How to Write an Awesome Essay About Your Career Goals

  • Before you begin, ask yourself a few key questions like:
  • What are my short-term and long-term career goals?
  • Where do I see myself in ten years?
  • What events in my life have led me to have these goals?
  • What major will help me reach my goals?
  • What skills do I need to reach my goals?
  • What impact do I want to have on society?

Career Goals Essay Template

Need more inspiration.

After you brainstorm the responses to these questions, look for common themes, or pick out the most interesting stories. You can build your main essay “thesis” or idea around this.

Once you’ve got the main idea, create an outline to put your ideas into essay format. This will give you a general idea of structure.

You can use the career essays template below to give you some ideas. But remember that some rules are meant to be broken, so don’t be afraid to be innovative and think outside the box!

Also, when you’re done, head over to Going Merry to apply for the Career Goals scholarship essay bundle (one essay, one application, multiple scholarships!). You might as well make that essay count. Sign up for Going Merry to apply for scholarships more efficiently.

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Here’s a paragraph-by-paragraph breakdown:

Paragraph 1 : Establish the main theme of what you’re going to talk about. It should also grab the reader’s attention. For example, instead of starting your essay with something generic (e.g. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a zoologist), get creative with it! Try something like My greatest memory as a young girl was going to the zoo for the first time or While most kids play house or school, I always wanted to play zookeeper.

Paragraph 2 : Elaborate on what inspired your career goals. Perhaps it was a relative, a TV show, or simply an experience that you had. Remember that old writing adage, “Show, don’t tell.” In other words, try to demonstrate your interest with story or description. 

Paragraph 3 : Discuss your short-term career goals and your intended major. How will your intended major help you reach these goals? What skills do you need to learn to reach them? At the end of the paragraph, try discussing how your short-term goals can help you achieve your long-term goals.

Paragraph 4 : Focus on your long-term goals and the impact that you hope to have on society. If you’re not sure what your long-term goals are, don’t sweat it; they’ll probably change anyways. You can instead focus on the difference you’d like to make overall. And don’t worry too much about the size of the impact…remember that just doing what you’re truly passionate about has a massive impact on those around you.

The last paragraph is your conclusion. You can use this paragraph to summarize what you discussed in the previous few paragraphs. If you want to be even more creative, try ending your essay with a question for your readers or a new insight. Good luck!

And now that you’re ready with that essay, put it to good use! You can recycle that same essay, when applying for the Career Goals Scholarship Bundle. We’ve joined together multiple scholarships (all requesting essays on career goals), into just ONE simple application! See more info here , or just sign up to get going.

Check out examples from other students just like you. Here are links to some great career goal essay examples:

Or maybe you’re looking for help with an academic goals essay — we’ve got you covered there too.

Also, check out this helpful list of the 10 most common scholarship essay topics !

Top 10 Most Common Scholarship Essay Prompts Graphic

Sign up for Going Merry today, and upload your career goal essay right to your profile. It’s that easy!

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Writing Tips for a Career Goals Essay

Jennifer Finetti Aug 3, 2022

Writing Tips for a Career Goals Essay

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For your college scholarship essay, you may be asked about your career goals. The scholarship committee wants to see how investing in your education will help your career. Do you have a definitive plan? Will a college education fit into that plan? These are the answers they want to see.

In this guide, we will provide some scholarship essay examples about career goals to jumpstart your essay writing.

Writing tips for career goals scholarship essays

Here are some quick tips for writing career goal scholarship essays:

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Example 1: Scholarship essay about career goals (100 words)

In a 100-word scholarship essay, you need to quickly make your point. There is not enough room for a lengthy intro or backstory. Use concise, comprehensive statements to deliver the most information in the fewest words.

I’m a sophomore at Texas Tech University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Companion Animal Science. After graduation, I hope to attend Texas A&M to become a veterinarian serving rescue organizations and animal shelters. I was born and raised in the south, where it is common for people to abandon animals in rural areas. Those animals then go into a rescue – emaciated, frightened, and confused. I want to work with rescues to provide affordable veterinary medicine to the animals they save. This scholarship would help me continue my education and potentially save thousands of abandoned animals in the future.

Word count: 99

Example 2: Scholarship essay about career goals (250 words)

With a 250-word scholarship essay, you have a little more room to discuss the details of your career goals. You can explain situations from your past that inspired your career pursuits. You could use one paragraph to talk about your short-term goals and another to talk about your long-term goals. Just make sure the big picture ties into the scholarship.

My name is Patrick Holden and I am a freshman at the University of Michigan, majoring in English and minoring in linguistics. I plan to become an English teacher, but this wasn’t always what I had in mind.  When thinking about my future, I always saw myself in some sort of corporate office, perhaps as an executive assistant or a loan officer at a bank. My father works in the finance office for a car dealership and my mother works at a call center. I assumed I would follow a similar, albeit boring, path in life. In my junior year of high school, everything changed. My English teacher inspired me in ways I could have never imagined. She got me to love writing, literature, etymology, and everything about the English language. She made me want to be a better student in all of my classes, and she helped me see the value of education. I decided then that I wanted to inspire other students just as she did for me. My parents are unfortunately not able to contribute much toward my college expenses. I have earned a tuition scholarship based on my ACT score, but I still need additional funding for books and supplies. English majors have particularly high book costs because we have to purchase multiple books for each class. With the help of this scholarship, I could afford to continue my degree and become an English teacher.

Word count: 240

what are your long term career goals essay

Example 3: Scholarship essay about career goals (500 words)

With 500 words or more to play around with, you have plenty of space to talk about your career goals. Maintain the same theme throughout the scholarship essay. Each paragraph should connect to the next, and they should all work together to describe your career plan. Avoid making disconnected statements for the sake of word count. In the end, the scholarship committee should have a clear view of your educational plans and professional aspirations.

Internet marketing has gone from an optional method of advertisement to a vital step in business outreach. Even small businesses in remote towns look to the internet to attract customers and spread the word about their services. I am currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Business Marketing with an emphasis on Digital Marketing. With this training, I will be able to enter a profession that will only grow year by year. When I was younger, I found print advertisements to be fascinating. I loved reading the newspaper with my father just to see the full-page ads in between stories. When I got older though, those ads became less appealing because they were not adaptive. They seemed dated, static and ill-fit for changes in society. That’s when I discovered internet marketing. It was still in its infancy when I was in middle school, but by the time I graduated high school, it had become a staple in business development. I loved the way internet marketers had to constantly adjust to fit Google’s algorithms, new mobile devices, and new audiences. I knew this was the career for me. Originally, I planned to focus solely on business marketing because there were not many digital marketing degrees available. Over the last two years though, several schools throughout the country have developed internet marketing courses that explain fundamental methods of search engine optimization, website analytics, and more. These are the foundations I will build my career around. The best part about internet marketing is that there is always something new to learn. I can use my creative mind and exploratory nature to try new advertising methods that help businesses succeed. Every time they do well, I do well. This is the kind of job fulfillment most people can only dream of, but my educational plan and job prospects will allow me to achieve it. I have picked up some freelance jobs online to supplement my studies and help pay for my education. It is difficult to maintain a steady stream of income in freelance because I spend so much time on my school work. This scholarship could offset some of the costs and reduce my workload as a whole. While I will still work throughout the semester and full-time in the summers, having extra financial aid would greatly reduce my stress in college. I look forward to a future where I can use my marketing skills to help business owners achieve their career goals. I plan to spend the first few years after graduation working for a successful, long-standing digital marketing company. After I have enough on-the-job training to feel confident in my abilities, I will open my own internet marketing company in Chicago, where my family lives. I have a clear picture of where I will be in the next 10 years, and I know this degree is going to help me get there.

Word count: 481

Jennifer Finetti

Jennifer Finetti

As a parent who recently helped her own kids embark on their college journeys, Jennifer approaches the transition from high school to college from a unique perspective. She truly enjoys engaging with students – helping them to build the confidence, knowledge, and insight needed to pursue their educational and career goals, while also empowering them with the strategies and skills needed to access scholarships and financial aid that can help limit college costs. She understands the importance of ensuring access to the edtech tools and resources that can make this process easier and more equitable - this drive to support underserved populations is what drew her to ScholarshipOwl. Jennifer has coached students from around the world, as well as in-person with local students in her own community. Her areas of focus include career exploration, major selection, college search and selection, college application assistance, financial aid and scholarship consultation, essay review and feedback, and more. She works with students who are at the top of their class, as well as those who are struggling. She firmly believes that all students, regardless of their circumstances, can succeed if they stay focused and work hard in school. Jennifer earned her MA in Counseling Psychology from National University, and her BA in Psychology from University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Essay On Long Term Goals

When planning for our future it is important to have clear goals in mind and to understand the steps that need to be taken to achieve those goals. My long-term goal is to run my own counseling center and employee at least one other person. Some Skills I already possess that will allow me to succeed with this plan are my ability to relate to people and be consistent in following the steps needed, even though it will be a long and tedious process. To ensure that I can achieve my goal of owning my own counseling center there are goals that need to be achieved ahead of time. One goal would be to have the contacts to be able to start a business and the clientele to keep that business running, the other is to become a clinical licensed social worker, which is a license that is needed to be able to practice independently in New York state. …show more content…

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Example career goals essay prompts, 3 examples of career goals essay responses, 7 tips for writing a scholarship essay about career goals, what to write in a career goals essay if your goals have changed, scholarship essay faqs.

Summary. Scholarships want people to write a career goals essay to make sure participants have a clear plan in mind for their career related plans. This is to help show a scholarship committee why you are seeking funds for the next step on the path towards your success. Scholarships can make college a much lighter burden — or even a reality — for many students, but there is a limited number to go around. Because of this, scholarship competitions can be intense. As a part of these competitions, you’ll likely have to submit at least one essay, often about your career goals. In this article, you’ll find tips and advice on how to write your career goals essay as well as example essays to help you get an idea of what scholarship committees are looking for. Key Takeaways: When you re writing your essay, make sure to write about the goals that are relevant to the scholarship. Make sure you are honest in your essay and use your own voice to help you stand out. Try to go into detail as to why the scholarship will help you achieve your goals. What Is a Career Goals Essay?

A career goals essay is a personal and written explanation that gives insight into your background, why you’re interested in participating in the program, and the career that you’d like this degree to launch you into. The essay functions to explain why you want to achieve your professional goals and how you intend to get there.

A career goals essay shows a scholarship committee why the program you’re seeking funding for is a critical step on your path towards success in the field.

In almost every application process, a portion asks the candidate to answer an essay question. When applying to an educational program, like an MBA, the essay prompt usually relates to your career goals .

Many people are deserving of having a portion of their tuition covered , but the few that are chosen are those who articulate why they are a worthwhile investment to spend a scholarship fund on.

When selecting which individuals are worthy of receiving financial assistance to further their education , the admissions board wants participants who have a clear plan in mind for the trajectory of their related careers.

Unlike with an undergraduate application that usually asks for educational intentions, people applying to an MBA program or similar already have a lot of that experience behind them. They are well on their way to their career, and the admissions essay is more specified. This goes for scholarship essays for these kinds of programs as well.

While some scholarships might come right out and simply ask, “What are your career goals?” most will rework the question into something different that still accomplishes the same goal.

Below are some examples of career goals essay prompts that a scholarship program could pose to its applicants:

Discuss your career goals. Many scholarships prefer the most direct approach when giving an essay prompt to their applicants. This type of question gives the candidate a lot of wiggle-room to discuss their passions, motivations, and career goals.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years ? This question is often used as a prompt for a career goals essay because it gives the applicant a timeline to describe their aspirations. It forces them to be realistic in where their career will be and how they will accomplish this within the next ten years.

How will this scholarship contribute to your professional success? A scholarship committee wants to be sure that the money they’re giving will contribute to a student’s overall professional success. This question asks about the applicant’s game plan in the long-term and evaluates how this program is going to assist in their future.

What is your dream job ? Since a dream job is often categorized as a person’s career goals, this is a common question phrasing on scholarship essays. Asking about a candidate’s dream job answers whether this program aligns with the student’s long-term career goals.

What matters most to you and why? Sometimes, a scholarship essay prompt won’t ask about your career or future at all. Instead, they’ll ask a question like this that assesses your motivations , values, and character.

Example 1 – Discuss your career goals

When I was six years old, I was riding bikes with my older sister around our neighborhood. She had just taught me how to ride, and I was excited to have to freedom to explore with her. When she was rounding a particularly difficult bend to see around, a car happened to be coming along at the same time. It struck her. That bike ride changed our lives forever. Over the next year, I went with my sister every Tuesday and Thursday to her physical therapist ’s appointments to help her regain walking strength. Watching her physical therapist patiently assist my sister back to becoming herself awoken something in me. A passion for helping others in the same way eventually turned into a career goal of becoming a physical therapist myself. I decided to get my bachelor’s degree in exercise science. After graduating in 2019, I knew that the next step for me was to attend a graduate program for physical therapy. I was accepted to Lassell University Master of Science in Rehabilitation Services. This presented me with my latest goal along my career path , and I’m eagerly waiting to start. This scholarship would help me afford the wonderful opportunity to be a part of the Lassell University class of 2023, allowing me to continue working towards my ultimate career goal of becoming a physical therapist and helping others to become themselves again.

Example 2 – Where do you see yourself in ten years?

In ten years, I will have been successfully running my own construction business for about five years. I’m currently a second-year student at the University of Texas, pursuing a master’s degree in business administration. I decided to get my MBA because I knew it would be a positive asset toward my long-term career goal of owning a construction business. In my high school years, I worked as a construction apprentice for a local business. I loved a lot of aspects of the business, such as building something from nothing. I knew that I wanted to incorporate this work into my long-term career, but I didn’t’ want to work as an apprentice . This led me to pursue business. In ten years and with the help of this scholarship, I will have graduated with my MBA almost a decade prior . After graduation, I plan to take a business administration internship with a carpentry business to help myself get a footing in the field. After about two years of this, I will have started my own construction business.

Example 3 – What matters most to you and why?

The people I surround myself with matter most to me. Whether it be my relatives, friends, or professional acquaintances, I always care the most about the happiness of the people around me. Making the people around me happy matters the most to me because I truly because we find our happiness through others. I believe that this drive to make a positive impression on the people around me is what drove me towards a career as a nurse . I always thought of hospitals as places where people need someone to support them and make their day a little happier. I wanted to be one of those who spend their careers positively impacting people in need. This scholarship will enable me to finally afford nursing school and go after my dream job full force.

Write about goals relevant to the scholarship. Although you may have many different kinds of goals for your personal and professional future, a scholarship essay only discusses objectives that are relevant to the program you’re applying for.

Be honest. Applying for a scholarship is stressful because the applicant’s education is usually reliant on receiving these funds in one way or another. Even though it’s tempting to exaggerate your skills or pretend you’re more passionate about something than you are to make yourself a more competitive applicant, it’s a bad move.

Use your own, unique voice. The essay portion of a scholarship application is your chance to stand out by using your voice. Nobody else, regardless of their academic or professional achievements, is you. Make this clear in your career goals scholarship essay by keeping your unique written voice engrained in the words you produce.

Be specific. A big reason that scholarship committees ask applicants to write a career goals essay is to determine how prepared they are in planning their long-term professional goals. They aren’t interested in providing a scholarship to students who aren’t going to follow through with their career plans.

Explain long and short-term goals . Even if the essay prompt asks you to describe where you see yourself in ten years, you still need to tell them the steps leading towards this picture of success.

Include the short-term goals that add up to your larger career objectives in your essay response. Explain how accomplishing the smaller goals puts you at an advantage when tackling long-term ones.

Explain how the program and scholarship will help you. Before writing your career goals essay, consider how this program and scholarship will help you in your career. The answer to this question is essential.

Follow the essay formatting guidelines. This may sound obvious, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget this step when your essay is finally flowing and when you’re scrambling to get it submitted on time.

Check, double-check , and triple-check the essay guidelines for content, word count, and formatting requirements. If you miss any of these steps, your essay may be immediately disqualified no matter how good it or the rest of your application is.

Many times career goals essays are written by students who have already completed at least some college or are applying to a post-graduate program and need more money to continue.

There’s a good chance that your career goals have changed since you started or graduated college. For example, say you wanted to be an engineer , so you got your undergraduate degree in engineering but realized you didn’t like it after working in the industry for a few years.

You decided that nursing would be more up your alley, and now you’re applying for a scholarship for a nursing program. While this isn’t unusual, it can make it more difficult to write a career goals essay since your past work doesn’t necessarily match your future goals.

In this case, you’ll simply need to explain why you changed your career path and why this next one is the best choice for you. Share your decision-making process to show that you haven’t taken the switch lightly, and talk about what you’ve already done to try to pursue this path.

How do you write a career goal for a scholarship essay?

You write a career goal for a scholarship essay by sharing your passion, explaining both your long- and short-term goals, and relating your goals to the scholarship.

Explain why you want to pursue the career you’re pursuing, where you hope to be in the future and how you plan to get there, and how the scholarship will help you do this.

How do you describe your career goals in an essay?

You describe your career goals in an essay by explaining what you want to do in your career, why you decided on this career path, and what you’ve done so far to make that a reality.

You can usually work these factors into any prompt you receive, so think through them before you start writing so that you can use them as an outline of sorts.

What are career goals examples?

Examples of career goals include:

Working as a grant writer for a nonprofit organization.

Becoming a department manager and eventually an executive in your field.

Owning your own plumbing company.

Caring for underserved communities as a nurse practitioner .

What are some goals for success?

Some goals for success include growing in your role, building your network, and finding joy in the job. Most career don’t just happen overnight and require you to set the right milestones that work best for you. Not everyone will have the same goals for success.

Scholarships360 – Examples of Scholarship Essays for “Career Goals” Question

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Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.

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How to Write An Outstanding Career Goals Essay for MBA Programs

A step-by-step approach to conquering the most important part of your mba application, with a full-length career goals essay example worthy of harvard business school.

what are your long term career goals essay

Part 1: What is the career goals essay?

Part 2: how to define your career goals, part 3: how to write a career goals essay, part 4: career goals essay outline, part 5: career goals essay example .

Just as your undergraduate admissions application most likely required you to write a “personal statement,” at the center of almost every MBA application packet is the career goals essay. It can take on many different forms through varying prompts and word count requirements, but the approach to this seminal portion of your MBA application remains the same. No matter which programs you’re applying to, the career goals essay is your chance to explain why you’re applying to business school in the first place.

And, more broadly, this is your chance to demonstrate passion. The dirty little secret to MBA “goals essays” is that no one follows up with you in the future to see if you actually accomplished the goal you wrote about. Did you, for instance, really start that ethically sourced pants company? Did you successfully develop boutique exercise gyms? Start a niche media company? Whatever the goal, the most important aspect of your stated plan is that your choice proves you have a passion for a certain field, and that you’re dedicated to making big changes in that field.   

Much of the MBA is geared toward inviting you to explore new avenues of interest; so, not only is it possible for your goal to change over the course of your MBA educational experience, but it’s expected to.

Why, then, do these programs make such a big deal about your current goal if it’s expected to change? Admissions committees want to know that you’re passionate about something. They want to see how you think about the world, what problems you’ve identified in existing systems, and how you plan to solve them in order to effect long-lasting change. 

They want to see that you have set out to achieve a vision. The vision can change, but it’s imperative that you’re the type of person who has a vision in the first place. That’s the goal of this essay. Show your passion for accomplishing a vision. Show that your engine is revved–that there’s a fire under your feet.

Take a look at a few of the ways top MBA programs word their career goals essay prompts below:

Harvard Essay 1: As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program? (No word-limit)

This prompt seems frighteningly open ended, but Harvard Business School (HBS) is being a little sneaky. The HBS admissions committee doesn’t want you to tell them just anything, as their one-and-only essay prompt might appear at first glance. They want to know why you’re applying, and your answer should center around your long-term goal.

Though there’s no word limit listed, based on our experience working with past successful applicants, you should aim for 750-1000 words. An essay over 1,000 words can bog down a reader, but an essay that’s fewer than 750 words–at least for the HBS application, where this essay is the only chance you have to impress the admissions committee–risks not being robust enough to prove your case that you , amongst thousands of others, deserve a spot in the HBS class.  

With the exception of HBS, most schools don’t disguise their prompts as general personal essays. Most ask you explicitly about your goals. For example:

Columbia Essay 1: Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long term dream job? (Word limit: 500 words)

NYU Stern Essay 1: What are your short and long-term career goals? How will the MBA help you achieve them? (500 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

Chicago Booth Essay 1: How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250 word minimum)

LBS Essay 1: What are your post-MBA goals and how will your prior experience and the London Business School programme contribute towards these? (500-word limit)

U. Penn Wharton Essay 1: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

With these, your task is clear: Why are you applying? What is your goal?

Other top programs word their career goals essay prompts a little differently. Case in point:

Yale Essay 1: Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. (500 words)

Stanford Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why? (750 words)

For each of these examples, although your approach might take a slightly different slant depending on the wording, one aspect should be absolutely clear: what do you want to achieve in your career, in the short and long term? The “biggest commitment you’ve ever made” absolutely must tie in with your long-term goal. The thing that “matters most to you” needs to be nearly inseparable from what you want to accomplish in the future. Don’t let the different wordings fool you: these are all career goals essay prompts.

There are a handful of exceptions. In their 2018 application, Duke’s Fuqua program, for example, did not ask its applicants about their goals, but instead asked for a more personality-driven “list” essay calling for 25 “fun facts” about yourself. The University of Michigan’s program only asked explicitly about applicants’ short-term goals. However, chances are, if you’re applying to more than one MBA program, you’re going to have to tackle the “career goals essay.”.

In this article, we’re going to walk you through a step-by-step approach for acing your career goals essay. From identifying the “right goal” (because some goals aren’t the right ones to discuss on your MBA application) to breaking down the essay into its requisite components, to avoiding common pitfalls many applicants make, we’ll show you everything you need to know before you attempt to take a first stab at one of these prompts.

But before we begin, we want to lead with an important caveat. What follows will offer you an excellent, time-tested template for how to write a strong career goals essay. That said, the best essays don’t follow a formula. The absolute best-of-the-best essays find their own form that’s most suitable for the individual essay’s content.

What’s the difference between an MBA ‘career goals essay’ and a ‘personal statement’ I might have written for other applications?

A personal statement, by nature, is personal. It can take on a pretty amorphous shape, and oftentimes the more creative you make it, the better. A personal statement’s purpose is to allow an admissions officer to get to know you as a person.

And while admissions committees want to see who you are as a person, they also want to know who you are as a leader.

This is an important distinction. A personal statement can address whatever you want it to, as long as it allows the reader to get to know you more fully. But the career goals essay is far more pointed. In it, your primary job is to show where you’re headed, why it matters (both to you and to the world) and why you’re the best person for the job.

Business schools want to know what kind of impact you’re going to make on the world. If you can work your personality into the mix while doing so, great, but the “personal” should always come secondary to the essay’s primary focus: your future, and the plan you have to achieve it.

Look up “goal” in your nearest dictionary, and you’ll find a definition somewhere along the lines of “the end toward which effort is dedicated.” What does that mean? Who knows! That’s exactly our point. Forget Merriam Webster’s definition. The MBA goal is a totally different beast.

There are two distinct types of “goals” that the “career goals essays” ask for: the long-term goal and the short-term goal. Below, we’ll break down both goal types to help you identify the “right” goal for each.

The Long-term Goal

The long-term goal is your “big picture” vision. It’s what you see yourself accomplishing ten-plus years down the line from receiving your MBA. This should be the culmination of your life’s work, as you see it from your current vantage point.

There’s really no such thing as a long-term goal that’s “too big,” but there are long-term goals that are too general. You don’t want your long-term goal to be something as broad as “saving the world.” In what way will you save the world? What part of the world will you save?

You want a long-term goal that has a big impact, sure, but your reader also needs to believe that you can achieve it. While you need to exhibit passion for a vision, the MBA admissions committee wants to see that you’re level-headed enough to be able to execute on that passion. They want to see that you’ve made a plan, and that an MBA is an essential next-step in accomplishing that plan.

Your long-term goal also needs to be achievable based on your experience. If you studied finance in college and worked as a banker for the past five years, your long-term goal in this essay should not be about curing cancer.

However, if you, our health-conscious banker, do want to move from finance into a cancer-related field, you might define your long-term goal as “optimizing the existing healthcare field using my business expertise.” You might therefore argue that an MBA can help you expand your existing knowledge base into the underlying business principles behind the healthcare field. In this way, the MBA becomes a crucial part of your plan. 

Below, we’re going to give you a check-list to work your way toward choosing a strong long-term goal, but first let’s understand what exactly a long-term goal should look like.

The easiest way to think about the long-term goal is to consider it a solution to a problem that you’re passionate about. That’s the crux of the formula. Let’s break this down into two general types of long-term goals:

1.)   Solve a problem that affects people through an innovation in a field

This is the long-term goal for the free thinking entrepreneurial type. If your ultimate goal is to start your own company, then this is probably the route you want to take. Let’s say you’re passionate about alleviating world hunger. Maybe you have a history with agriculture start-ups, and you’ve seen first-hand the negative effect poor crop yields have on sub-Saharan African farmers. You’ve gained conviction that creating an NGO focused on tool sharing amongst farmers could increase crop yields. Creating this organization would be an innovation that will solve a problem that you care about. In this case, it could be your long-term goal.

2.)   Capitalize on an inefficiency in a field through existing means

Let’s say you don’t have a groundbreaking new idea. No big deal. Not every MBA applicant needs to start their own company. Instead, you could identify an inefficiency as a problem and propose a solution.

Perhaps you work in the tech industry, and you’re focused on semiconductors. You’ve noticed that your company’s manual engineering process is creating a lag-time for your business’s design cycle. Maybe you want to encourage companies like yours to adopt machine learning technology to free up engineers’ time and resources. That’s a way to solve a problem by addressing a current inefficiency. Facilitating the adoption of machine learning into semiconductor engineering could thereby be your long-term goal.

Notice that both of these “goal types” include solving a problem. Selecting a goal that solves a problem is the easiest and most effective approach to writing the career goals essay.

Let’s be real, though. Often, people apply for MBA programs because they want to make more money or change jobs. And here lies one of the most common mistakes applicants make in the career goals essay. Maybe you’re applying for an MBA to get promoted ahead-of-turn, transition out of your role, or get recruited at a bigger firm. That’s fair. But it’s not the “goal” you write about in this essay.

If this describes you, consider this third approach to the career goals essay.

3.)   Create a narrative around your past experience 

If you don’t already have a big solution or problem in mind, you can reverse engineer one using what you’ve already done in the past.

Think about what you studied in college, the career you’ve had so far, your favorite work projects, any extra-professional activities you’ve devoted your free time to--what connects these experiences? If you followed that through-line all the way to fruition, what would your professional life look like?

For example: let’s say you were premed in college but worked in finance afterward. Your longtime passion has been for science, but your work experience is in distressed debt. The through-line here might be that you enjoy solving problems, whether in the lab at school or on a spreadsheet at work.

A strong “goal” could therefore be going into healthcare administration, where you could combine your science knowledge with your financial training to make an impact in the field.

Through this approach, you take what you care about and what you’ve done so far and spin them together into a big-picture goal that makes sense for your future.

Stress test for choosing your long-term goal 

If you’ve now got your long-term goal in mind, run it through our stress-test below to see if it holds water. If you don’t yet know your goal, try to work your way through this stress-test and see where you land.

The first test accounts for categories 1 and 2, innovation and optimization.

Stress Test 1

1.)   Is there a real-world problem you care deeply about?

a.     What keeps you up at night?

b.     If you could change one thing about the world to make it a better place, what would that change be?

2.)   Does the problem relate to your professional history?

a.     If your answer is “YES,” you have the perfect set-up for your MBA goal. This is the problem you’re going to solve.

3.)   Can you dream up a solution?

a.     What job would allow you to work toward solving the problem above?

                                               i. Starting your own company?

                                             ii. Becoming the CEO of an existing company?

1.     This job role = your Long-term Goal

If you breezed through that stress-test, you’re ready to move on. However, if not…

What if that test didn’t work?

If you snagged at some point in the above stress test, even if it was on the very first point, don’t fret. You can reverse engineer a strong career goals essay goal. Here’s how:

Stress Test 2

1.)   Your area of interest. What field do you work in or hope to work in?

a.     Can you genuinely talk about this field to show that it’s your passion ?

b.     Look back over the things you’ve done in your life, professionally and personally. Is there a through-line?

2.)   What’s the major problem facing your area of interest?

3.)   How might you solve that problem? Can you propose a solution?

a.     Is there a job function that might allow you to work toward solving the major problem facing your area of interest?

                                               i. This job role = your Long-term Goal

To reiterate, the most important takeaway from this section is that your long-term goal isn’t just what you hope to do in the future. A strong long-term goal is a solution to a problem that you’re passionate about.

Before moving on to the short-term goal, let’s take a moment to look at how an example applicant approached this stress test. We’ll use her essay to illustrate many of the points we make throughout this guide. Check her out:

Elinor (our example applicant) studied Evolutionary Biology as an undergraduate, but ultimately realized that practicing science (via a career in medicine, etc.) wasn’t her passion. Instead, what she valued most about her biology education was the rigorous, empirical, and experimental framework it gave her to view the world through. In other words, she valued the education itself, and to learn more about the system of higher education, she pursued a one-year Masters Degree in Education post-undergrad. 

Following her masters in education, Elinor landed a job at the Gates Foundation, where she worked for three years to design and implement cost-effective approaches to increasing classroom learning in rural Indian schools. 

Having worked in educational development financing for some time, Elinor is ready to utilize the expertise she’s acquired from the Gates Foundation in order to make a humanitarian impact on higher education in the US, her lifelong passion.

How would Elinor approach the stress-test in order to land on her ultimate goal? Take a look at her answers to the test below:

Access to education. Elinor believes in higher education—it was the singular force that changed her life for the better—and she feels conviction in the idea that everyone deserves access to this type of education, even those who have to work full-time jobs. In fact, she thinks working and education shouldn’t be mutually exclusive… surely there must be a way to get an education while also supporting yourself and your family and not going into a huge amount of debt… but how? Elinor wants to democratize education , thereby ultimately helping to increase socio-economic mobility and help working class people achieve the same goals as the more privileged class through equal access to education.

2.)   Does problem relate to your professional history?

a.     If you answer is “YES,” you have the perfect set-up for your MBA goal. This is the problem you’re going to solve.

YES! Elinor not only has an extensive academic record, having pursued a Masters in Education, but also the financial wherewithal from years of managing the allocation of educational funds in an international setting to potentially figure out a finance-backed solution to the problem of equal access to higher education in the states.

In fact, in addition to her main job function, she’s recently fostered a collaborative partnership between the Gates Foundation and Deloitte consultants to work with Deloitte’s corporate clients in order to provide corporate grants to employees who would like to attend these universities while continuing to work at the corporation.

Elinor’s most recent work with the Deloitte partnership has inspired her to take this initiative and expand it to a national scale. Her ultimate goal is to create her own venture connecting large corporations with universities to provide alternatives to traditional four-year degrees , thereby allowing working class people to access higher education without taking on loads of debt, and continuing to provide for their families in the process.

This job role = your Long-term Goal

And, with that, Elinor has a problem that she is personally passionate about, has the experience to make her the one to solve it, and has a solution in terms of a future job function. Her long-term goal is therefore sound. She’s ready to move on to…

The short-term goal

Your long-term goal should be big. It’s your big dream. You shouldn’t be able to accomplish your long-term goal right away. Even after your MBA, it should take years and years of professional development to reach your long-term goal. If you can achieve your long-term goal immediately after graduating from an MBA program, it’s not your long-term goal.

For example, say your goal is to alleviate poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by helping farmers access useful agricultural technologies. That’s not something you can do in a day. That’s a life’s work, and there will be many steps you’ll need to take to prepare for such a venture after receiving your MBA.

The thing you’ll do directly following your MBA is your short-term goal . Working at Goldman Sachs or McKinsey are fine short-term goals; so is taking a job at any existing company within your desired field in order to build up your skill set, or even launching a start-up venture that begins to address one aspect of your long-term goal.

The most important thing to consider when isolating your short-term goal is whether it tracks with the long-term goal. The purpose of the short-term goal in a career goals essay is to show that you can make a plan that gets you from point A to point D, where point A is all you’ve accomplished to-date, point B is your MBA, and point D is your long-term goal. That leaves you with point C: your short-term goal.

You want to show through the short-term goal that you understand what it takes to pull off something big. MBA admissions committees aren’t looking for wayward dreamers; they’re looking for future leaders who have what it takes to accomplish something special, and what it takes, pretty much always, is a step-wise approach to professional growth.

The short-term goal showcases your follow-through, your ability to plan, and your ability to be precise about how you’ll position yourself to accomplish your long-term goal.  

A helpful formula for thinking about your short-term goal might be:

The skills you gain from an MBA + the experience you gain from your short-term goal = strong preparation for your long-term goal.

Let’s go back to the world hunger example. If you say your long-term goal is to solve world hunger, but your short-term goal is to work at Goldman Sachs, it’s going to sound a little fishy. This is one of the biggest mistakes applicants make. They set awe-inspiring, impactful long-term goals, but then their short-term goal is to get recruited at top finance or consulting firm.

Let’s be clear: After an MBA, going into finance or consulting is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. In fact, the majority of MBA graduates do it. You’ve just paid a lot of money for a degree, so it’s fair that you want to earn it back.

That said, you need to reconcile your short-term goal with your long term vision. So, you’ll need to specify the type of experience you intend to gain from Goldman that will help you alleviate hunger. Maybe you’ll work as an investment banker to learn the ins-and-outs of raising capital for new businesses, and one day apply this capital-raising expertise to your own developing business aimed at solving world hunger. That tracks. That’s a solid short-term goal.

However, you could strengthen it further by claiming that you aim to take up a position in Goldman’s nonprofit wing to specialize in raising capital for the types of businesses that you eventually want to start. Remember, it’s fine if your plans change. What’s important here is that you prove you have the follow-through required to complete any goal at all, and part of that means proving you’re the type of person who can form a step-wise, sensible plan.  

The best way to think about your short-term goal is to consider it as part of your 10,000 hours of practice leading up to your long-term goal . In your MBA program, you’ll learn a lot of theory and study a lot of real-world business cases. The MBA should prepare you with the skills necessary to accomplish your long-term goal.

However, these skills won’t be fine-tuned or tested in real-world business scenarios. You’ll need to put the iron to the fire, and the “fire,” in this idiom, is your short-term goal. A well-chosen short-term goal allows you to put into practice what you’ve learned through your MBA in order to prepare you for your long-term goal.

Let’s refer back to our example applicant. Elinor knows first-hand about education, and she also knows a lot about financial allocation in an educational setting. However, Elinor has never run a business on her own; so, before Elinor can make her own venture fund that connects universities with corporate support, she’ll need to gain management skills.

She has no idea how to start her own fund or manage workers, but that’s exactly what she can gain through her MBA. The MBA will connect her with resources and networks while also giving her management skills to start her own fund and assemble a team. 

However, immediately following her MBA, she likely won’t be ready to execute her vision. She’ll need to practice the skills she’s learned in order to prepare for her long-term goal.

How could a future education innovator best prepare to tackle her vision? There are a few possibilities. She could join an education startup with similar aims as her own–perhaps one like Glimpse K12, which works with education finance, where she could learn best practices.

However, it’s important to note that she could do this without an MBA. So, if her short-term goal is joining Glimpse , she should argue that she’ll leverage her MBA skill set to expand Glimpse beyond their K12 platform and into the higher education space, where her passion lies. That’s a strong short-term goal that makes use of her MBA.

Or, perhaps she prepares for her education finance venture by tackling the problem from the academic side–she could round out her financial background by joining a university’s administrative office in order to understand their needs and foresee potential problems associated with bringing corporations into the fold.

In this example, she could leverage the business skills she gained through her MBA to begin a trial run of her future vision with this one university, working to find corporate partnerships for that specific university in the hopes of later branching out into a national platform.

Yet another option would be to join a specific corporation and work the partnership from the corporate side. No matter the short-term goal, there’s one thing in common: she’s using her managerial skill-set to practice for her future long-term goal. Each option takes her one step closer to reaching her goal post-MBA.

Before you put pen to paper or open up that blank Word doc, make sure you’ve spent ample time brainstorming the above information. The hardest part of acing the career goals essay takes place before you ever start writing. Be certain that you have your long- and short-term goals solid and ready to go before you approach the actual writing of the essay. Take your time on the pre-writing preparation.

But once you’ve done all that, it’s time to write.

Below, we’ve devised an easy-to-digest strategy to help you convey your short- and long-term goals in a manner that will have the admissions committees begging you to join their programs. We’ve broken down the actual writing of the career goals essay into distinct components.

Though we encourage you to think of these components as key concepts to include in your essay, we don’t necessarily advise that you break these components out into distinct paragraphs like we’ve done below. We’re breaking them down into paragraphs to give you a solid template to work with, but again, the best essays will find their own forms that go beyond the high school five-paragraph essay.

In any case, every solid career goals essay should touch upon the below concepts in some manner, so following our structure below is a great way to churn out a first draft. The art, then, comes in revision.

Before moving on, be sure you can answer yes to both questions below:

1.)   Is your long-term goal a solution to a problem that you’re passionate about?

2.)   Is your short-term goal a stepping stone between your MBA and your long-term goal?

If both answers are “yes,” then let’s get to writing.

As with any essay, the career goals essay should have a beginning, middle, and end. You’ll need an introduction that presents an argument (your long-term goal is your argument, as you’ll see) a body that substantiates your position on the argument, and a conclusion that reminds us why it matters in the first place.

For the purpose of this breakdown, we’re going to assume we’re working with the HBS essay prompt, as their word-count of around 1,000 words is the most daunting. Even for a shorter essay, though, you’ll want to aim to cover most of these points, but you’ll do it in a more condensed fashion. If the school conducts interviews, you'll have an opportunity to elaborate in your MBA interview .

Remember the goal of the career goals essay. Demonstrate a passion for a problem, and convince the admissions committee that you are the type of person who can solve it. You can show off that passion in 1,000 words or 250 words. No matter the essay’s length, the heart of your approach is the same.

The introduction

Part 1: the problem. 

For the Class of 2021, HBS reportedly received about 10,000 applications. Though HBS is one of the largest MBA programs, with almost 1,000 people per class, the sheer number of applicants means that most everyone who applied was rejected.

Given that your essay is going to be read alongside nearly 9,999 others, how do you hook a reader at the start? What gets your attention when you’re reading a news article or a novel, watching a movie, or listening to someone else recount a real-life anecdote?

Oftentimes, what hooks us is a problem. If you can turn your reader’s attention to a problem with real-world effects, they’ll likely want to read more. Think back to your long-term goal. You’re planning to solve a major problem, right?

If that’s the case (and it should be) then your first couple of sentences needs to establish the problem. Do this in as compelling a way as possible. Set the scene. Dramatize. Paint the picture. Give us stakes to sink our teeth into. The reader has to feel that this problem needs to be solved. And problems need to be solved when they have a negative impact, so try to state clearly exactly what’s wrong.

An important caveat: you’re not just trying to prove that your chosen problem matters in general. You need to argue why it matters to you . In other words, why do you care? Do you have a connection to the problem? Has the problem affected you negatively either in your personal or professional life? Establish this connection as early as possible.

The problem’s connection to you can be as personal as you’d like to make it. Our banker applicant could have been inspired to go into the healthcare industry because he saw first-hand how the business operations of the healthcare industry failed someone he cared about, and he’s been inspired to use his business skills to help fix it. That would be an extremely personal, human response to a problem.

However, your connection to the problem doesn’t need to be touchy-feely, and you shouldn’t try to force a deeply personal connection if the problem doesn’t warrant it.

For example, our software engineering example probably doesn’t have a deeply personal reason to care about increasing semiconductor design efficiency, but it is her business to do so. If she’s an engineer who’s personally felt the adverse effects of manual semiconductor design and knows how much more she and other engineers like her could do if she optimized the process via machine learning, then there’s a problem that she cares about.

In this example, the software engineer would begin her essay with the problem–explaining what the current design process is like and how that’s affecting the company and industry. She’d use statistics and projections to substantiate her claims.

Then, she’d argue why it matters to her. She’s devoted the past five years of her life to semiconductor engineering, many more if you count her educational years–that means she’s spent countless hours doing something that could be facilitated by machine learning!

The problem affects her directly through her past work experiences, and it affects the industry at large, too. She’s felt this problem’s affects firsthand and cares about it because it’s what she does for a living. Placing herself at the center of the problem makes the problem personal. Making the problem personal is essential to arguing that she is the best person to solve it.

In the first half of your introduction, you should aim to accomplish two things: 

1.)   Establish the problem and convince your reader it needs to be solved. Set the stakes.

2.)   Argue that YOU are the one to solve it. Why do you care?

After you’ve established the problem and placed yourself at the forefront of the issue, you’re ready to move on to the second part of the introduction: the solution.  

Part 2: the solution.

Remember, your long-term goal is the solution to the problem above. Once you’ve established the problem and demonstrated why you’re passionate about solving it, it’s time to dive into how you plan to solve it. Here’s how to do that.

1.)   What is currently being done to address the problem?

Chances are, you’re not the first person who’s noticed this problem. In fact, if the problem is big enough, you shouldn’t be the only person who knows about it. Crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa? People know that’s a problem.

What’s currently underway to solve for it? What’s needed? How has the industry attempted, and failed, to solve the problem in the past? We need to get a sense that this problem is not easy to solve. If it’s easy, why would you need to devote your life’s work to solving it? Why would you need an MBA? Complex problems require complex solutions, and we need to feel the complexity at play in order to understand why it’s your long-term goal. 

2.)   What do YOU bring to the table that others don’t?

So, you’ve identified a problem that matters to you, and you’ve discussed its complexity. What makes you think that YOU can solve it? Others have tried, but they’re missing some important component that you’ll be able to bring to the issue based on your unique expertise. What is your unique expertise?

3.)   Your solution.

Now’s the time to propose your solution. If you’ve successfully argued points 1 and 2 above, then you’ll have the reader on the edge of her seat awaiting how you plan to fix it. Frame your solution in terms of your expertise. 

You want to bring your knowledge of machine learning into a field that doesn’t currently utilize it. You want to use your entrepreneurial prowess to start a tool-sharing organization for farmers. You want to leverage your financial background to streamline cancer research funding. How do you plan to attack the problem you laid out above to solve it?

4.)   To accomplish this solution, what business role will you take?

This is your long-term goal . In order to solve XX problem through YY means, you’ll do ZZ business role. The long-term goal is ZZ, the job. The job will allow you to solve the problem above. 

It’s not enough to state the problem and a solution. The career goals essay requires you to frame that solution within a job function. Maybe you want to start your own company. Maybe you want to be CFO of an existing company. Maybe you want to invent a new job in an existing field.

The possibilities are endless, but you need to end your introduction by assigning a job title to your future that will allow you to accomplish the above. An admissions committee doesn’t want a solution that’s floating around as an idea . Ground your solution in a job function.

An optional finish: as icing on the cake, to cap off your introduction, tie in the MBA. You’ll cover the “why MBA” portion of your argument more extensively in the essay’s body paragraphs, but for now, just hint at it. You want to solve this important problem by becoming this job function, but first, you need an MBA. This way, the adcom gets a strong sense of what’s coming in the next few paragraphs.

And, with that, you’ll have a solid introduction that hooks the reader and keeps them invested in both this essay and your application as a whole. To recap: 

1.)   The problem

2.)   Why it matters to you

3.)   What’s been done / what’s needed?

4.)   How your particular expertise can contribute

5.)   Your solution in terms of a job function

This might seem like a lot for an introduction, but you can cover many of these components in a sentence or two, if they’re strong. For a 1,000-word essay, plan on devoting around 250-300 words on your intro.

No matter the length of the essay, plan to devote a solid quarter of your available word-count to introducing your take on the problem at-hand. Your introduction is the most important part of the essay, so don’t skimp. 

At the end of this article, we’ve posted a full-length HBS essay example to show our advice in practice, but for now, take a look at that essay’s introduction to see how one applicant, Elinor, utilized our advice to demonstrate passion for a problem and hook the readers. Below, you’ll find Elinor’s introduction followed by a breakdown of how and why it works:

Due to financial constraints and familial obligations, neither of my older brothers were able to attend college. Instead, after graduating high school, they joined the corporate workforce, and to this day my brothers mark their biggest regret as not having been afforded the same opportunity for educational advancement as I was given. Unlike my brothers, a string of strong test scores allowed me to leave my rural hometown for the Ivory halls of Princeton University, where need-based financial aid provided the chance to study a field that always fascinated me: Human Evolutionary Biology. 

Throughout my studies, I became enthralled by the scientific turn of mind involved in asking and answering complex questions through straightforward, repeatable experimental methods. For example, my thesis research aimed to discover more about the genetic underpinnings of bipedalism in humans, and through a rigorous bioinformatics comparison between humans and other primates, we were able to isolate a potentially interesting gene region for future study. Though I loved biology, as most of my peers began the medical school application process, I realized my passion didn’t lie in practicing science, but rather in the framework through which science had allowed me to take complicated questions and distill them down to measurable, testable parts. In other words, what I loved most about my science education wasn’t the science, but the education itself. Access to higher education transformed the way I think about the world–a frame of mind that was not afforded to my brothers and so many like them due to the steep financial costs associated with most avenues of higher education. I believe that everyone–even those who must join the workforce to support themselves and their families–should have the option to better themselves through education.

It’s no secret that my generation is plagued with student loans, and the fear of compounding interest rates deters many from post-high-school education. Having pursued a Masters in Education from Yale University before joining the Gates Foundation where I focused on the financial allocation for educational development in rural Indian schools, I’ve become well-versed in both the system of higher education and the ways in which financial institutions can bolster humanitarian efforts. My goal is to leverage my passion for education and my experience with education finance to create a fund that will increase access to higher education in the US  through corporate partnerships with universities, ultimately providing powerful alternatives to education finance for employees who, like my brothers, were forced to choose work over college.

Through her introduction, Elinor provided the admissions committee with a personal problem that she is both passionate about and uniquely positioned to solve. Let’s break down her introduction into the outline we laid out above:

1.)   The problem.

a.     Elinor believes in higher education, but tuition and interest rates on student loans are prohibitive to many.

2.)   Why it matters to you.

a.     Elinor’s life has been forever changed by higher education–she approaches problems differently than she would have without going to college. Conversely, her brothers (making it personal to her own lived experience) didn’t get this life-changing opportunity because they had to go to work after high school, and she wants to change the education finance landscape in order to allow future students like her brothers to have access to higher ed.

a.     She mentions student loans as the only viable option, but also points out how compounding interest rates make this option less than ideal. There’s a void to be filled.

4.)   How your particular expertise can contribute.

a.     She demonstrates her passion for education via her lively discussion of her undergraduate studies and her commitment to the system of education through her masters degree. She also includes the financial expertise she’s gained through her work with the Gates Foundation (which the admissions committee will see on her resume.) These two attributes (education and finance) uniquely position her to make moves in the future of education finance.

5.)   Your solution in terms of a job function.

a.     Elinor states that she will start a fund that works to partner universities with corporations, thereby creating an alternative means of education finance that would solve the problem her brothers experienced. Her job function would be “fund manager,” and it could certainly solve her problem.

With that, Elinor has followed our outline and constructed a compelling introduction to her essay.

The Career Goals Essay body paragraphs: an overview.

With a strong enough introduction, you’ll have your reader locked into the rest of the essay. So, what now? Below, we’ve broken down the body paragraphs of your “goals essay” into distinct units. Take a look:

Career Goals Essay Body paragraph 1: what you’ve done so far 

In the first body paragraph of your essay, you have one task: establish yourself as the expert.  You’ve hinted at this in the “why you” component of your intro, but now’s the time to set it in stone.

Think of your first body paragraph as your audition for the role of your long-term goal. You obviously haven’t tried to tackle your long-term vision yet, and you won’t for many, many years to come; so, here, you want to use what you have already tackled in the past as proof that you’ll be perfectly able to keep hacking away at your long-term goal. Here’s the process: 

Step 1: review your resume. Know it inside and out. You’ll be pulling from this document a lot while fleshing out this first paragraph. 

(Suggested reading: The Perfect MBA Resume )

Step 2: Ask yourself: what have you done already to help prepare you for your long-term goal? If you made it through our stress-test above, then your long-term goal should be intrinsically tied to your field of interest and current profession. Therefore, all of your accomplishments to-date are fair game for this “audition.”

Step 3: Skills. Your resume is a list of accomplishments. The admissions committee will read your resume. They’ll know all about the great things you’ve done for your past places of business.

What we need to focus on here are the skills beneath those accomplishments. Professional accomplishments are one-offs, but the skills it took to accomplish those feats are transferable . These skills will prove to the admissions committee that you can successfully realize your long-term goal.

In this paragraph, you’re trying to prove to the admissions committee that you’re prepared to do what you’ve set out to do. You can begin this paragraph with a transition from your introduction—something like, “I’ve already begun working toward this goal.” 

From that launching pad, show your reader how . What did you study in undergrad? What really got your gears turning? How did you move from your studies to your first place of work? Why? What skills did you gain from that first position? Did you use those skills to accomplish something great in your next job?

Build this accumulation of skills until the reader understands that you’re the expert for the goal you want to accomplish. They should get the sense that you’re uniquely positioned to take on this long-term goal based on your passions, interests, skills and experiences.

The biggest pitfall applicants stumble into in this first paragraph is simply listing off their resume. Do not list accomplishments or jobs. Instead, map what skills you’ve gained while facing certain problems in the past, and showcase the types of groundbreaking, brag-worthy solutions those skills led you to.

Take a look at Elinor’s example essay’s first body paragraph below:

I’ve already begun working toward this goal by launching an initiative called Mission: Yield, a collaborative partnership I fostered between the Gates Foundation and Deloitte consultants. While I continued my day-to-day work with the Foundation to design and implement cost-effective approaches to increasing classroom learning in rural Indian schools, I also wanted to test the waters on my long-term goal of working with corporations to help employees access higher education in the US. 

The goal of this partnership was to apply the financial allocation wherewithal of my Gates Foundation team to one of Deloitte’s corporate clients and create a tuition-assistance model for attending a local public university while employees continued their professional growth. I began by recruiting three teammates from the Foundation and three from Deloitte to volunteer their time to drum up interest. From there, I utilized my Masters in Education training to strategize with our university partner while coordinating dialogue between my Deloitte teammates and their corporate client. Through my team’s diligent efforts on this initiative, we were able to institute a first-wave test case that allowed twenty corporate employees to enroll part-time at the university. As the partnership enters its third year, we project over one hundred employees to enroll at the university with the help of our financial allocation efforts.     

Let’s break down Elinor’s first body paragraph to explain how it’s working:

1.)   Establish yourself as the expert. 

a. Most of Elinor’s work at the Gates Foundation involves financial allocation to rural Indian schools, but that day-to-day function doesn’t necessarily align with her long-term goal in US higher education.

So, she notes her regular job role in one sentence (“While I continued my day-to-day work with the Foundation to design and implement cost-effective approaches to increasing classroom learning in rural Indian schools...”) and focused the paragraph on the one professional experience that best positions her as an expert in the field of alternative finance routes for higher education: her own initiative, Mission: Yield.

Through this specific example, she shows she’s passionate about her goal and has unique leadership experience in the field.  

2.)   Skills.

a. Elinor doesn’t list off accomplishments–instead, she focuses on the skills she used. She notes that she forged a collaborative partnership between two otherwise independent organizations, managed a team of six, and managed both halves of her team as they worked between the university and the corporation. All of these are MBA-applicable skills, and they showcase that she’s the type of person who has the potential to become a BUSINESS LEADER of the future. She also tells us about some of the quantitative impact of her work, which isn’t always possible to show, but is good to refer to if possible.  

Body paragraph 2: skill gaps

After you argue for the skills you have, it’s time to discuss the skills you need . Let’s say you absolutely nail the first body paragraph. Great. You’ve convinced your reader that you’re the person for the job.

That leaves one major question, though. If you already have all these skills, why don’t you just go ahead and tackle your long-term goal? Or why not stay on your current track? Tons of business leaders reached their long-term goals without MBAs. Why do you need one?

There are tons of reasons one might apply for an MBA: a higher paying job, a career transition, an ahead-of-time promotion, social cache, you name it. However, as far as the career goals essay is concerned, there’s only one good reason for your application: you currently lack skills that you need to reach your long-term goal. That’s it. For the purpose of this essay, you’re applying because of a specific skill gap that you can only fill through an MBA education.

To be one of the lucky few chosen to enter the esteemed halls of a top MBA program, you need to prove that an MBA is the essential and inevitable next step at this stage of your career. That means you’ll need to demonstrate that you’ve gone as far as you can go along your current trajectory, turned over every available stone, and now you need to gain other skills before continuing to strive toward achieving your goal.

How do you accomplish this in your essay? Simple: focus on broader skills .

In most cases, one can gain all the necessary technical skills on-the-job. That’s what jobs are for–to help you master one thing. If you work in distressed debt at an investment bank, you’re going to know everything there is to know about leveraged buyouts.

But if you’ve mastered the skills associated with your job role, and you need to, say, start your own company in order to accomplish your long-term goal, then you have an excellent reason to apply to an MBA—because there are skills involved with managing an organization that you simply can’t gain from the technical parameters of your current job.

In your first paragraph, you might list the skills that demonstrate that you’re an expert in a specific field. In this second paragraph, you’ll want to broaden those skills to the leadership, management, structural and organizational skills that make up the bread-and-butter of a top MBA program.

The MBA is designed to take experts with potential and help them to see that potential through to its fruition by turning them into business leaders . Therefore, you might need softer skills associated with the growing responsibility of leadership and management. Try to drill into those overarching skills in this paragraph of your “goals essay.”

Here’s how Elinor succinctly included her skill gaps: 

Though my work with Mission: Yield proved that it is in fact possible to find alternative routes to educational finance for corporate workers, this success has only inspired me to attempt to expand this work to a national scale. In order to tackle alternative educational finance on a broader scope, I’ll need to gain managerial and strategy skills through an MBA. Working between for-profit corporations and public universities will require managing teams of experts on both fronts, and creating my own fund will require organizational and strategic planning that I can’t attain from my current job function at the Gates Foundation. Therefore, I’m applying to HBS’s managerial program to best prepare me for my future as a leader in alternative education financing. 

In these few sentences, Elinor completed the necessary task of convincing the admissions committee that she can’t complete her long-term goal by staying the course in her current job.

Sure, she has experience partnering one university with a corporation, but if she’s going to go national with her venture, she’s going to need leadership and management training that she can only attain through an MBA.

Elinor has established a problem she’s passionate about solving, proven that she’s an expert in the field, and made the case that she needs an MBA to gain the overarching skills needed to expand her vision. All of the work she’s done thus far will remain consistent with every “goals essay” she writes. From this point on, the essay will be different for every program she applies to.

Body paragraph 3: Why an MBA? Why this MBA?

By this point, you’re about two-thirds through your essay. You’ve established an important problem, argued a solution, explained how you’ve mastered certain skills that will propel you toward providing that solution, and noted the skill-gaps you need to fill before you can continue down the road of your long-term goal.

Now, it’s time to look ahead at the MBA. You need to argue that an MBA–and, importantly, how a particular MBA program–will allow you mend the above-noted skill gap and launch you into your future success.

This is the “why MBA” portion of your essay. Brace yourself, because it requires research. 

Depending on the skills you say you need in order to accomplish your long-term goal, this paragraph may take on different forms. Here’s the key: focus on the particular offerings of the specific program. While the contents of your introduction and first couple of body paragraphs can easily be repurposed for all of your “goals essays,” if the “why MBA” paragraph looks the same for one program as it does for another, you’re doing something wrong.

The truth is that most MBA programs offer the same kinds of skill-based training as every other MBA program, but that’s not what the admissions committees want to hear from you.

Consider this paragraph like a first date with an MBA program. It doesn’t matter that you’re also going on first dates with a handful of other programs this week. If you want this first date to go well, you’ve got to make your date feel special. Getting to know the program you’re applying to and being specific about how its independent offerings are particularly appealing to mending your skill-gap will go a long way

Let’s get into the weeds a bit more on writing this paragraph.

1.)   Why get an MBA?

You can start this paragraph by transitioning from the discussion of your skills and skill gaps into why you need an MBA in general. If you’re short on words, you can skip straight to getting particular about a specific program, but if you have the space, a light touch on this will do. Simply stress that an MBA is the right next step, explain why taking a break from work to go back to school is the right choice right now, and then move on to discussing the program you’re applying to.

2.)   Why this MBA?

Take the skills you lack in the paragraph above and scour the internet for any information you can find on the specific program’s particular offerings that relate to those skills. You want to argue that an MBA from this program will allow you to mend your skill gaps. A few ways to approach this:

a.)   Courses.

a.     Investigate their course catalogue, focusing on higher level electives in the field of your long-term goal. Remember, every MBA will offer “Introduction to Management” in some capacity, so skip those generics. You want to isolate a few specific classes that pique your interest and align with the skills you need to develop.

b.)   Faculty

a.     Is there someone at the program who’s done research into the problem you want to solve? Could you get guidance from them? Have you read any pertinent books published by a faculty member? How will you utilize this program’s esteemed faculty to help you mend your skill gaps and learn more about your long-term goal?

c.)   Extracurricular activities

a.     Outside the classroom, what’s available to you? Every MBA program has a consulting club, but is there something specific about Stanford’s consulting club that is uniquely beneficial to you? Is there a student run organization that expressly focuses on honing the types of skills you need for your long-term goal?

d.)   Location

a.     Does the program’s proximity or connectedness to your particular area of interest help you in reaching your long-term goal? Do they have strong relationships with nearby companies in your desired field? For instance, Boston is a hub for pharmaceuticals. New York is the financial capital of the world. Duke has access to agriculture. Can you use a program’s location to your benefit?

e.)   Alumni network

a.     Every MBA program boasts about their extensive alumni network, but is there something particular about one program’s network that could help you? Is there a specific alum who is working toward your long-term goal who you would want to collaborate with or seek advice from in the future?

The above list contains just a handful of ideas to convince the admissions committee that you can get what you need from their program. The more you know about a given program, the more compelling examples you’ll find.

To reiterate, the biggest mistake applicants make in this section is being too general. If something you list exists at all MBA programs, it doesn’t belong here, or at least you need to argue that there’s something unique about this program’s variation on that offering that piques your interest, specifically.

Take a look at how Elinor approached this section for her HBS essay below:

To gain the skills needed to launch my education finance fund, I’ll utilize the HBS curriculum’s emphasis on experiential learning through interactive case studies. In courses such as “Startup Incubator,” I’ll learn the skills necessary to launch a venture from scratch, and I’ll workshop it alongside my peers’ initiatives in HBS’s “Social Initiative Venture Program” to better measure its potential impact. I also plan to work with the HBS Impact Fund to gain firsthand experience in fund management. 

Beyond coursework, I’ll learn from peers with similar interests by joining the HBS Education Club, where I’ll contribute my experience from my Masters to the club’s ongoing collaboration with the Harvard School of Education. I also look forward to utilizing HBS’s extensive alumni network to seek out mentorship and advice as I embark on my education finance venture in the future.

In these paragraphs, Elinor gets specific, and these specifics work to her advantage as they prove that she has done her homework on HBS and understands how their curricular and extracurricular offerings can help her reach her goal. She names specific courses and clubs, and even talks about branching out to other schools within Harvard’s educational ecosystem. She mentions how her past experiences at Yale could help her contribute to the HBS education club and ends with a nod to the alumni network–all good marks showing how she’ll make the most of her time at the program.

Body paragraph 4: short-term goal

You’re almost done with your body paragraphs, but first, do you remember that short-term goal we had you think up before starting work on the essay? Here’s where that comes into play. If your long-term goal is big enough—and it should be—then you won’t be ready to tackle it for some time after completing your MBA.

So, what will you do immediately following your graduation?

Remember what you’ve just argued above. You’ve just said you lack certain skills that you’ll gain from a particular MBA program, and you’ve discussed how you’ll go about gaining those skills over the course of the program. Following that logic, you’ll want to carry those skills you just gained into your professional life post-MBA.

Your proposed career move after your MBA should line up with the skills you will gain through courses, extracurricular activities, networking, etc.. Frame your short-term career goals as a test-case for these skills.

Let’s return to the example of someone who wants to alleviate poverty amongst sub-Saharan African farmers. She could argue that, at HBS, she’d learn the managerial skills necessary to start her own company that brings up-to-date agriculture technologies to this underserved community.

A strong short-term goal could therefore be to work in the agricultural practice of a foundation like Gates or Rockefeller, whose wide purview in development could help her better understand agricultural best practices in international development. In this example, the skills she gained from HBS were general skills that would help any entrepreneur succeed, and her short-term goal provided specific practice utilizing those skills within her long-term field.

Though the short-term goal needs to be a solid choice that exhibits follow-through and shows how you can form a plan, you don’t actually need to devote a great deal of your precious word-count to discussing it. It’s an essential puzzle piece of a successful career goals essay, but you can likely cover it in a couple of sentences, especially in a shorter iteration of the essay.

Take a look at Elinor’s approach below:

In order to put into practice the skills I’ll gain at HBS before taking on my long-term goal, directly following my MBA I’ll join an education start-up like Glimpse K12 and employ my managerial and strategic expertise to pioneer the expansion of their platform into the higher education space. Learning the best practices of an education venture in its earliest iteration will help prepare me for the trials I’ll face when working to increase access to education through university-to-corporate partnerships.

This is a short segment goes a long way in showing the admissions committee that Elinor has formed a plan–her long-term goal isn’t just a dream floating in the distance; she’s ready to tackle it step-by-step, and her first step is gaining the necessary skills from an MBA.

Notice that, in the full-length version below, this section runs directly into her conclusion. If your short-term goal requires more information, you might want to give it its own paragraph. Otherwise, feel free to allow this short-term goal to segue your essay into its final push.

The conclusion

Your conclusion can be short and sweet, but it needs to accomplish two things:

1.)   Circle back to the problem you laid out in the introduction.

We’ve learned a lot about you throughout the essay, and so there’s a good chance we forgot the problem you were so passionate about solving to begin with. This problem is what hooked the admissions committee in the first place, and it will be what they remember when they decide to admit you, provided you remind them about it in your concluding move.

Try to hit the following points regarding your problem:

a.)   Remind us why it matters.

b.)   Remind us that you’ve devoted your professional life to taking steps toward solving it.

c.)   Remind us that YOU are the one to solve it, and that you’ll do so through your long-term goal .

2.)   Make your final claim: only with an MBA from this particular program can you accomplish your long-term goal.

The conclusion is your final case to the admissions committee that they should admit you into their program. Remind them what you care about and how hard you’ve worked up to this point, and then hit them with the idea that, only with their help, can you accomplish this amazing, important life goal.

By the end of your essay, you want the admissions committee to feel as though, if they don’t accept you, they’ll be culpable for this problem never being solved. Of course, that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea. Leave them rooting for you, and you’ll be well on your way to hanging that fancy MBA diploma on your office wall.

Here's Elinor’s conclusion, including the short-term goal above:

Ultimately, I feel passionate about education and the innumerable, lifelong benefits it can yield. Even today, years after studying bipedalism, I still use the scientific turn of mind I gained through my studies to dissect problems on a daily basis. Higher education isn’t only about what you study; it’s about how you learn to think. I believe everyone–no matter their financial situation–should have access to such transformative educational experiences, and I want to help make that happen.

I’ve devoted a large portion of my professional career to employing finances to enhance education, and I feel confident that, once I’m equipped with the leadership skills I’ll gain from HBS, I can make sure that even those people like my brothers, who were forced to join the workforce directly out of high school, can still pursue higher education without crushing financial stress. Through pioneering an educational fund and partnering with corporations and universities, I can provide an alternative route to higher education and ultimately help improve socio-economic mobility on a national scale.

We’ve covered a ton of ground in this article, and if your head is spinning, we don’t blame you. To help, we’ll end with a recap of all we’ve discussed. Below, find a bare-bones outline of the structure for a solid “career goals essay.”

1.)   Introduction

a.     Establish the problem.

b.     Why does it matter?

c.     Why is it complex?

d.     Why are you the one to solve it?

e.     Propose a solution.

f.      Long-term goal = business role that will allow you to solve this problem.

2.)   Body

a.     What skills have you gained working toward this goal?

                                               i. Focus on transferable skills.

b.     What skills do you need?

                                               i. These skills should be able to be gained from an MBA.

c.     How will you gain these skills at an MBA?

                                               i. Get specific: this MBA.

d.     Short-term goal = How you will use these MBA skills post-MBA.

3.)   Conclusion

a.     Remind us of your passion for the problem.

b.     Final plea for admission: only with an MBA from this institution can you solve this important problem.

Part 5: Career goals essay example

Throughout my studies, I became enthralled by the scientific turn of mind involved in asking and answering complex questions through straightforward, repeatable experimental methods. For example, my thesis research aimed to discover more about the genetic underpinnings of bipedalism in humans, and through a rigorous bioinformatics comparison between humans and other primates, we were able to isolate a potentially interesting gene region for future study. 

Though I loved biology, as most of my peers began the medical school application process, I realized my passion didn’t lie in practicing science, but rather in the framework through which science had allowed me to take complicated questions and distill them down to measurable, testable parts. In other words, what I loved most about my science education wasn’t the science, but the education itself. Access to higher education transformed the way I think about the world–a frame of mind that was not afforded to my brothers and so many like them due to the steep financial costs associated with most avenues of higher education. I believe that everyone–even those who must join the workforce to support themselves and their families–should have the option to better themselves through education.

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what are your long term career goals essay

Career Goals Essay Examples

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what are your long term career goals essay

Long Term Goals Essay Examples

what are your long term career goals essay

what are your long term career goals essay

How to Write a Career Goals Essay

How to Write a Career Goals Essay

Updated November 26, 2022

Amy Birch

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What Is a Career Goals Essay?

As the name suggests, a career goals essay is a personal document that outlines your professional plans.

It describes your educational and work history, and your ambitions for the future.

A career goals essay is generally used in three situations:

It allows the reader to better understand your personality and fully appreciate why you are making the application.

Career goals essays help admissions staff and hiring managers to select the ideal candidates for a position.

What Should a Career Goals Essay Contain?

A little backstory.

This essay is an opportunity for you to allow your personality and experiences to shine, so avoid generic statements.

The document should be personal and concisely describe your life experiences.

You should explain why you have chosen this career path.

If there was a pivotal moment in your life that led you to this application, be sure to highlight it.

Outline Your Goals

The main focus of the essay should be your goals for the future.

Readers want to see that you are ambitious and driven, with a genuine passion for the role or course you are applying for.

These career goals should be split into your short-term goals (looking over the next one to three years) and your long-term goals (which might look as far as 10 years into the future).

Show How This Application Will Help You Reach Your Goals

Critically, your career goals essay must show how this degree or job will help you achieve your goals .

If your long-term goal is to become a veterinary surgeon, studying a veterinary medicine program will obviously be essential.

However, your goal may be more nuanced than that. For example, you might want to become an expert in a particular piece of technology or software. Your application must show how your success in this role will enable you to become an industry leader.

This will also emphasize to the reader that you have done your research and understand the skills required for that particular sector.

An Opportunity to Expand

You will have likely submitted a CV and covering letter at other points throughout the application process.

Remember, your career goals essay should complement these documents rather than repeat them.

This letter allows you to expand on the points mentioned in the earlier documents, aligning your previous experience with your goals for the future.

If you are writing a career goals essay as part of an application for a new job, be sure to refer back to the job description and person specification.

These documents highlight the exact type of individual the employer is searching for, so be sure your career goals essay matches the content in them.

Most career goals essays will be submitted via email, so an appropriate title is essential.

‘The Career Goals of [Name]’ isn’t a title that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Don’t forget, whether you are applying to a school or an employer, the reader will have the job of sifting through hundreds, if not thousands, of applications .

Where candidates have very similar experiences and education, their creativity and personality will be used to make the final decision.

Example titles:

How a Digital Marketing Degree Will Allow Me to Support Sustainable Businesses
How My Next Role in Nursing Will Help Me Help Others

How to Write a Career Goals Essay (with Examples)

An Introduction

Your introduction should set the theme for the essay, and crucially, outline your why .

Many candidates find the introduction the most challenging part of the essay to write. Therefore, it often makes the most sense to write it last.

Your introduction should be an honest and personable account of why you have chosen this field of study.

Starting with a generic opening paragraph will not inspire or motivate your reader. Stay away from phrases such as “I have wanted to be a lawyer ever since I was a little girl.”

This sentence tells the reader very little about your current aspirations.

It can also damage your integrity, as we all know most small children dream of being a movie star or astronaut before the job of lawyer ever springs to mind.

Example introduction:

Most individuals in the US are lucky enough to never need the law to protect them. However, many fail to see how the intricate details of the constitution support their life every day. I have a particular fascination with criminal law after being introduced to the field by a family friend. The monumental impact a lawyer can have on the life and welfare of an individual truly astounded me, and I have spent the years since investigating the effects of the American legal system. This is why I have tailored my education so far to prepare me for a legal career. I work every day on developing my research and analytical ability, and now feel ready to dedicate myself fully to the legal field.

School-Specific Content

Admissions staff, tutors and hiring managers want to know that their applicants have done their research.

You can show them that you have done yours by adding a small paragraph straight after your introduction showing why you chose this school to study at or this company to work for.

First example of school-specific content:

[Insert company name] has an incredible global reputation, with clients in every continent. I can see that staff retention rates are incredibly high, indicating strong career opportunities and the prospect of continuous development. The company values show that diversity and integrity are of the utmost importance, and I would love the opportunity to work for an organization whose principles align with my own.

Second example of school-specific content:

[Insert school name] is well known for producing the highest caliber of graduates, with an excellent global reputation. The school leaderboards show that the grades from [insert school name] ranked within the top five in the country for the past 10 years. I would be proud to associate myself with an establishment that holds itself in such high regard and am thrilled at the prospect of learning alongside the best.

Your Long-term Vision

Remember, it is crucial you show why and how you are actively working towards these goals. For example, merely stating, 'My long-term goal is to become a lawyer with my own practice’ is worthless.

The reader wants to see how this goal aligns with your personality and why you have chosen this route.

The goals set out in this essay should be precise and meaningful .

Example of long-term vision:

Law is an area of study that affects us all. The law protects us, and I am fascinated by its impact on both an individual and global scale. Of course, I want to graduate with a top-class degree, but I am also passionate about the connections and network I will build along the way. My goal is to open my own practice one day, specializing in family law. At the moment, I volunteer in my local practice, gaining experience and building a network that will help me later in my career. I believe the combination of world-class education and hands-on legal experience will help me to achieve this ambitious long-term goal.

Your Short-term Vision

Next, it is crucial to discuss your short-term goals .

If you're applying to school, your short-term goals will explain what you aim to achieve throughout the degree or program.

For a job application, these goals will outline your targets for your first year in the role.

Example of short-term vision:

In the short term, my goal is to build a network in the legal sector. I have already begun doing this through my weekly volunteering role. However, this degree will undoubtedly allow me to meet a much broader spectrum of people. I am excited to curate this network with a range of legal specialists, from students at the start of their careers to tutors with many years of experience in the industry.

The Conclusion

As with any essay, your conclusion should summarize what you have discussed throughout.

You should not throw in any new ideas, subjects or theories at this point. Otherwise, it indicates to the reader that you have not cohesively written the essay.

Your conclusion should be about the same length as the introduction, mentioning your final goals and the name of the establishment you are applying to.

You must outline again why you want to work for this company or study at this school. Using a statistic or fact will show that you have conducted thorough research.

Example conclusion:

I am immensely excited to begin my experience with [insert school name]. Ultimately, this education will allow me to fulfill my dreams of becoming a lawyer and one day opening my own practice. I will bring hard work, determination and enthusiasm to the law school, never forgetting why I began this journey.

What to Avoid in a Career Goals Essay

Vague or weak statements.

Every sentence in your essay should be specific to you.

For example, statements such as ‘I want to study medicine because it will allow me to get a good job’ does not show the reader that you are passionate or enthusiastic about this position.

Discussing Financial Remuneration

Whether the essay is aimed at a prospective employer or a college admissions office, they want to see why you want the position personally.

Someone solely focused on the financial rewards will likely not have longevity in the career.

Controversial Topics

Of course, there will be times where politics and current affairs are relevant to the discussion.

However, showing a one-sided argument that doesn’t align with the readers can alienate your application before you even begin.

Final Thoughts

A career goals essay is an opportunity for your personality to shine through. It isn’t a test of who has the best grades or the most experience , but a chance to show how this job or degree can change your life.

Although the reader is excited to hear about your goals, they are more interested in how this role links to your ambitions.

Be sure to constantly reflect upon how obtaining a place on this course, or securing the job role, is intrinsically linked to your goals.

A word limit is often applied to career goal essays. Where there is no limit, be sure to write no more than 1,000 words.

This piece should be concise and to the point, showing the reader you can effectively convey your thoughts and ideas.

Was this article helpful?

You might also be interested in these other WikiJob articles:

How to Choose a Career Path

Or explore the Jobs & Careers / Career Planning sections.


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