Monday, May 27, 2013
The trap of the long-term career goal
Pretty much every school asks some variation of this standard MBA question: "What are your short and long-term career goals and how will school "X" help you achieve it?" I think a lot of applicants, myself included, make the mistake of taking the question quite too literally, especially as it pertains to addressing the long-term goal. Let me explain what I mean.
When most applicants tackle this question, they usually devote a paragraph to discussing their short-term goals and how the school will help them achieve it, followed by another paragraph addressing long-term goals and how the school will help them achieve it. In each instance, they will mention specific courses, programs, clubs, faculty, resources, that will prove valuable in obtaining their career objectives. Upon talking to some very trusted people as well as reflecting on my essays this year, I think this approach is flawed. First, from a strictly logical standpoint, if the school has everything it takes to help you reach your long-term career goals, why isn't that your short-term goal instead? By definition, your long-term is your ultimate goal, and if you can get there right away after an MBA, wouldn't it make sense to do so? Second, and more importantly, business school is best equipped to help you get a job right afterwards; to get your long-term job, you will mostly rely on the skills and network you gain from your post-MBA job. This does not mean that you will not use the knowledge and network you acquire in b-school further down the road. I am merely asserting that from the standpoint of crafting a strong MBA essay, it is better to show how the specific resources of the school, combined with your experience, will help you achieve your shot-term goals. Then, you can talk generally about how that job+perhaps the mba network will help you achieve your long-term goal.
There is another dimension to this as well. Adcom is much more concerned with their students' post-MBA placement than what they end up doing say 10-20 years from now (except perhaps when the alum becomes very wealthy and makes a large donation to the school!). It is the post-MBA placement after all that gets published and affects ranking and prestige. There are some schools such as Columbia that are VERY obsessed with this, and knowing how to address adcom's concerns about one's placement will go a long way in helping you to write compelling essays.