Setting Realistic and Reasonable Career Goals 

This post was written by mbaMission 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 research—and then reflect again. 

Looking at your career goal, can you answer “yes” to each of the following questions? If so, mbaMission’s experience indicates that your career goal is likely to be a realistic one. 

  • Have you demonstrated passion and a foundation for your career goal (e.g., relevant functional/industry experience, exposure, or knowledge)?
  • Do you have a clear understanding of the role (e.g., qualifications, tasks, responsibilities, outcomes) and the recruiting process for it?
  • Do you have evidence of 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 on your resume?
  • Are there available jobs in your target area? Do many companies hire for your target role? 
  • Does your target MBA program have resources (through the career center or student clubs/conferences) and academic courses available to support your area of interest?

If you are stuck with respect to identifying a career goal, we recommend reviewing your interests, evaluating your skills/background, and assessing the marketplace realities. As you can imagine, admissions committees and recruiters want candidates who will be successful within their organizations—those who demonstrate that they really want to be there and who articulate how they will contribute.  

Although uncovering your target career path can be time-consuming and iterative, having a structured approach will make the process 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 like in your current role? In past roles? Do/did you like or dislike it?
  • 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)?
  1. Deepen your knowledge about potential MBA career paths. 
  • Review the mbaMission Career Guides. Read target job descriptions on LinkedIn. 
  • Identify post-MBA opportunities for people with backgrounds similar to yours. 
  • Talk with three to five people who work in roles of interest to you. Be thoughtful about the types of questions you ask; make sure you are gathering information to determine your potential fit with the role.
  1. Synthesize your reflections and research to confirm or redirect your career goal.  

Bottom line: The insights you obtain from following these steps can help you develop an authentic and compelling story through which you can connect your experiences to your career goal.

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