Your Goals Are a Pitch
Imagine it’s 2042: you were admitted to your dream MBA program, recruited for your dream job, and generally you succeeded beyond your wildest dreams. Now you’re looking to put some of your money in the hands of an up-and-coming entrepreneur, to generate returns while you sail your yacht around. You have two options:
Candidate #1 is planning to put your investment to work in the healthtech sector.
Candidate #2 has been on a mission to construct an artificial heart ever since her father died of heart disease when she was 12. During her time in a university lab and later working at a major biomedical devices company, she identified both a novel approach to artificial heart construction and the major business hurdles that prevent artificial hearts from coming to market. She’s coming to you with a five-part plan for a startup built around her new technology, validated by her victory in a prestigious healthtech grant competition.
Who are you picking?
Obviously there’s no contest. But a surprising amount of otherwise savvy people sell themselves as Candidate #1 in their application essays. To gain admission to an elite MBA program, you have to be Candidate #2.
Writing a compelling admissions essay (or any piece of writing) starts with understanding the audience. When an admissions committee asks about your goals, they aren’t (only) trying to figure out what type of applicant you are. They are viewing you and your future career just like an investor would. Is this applicant poised to succeed? Will they help our post-graduation earning statistics? Will they earn glossy profiles that reflect positively on us for decades to come? Is there a chance they earn enough to come back and donate a building 20 years from now? If the answer to these questions is yes, you’re most of the way to an admit.
Convincing the adcom that you are a promising prospect requires viewing your goals as an investment pitch. Say you want to enter management consulting, and then eventually create your own startup in the social impact finance space. What can we do to pitch your career trajectory over all the other shmucks trying to enter an MBB firm? It comes down to research.
We have to show that you are intimately familiar with how elite consulting works, and that you have talked to mentors in the business about your goals. We want to prove that you not only have the knowledge to pitch a plausible social impact finance startup—you can also pitch the adcom on how a consulting career is the best possible step toward becoming a founder. You have a career trajectory already laid out. All you need is some general management skills to make it a reality.
Most MBA applicants don’t start the process with this level of preparation. There is a common misconception that the MBA, being a generalized degree, is similar to college: a place to find oneself. Nothing could be further from the truth! The MBA will not fill in gaps you might have in your understanding of your target industry. It is your job to already understand exactly how post-MBA careers work in your field. The MBA will not teach that industry specific knowledge.
Your goals are a pitch. It can be hard to pitch yourself as a good candidate for your boss’s job, or to argue for a new way of doing things as a relatively junior employee, or to propose a wholly new company. But that’s what MBAs do!
One piece of good news: adcoms are not savvy investors. Unless you work in very common industries like high finance or management consulting, the person reading your application likely knows next to nothing about your industry. Present your career pitch with the level of technical detail you would use if explaining your industry to a smart college graduate who is curious about the field. They’ll have to take your word for it on the details, though they should leave the essay convinced that you are an expert.
Take a look at the first draft of your goals essay and ask “Would I invest in this person? Why or why not?” The answers should help you identify the strongest points in the essay, and where you might have some room for improvement.
By Alex Collazo, Admissionado