When you were kid, I bet you were asked (and more than once), “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I’ll also bet that, by the time you were a junior or senior in high school, you were asked (and again, more than once), “What do you want to do when you graduate?”
If you answered these questions in any way that told people your plans for the future, you’re already used to talking about your career goals. The only difference this time is that you actually have to write them down.
Struggling to turn your standard answer of what you’ll do when you grow up into an essay? If so, this post can help. Here’s how to write a career goals essay that dreams big.
How to Write a Career Goals Essay That Dreams Big
Before you start writing, take a minute to think about why you’re actually writing a career goals essay.
- Is it an assignment for a class?
- Are you applying for a scholarship?
- Is it part of an admissions process, such as admission into the school of nursing or college of education?
No matter your purpose, before you begin to write, think about your audience.
If you’re writing for a class, pay attention to what your prof wants. If you know your prof is a stickler for following directions and you’ll lose mega points if you forget one small detail, then, by all means, make sure you’re diligent about reading assignment guidelines.
(Even if your prof isn’t such a stickler for every little detail, chances are she wrote those guidelines for a reason. So pay attention to them!)
If you’re writing your career goals essay to apply for a scholarship or as part of an admissions essay, remember, you’ll still need to follow content guidelines.
And though the guidelines might not explicitly state that you should use standard fonts and font sizes, rest assured that you’ll be expected to do so.
Need an essay format refresher? Check out this Essay Formatting Survival Guide (Infographic).
Okay, you’re thinking audience. You’re thinking format. Now you have to think content. So let’s talk about the content of a career goals essay.
Step 1: Livin’ the dream—What are your career goals?
The first step of writing a career goals essay is to prewrite. (Or if you’re more of a visual person, consider using a mind map to lay out your ideal career master plan to uncover specifics for your essay.)
For prewriting, start with a few basics like defining your dream job or writing about your ultimate career goal.
Next, move to more specific information. Think about the following as you write:
- Why do you want to do this type of work?
- What about the work appeals to you most?
- What do you want to accomplish in your career?
- Do you currently have any experience in this type of work?
Here’s a prewriting example for inspiration:
- My dream job and career goal: Children’s book illustrator
- Why do this job? I love to draw and love the creativity involved.
- What appeals to me? I’ve always enjoyed the illustrations in children’s books and have been inspired by the stories they tell. I like to create characters. I like to see how happy people are when viewing my work. Nothing beats the smile on children’s faces when they enjoy what I’ve created.
- What I want to accomplish: I’d ultimately like to draw for my own series of books.
- Current experience: I create my own work all the time. I’ve published in the school newspaper and won a local art contest.
With prewriting complete, next, think about the true focus of your essay.
Step 2: Your fight song—Focus your ideas
To focus your ideas, write a few concise sentences that explain your career goal and why you want to pursue the career. (These sentences are pretty much the thesis statement of your essay.)
If you’ve completed Step 1 (above), then you should already have an idea of what to write. You’ll just need to put the ideas into sentence form.
Here are three examples to illustrate what this step might look like:
- My dream job is to be an illustrator of children’s books. I have always been fascinated by the artwork in children’s books as it is often the images (more than the words) that tell the story. As an illustrator, I would love to share my illustrations with children and hopefully inspire their own creativity.
- My ultimate goal is to become a cardiologist. Though it will clearly be a long and demanding journey, I am prepared for the challenge. Receiving this scholarship will help me take that first step and enroll in pre-med courses.
- I have always dreamed of being an elementary teacher. I love working with young children and enjoy helping them unlock all that the world has to offer through developing creative and inspiring lessons.
Now that you have a clear focus, you’ll need to fill in the details to support your ideas. (See, this really is a lot like most other essays you’ve written, isn’t it?)
Step 3: Be the one that they want—Use details to support your statements
If you’re writing a career goals essay as part of a class assignment, your professor most likely wants to see how well you can articulate your ideas about your future career and how well you can support your ideas.
If you’re applying for a scholarship or to gain admission into a program or school, the committee not only wants to see how well you can articulate your ideas, but also wants you to convince them that you deserve the scholarship or a place in their program.
In either case, details are important.
Need a few ideas to get you thinking? Trying answering a few (or all) of these questions.
- Why are you a good fit for this career? What about your personality or your skill set makes you a good fit?
- What examples can you provide that can help demonstrate your skills? Have you volunteered in the field? Have you won awards? Do you currently work in a similar job?
- If you’re applying for a scholarship, consider discussing how the scholarship will help you achieve your goals.
- If you’re applying to a school or program, consider explaining why you’d be a good fit and how you might benefit the program.
In other words, sell yourself. Think of it as a first date. Your job is to put your best foot forward and convince the other person that you are indeed special.
Step 4: Give them something to think about—The strong conclusion
As with any essay, a strong conclusion is vital. The conclusion is the last thing your audience will read, so it makes sense that it’s what they’ll likely remember most.
In other words, make your conclusion count by leaving readers with a few memorable lines.
Here are two examples that leave the readers with a positive impression:
- Following in my mother’s footsteps and becoming a lawyer has always been my dream. Receiving this scholarship will be the first step in making my dreams a reality.
- Watching people enjoy my creations has always brought a smile to my face, and being able to one day own my own bakery will allow me to express my creativity and bring joy to my customers.
Remember, the conclusion isn’t quite the final step…
Play it Again—Reread and Revise Your Work
As you’ve probably heard at least a few times in your academic career, don’t submit an essay without revising.
Set your essay aside for a day or two. Then return to it to make sure it accurately captures your goals.
- Does your essay start strong by highlighting your career goals and making readers want to learn more about you?
- Do the details support your focus?
- Does the story make sense, and can you follow the logic of why you want to pursue your chosen career?
- Is the essay missing anything? Should you delete anything?
- Does it end with a strong, memorable statement?
Want to read a few career goals essays before writing your own? Check out these examples:
Even after you’ve revised your paper, it’s always a good idea to have someone else read your work and offer revision suggestions. Let a Kibin editor be that someone else! Send your paper our way for some useful feedback.
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Frequently Asked Questions
**Important note: Expectations for application essays vary widely. The answers below are meant to give some general guidelines, but may not be applicable to the particular program to which you are applying.
Is it all right to use the first person?
In most cases it's essential. The application essay is about you and what you think about yourself and the field you want to study.
How far back should I go in tracing my background?
For your essay, choose the details that you want to highlight in order to best answer the question at hand. The application itself may provide you with a chance to give detailed educational and job history.
Stories about how one became interested in a particular field might reference things as far back as grade school. At the same time, mentioning academic accomplishments prior to college might be viewed as naive. More recent honors will carry more weight.
How long should the essay or statement be?
Your essay should never exceed the limit given in the application instructions.
If no limit is specified, make your essay no longer than two pages.
How much of the information already in my application should I repeat?
Admissions reviewers may not read every detail of your application carefully. Therefore, highlight information from your application that you definitely want noted.
Do not merely list things, though. Be sure to explain the significance of the items you mention and make them relevant to the essay as a whole.
Should I include or explain negative experiences? Should I call attention to a low (or high) G.P.A.?
In some cases, yes. If something in your academic record is weak or questionable, a thoughtful explanation could help.
Discussing a negative experience that taught you something valuable or helped you make important life or career decisions can sometimes be a good way to provide a reviewer with insight into your character and professional goals.
However, if you don't want to draw attention to a particular situation (or have nothing positive to say about it), you might best avoid bringing it up at all.
How "personal" should I be?
By their nature, these essays are "personal" in that they ask you not only to tell things about you but to reflect on their significance to your past and future educational and career goals.
Some applications specifically request that you provide a personal narrative, while others focus more on educational and professional experience.
In either case, it's important to connect your experiences (personal, educational, or professional) to the goals and requirements of the program to which you are applying and to be guided by the essay instructions as to the main content of your essay.
How experimental should I be?
Sometimes doing something unusual with your essay can be a way to stand out from the crowd.
It can be risky, however, and it requires a high degree of sophistication and skill. Whatever flashy or clever tactic you choose to use, you have to be able to use it to complete the task at hand, which is to demonstrate your preparation and suitability for the program to which you are applying.
At the same time, readers of experimental essays have vastly different reactions to them. While some appreciate a break from the more standard essay, others may see it as a failure to follow instructions. A safer strategy is to use compelling details and a clear, artful writing style.
Should I format this as a standard essay (with an introduction, body, conclusion)?
To one degree or another, yes. You want to give your essay a discernable shape -- one that indicates a direction, takes your reader to a destination, and helps him or her understand the significance of what you've written about.