and you won't know how to use that time appropriately if your goals are just assumptions of what you want to do.
In short - If you plan to switch careers (or even take up a higher position within your current industry), start living that life today if you want to convince the admissions committee that you are serious about that field. Read journals, follow people who are already in that field and look at their career trajectory, basically anything that will make you fully comprehend the responsibilities required to be successful in that field so that you can hit the ground running when you start b-school.
Good luck with your applications!