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UC Berkeley Haas's goals essay this year is tricky.  It is going to trip up a lot of applicants.  Don't be one of them.

By Evan Forster

Earlier today I received a call from Brenda about the Haas MBA goals essay—

What is your desired post-MBA role and at what company or organization? In your response, please specifically address sub-questions a., b., and c.
a. How is your background compelling to this company?
b. What is something you would do better for this company than any other employee?
c. Why is an MBA necessary and how will Haas specifically help you succeed at this company?
(500-600 word maximum for 3a, 3b, and 3c combined)

Brenda’s amazing—a transportation industry titan-to-be. So why was her essay so flat?

We have been writing about the archetypal MBA goals essay (and other professional why Law, Med, Architecture, etc.) for years now.  After a while, it all starts to sound the same.

“Start with a story about you, followed by the difference you want to make in your short and long-term goal—and be specific. Zero in on why that School or program is right for you and how you’re a fit. Close by bringing at all around to your short and long-term goals, blah, blah, blah….” Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Anyway, Brenda sends me this response to Haas’ prompt #1. I can easily spot the fact that she’s being vague and cautious. There’s not a lot of power in telling an adcom, “I can help manage the way that X company deals with changing guidelines and law…” I suggest making it more “active”, but I’m not seeing a way to squeeze my square peg methodology into this round hole—Still, I’m trying. God forbid I should contradict myself, after all.  I’m supposed to be the expert!

After our call, I think more about the question.  Desired post-MBA role and company.  Simple enough.  McKinsey? Bain? Accenture? It’s just another goals essay.  And yet

And then, BAM!  I fall in love with the question. It’s not about locking yourself into the right company (although it should be reasonable given your industry background), but revealing your ability to spot needto figure out what stands between a company and unbridled success.  Get it?  They are looking for people to take on making a difference … WITHOUT PRIOR APPROVAL!

Sneaky, huh?                                                                    

For Brenda (and you) to ace this Haas goals essay, you have to be the guy who, without ‘permission,’ finds a way to make a team work better.  Brenda did this naturally as a college volleyball playerand somewhere, at some time, you did too.  So dig down deep.  Find the version of you that is fearless.  Decide to expand the transportation division of McKinsey, improving how it handles its infrastructure and government clients.

 Don’t worry about being wrong or seeming arrogant.  There are no Haas goals police. Declare your intention.  State the change you will make. That’s what leaders do, and that’s what great programs like Haas are really looking for.

Like Haas itself, this essay is about a way of being. You see what’s missing in a company. You (because of your particular background) and leadership-ability can usher in that change. And you recognize that you need help, what you need help in, what skills you need to bolster and—in each one of thesehow Haas specifically can help you.

So in the end, this IS just another goals essaywith added specificity, asked in terms that only a few people will get. Be one of them.

Auntie Evan’s 5 steps to Haas Goals Dominance

A)     Look at your current history/industry and remind yourself of what you’re best at.

B)      Decide where you can be of service to that industry.

C)      Know which companies are missing out on a possible growth area (you should know this because it’s your professional background)

D)     Figure out where you are in need of growth

E)      Invite Haas and its community (via specific classes, clubs, etc.) to join you in your endeavor.