MBA Applicants: A Long-Term Goal is More Than a “Job Title”

Serious student at computer

As you begin the MBA application process, it’s essential to craft a compelling, convincing and authentic answer to the inevitable question: “What is your long-term professional goal?”

Business schools use an applicant’s description of his or her post-MBA objective as a window into the candidacy. Expressing career intentions reveals vital aspects of a profile, such as self-awareness, core strengths and personal values, that adcoms want and need to understand.

Sometimes you’ll be asked to describe your goals in a focused essay or short-answer question that poses that specific question. Other times, you’ll be expected to weave your goal in response to an open-ended essay question. You may also be asked to describe your goal during the admissions interview. In any case, there’s no way to avoid this often stressful but always important topic.

Many candidates define their post-MBA career objectives solely in terms of their desired job title. Saying merely “I want to be a CEO” is laudable in terms of expressing confidence but falls way short of convincing adcoms you understand how to get there and why an MBA education is essential.

According to Julie Strong, Master Consultant at The MBA Exchange and former Senior Director of MBA Admissions at MIT Sloan, “This approach doesn’t adequately address the underlying questions in the minds of adcoms: How do you want to change the world? Where do you want to have impact in your life? What is the burning problem that you want to solve? How are you going to change the business landscape?”

Julie adds, “The admissions committee wants to understand what you have done in the past, what are you currently doing, and how an MBA degree will help you get to that ultimate. long-term goal. Is it feasible or realistic considering your prior experiences to think you can achieve that goal?”

Here’s an example of how one applicant evolved in describing his long-term goal. “Joe,” a software industry professional, engaged The MBA Exchange for guidance and support in his business school admissions campaign. Despite having competitive grades and test scores, he had applied the previous year but was denied. In our initial discussion, Joe found it difficult to describe his long-term career goal. Most of his comments were focused around his intended job title, “Chief Technology Officer.”

When we restated the goal question as “Where and how do you want to have an impact?” We started hearing far more convincing ideas about what Joe really wanted to do. He described the talent gap in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Joe added that he had recently been successful in improving predictive models, which in turn had very positive results for his customers.

Then, Joe began to describe a completely different industry – healthcare – where he wanted to use AI and ML to make processes more efficient and services more affordable. He explained that his long-term goal was to utilize his technology expertise and MBA education to have an impact on a new industry and market. Joe’s confident smile was a good predictor of the positive response that adcoms would have when reading his application. (Yes, three months later, Joe was proudly admitted to his dream business school!)

As a future MBA applicant, when you consider how to best present your post-MBA goal, avoid the temptations and limitations of easy answers such as “I want to be a CEO.” The best option is to express your long-term goal in terms of the specific, beneficial impact your abilities, actions – and business school education – will have on teams, customers, organizations, etc. Describing the positive difference you want to make will help adcoms realize why a coveted seat in their MBA program should be yours.

If analyzing your own candidacy and formulating post-MBA plans proves difficult or frustrating, we can help. Having helped more than 5,000 applicants over the past three decades, The MBA Exchange has developed a proven, customized process for discovering and articulating career goals. In fact, this is a key element of our comprehensive consultations provided by admissions experts such as Julie Strong. Let us know if we can help you communicate the vision that truly inspires you to pursue a business school education.