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Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

August 21, 2007

A Method For Formulating Goals

No matter whether you are applying for an MBA, LL.M., Ph.D. in Computer Science, a Masters in Arts Management, a MPA, or any other graduate degree, you will be required to write about your goals. This can take the form of a Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement, Application Essay, Goals Essay and/or a Why MBA Essay. MBA applicants will also need to articulate their goals in interviews. Any applicant for any graduate program who communicates with faculty will also have to be able to clearly articulate their goals. You can use the GAP, SWOT, AND ROI TABLE FOR FORMULATING GRADUATE DEGREE GOALS that I have developed for this purpose (see below). I think Gap, SWOT, and ROI analysis are great ways for understanding what your goals are, why you want a degree, and how you will use it. (Click here for the Businessweek MBA ROI calculator. Click here for the GMAC report on MBA ROI. )

(To best view the following table, click on it. For a word version, please email me at adammarkus@gmail.com)

How to use this table:

Step 1.
Begin by analyzing your present situation. What job(s) have you held? What was/is your functional role(s)? What was/are your responsibilities?
Next analyze your present strengths and weaknesses for succeeding in your present career. REMEMBER:WHEN YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESS DON'T ONLY THINK ABOUT WORK, THINK ABOUT OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE. In particular, some of your greatest strengths may have been demonstrated elsewhere, so make sure you are accounting for them.
Strengths:What are you good at? Where do you add value? What are you praised for? What are you proud of?
Weakness: What are you bad at? What are you criticized for? What do you try to avoid due to your own limitations? What do you fear?
Next analyze the environment you work in right now. What opportunities exist for your growth and success? What threats could limit your career growth?

Step 2.
Now, do the same thing in Step 1 for your future after you have earned your graduate degree. IF YOU CANNOT COMPLETE STEP 2, YOU HAVE NOT SUFFICIENTLY PLANNED FOR YOUR FUTURE and therefore you need to do more research and need to think more about it.

Step 3.
If you could complete step 2, than you should see the gap between your present and your future. What skills, knowledge, and other resources do you need to close the gap between your present and future responsibilities, strengths, and opportunities?

Step 4. After completing Step 3, you now need to determine how a graduate degree will add value to you. It is possible that an increased salary as a result of job change will be sufficient ROI for the degree to justify itself, but you should show how a degree will allow you to reach your career goals. How will the degree enhance your skills and opportunities and help you overcome your weaknesses and external threats? If you can complete Step 4 than you should be ready to explain what your goals are, why you want a degree, and the relationship between your past and future career, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. If you know about the schools you are applying to, you are ready to write your goals essay.

Finally, the above table will also help you answer such common interview questions as: Where do you want to work after you finish your degree? Why do you want an MBA (or other degree)? What are you strengths? What are your weaknesses? What are your goals?

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com.
-Adam Markus
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