When MBA admissions officers read your application, they want feel inspired by your personal statement; they want to feel that you have a strong sense of purpose and that you will aggressively work toward your goals. So, you need to ensure that you are not presenting generic or shallow goals. Although this problem is not industry specific, it occurs most often with candidates who propose careers in investment banking or consulting but do not have a true understanding of what these positions entail.
For example, a candidate cannot merely state,
“In the short term, when I graduate from Wharton, I want to become an investment banking associate. After three years, I will be promoted to vice president, and then in the long term, I will become a managing director.”
This hypothetical candidate does not express any passion for his/her proposed course, does not show any understanding of the demands of the positions and does not explain the value he could bring to the firm. We suggest that to avoid these kinds of shortcomings, you conduct this simple test when writing your personal statement: if you can easily substitute another job title into your career goals (“In the short term, when I graduate from Wharton, I want to become a consultant. After three years, I will be promoted to vice president and then in the long term, I will become a managing director.”), you know you have a serious problem on your hands and need to put more work into your essay.
To effectively convey your goals, you need to own your goals. This means personalizing them, determining and presenting why you expect to be a success in the proposed position and explaining why an opportunity exists for you to contribute. For example, a former forestry engineer could make a strong argument for joining an environmental impact consulting firm (Note: This candidate would still need to explain why he/she would want to join one.); similarly, a financial analyst in the corporate finance department at Yahoo! could connect his/her goals to tech investment banking. Although the connection need not be so direct (especially for candidates seeking to change careers), relating your past experiences and/or your skills to your future path is still extremely important. This approach will add depth to your essay and ensure that the admissions committee takes you seriously.