- Jumping to enhance? Or Change?
Are you a career enhancer?
Or are you a career changer?
Smile. It’s okay.
We’re about to find out how to start researching those career goals so you can write those MBA essays with plenty of confidence.
Because if you don’t know them, you’re not going to gain the traction you need to write effective essays.
Trust me, trying to write your essays without knowing your career goals can be a huge waste of time. I know because I did during my first year of applying to business school and I was in for nothing but disappointment.
But first, to recap the last post which dealt with the first few steps of researching business schools, we went over five ways to get your feet if you’re just starting out with the whole thought of applying to business school:
Check out business school rankings
Research 5-10 business schools online
E-mail or cold-call to talk to with current students/admission reps
Visit the schools or attend an information session or fair
Create an online community of prospective students and learn from each other
All of this takes time so be patient. Just know that learning about all of this does not happen overnight or in a week. It’s a progression.
Today, I’d like to focus on how to approach your career goals, especially if you don’t know where to look. That was definitely the toughest part about trying to research my own career goals.
You have to know to some degree what you want to do with your MBA after you graduate but it’s even harder to think about where you see yourself 10,15, even 20 years down the line.
If you’re one of those applicants that has no idea, don’t worry too much right now. Eventually, it will come to you.
So where does one start anyway?
Enhance Yourself? Or Change Yourself?
There are two types of applicants with career goals. There are career enhancers and career changers.
For the sake of making things easy, let’s name applicant #1 Jane (the career enhancer), and applicant #2 Bob (the career changer).
Let’s start with Jane, the career enhancer. We will talk about Bob in the next post.
Jane is a 29 years old and she’s been working for several years in a hospital doing public health administration and nonprofit management. She’s been doing this for about four to five years now.
One day she realizes that she’d like to go back to school to get an MBA degree and advance her career in the nonprofit world. She realizes she’d like to start applying in a few months, just in time for round 1 applications.
Although she wouldn’t mind moving into a higher management position at her hospital, she’s curious about other areas in the nonprofit industry that interest her such as working for the National Health Institute and the Worlds Health Organizations (WHO). This has been a secret dream of hers for a very long time and she wants to see how close she can get.
She doesn’t necessarily know what to do but she knows she wants to dive deep into the nonprofit industry during her MBA internship and after graduation.
My first thought about Jane is that she’s off to a good start.
Whether she changes her mind now or later doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that she has an idea, a potential plan to move forward and go along with it as she starts to create her goals.
Find Those Companies & Job Descriptions
My biggest recommendation for Jane is to get on the internet and start researching careers that interest her. If she envisions herself at the National Health Institute, then she should be on that site and similar sites looking at job posts and the tasks and requirements needed for that job.
Here’s the tricky part: you want to be super detailed about your note-taking while you’re doing your research.
These details will help back up your reasons for pursuing your MBA. For starters, Jane decides to visit Monster.com and check out some job postings there. From here, the career goal process will evolve.
Remember, this is a starting point. You have to start somewhere right?
When admission officers are reading your essays, they want to know a few things:
what your career goals are;
where you see yourself working;
what you’ll be doing and;
why you’ll be doing these things.
I know it sounds like quite a bit of information to divulge but this is the type of detail needed when you’re applying to any business school.
If you were an admission officer, wouldn’t you want to hear more about Jane’s interest in working for the National Health Institute? It’s not enough to just say where you want to work; the National Health Institute is a huge organization.
Jane has to be specific about what she wants to do and back it up with details and her own personal experience working in the hospital our out in the community if she has relevant extracurriculars.
Once Jane has collected a detailed list of companies and job positions, she will need to do a little bit of role playing. She needs to envision herself in this position and imagine how she will be fulfilled.
Jane’s imagination goes wild and this is exactly what you want in the beginning.
Perhaps she’ll be doing similar work she’s doing at the hospital but now she sees herself as a decision maker and can implement changes for particular projects that she may not be able to do in her current role; perhaps she will be working with a target audience she’s very passionate about; or maybe she’ll be traveling to different countries doing consulting for various health organizations.
Whatever she decides, she has to find her passion, be consistent with what she wants and go with it.
Keep a Look Out for Long-term Career Positions
As Jane looks closely at some of the job postings online, she notices that some job descriptions require at least 7-15 years of work experience in a specific field.
I like to call these positions long-term career goal positions because they require quite a bit of experience.
As Jane’s researching her short-term career goals, that is, researching internships during her first year of business school and immediate jobs after graduation, she should also be getting an idea for what she wants to do 10-15 years down the line as she evolves within her industry.
This is important to as admission officers want to see how serious and focused you are about your goals.
They’ll probably ask themselves:
“Is this applicant applying randomly for an MBA?” or ”Does this applicant have direction and a reasonable and realistic career path?”
For starters, focus on that internship position and short-term career goals. Once you feel ready, start looking for those long-term career goals. It can be at the same company or a different one. You set the boundaries. Whatever you decide, make sure your career path is consistent and that your short and long-term career goals play off of one another.
Don’t be Afraid: Pick Up the Phone or Cold E-mail
Another recommendation for Jane is pick up the phone and get in touch with some of the decision makers at these companies.
I know….. I know…..you’re probably thinking that the world is too busy to answer your questions.
Although you may be right, it’s not always true.
I certainly got a few people willing to help when I called a couple of Strategy Consultants at Echoing Green. I envisioned working there for a long time and I decided to send an email explaining my interest in the company and wanted to know more about the person’s position and how she landed that position.
Not everyone will help you but if you can get a handful of folks to talk about their duties, how they got there, and how they’re evolving towards their long-term career goals, that’s certainly a start. It also doesn’t have to be as technical as I may it out to be. It could simply be a nice conversation and you’re curious to know a little more about the company since you’re interested in enhancing your career.
As you can see, the process of researching career goals is a process and it takes time. If you’re investing in applying to business school, it’s good to know what’s out there and what you’re preparing for. The MBA degree is more than just a piece of paper stating you have fluencies in business. It’s a hall pass you carry with you as you progress into whatever career you decide to pursue.
For those of you are career changers, stay tuned for my next post that will be all about Bob, the career changer.
What about you? Are you a career enhancer? How do you plan to enhance your career? What’s your biggest obstacle? Please feel free to comment and share your stories.