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Picking a Career Goal for Application Purposes

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Picking a Career Goal for Application Purposes [#permalink] New post 20 Jan 2012, 04:44
Hi all,

My question is this: If I'm undecided between two career paths and both are at least feasible given my pre-MBA experience, do I choose to focus on the more unique and career-changing one, or the "natural progression" one for the purposes of the application?

Using an example, if my target is Booth and I'm a CFA charterholder and a sell side equity research analyst with EC activities focused around investing, would it be more advantageous of me to state my career goals as 1) buyside equity research -> PM (an obvious natural progression), or 2) TMT investment banking -> strategy in the current industry I cover (media) with a long-term eye set on VC or some form of entrepreneurship-through-acquisition in the same industry (obviously I'd be a bit more specific in my application).

Assume that my preferences are split 50/50 and I can see myself going in either direction. Which would be better to specify on an application? Would they be more interested in:

1) the natural progression of IM because it just makes more sense given my background (and all the time I spent on the CFA!) and their strengths, or

2) the alternative career-changing route because while it's still feasible given my background, I'd "need" a Booth MBA much more to accomplish this, and it would probably be inherently reflected as such in the application.

I actually feel like I'd need an MBA to accomplish either, but I'm strictly talking about which comes off as more desirable as an applicant.

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Picking a Career Goal for Application Purposes [#permalink] New post 20 Jan 2012, 06:23
If you can clearly outline a plan for either plan and make it compelling then I don't think it matters either way. The career path I outlined is not the natural progression from what I am currently doing but it's something I'm very interested in and I was able to convey that. I don't think schools care whether your goal deviates from your current path or continues along it. People get into schools presenting both cases. It's more about the execution.

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Re: Picking a Career Goal for Application Purposes [#permalink] New post 20 Jan 2012, 17:13
I get where you are coming from since I had a very similar question when I started off with this entire process...My thought process is/was as follows -
I selected the option that was lesser of a natural progression from my current role. I figured that I was making life a little more challenging for myself by doing this.
1. I had to be more compelling in my arguments in the essays within the same word limit
2. I was positive that if given an interview invite, my interviewer would definitely prod me more to understand my reasoning for selecting that career path. This would give me a great opportunity to express myself and share my reasoning based on the depth of my research.
3. The "need" for a 2Y MBA can be expressed much better if the career goals are not really a direct progression from your current roles.
4. I knew that if I couldn't write my essays well enough or if I felt that there were too many gaps in the reasoning, I could always revert to my "natural progression" goals..

I don't know if I bit off more than I could chew since I haven't been admitted yet but I don't regret going this route at all.

Finally it will boil down to your personal choice. You might also want to explore the possibility of writing apps for two schools with the two different set of goals and have someone read your apps and try to poke holes in your apps. That might be a great way for you to "feel" which one "sounds" better than the other. Often, putting things on paper gives a whole new life to your words and helps you see them much differently from what you had originally envisioned!

Good luck!

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Re: Picking a Career Goal for Application Purposes [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2012, 04:53
Thanks for the replies. Scorpionz - I agree that going with the lesser of a natural progression route might allow you to better pitch the "why an MBA" part of the app. Also I think you're right about getting a better feel for one or the other once I draft a copy of the app. I'll have several months to mull it over.

Good luck with admissions!
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Re: Picking a Career Goal for Application Purposes [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2012, 08:00
Well, whatever goal you may be choosing, the key point is you should believe that it is possible. Only then will you be able to write credible essays and thereby be able to convince the adcom regarding that.
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Re: Picking a Career Goal for Application Purposes [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2012, 08:24
I know that many schools want you to have clearly defined career goals in your essays, but then understand that a significant number of applicants show up to business school completely undecided on what they want, or simply change their minds throughout the process. I wouldn't necessarily be disingenuous in your essays, but as long as you have a thoughtful, well-planned, reasonable short-term career goal, you're going to be checking the box.

I think the idea is that if you can illustrate that you can map out an attainable plan in your essays, even if your specific goals change, you should still be able to apply that same reasoned approach to whatever your ultimate career path becomes.

If one of your goals was particularly competitive, such as something with the buy-side, I would possibly consider "playing it safe" with a different career path. This isn't even that unreasonable, as you may be forced to change directions either way with something so competitive. That said, media roles aren't exactly a sure thing, and you aren't playing to Booth's forte as a finance school. Either way, just go with what feels right -- you probably can't go wrong as long as you're thoughtful, you've done your homework, and you can clearly articulate why you're passionate about the particular goal. Best of luck!

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Re: Picking a Career Goal for Application Purposes [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2012, 08:25
Thanks Anasthaesium, I agree. Though my pre-MBA experience might be considered non-traditional for my stated post-MBA goals, there is still plenty for me to work with to form a cohesive argument for my eligibility for all post-MBA steps. Obviously, in this case, the school will be instrumental in getting me there, and I plan on letting them know how, specifically.
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Re: Picking a Career Goal for Application Purposes [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2012, 08:45
Moss wrote:
I know that many schools want you to have clearly defined career goals in your essays, but then understand that a significant number of applicants show up to business school completely undecided on what they want, or simply change their minds throughout the process. I wouldn't necessarily be disingenuous in your essays, but as long as you have a thoughtful, well-planned, reasonable short-term career goal, you're going to be checking the box.

I think the idea is that if you can illustrate that you can map out an attainable plan in your essays, even if your specific goals change, you should still be able to apply that same reasoned approach to whatever your ultimate career path becomes.

If one of your goals was particularly competitive, such as something with the buy-side, I would possibly consider "playing it safe" with a different career path. This isn't even that unreasonable, as you may be forced to change directions either way with something so competitive. That said, media roles aren't exactly a sure thing, and you aren't playing to Booth's forte as a finance school. Either way, just go with what feels right -- you probably can't go wrong as long as you're thoughtful, you've done your homework, and you can clearly articulate why you're passionate about the particular goal. Best of luck!



Yeah - I guess the tricky part here is both goals are hyper-competitive, but what isn't nowadays. I saw buy-side as less of a risk because my experience is more suited to it and Booth is as well (relative to some other top 10 schools), but given the absurd supply/demand imbalance of course it still wouldn't be easy.

That said, I'm sure adcoms aren't shoo-ing away applicants just because they're seeking to go down a competitive path. The key as you say is finding the fine line between projecting confidence that it is achievable (which is accomplished with a clearly defined plan and credentials to support your eligibility) and stating the unreasonable (e.g. "I plan on getting into VC right after my MBA with no operational/deal experience") in your application.

In regard to the non-buyside path not playing to Booth's strengths, I have to assume, especially after hearing that the school is making concerted efforts to become more "dynamic" in the public's eye and shed the "just finance" image, that they would look favorably on candidates that are targeting non-traditional careers. Non-traditional for them, that is. Do you agree?
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Re: Picking a Career Goal for Application Purposes [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2012, 09:02
RE: Trying to branch out with diverse career paths. Sure -- and if your short term goal is TMT investment banking, you're not all that "diverse" to begin with. And if this is for R3, who knows how many media types Booth has already admitted; perhaps your diversity strategy would actually work against you if they've filled up that part of the class. Even if this is for the next admissions cycle, you still can't anticipate what the quotas will be for people in various fields.

Its a lot to consider, but you have a pretty clear and reasonable story for either path. I don't think you can really go wrong here. Your application success will probably come down to other factors. GL!

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Re: Picking a Career Goal for Application Purposes [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2012, 09:07
write about what you are truly passionate about
Re: Picking a Career Goal for Application Purposes   [#permalink] 23 Jan 2012, 09:07
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