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Setting Realistic and Reasonable Career Goals 

This post was written by our resident Career Coach, Elissa Harris. To sign up for a free 30-minute career consultation with Elissa, please click here.

Identifying the right career path for you requires time to reflect and to research—and then to reflect again. mbaMission’s experience indicates that the most realistic career goals tend to meet the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated passion and foundation for goals (e.g., relevant functional/industry experience, exposure, or knowledge)
  • Clear understanding of the role (e.g., tasks, responsibilities, outcomes) and the recruiting process 
  • Relevant and transferable skills for the role as well as required educational pedigree (e.g., undergraduate major, GMAT, GPA) and/or experience in similar work environments
  • Availability of jobs in the target area or a large number of target companies 
  • Connection to the resources and courses available in an MBA program

When defining your career goals, take into account your interests, skills/background, and the marketplace realities. As you can imagine, admissions committees and recruiters want candidates who will be successful within their organizations—those who demonstrate they really want to be there and who articulate how they will contribute.  

Although uncovering your career path can be a time-consuming and iterative process, creating a structured approach makes it easier and more productive. To get started, try the following steps:

1. Ask yourself the following questions (and write down the answers, so you can go back and identify themes):

    • Why did you go into industry X? Has it met your expectations? Why or why not? 
    • What is the work culture in your current role?
    • What words describe you at your best? What compliments do you hear most often?
    • What makes you feel valued at work? Why? 
    • What do you really love to do at work? What really drains/frustrates you at work?  
    • What articles do you stop and read in the Wall Street Journal (or other business publications)?

2. Read about potential MBA career paths. Look at the mbaMission Career Guides and read target job descriptions. Seek out information on post-MBA opportunities for people with your background (e.g., research on LinkedIn). Talk with three to five people who work in roles of interest to you. 

3. Synthesize your own reflections and research. Validate goals by using different sources to gain perspective.

Bottom line: Use the insights obtained from the above steps to develop an authentic and compelling story through which you can connect your experiences to your goals.




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