How To Avoid The Rat Race In The B-School

rat race is an endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of lab rats racing through a maze to get the “cheese” much like society racing to get ahead financially. The term is commonly associated with an exhausting, repetitive lifestyle that leaves no time for relaxation or enjoyment. – Wikipedia 

Why should you read this article? If I were to make a claim – this will help in cracking competitive exams, CAT etc. – is that a good enough reason? I am making no such claim here. Feel free to close this tab now if you want to!

This is the season of exams. Most of the exams are already over.  Results for CAT are out and for other exams, they will be declared soon. Many aspirants would be bugged by the following questions :-
– Will I get the requisite calls?
– Will I convert those calls?
– And the unasked questions for the future, will I get ‘that’ company for placements? Will I get ‘that’ package? Will I get ‘that’ sector? Will I get ‘that’ profile?

The lure of the package – placements, is the supposed culmination of the process of writing CAT in the first place. In the opinion of your writer, based on anecdotes, that is the most important reason for which candidates enter this annual ritual.

There is a big danger which lurks too. The increasing materialism in our society has made us much more money conscious. We are told through advertisements and pop culture that more stuff – more cars, more phones, more clothes, more parties – bring happiness. For that, we want more money in life, we want to get filthy rich. And we are told that MBA is one way of achieving that.

Let me pause before proceeding further. Everyone is not trapped in materialism and is forced into this annual exam ritual for many compelling reasons. Such as :-

Bleak Job Market
We all have experienced the huge swathes of Indian Youth which do not get decent jobs. It is a long-term policy failure of the Indian State that we churn so many graduates who are not employable. Result – MBA seems like one last desperate chance at getting a job!

Low salary in the current job
Being unable to afford a room in a decent locality after finishing college, can seem difficult for many. There are many comforts in life for which money is needed. A proven career accelerator – like good MBA – seems like a very tempting proposition at that point.

Not an exciting job
This is a slightly common refrain amongst some aspirants. I do not like my job. (eg. I hate coding) I want to change my profile. Hence, I will do an MBA. End of story.

Hence, the anxiety over the outcome of this exam takes a big toll on many aspirants. We (including this writer) fall into the trap of wrongly attributing our worth over performance in this exam season. A good MBA degree, while valuable, is not the only thing in life.

I have some bad news for you.

  • The Job market continues to remain bleak even after MBA. There is a little requirement for high package jobs which we aspire for after MBAs. (think of how many MBA professionals you know who earn more than 30 lacs per annum?)
  • While post-MBA jobs will give you a high salary, your education loan EMI will take away a significant chunk of it. There are many candidates (from premier institutes) whose disposable income (In-hand salary minus EMI) is similar to their pre-MBA jobs.
  • Many profiles post MBA are as equally un-exciting as the pre-MBA jobs. (Many times there is no difference) Often there is a mismatch between expectations and reality regarding jobs. Eg. An IT systems engineer may perceive that the role of product manager is interesting, but it can also get very boring! (The character of Ranbir Kapoor in ‘Tamasha’ was a Product Manager) MBA does not correct that.

Why is this realisation important? 

Unfortunately, MBA even from a good b-school does not guarantee solutions to the above issues. Unless there is clarity in mind, one can not achieve their destination. For only when we do not know what we are aiming for, and still keep running, we end up trapped in this endless rat race.

If one were to look at the esoteric – metaphysical level perspective, our lives really do not have a purpose. While there is a tiny no. amongst us who end up doing great things, for which they are remembered for generations, most of us just simply survive.

Most of us never get to fully explore our potential. Because we get trapped in this unending rat race for we do not know our destination. There is nothing wrong in seeking a good corporate career, there is nothing wrong in aspiring for materialistic luxuries. However, a lack of clarity ends up leaving confused people during the process of this journey. Hence, we see people trapped in this rat-race.

It is important to make decisions in life not based on ‘ego’. Please do not make the mistake of sitting for these exams to prove to the world how smart you are. Please do not judge your smartness basis the calls you get. Please do not benchmark your brilliance over the b-school(s) you convert. This exam season is no good way to test a person’s smartness, no exam is good enough for that.

However, if you are interested in getting into a university environment, if you genuinely want to study (at least a bit), and if you want to have a lot of fun (with an interesting bunch of like-minded crazy characters), then MBA sounds like a very tempting proposition. Doesn’t it?

[Img source : Screenshot from ‘Happiness’ by Steve Cutts ]

Shashwat Mairal

A curious character, aim to stay as a student for life! Currently pursuing my Masters in HR at TISS Mumbai. Have worked with Axis Bank and Career Launcher in the past.