MBA – is often referred by many as an easy ticket to success (and high salaries) in this country. In addition to this, if one passes out of a top league B-school, the newly crowned (or yet to be) MBA is full of ambitions to change the world. It appears as if they are destined to do coveted jobs affecting the top line, bottom line or deciding the investment strategy of their employer. In short, being the “who’s who” of the business world. After all, B-school education is catered around the pedagogy of Harvard case studies, where business transformation seems the natural role for a management student. The reality, though, is quite the other way around.
Here’s what B-school education does not teach the aspiring and currently pursuing MBAs:
1. Summers carry too much hype
Summer internship placements are perhaps the most over-hyped feature of B-school education in this country. In most B-schools, the process of finalizing CVs start within 3-4 months of joining the program. At that time, most candidates are themselves not sure about what specialization they intend to pursue. Add to it, if one does not get placed early in the coveted league companies like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and HUL, the world seems to fall apart. To make matters worse, the stress level runs even higher when the batch size is significantly large and not many IVY league companies turn up on campus.
In actual, it matters little where you get your summers done. What matters is what you can learn from it and how you can implement those learnings in the career ahead. Your career is a good 25-30 year long period and not a 1-2 year period. Most MBAs can’t really figure this out. The ideal place to do the summers training is in a start-up or in a smaller company in your preferred domain. That offers you an opportunity to actually interact with clients and be involved in actual business meetings. Working for a big company will never allow an intern to work in such a meeting and would mostly relegate you to backend work despite paying you a hefty stipend. Overall make your choices wisely.
2. Events and Contests
Events and contests are important to participate in. They encourage team work and most importantly add valuable CV points. But honestly, not many entrepreneurship event winners end up starting companies. In fact, hardly any.
3. Placement cells, alumni cells and endless committees
Most of the cells in B-schools function as event management units. Placement committee though is an exception. One can end up getting placed in big companies partially due to being part of this cell and for purely non-academic reasons. Need I say more?
4. Salaries are most important(should be not)
Most of us enter the trap of debt quite early by taking on significant student loans, hence the natural need for getting placed in a major company at high salaries. To make matters worse, even B-schools rate themselves on the basis of average salary. While it is important to earn well, money alone should not be the reason for choosing the job. In fact, it should be the result and never the reason of your work. Always take up a profile that you would enjoy doing regardless of the salary on offer. Trust me, you will grow leaps and bounds in that role.
5. Work in a start-up
The perfect way for a B-school student for spending the weekend is to be involved in a start-up. While this may create additional work pressure, it enables the student to pick up many tricks as and when he decides to launch his business. In addition, the exposure you get will provide great deal of understanding of real business challenges. In my view, B-schools across the country should make a 2-4 week stint in start-up as part of the program.
6. Grades are useless
While I was pursuing my MBA, I have seen quite a few of my peers running after grades. Never ever do that. As long as your concepts are strong and you are confident enough to apply them, grades would never be a bottleneck in your career growth. Instead focus on learning from peers especially those from unique backgrounds and experiences different from yours. Harsha Bhogle, an IIM A alumni, did not have very high grades. Neither did countless other successful alumni from top B-schools in this country. Bottom-line: It does not matter (as long as you pass).
Overall, there are two paths for a B-school student in planning his/her career. Becoming the CEO of someone else’s company or becoming the CEO of your company. If your current job does not take you there, you should seek out other opportunities that can position you for that role in about 15-20 years of time frame. During my B-school days, the then India head of a real estate firm had advised that post MBA, the first job change normally happens after 8 months, the second after 17 months and the third company is where you end up becoming the CEO. This is largely because by the time you leave the second job, your expectations of changing and storming the Business world as an MBA becomes realistic and you end up leading the next company you join. And in case, you still want to change the world, entrepreneurship is the way forward for you!