MBA essays lie at the heart of any business school’s application. They reveal the humane side of the applicant which other parts of their application package cannot do. One common essay topic that you are bound to encounter when applying for an MBA program (especially at a M7 school) is the “Career Goals” essay. In this article, we are going to provide a complete guide on how to approach the career goals essay and analyse an essay that worked to illustrate our points.


Career goals essay is essentially a statement of your motivations for the MBA program and your plans thereafter. It is the most important component of your b-school application. Here are some of the prompts from top MBA programs for the 2020-2021 application:

  • How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (Chicago Booth School of Business)
  • Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (Columbia Business School)
  • What are your short and long-term career goals? How will the MBA help you achieve them? (NYU Stern School of Business)
  • What is your professional goal immediately following graduation from Tepper? (CMU Tepper School of Business)
  • What are your post-MBA career goals? Share with us your first choice career plan and your alternate plan. (Fuqua School of Business)
  • What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA (Wharton School of Business)


While the wording of each prompt might be slightly different, the main question is clear: where do you see yourself in the future?  Being able to articulate what your career goals are is of utmost importance in your application to top business school.


1. Long-term and Short-term Career Goals 

There are two types of goals that the career goal essay seeks: the long-term goal and the short-term goal. Whereas your short-term goal is what you imagine becoming right after earning your MBA, your long-term goal is the eventual position you hope to achieve in your field.


Research their course curriculum, and choose courses that provide you with the skills and knowledge you lack

Extracurricular activities:

These include student-run organizations, immersion programmes, leadership programmes,…Most schools will offer similar clubs (like business club or consulting club), but add details (for example, the business club at your target school won multiple case competitions) to specify how you can benefit from these extracurricular activities.


Mention if the faculty has professors you would like to work with. Try to read research paper or books, preferably related to your interest and goals, that are published by a faculty member, and tell what you find interesting

Other factors:

Beside the 3 important factors above, you can include things that you find unique to your specific schools and programs. These can be location, class size, alumni network, school culture,…

Short-term career goals

Long-term career goal

  • Time frame: up to 2-3 years after graduation
  • Stepping stone to your long-term goal
  • Follow SMART framework: specific, measureable, actionable, relevant, time-based
  • Time frame: 10+ year
  • Express your motivations and values
  • Connect logically with short-term goals

Short-term goals: 

For your short-term goal, it should be something that is realistically achievable immediately after finishing MBA. Goals such as moving from a Big4 consulting firm to BCG or transitioning from a software engineer to a product manager in a tech firm are considered short-term goals. There are 3 questions to cover in your short-term goals:

  • What kind of company or organization will you work for? What are some examples of companies you will target?
  • What role will you pursue? 
  • What hard and soft skills will you build in that role and how will it prepare you for long-term success?

In other words, short-term goals are stepping stones between MBA and long-term goals. If your long-term goal is to address global warming, a short-term goal as working at Morgan Stanley does not seem relevant. Instead, you need to tailor your short-term goals to fit with your long-term vision. 

In essence, short-term planning falls under the SMART framework: make sure your goals are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-based. This is an example of a well-informed short-term career goal:

One thing to keep in mind is that your short-term goals should be consistent with your long-term goals.

“In order to succeed in my long-term goal as a tech entrepreneur in the healthcare industry, I will need to learn all I can about how to set up a successful business, how the healthcare tech industry is maturing and changing, and what factors into the types of strategic decisions that players in this industry are making. As such, I want to join a healthcare technology consultancy, such as Accenture Digital Health or in the medical technology consulting group at Bain, focusing specifically on consulting smaller companies and recent startups, where I will build not only these skills, but important connections in this industry.”

Long-term goals:

In terms of your long-term career goals, it is important to think about what sort of impact you want to make 10 years down the line

There are 3 characteristics of a compelling long-term goals:


Demonstrates the value and impact of your goal. To be clear, this does not have to be humanitarian. You may be tempted to set such awe-inspiring goals as starting a non-profit organization, but in fact, these types of goals may hurt your chance of admission if you are unable to convince admission committees of their relevance to your skill sets and short-term goals. It is fine if your goals aren’t huge, as long as you can articulate what you are going to contribute 


 Convincingly argue that this goal is personally important to you. Schools don’t admit those who just want to get rich quick, but those who have a passion. Stanford every year asks the same question “What matters most to you?”. When you articulate your long-term goals, mention why they matter to you. They can be rooted in a past experience or “ah ha moment”, or consistent with your genuine values.


Make sure there is a logical connection between short-term and long-term goals. Showing your ambition is good, but it is also important to demonstrate that you are sensible and realistic in your thinking, as they are the qualities of a future leader that an MBA program seeks.

This is an example of an effective long-term goal:

“I seek an executive-level position at a renewable energy organization such as a wind farm or solar company, to well-position me to reach my ultimate objective – impacting the global carbon footprint as a CEO of a global renewable energy organization.”

2. Vague vs. Detailed Goals

You might ask whether your answer to an MBA career goal essay can remain uncertain and vague. You may reason that you do not want to limit yourself in a fixed position, or that you don’t know your goal and going to business school will help you find it.

Neither of these strategies will land you a spot in a top-tier MBA program. Remember, don’t show any ambiguity in your essay.

Thinking MBA admissions committees as venture capitalists – they want to “invest” in the best people with the best ideas. Your goals essay then is your “personal business proposal” expressing your short- and long-term career ambitions. A compelling plan needs to be realistic and clear in its objectives so that investors can assess its success rate. If your goals are vague, they will not be able to determine how likely you are to succeed and how well their program can set you up for that success. 

Let’s consider two responses for a career goal:

 “I want to increase sustainability in Chinese corporations.”

  “My post-MBA path will start at BCG, where I will gain exposure to general industrial operations and have opportunities to employ business and leadership lessons. Afterward, I intend to tackle environmental regulatory compliance issues at a multinational chemical company. Within ten to fifteen years, I hope to launch my own consultancy, helping companies integrate environmental concerns into business strategy. My career vision stems from a passion rekindled with every breath. Now that I am healthy, I intend to exhaust myself finding practical, sustainable solutions so that my future children can breathe a little easier.” 

The first statement has a generic approach. After reading, the admission board is left with multiple questions: What kinds of sustainability? What industry does the candidate plan to work in? How does he manage to implement that plan? How long does the plan take? Why does he want to do that? 

In the second statement, the answers to these questions are straightforward. With details about the position, name and field, both the goal and the plan are crystal clear. In general, the more specific and personal the essay is, the better. 

It is a misconception that you have to stick to your plan after graduation. No, you don’t. The admission committee will not revoke your MBA degree if you don’t follow what you say in your plan. The Adcoms just want to know that you are passionate about something and you have a thought-out plan with it. The sole purpose of a career goal essay is to demonstrate your interest for a problem, and convince the admission committee that you are the type of person who can solve it.  A future leader with passion and vision is the ideal candidate to any top business school. 


Depending on the essay prompts and the word limit specified by each school, your  approach to MBA career goals essays might differ slightly. And as much as I want to tell you that there is an essay template, there is not. 

There are about 8,000-10,000 applicants every year to top MBA programs, and the acceptance rates are usually under 20%. If you are able to find a detailed outline for the career goal essay, chances are that thousands of other  applicants may also find and use it. How can your essay stand out to make you stand in the top 20% of the application pool? As you read successful career goals essays by those accepted to prestigious b-school, you will soon notice that they don’t fall into a fixed structure. 

With that being said, there are certain elements that comprise an effective career goals statement. Writing you MBA career goal essay requires a deep introspection of

  • What you have done to date
  • What you wish to do
  • How an MBA bridge the gap between those two

Answers to these questions usually address all the quintessential elements of the goals essay. Try to connect the three dots between your past experience, your future goals, and an MBA education. These components should be in harmony and build upon each other to create a coherent essay. 


In an MBA career goals essay, it is pivotal that you include your work experience. Your work history gives context to your goals. This is especially true if during your pre-MBA jobs, you found a passion that you want to follow in the long run, or found a problem that piqued your interest and you want to solve it. Your past experience also shows that you have made progress toward your future goals, and that you have relevant experience related to your goals.

There are 3 things you should highlight about your career progress to date:

Hard skills:

You have built and attained job-specific hard skills that you can bank on to drive your success


You know how certain things are done: concepts and practices, knowledge of industries, technologies,..

Leadership potential:

You have demonstrated that you have the ability to lead other people competently. Even if you are not in a formal management role, you can show leadership skills like: identifying a problem and creating a vision to solve it, organizing resources to improve efficiency, motivating others, understanding and leveraging other people’s talents,..

However, don’t turn your MBA essay into a paragraph version of your resume. Be selective and strategic in listing out what you have done. You should focus on 1-2 work experiences that are closely related to your goals, and provide details about what you have learnt and how you have progressed along your career path.  The key here is to craft your past experience in a way that links to your goals. If you are planning on a career shift in your essay, try to highlight the transferable skills that you gain from old jobs and are desirable in your future career. 


Since this is an MBA career goals essay, your future goal is, without doubt, a must-have. As mentioned earlier, there are two types of goals to include in your essay: short-term goal and long-term goal. Remember, having a goal is not enough for an effective career goals statement: goals need to be accompanied with a plan. You should briefly explain how each position in your short-term career path will lead you closer to your long-term aspirations. 


As this is a career plan specifically for MBA application, not just any other school or job application, you have to incorporate the “Present MBA” element. We can break it down into 2 big questions: “Why an MBA?” and “Why this MBA?”.

Why an MBA? – The Hole

The most valid reason for your MBA application is that there is a gap between your past experience and your future goals. This gap exists in different forms like lack of knowledge or lack of skills. The purpose of this part in your essay is to elaborate that what you lack can only be gained through an MBA education.

Why this MBA? – The Key

After describing the gaps that you are trying to close with an MBA degree, you should pick specific elements of the school that speak to your individual gaps. In other words, demonstrate how their offerings address your needs and help you get your goals. 

The most important thing here is show your genuine enthusiasm for the schools and their specific MBA programs. No admission committee wants to read a generic response like “Your MBA program is good”. The Adcoms are fully aware of how great their schools and their programs are. What they truly care about is how you utilize their resources. So show them that you have done your homework.


Research their course curriculum, and choose courses that provide you with the skills and knowledge you lack.

Extracurricular activities:

These include student-run organizations, immersion programmes, leadership programmes,…Most schools will offer similar clubs (like business club or consulting club), but add details (for example, the business club at your target school won multiple case competitions) to specify how you can benefit from these extracurricular activities


Mention if the faculty has professors you would like to work with. Try to read research paper or books, preferably related to your interest and goals, that are published by a faculty member, and tell what you find interesting

Other factors:

Beside the 3 important factors above, you can include things that you find unique to your specific schools and programs. These can be location, class size, alumni network, school culture,… 

If possible, you should take a campus tour, and talk to professors, students, and alumni at your target schools to better understand whether the schools fit you. One way to make your essay stand out is to discuss your experience of visiting school, or refer to a unique conversation you have at that school. By doing this, it validates your interest in the schools. 

Why you? – Bonus Point

The final element that makes a career essay truly exceptional is a sentence or two in which you thoughtfully highlights what you would bring to the school community. Explain why you are a fit for your target school will show that you are an asset to the school. 


Essay by a student admitted to Chicago Booth School of Business:

As a college student in the early 1980’s, I discovered my passion for technology. Wayne State University had one of the first PCs in existence and I was determined to learn everything possible about how it worked. Fueled by a powerful sense of self-reliance, I completed my degree in Business Administration/Computer Science, which sparked a successful career selling financial software to government agencies and large corporations. At the time, my role was largely educational, as the software industry was in its infancy. For seven years, I earned an excellent living (and exceeded several sales records) by helping people take advantage of the powerful benefits of technology. 

Despite my financial success, I yearned for more personal fulfillment from my career. Throughout college, I worked in several hospital positions, including front desk operations, patient transport, transcription, billing and systems operations. In every location, I noted a chronic need for a fast, reliable radiological transcription service. In 1996, I formed Lightning Fast Scrips, which provides medical transcription services to 38 radiologists throughout the Atlanta area. Combining my talent for sales and my knowledge of health care administration, my business has enjoyed explosive growth. In less than ten years, Lightning Fast Scrips grew from a tiny one person firm to employ 18 employees and generate $23 million in annual sales. 

As the owner of the company, I manage the accounting, marketing, advertising, customer service and human resource functions. Many days, I transcribe radiology reports alongside my employees. After 8 years, my business has earned a reputation for providing fast, honest and reliable service in the health care community. Yet recent trends in the industry suggest that our growth may be limited by my lack of formal business training. My largest competitors are large health care conglomerates with state-of-the-art expertise in marketing and advertising. By competing on price, they have become formidable opponents to my hometown, personalized approach. I want Lightning Fast Scripts to be able to compete in this market, not just in 2006, but in 2116 and beyond. 

An MBA from Chicago will provide the nuts-and-bolts expertise in all aspects of growing a business, from increasing my sales to projecting my income for a new revenue stream. With formal training in strategic planning, I can realistically evaluate alternative aspects for growth, such as franchising my concept or offering my services to other medical specialists. Chicago has an enviable reputation of attracting older, more seasoned students than other highly competitive MBA programs. I am eager to tap into their collective expertise to formulate my future plans. 

Ultimately, my long-term goal is to develop my business in as healthy a manner as possible. As an employer, I hold the future of many families in the palm of my hand. I also have a vested interest in creating new jobs and doing my part to expand the economy. With an MBA from Chicago, I will learn more efficient ways to deliver my services in an increasingly competitive market. In turn, I have numerous strengths to offer your program. My entrepreneurial success, intellectual curiosity and health care experience will contribute to the diversity of the class and ultimately to my success as a student. After a lifetime of preparation, I am ready to embrace everything that a Chicago MBA has to offer.

Source: 180 Successful Business School (MBA) Essays – by Nancy L. Nolan


The writer crafts a very effective essay, marked by passionate intensity and unbending logic. The essay hits all 3 critical elements: past experience, future goals, and present MBA. By drawing on the specific roles he did and the achievements he accomplished in his professional career, the writer shows his growth and portrays himself as a motivated entrepreneur. 

  • His past experience demonstrates his knowledge (technical knowledge in technology, knowledge about healthcare industry and different business functions like accounting, marketing, human resources..), his skills (sales, marketing), and his leadership potential (manage employees and expand the firm). 
  • His goal (develop his business) is not only unique to him, but also very inspiring as it does social good. After mentioning the gap to his goal (which is his lack of formal business training), he explains clearly why an MBA from Chicago Booth is vital to his career development. 
  • To end the essay, he even incorporates what he can contribute to the school’s learning environment to make him a valuable candidate. All in all, this is a persuasively-written, well-structured essay that distinguishes the writer from other applicants. 


Demonstrating your goals and the reason you need an MBA to achieve those goals in a clear manner is a pivotal part in your MBA application. A coherent and logically structured career goals essay is strong evidence of your competencies and aspiration, leaving the admission officers an impression that you are the future leader they are looking for. Always keep in mind that both your goals and your plan have to be as detailed and clear as possible. An admission-winning essay must tick off all the 3 boxes in our checklist: past experience, future goals and present MBA. Once you follow this guide, you are likely to stand a higher chance of being accepted to your dream business schools. 

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