The biggest question to ask yourself before embarking on GMAT prep and the business school application process is, “What are my career goals?” Once you know your career goals, you can then determine whether you need an MBA to reach them.
Business schools care about knowing your career goals in order to better understand what motivates you and to assess whether your career goals would be attainable after you graduate from business school. Career placement is one of the key success measures of business schools.
Clarifying your career goals also helps you with school selection. Knowing your goals allows you to have focused conversations with current students from various business schools to understand how each school could potentially support your career goals.
Many applicants believe that they’ll have two years during business school to clarify their career goals. But in reality, students are usually asked to update their resume for the school’s resume book shortly after starting an MBA program. These resumes should be tailored for a specific type of summer internship, so you would be better off getting clear on your career goals sooner. Having a strong career focus is the key to getting hired.
There are probably people in your life who have opinions about what career path you should pursue. My hope is that you design a path that combines your passion and your strengths.
Here are some tactical steps that will help you get started:
1. Look internally. Take some time to reflect on your passion and skills.
a. Reflect on your top 5–10 most significant life experiences and the impact of each experience. Generally when I go through this exercise with my clients, I learn what they are passionate about; I see a pattern of conditions that allow them to thrive.
b. Clarify your values, motives, and preferences. Consider the importance of things such as security, money, recognition, power, affiliation, altruism, fun, and aesthetics. Our values and preferences tend not to change too much over time, so be honest about what motivates you. For example, if you have a strong need for structure, order, and predictability, then the entrepreneurial path may not be best suited for you.
c. Find your strengths. I like Bill Barnett’s suggestion to make a list of your concrete skills and knowledge as well as the softer, more intrinsic strengths. Then ask others for input. Often when we are good at something and it comes naturally to us, we may think of the strength as no big deal. Other people may help you recognize how valuable your strengths truly are.
2. Look externally. Conduct informational interviews with people in companies, roles, and industries you are interested in. Ask them what they like and dislike about their jobs, how they got to where they’re at, what it takes to be successful in those roles, etc. This may also be a good chance to get feedback on your experience and skills to determine what areas need further development and how an MBA may prepare you for such roles. Most people enjoy helping others and talking about what they do. You just need to approach them nicely, thank them for investing their time in you, and keep them updated on your progress. Most of us dread contacting strangers and potentially being turned down. I did not conduct as many informational interviews as I should have earlier in my career—and I have made a wrong career move that could have been easily avoided with informational interviews. But the few informational interviews I have conducted have paid off both personally and professionally. I once conducted an informational interview with a very well-respected leadership development consultant and executive coach to major CEOs, which opened me to her field and led to rewarding and fantastic project opportunities with her and her firm. She has also become a great mentor and friend. I hope this example motivates you to making meaningful connections of your own.
Once you have completed the two steps above and have determined that you need an MBA to reach your career goals, you should be able to confidently articulate your goals in the business school application essays and interviews.
Best of luck in figuring out the best way to make the most positive impact professionally!
If you are struggling with determining your career goals, please contact us to help you gain clarity and get you started on the road to success.
Christine Lin is the Principal of Marvel Admissions Consulting. To learn more about how she can help you achieve your career goals, contact her at email@example.com.