MBA, as a degree, comes with a lot of baggage. The exhaustive nature of the course notwithstanding, there is a lot of prep work which needs to be done before setting foot in the B-school. While a lot many of us land up with our undergraduate degrees by default (given the compulsive nature of our education system), the choice of a post graduate degree is mostly voluntary, done after taking into account a lot of factors.
MBA is a lot of investment, particularly in terms of time and money. The first decision that you need to make before jumping onto the MBA bandwagon is to carefully consider those investments. The maths isn’t as simple as paying the course fee and expecting an average or higher than average package that is offered at the institute. Opportunity cost like the amount of income you will miss out on as a result of enrolling yourself in the course etc. needs to be considered and thought through. Since such investments are very subjective, I will take the liberty of assuming that all such considerations have been taken into account. In this article, we will focus on the 10 things that one should do to make the most of your MBA degree.
1. SWOT analysis – Not just for an MBA, this is an analysis that should be done from time to time to gauge the progress that we are making, particularly in your professional lives. It becomes all the more imperative to do the same before starting your MBA degree. It is highly likely that the vast majority of your competition is going to have a profile very similarly to yours (particularly if you are an engineer). To make an early head start, you need to understand your strengths and weakness so that you can make use of the former and work on the latter. Also, knowing your weakness will help you frame the kind of learnings you are looking to get from your PG degree.
2. Be clear in your head as to why you are joining an MBA program – If you think you have heard the last of that much dreaded ‘Why MBA?’ question in your b-school selection interviews, then you are grossly mistaken. Throughout the course, even during your final placements, you will be bombarded with this question time and again. Chances are, you may be asked the same post the degree as well, during job switch. The good thing though is that there is no correct answer to the question. The question is inadvertently asked to determine your personality and analytical abilities; whether you have really thought through the decision or were just too bored in life and wanted to have some fun. Your reason should reflect your clear-mindedness, particularly when taking important decisions. Speaking out of personal experience, I joined the course as I wanted to make a switch from the IT sector. Having worked in the IT industry for around 2 years, I realised I wasn’t cut out for it in the long run. And so, I resisted the temptation of signing up for the numerous IT companies that come on campus with attractive packages, especially at the beginning of the placement season. Although it was a dangerous move, given the subdued market conditions, it paid off in the end and I managed to bag a ‘Sales and Marketing’ role in an FMCG company (considered as the most glamorous sector in b-school parlances).
3. Be aware of the market situation– Aspirants think of MBA as a trampoline to a high paying job. That is as far away from the truth as it can get. The print media is to be blamed for raising this misconception by headlining only the astronomical packages that a handful of students manage to get in a batch of 400. You will do yourself a world of favour by not falling for it. Instead, use your intelligence to research on what the current market conditions are and what are the prospects across the various sectors and try to figure out which industry suits your personality the best. Choosing the right sector is the more critical than getting into the right company. Also, like it or not, every single macroeconomic policy – from demonetization to H-1 B Visa rule changes, has a direct or indirect impact on your job prospects.
4. Know the placement process – In continuation to the above point, while candidates are mostly aware of the average/median/highest packages being offered across campuses, very few know the placement process and how companies recruit from campuses. This leads to unrealistic expectations among the aspirants and their friends and family. Sharing a link to the article that will detail on the same, here.
5. Appreciate the difference between Graduation and Post-graduation – A lot of the candidates tend to do the mistake of treating MBA like any other degree. MBA is anything but your run-of-the-mill degree! The kind of opportunities, exposure, learning which an MBA degree provides is unmatched. Moreover, it is called a ‘professional degree’ for a reason. You are expected to behave not like a ‘student’ but a ‘student manager.’ Nothing will be provided on a platter. Having said that, there will be opportunities galore. Just that you will have to go through the trouble of selecting the ones that suit your abilities the best. While graduation is about ‘I, Me, Myself,’ MBA is more about ‘We, Me, Us.’
6. Understand your campus – Each b-school has a distinct flavour and a character. Once you get that coveted call letter from a b-school, make sure you read and research about the institute by talking to the Alumni and the current set of students (there is no dearth of platforms that can help you do the same). You don’t want to be in a situation where you land in an IIM-A and expect sports tourneys/cultural fests every alternate week. Being psychologically ready will help you settle in faster.
7. Let go of ego – B-School is one place where you can find people with 5 years of work experience as well as people who have just finished their under-graduation working together as part of the same project group. This inevitably leads to differences caused by working style and mental makeup. Freshers feel undermined while the folks with work experience tend to experience superiority complex given greater exposure. Such a setup is by design and not by accident and leads to the greatest form of peer to peer learning. Shedding the ego takes time and letting go of it at the earliest will increase the learning exponentially.
8. Shed shyness and laziness – At b-schools, you get to meet people from different backgrounds excelling across diverse fields. The onus will be on you to make the most of the setup. Be proactive and soak in as much learning as you can from your peers. 24 hrs a day won’t be enough to do everything that you want to and the chances of you finding a knowledge base like this in the future will be slim. Hence being lazy is just not an option.
9. Start Networking – B-School provides you with the greatest platform to network. Some of the friendships and bonds you create here will most likely last the length of your lifetime and might even culminate in professional opportunities. As such, it won’t be a bad idea to start networking with people you know are going to be a part of your batch as early as you can. There are a lot of forums provided by the Admissions Committee of various institutes who organise pre-joining meets, WhatsApp groups etc. which one shouldn’t miss out on.
10. Have sufficient knowledge of Excel and PowerPoint – Bill Gates has been the richest man on this planet for the past couple of decades for a reason. Excel and PowerPoint are your bread and butter in the corporate world and their importance cannot be understated especially as you rise up the ladder. Even in B-schools, they are as important. Unfortunately, given the fast pace of the course, you will hardly find anyone teaching you the same and you are forced to learn it on your own at a time when you have numerous other deadlines to meet. Moreover, you will be blown away when you see the quality of PowerPoint presentations some of your peers will exhibit, giving them the edge in group presentations and case study competitions. Make the most of the time before the MBA program by acquiring these skill sets.
MBA is like a tornado. Once you join the course, you won’t even know what hit you. The course (particularly the first year) is designed to be exhaustive, keeping the candidates on their toes all the time. While no one can save you from it, you can at least choose the kind of house you want to be in once it engulfs you with all its might.
About the Author:
An alumnus of IMT Ghaziabad (2015-17), Shobhit Agarwal is the author of the book - 'Ordered Cheese Delivered Chalk - My Kota Safari'.