"Investing" as career goal is bad for MBA apps?

Hi everyone:

I'm a current MBA applicant (looking to apply in R1 in September 2016) with a desire to use MBA to transition into a path to become a "good investor". I worked for 2 years as a macro investment analyst, 1 year as a credit investment analyst, and will have worked for 2 years as a vc investment analyst by matriculation. I really enjoy the intellectual aspects of investing; I want to use MBA to go to a better platform, and to build a career treck in a strategy I like. I used "" around the words "good investing" earlier because it is hard to define, but for me, it means something deeply value oriented, and rooted in understand businesses.

I recently spoke with an admissions consultant, and he told me that using "investing" as a post MBA career is not looked greatly upon by HBS and GSB. The reason he cited is that "stock analysts" are not really corporate leaders. I just want to check with you guys here in the forum on if this perception is true? Has anyone here applied with the post MBA career goal of becoming a good investor please?

Thank you!

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Comments (12)

Feb 9, 2016 - 12:21pm

Some of the best advice I read in a MBA application book was to have a mission, not a goal.

For example, wanting to "becoming a leader at helping multinationals start operations in Africa" is a mission, as is "applying value investing techniques to inefficient markets in Asia." You can build a story around a mission.

A goal is "becoming a consultant at McKinsey" or "becoming an analyst at BlackRock." Nobody gets excited about these types of statements. While it might be important to mention how these goals can help you achieve your mission, your application theme should really be built around a mission.

Feb 9, 2016 - 9:42pm

Thanks for the great advice,models_and_bottles! SBed for your advice, thank you! I do have a modified career goal that's something I am interested in and also related (but not limited) to investing, would it be okay for me to reach out through PM to ask you for your opinion on it please? Thank you!

Feb 9, 2016 - 2:23pm
I would caution the applicant to have a goal built around a realistic short term goal. For example, I want to applying value investing techniques to inefficient markets in Asia, by working at a bulge bracket investment bank and advising investors.

You seem to be restating exactly what I said...that it's important to mention a short-term goal as a step towards your mission. The point is you need to emphasize your mission rather than that goal. No admissions office is going to get excited by applicants listing their mission as working at Goldman or Bain. That's a dime a dozen type ambition.

By the way, the book I was referring to is "MBA Admissions Strategy" by Avi Gordon. I highly recommend that all applicants read it.

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Feb 9, 2016 - 3:20pm
AdComs see a new person who wants to save the world every day. They are excited by someone with strong experience and realistic goals who it will be easy to place into a job

Adcoms see plenty of applicants that want to save the world, but aren't qualified.
Adcoms see plenty of applicants that want to move up in MBB or IBD, but otherwise are boring.

They're looking for the rare candidates that both have tremendous ambition to do something great in the world and that are highly qualified. If you think schools such as Stanford are loading up on MBB and IBD candidates just to boost their placement rates, you don't understand top MBA programs very well.

I recently graduated from one of those top 10 MBA programs and still do applicant interviews for them as an alum. I feel very well qualified to speak here.

Feb 9, 2016 - 6:56pm

To the OP: if you're talking about institutional investors (working in PE, HF, IM, VC, etc) then yes, it's fine - learning from seasoned partners before eventually becoming a partner in the mid- to long-term. If you're talking about your own personal funds, then don't (because if you had that much personal funds to be an angel investor in various startups, you wouldn't be going to b-school). Just know that it's hard for adcoms to separate those who are truly geeked out about investing, and the young guys with a God complex looking for status, prestige and the quick buck that they think comes from being on the buyside.

As for @CorK2016" and models_and_bottles - actually both of you are right. It is about having BOTH:

  1. Realistic short-term goals ("are you going to be employed in an actual job you can get, or are you delusional?"), and

  2. Long-term goals that show you aren't a ticket punching drone (doesn't have to be about saving the world, but that you want to be part of a larger whole or mission - that you're doing work that means something beyond your own personal gain).

Adcoms these days tend to focus more on short-term goals simply because they want to make sure their graduates are reaching for jobs that actually exist and that they are qualified for.

In an interview situation though, talking about realistic short-term goals can be a bit boring though for interviewer and interviewee alike (only so many times one can hear "I want to work in consulting because blah blah blah...") - the narrative can be a bit mechanical and administrative at times (I will get a summer internship which will set me up for the full-time blah blah blah). Talking about your longer-term aspirations, dreams, etc or what kind of work is meaningful to you usually makes for a more interesting conversation. Whether it's deliberate or unconscious, in interviews you are judging someone based on how interesting they are because it is a conversation between two people, and part of "being interesting" has more to do with longer-term aspirations than more nuts and bolts "I will work at McKinsey because it gives me X, Y and Z skills blah blah blah..."

With that said, overall, the career goals narrative (short- or long-term) while still a factor, are not as crucial as they used to be 5+ years ago. As long as you're not delusional on one extreme or an unfocused mess on the other, it will ultimately come down to a combination of your:

  • raw profile
  • demographic
  • personality (how the adcom and interviewer responds to you as a person based on the application/resume/interview performance - yes this is very subjective), and
  • luck

And yes, those who have more dynamic career aspirations tend to be more interesting people in the first place - they're highly interrelated. Give a dullard a script to some wild career narrative and they'll sound delusional. Give a dynamic person a paint-by-numbers career narrative, and they'll sound uninspired.

Alex Chu

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