Handling Failure: This Is Not The End; Keep Your Hopes High!

Your CAT did not go as expected! You toiled for 10 months, gave up your social life, did not watch Justice League, nor the Thor movie. You gave up on your regular curriculum of college, you screwed up your relationships, you gave up on spending time with friends; you did whatever you could but didn’t get the percentile you aimed for. You feel betrayed. There are mainly four types of CAT applicants – first are enthusiasts who give CAT just to enjoy the sheer joy of the three-hour exam! Then there are people with jobs who want a change in their job profile. Third are the people who are in their final year of graduation. Fourth comes to the people who have taken a year drop either after their graduation or from their job. Out of these four people, the fourth one is most dependable on the result. He has played a gamble; if he succeeds, well and good. However, if he fails, it becomes very difficult. You may feel that you don’t have options. You will feel shattered, but it’s not the time of remorse. It’s the time when you take the most important decision of your career: What should I do now that CAT is over and I’m not going to IIMs?

Go back and review your decisions. Why did you want to pursue MBA in the first place? What compelled you to take a year drop to prepare for CAT? Were you not employable after your graduation?Or was CAT so difficult for you that you had to leave your job? Let’s take the two scenarios separately and analyze them carefully. Why does it happen that students decide to take a drop! After most of the graduation programs, Indian students are unemployable and it takes some time before they realize what they want to do after that. A student in his final year of graduation starts preparing around May or June and let’s say he is not able to perform in the exam that year; next year he is about to graduate and he is unemployable. Over the last few months he didn’t prepare himself to get a job and now he’s hopeless and thinks that this SHOT at the exam was his last resort, and he falls into the trap of illusions where he believes that he’ll do better next year for sure. I’m not denying that he won’t be able to do better in the next attempt, but that news is one year from now. You can’t waste one year of your life in a hope that your hard work will pay off. Who knows, you may get into some accident on the D-day itself, then what? A new year again?? So please don’t fall into this TRAP. Let’s assume the worst case scenario: You are unemployable, and you have 3-4 months left until you graduate. The safest way out is to get a job and support yourself. Mind you, look for a job which interests you, try not to go in a job which doesn’t interest you, and if you look with the right mindset and have a sound strategy you’ll definitely find a decent job.

Now that we are on the subject of “a job which interests you” let me clarify one thing about ‘passion’. There is no such thing as passion. When you are good at your job, when you are the master who is referred to whenever anyone faces any difficulty, you enjoy your job, and that is when some people call it your passion and you should continue it. What actually happens is that you get so intrigued by some or the other thing (coding, game development, photography etc.) that you dwell deeper into it, eventually mastering it and enjoying what you do. That is when people call it passion! But a person sitting in his room wondering when his passion is going to hit him is doing it wrong. Your passion isn’t going to meet you while walking down the road. You have to try different things, work on different things, change things when you are bored with them; but don’t stop. When you’ll master of one of them, you’ll realize that you have found your passion.

I believe in one mantra, ‘if you want to go someplace, you have to raise yourself to the level of that place’. Acing the exam will get you an admission into a B-School, where you’ll become a manager. Don’t get into the illusion that a B-School is a place where a normal person goes and comes out as a manager; No. Quite the opposite happens here. If incompetent or less skilled managers enter a B-School and when they leave this place, they become better than what they were 2 years ago. So, moral of the story: Be a manager; behave like one. Orient yourself such that you learn maximum from your job, enjoy it. And, when you think that you have grown too big for the organization or your learning has saturated, then aim for CAT. And trust me, you will have better goal clarity. You’ll be able to crack the exam this time because now you know why you want to go there; at this stage, you’ll be able to make strategies for the exam which will help you clear it.

There’s a risk involved here. You have just given the exam and you take the defeat personally. What will happen is that you’ll enter into the job just because you don’t want any gaps in your career and you can fill in the work-experience number in the form. You stop focusing on your job, and this is the time when you are inducted into the organization, you begin to connect with the company and the people. And if during this time you resume your preparation, you will isolate yourself from the organization which you have just joined. As a result, you’ll not be bonded with people and you wouldn’t even gain the trust of your supervisors. Now, if the result is positive, well and good; your gamble paid off. But if it didn’t, you’ll be stuck with the same people whom you have given a hard time while preparing for the exam. Just imagine the predicament you’ll be in. So play safe and wait for at least one year after going in for a job to resume preparing for the exam.

Leaving your job for preparing for the exam is not recommended at all, it will haunt you forever. If however you have already left your job and failed to get into a B-School this time, it is strongly recommended to get another job without further ado. You need to understand the gravity of your decision and need to further introspect into it. You need to learn more and raise your level more before you give another exam attempt.


Pankaj Mann

Pankaj Mann is a 22 years old electronics and communication engineer and a PGP2 student at IIM Lucknow. He's a huge Harry Potter fan and when he says his hobby is reading, he means reading Harry Potter again and again. He's an avid runner and a marathon enthusiast. His passion lies in teaching!