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The MBA is a powerful tool to help you take charge of your career, but the degree will do you the most good if you have a clear sense of what you want your career path to be and how the degree will further your goals. In addition to your personal network of family, friends, and colleagues, there are many resources right here on to help you explore MBA career paths and determine whether one is right for you.

Especially in this competitive market, MBA applicants who have solid career goals tend to do best in the admissions process; they are also most likely to be happy with the outcomes of their degree.

Unfortunately, some MBA applicants try to do things in reverse—they apply to business school before they really know what they want to do in their careers, believing that once they get in, they can figure it all out. That's not the best plan. MBA programs typically don't allow you time or opportunity to change your mind about what you want to study; it's best to know what your career goals are up front.

Also, if you have a career plan, it will be easier for you to choose the school, program, courses, and MBA concentration that will help you succeed. Keep in mind that MBA programs are very different from one another and excel at different things. Also, they have recruiting relationships with different companies, which means that you should make sure that the schools you apply to can help get you a job where you want to work. For instance, if you want to be an operations manager at a manufacturing company near where you live, the programs you should apply to may be different from the ones your neighbor should apply to if she dreams of a career in international finance.

You should compare schools only after you're sure of what you're looking for.

Just as you look for the schools that suit your goals, admissions officers look for applicants who are a "good fit" with their programs—people whose goals match what the program has to offer. Being able to articulate a realistic, convincing career plan is an important part of showing that you are a good fit for a business school.

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