A powerful vision for the future reflects your motivations and ambitions, and gives you a roadmap for achieving it. To craft a compelling career vision for the MBA, you need to present a coherent narrative that convincingly links your past experiences and your reasons for pursuing an MBA with your short- and long-term goals. Once you’ve made a solid start on exploring your career vision (see part 1 in this series, Crafting a Compelling Career Vision for Your MBA), it’s useful to distinguish between the long-term vision and short-term goals, both to clarify the differences between them and to understand how they work together. Doing this will greatly enhance your ability to articulate a powerful and persuasive case to admissions committees.
Think of it this way: the time frame of a long-term vision is usually around 10 years out, while short-term goals are your stepping stones on your way to that end goal. Short-term goals include your near-immediate plans (for your internship) two to three years after you graduate business school. During this time, you should be acquiring specific skills or expertise that will be necessary for you to achieve your long-term vision.
Your long-term vision describes your end goal, the pinnacle of your career — answering the “what you want to be when you grow up” question. For this, you do not need to focus so much on specifics. Rather, your focus should be on the impact you want to have over the course of your career. The admissions committee wants to understand your motivations and values and how you plan to influence an industry or community.
For the short-term goal, alternatively, you DO want to be specific. This goal is more important to the admissions committee and needs to be more thoroughly researched — down to the industry, function, and even possible companies you want to be working for. That’s why it’s also important to convey an understanding of the business school recruiting process and what it will take for you to land your post-MBA job. As such, it’s often helpful to have several options, to show that you have a Plan B if your preferred path doesn’t pan out.
Taken together, it’s vital to show a logical thread between your past experiences, the MBA, your internship, and your post-MBA job. You want to demonstrate how the skills acquired from each of these experiences are in service to achieving your vision.
Key elements of your long-term vision:
- Time frame: 10 years and beyond
- The end goal: what you want to be “when you grow up”
- Focuses more on impact
- Both aspirational and inspirational
- A reflection of your values
- Conveys the motivation behind your short-term goals
- Recognizes that there may be more than one path to get there (plan A, B, C…)
Three examples of a long term vision for the MBA:
“I aspire to revolutionize the healthcare system in Mexico by finding innovative ways to make the diagnostic process less expensive, so that funding can be used toward better treatments and facilities.”
“I aim to expand financial inclusion within existing banks by designing, developing, and launching a financial ecosystem for unbanked Americans.”
“I seek an executive-level role at a renewable energy organization such as a wind farm or solar company, to position me well to achieve my ultimate objective — impacting the global carbon footprint as a CEO of a global renewable energy organization.”
Key elements of your short-term goal:
- Time frame: internship and up to 2-3 years post-MBA
- Stepping stone to your long-term vision
- As specific as possible, reflecting significant research and thought related to: industry/function/geography/potential companies
- Realistic and achievable
- Focuses on acquiring skills, expertise, and experience
- Demonstrates an understanding of the MBA recruiting process
Three examples of short-term goal statements for the MBA:
“I will leverage my pre-MBA experience as a financial analyst to pursue a summer internship in finance, either on the buy side or sell side, focused on the energy market. Immediately following business school, I will seek a general management or leadership development rotational program at a global energy firm such as XX, focusing on gaining exposure to business development, marketing, and operations.”
“To gain the experience I need to eventually reach my goal of financial inclusion for America’s unbanked, immediately following my MBA I intend to pursue a role in business development or project management in a late-stage fintech startup such as Credit Karma or Payoff.”
“After having had broad exposure to a variety of companies and industries at Deloitte, I intend to use the intense finance curriculum at Columbia to help me pivot to a career in investment banking, where I will be able to gain a deeper understanding of the key metrics used to valuate companies and portfolios. I plan to pursue an internship with a bulge bracket investment bank, which should help position me to achieve my goal of working as an analyst for an investment bank post-MBA.”
For more tips and insights on what MBA admissions committees are looking for in your career vision and how to get started, check out part 1 of this series, Crafting a Compelling Career Vision for Your MBA.
Heidi Hillis is an expert coach at MBA consulting firm Fortuna Admissions, as well as a Stanford GSB alum & former MBA admissions interviewer. Fortuna is composed of former admissions directors and business school insiders from 13 of the top 15 business schools.