A large number of people are caught in the vicious cycle of giving CAT, they appear for it year after year but still, they are not able to succeed. I would like to talk about one such category of people and help them make better decisions related to CAT. The category of people in focus is the fresh graduates of tier 2 engineering colleges of India. There are many things which make them different from the rest of the CAT aspirants; generally the placement scenarios in these colleges are not very good and as a result, these students look forward to doing an MBA from the best colleges. Generally, they are looking for better job scenarios and a ‘better life’ in their new college. They start their CAT preparation either during the final year, some even start in their second year. During this time they get so engrossed with the hope of studying in the top IIM that they are not able to see the whole scenario. While some of them crack the CAT and get admission in b-school, they become the motivation for the rest of the people. While the people who fail to get admission are the one for whom this article is directed to.
I have been involved with mentoring CAT aspirants of the aforementioned category and I encounter two main questions from them, “I am in my final year and preparing for CAT, should I go for an internship or prepare for CAT”, “should I get a job and prepare for CAT their or take a drop and prepare for CAT”. There are many versions of these questions but the theme is common, people are prioritising their CAT preparation over their regular curriculum and job! Such queries are coming up because there is something structurally wrong going on! It’s related to the perception of CAT, that clearing this exam will drastically change your life, but let me tell you a little secret here, “this doesn’t happen”. The struggle is real and it will chase you wherever you go, clearing CAT and getting into b-school doesn’t guarantee success to you. You will move to the next level, that’s for sure but you have to fight in your ‘next level’ as well! How are you going to ensure that you will compete with your fellows in b-school?
This is where your internships and your work experience differentiates you. I’m not suggesting you go for an internship where ever you get it! You need to objectively evaluate that~ try to look for an internship where you can actually add value to yourself, where you can actually learn. Rather than looking at the effect here, we should look at the cause of this behaviour. We tend to look at things in the short term, this myopic behaviour is the cause of discomfort. Rather what I suggest is to go for building skills through internships and your job. You’ll have to change your mindset for this. Right now the focus is on doing an MBA, instead introspect yourself to know why do you want to do an MBA; I understand your reasons but you will have to be patient here, if you are unsuccessful in your CAT attempt don’t linger to it but instead move to your job. Enjoy and learn there and come back to CAT when you are saturated in your job. But, if you will go to your job thinking that you have to bang the next CAT, two things can happen. Either you’ll succeed and then you can leave your job and everything will be alright, but if you fail this time as well, then you will be in a very discomforting situation. For preparing for you CAT you must have bunked office many times and by the end of January, you would have lost interest in your job. So if you are planning to go in a job with the aspiration of giving CAT the very same year, be very careful! You will have to work hard as well as settle in the culture of your office.
Before taking any decision related to CAT, remember one thing, your CAT preparation and your MBA is a part of your career and not the end of it. So everything you do in this time will add to your profile, and in the b-school you’ll need your profile to be as strong as possible. So my general advice will be to build your skills and profile while you work your way around CAT preparation. And the ideal thing to do will be to join a job and try for CAT once you gain some clarity that what exactly do you want from your MBA. Again, if you are thinking of taking a drop for CAT prep, do something other than your prep which can add value to you or your profile so that if you flunk the next attempt you should be in a position to get yourself a job.
There is a reason the interviewers for IIM ask you the sacred “Why do you want to do an MBA” question! Its because it matters. So you better figure it out, otherwise even if you end up in a b-school it would pointless.