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The Key to Writing Your Best MBA Goals Essay

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Understanding what you want to get out of business school plays a larger role in your MBA essay than you may think.

Top MBA programs are looking for applicants who have a clear idea of how a business degree will help shape their future. This is why the MBA goals essay is such an important piece of your business school application.

But how do you write a goals essay if you’re unsure of your post-MBA goals? What if you are changing careers and know you want to obtain the skills that an MBA program provides, but aren’t sure which career direction you want to pursue after your degree? Should you spend time looking into post-MBA options? Should you try out different jobs or shadow people in different careers, so that you can submit your MBA essay with a secure MBA goal? Or is it better to write your MBA essay with undefined goals?

The role of post-MBA goals in your MBA essay

Your post-MBA goals should guide you in the application process, and at the very least help you decide where to apply. Not only is it worthwhile spending time finalizing a post-MBA direction, it’s required. You need to know why you want to spend a large amount of your time and money before you apply. Not knowing what your post MBA-goals are could turn your MBA investment into a huge debt with no job to pay it off. Think of your goals as a weathervane—if it’s broken, it spins uselessly in the wind, but when working properly, it points you in the right direction.

Still wondering if business school is right for you? Ask yourself these five questions.

Steps to take before writing your MBA essay

When thinking about how to write an MBA essay, you also need to think about how to identify and define your personal MBA goals. Perhaps you already have a good idea of why you want to attend b-school and what it can help you achieve. If not, here are four steps that will help you understand and articulate your post-MBA goals, so you can write an impressive MBA essay:

Determine your likes and dislikes

Think about what you like and dislike about your current and past jobs. Compile a list of what you’d like more of and what you’d like less of. A simple exercise like this will ensure that you’re not just going through the motions, but that your MBA goals will actually bring you satisfaction in your career and life.

Talk to people in careers you want

Talk to people in jobs that appeal to you. Organize informal interviews or email a list of questions to people you know who have positions that you find attractive. While a post-MBA job or career path may seem appealing on paper, you want to ensure you have a full understanding of the positives, negatives, and opportunities that truly exist.

Consider a career counselor

Think about hiring a career counselor. With the right guidance, you can gain a better understanding of what opportunities exist for MBA graduates, and hone your MBA goals so that you can write a more competitive MBA goals essay. This short-term investment will pay off when you are able to get into the b-school you want and land your dream job after graduation.

Establish connections at companies that interest you

Once you have a better idea of your direction, take a look at the career listings for the bigger employers in the field or fields that interest you. Check out profiles of some of the recent MBAs these companies have hired and see if you can arrange to speak to someone in the roles that appeal to you. Talking with people that were once in your position (and who work at a company of interest) is a great way to grow your network and establish connections that can give you the advantage come interview time. However, it’s also a way to learn more about different positions and better define your MBA goals for yourself and your MBA essay.

MBA goals can be flexible

Not having clear goals will leave admissions officers wondering why you’re putting in the time, effort, and money to obtain an MBA. An MBA essay with clearly defined goals, may also concern b-schools that you won’t be able to find an internship, or eventually a full-time job because you don’t know what you want to do. But don’t worry—admissions officers also recognize that your goals may change over the course of your MBA program and that what you say in your MBA essay is somewhat preliminary. It’s okay to be flexible, but not clueless.

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This article was originally published on The MBA Tour