Vlog: How to plan for your MBA career goals

June 13, 2017 | by Caroline Diarte Edwards

In this short video blog, Catherine and Caroline discuss what it takes to create a compelling career vision for the MBA application, along with the steps to take and questions to ask yourself in the early planning stages.

Watch the vlog or read a transcript of their candid conversation, below.

Vlog Transcript

Caroline: Hello everybody, and welcome to Fortuna Admissions video blog. My name is Caroline Diarte Edwards, I’m a Director at Fortuna Admissions, and I’m here today with my colleague Catherine Tuttle. Catherine was an Associate Director at Duke Fuqua School of Business in the career management centre. She also worked closely with the admissions team.

The topic we want to discuss is what you should be doing now to figure out your career goals if you’re planning to apply to business school in the next season – for the deadlines starting this fall, September or October.

Catherine, what are your thoughts on what candidates could be doing right now to help them develop their career goals.

Catherine: That’s a great question and you know, as an Associate Director within the career management centre at Fuqua, part my role was giving presentations to prospective students about things that they could be doing now to prepare themselves for that MBA journey. What I’ve learned from that role and in my work with Fortuna clients is that self-assessment is so important, and when you’re starting out the great news is that you have a lot of time to start thinking about these things thoughtfully and in advance so that you’re able to more clearly articulate goals that will resonate with the admissions office.

So, self-assessment is the number one thing we can do: start to think about what you’re good at, what do you do now that you enjoy, that you want to keep doing post-MBA, what do you never want to do again once you have an MBA. Let’s be honest with ourselves, there’s going to be things that you’re happy to get rid of, right? What’s important to you when it comes to work? What type of environment do you want to be in? Do you want flexibility? Do you want to travel? Do you want recognition? Understanding things that are important to you not only from a job duty standpoint, but also from an environmental standpoint, and a cultural standpoint.

All too often we have these students come in and gung-ho consulting, and then they realise a few weeks into that process or a few months into that process that they didn’t want to travel every week! You could’ve saved yourself a lot of time and frustration if you’d done that research on the back end. Understand what’s important to you, and from there you’re going to be able to better evaluate options as they come up. So, how do you identify those options? The first thing you can do is start to talk to your mentors and your advocates within your current organisation: What do they see as your strengths, and what do they picture you doing in the future? Oftentimes that feedback can be really helpful. Where are you adding value and where can they see you adding value in other areas?

And finally, start to network with people that have an MBA. Those can be within your current organization, or they could be external contacts, or friends of friends, or simply people who’ve graduated from the school you’re interested in attending. Ask them about that process and what they consider their reasons for going to school, and how the MBA ultimately helped them achieve their career vision, and oftentimes when you start to talk to people and understanding their motivations and their values you’re going to start to be able to put that path on paper.

Caroline: And how do you suggest that candidates go about doing their research into whether the business school can actually support them in achieving those career goals?

Catherine: I think talking to the school, talking to current students, talking to alumni, and helping them understand what resources they are able to leverage within the program. I think once you start to hone in you can also look at things like the employment report from the school to see if recruiters are coming in your specific area. If the recruiters and companies that you’re specifically interested in then have partnerships with those schools, that information is typically available on their website, and pretty easy to access. Talking with people can help elaborate on some of that information.

Caroline: What are your thoughts about the process for someone who has the ambition of going to business school but really doesn’t know where to start with thinking about which direction to go post-MBA? They have lots of great ideas: maybe they should be an entrepreneur, maybe they should be a management consultant. Often clients that we’re working with have a number of paths that they’re thinking about pursuing post-MBA and it can be difficult for them to focus that down. What are your thoughts on that process?

Catherine: And I have a client like that right now, actually! Trying to find a way through this, and the first person in her family pursue and MBA, she doesn’t really feel like she has that role model to look to, and it can be overwhelming, it really can. Oftentimes we’re hesitant to walk away from things because it could be something really great, and how do we know if it’s the right thing or the wrong thing? And part of that, especially when you’re working with a coach at Fortuna, is sitting down and having an honest conversation about the things which we talked about at the beginning. So, what have you enjoyed most at work, what are you really good at? What have you been recognised for? What are your interests outside of work? What other things have you considered? Oftentimes that feedback, and having an honest party across from you who can give you some feedback and say ‘well, you mentioned that recognition is really important to you,’ or, ‘you expressed that working in a team environment, collaboration and culture is incredibly important, some of these options don’t give you that ‘have to have’ so maybe we can start to take those off the table.’

I’ll also tell people all the time, nobody’s going to follow you around with this admissions essay for your year, two years that you’re at school: It’s okay to change your mind once you get there. We used to joke at orientation that half the people would change their minds, and that’s okay. Business school is about exploration, and so just because you wrote it off in your essay doesn’t mean that if you get to school and fall in love with it you can pursue it. What admissions is really looking for is clear, concise career goals that make sense, and that align with the mission of the organization and align with their partners from an employer standpoint. You know, we want to be thoughtful about this, we want to narrow in and really be specific about what you want to do and create a clearer story, but just because you ignore something from an application standpoint doesn’t mean you’re writing it off forever.

Caroline: I think what we see as well is the clients who really spend a lot of time on figuring this out and doing their research, and then networking and all the good things that you’ve mentioned, find that that pays dividends once they start the MBA program. It really helps them to hit the ground running with their job search, and get focussed and get clarity on that more quickly than some of the other students are able to do.

Catherine: Yes, because even if you get there and you decide that this option may not be the right thing for you, you still have all of this good information to fall back on: options that you’ve considered, conversations that you can reflect on, a network to fall back on. It really is one of the hardest parts of the process, really kind of pushing yourself to think through this and create circles. But I do remember last year a client that both of us had, and she went to Kellogg where she emailed us the first semester and said ‘I’m so glad you pushed me because I’m so far ahead of some of my classmates,’ because she had taken the time to think through it and articulate those goals.

Caroline: That’s great. Well, thank you very much Catherine, and thank you everyone for joining us today.

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