Career Visions and BHAG's

As my MBA applicants start ramping up for Round 1 deadlines, I'm reflecting again on the career soul-searching they have to do for their application essays (much more soul-searching than JD applicants are required to do, incidentally).

Many business schools ask applicants to elaborate on their short-term and long-term career goals, and it's important for people to be clear on both sets of goals -- many applicants make the mistake of focusing only on one set at the expense of the other. Harvard Business School ratchets things up by an order of magnitude and asks instead about your "career vision." Note the different language. The distinction matters.

Business gurus Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, authors of the management classic "Built to Last," coined the acronym BHAG ("bee-hag"), short for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. They applied the term to businesses, but I would argue that people should have their own personal BHAG's too. (And business school applicants should know that top MBA programs are interested in your BHAGs, not modest, tentative, amorphous, hedge-your-bets, maybe-someday aspirations.)

Whether or not you're planning on going to business school, ask yourself:  what are your Big Hairy Audacious Goals? It's fine not to have figured out every step of the way yet -- life throws too many curve balls anyway, and the most successful people learn how to adapt along the way -- but it's great to start envisioning the big picture, what you want to achieve in your career, and in life.