CAT 2014 results are out and undoubtedly what remains same is the hue and cry, which I was subjected to, a year ago. But what is always in flux is the pattern of CAT. Soon, a time would come when we will measure the complexity of CAT and the fairness of Prometric on year-on-year basis, just like any other index.

Once, in a Strategic Management (SM) class, I was dreaming about my journey to IIM Ranchi. A journey where 90% of my caravan comprised of tech graduates. Suddenly it struck me, isn’t the journey of every other MBA-aspirant who makes it to one of the prestigious colleges in India strategic in nature? (yeah, that’s what a B-school does to us – we start applying management concepts to every facet of our lives). Quoting what my SM professor said rather proclaimed “Strategic Management aims towards attaining a sustained competitive advantage”. What we can cull from this is that ‘success in CAT should aim towards attaining a sustained competitive advantage in every phase of the selection process’.

How is ‘sustained competitive advantage’ related to your performance in CAT or in the B-school where you finally end up? How can you use it to make the best out of the choices you face to eventually become the Star manager of tomorrow?

Inevitably, you need to take decisions throughout- from filling out the forms of various institutes to deciding on the specializations during your course. Without realizing that these decisions are of paramount significance in the long-run, we take them frivolously and end up being in the wrong place at the right time. For example, aspirants may opt for a particular B-school just because it markets itself well enough to be pervasive in most newspapers and online websites. Few aspirants take up a specialization just because they didn’t get selected for any other specialization (repeating the mistake they did while doing engineering and now ending up in desperate want of a career change). Every decision you take during the entire process of getting ready to sell yourself in the market affects your career. Hence, each decision requires a whole lot of thought, thorough research and assessment of various alternatives, and their impact on your future.

When you apply to different institutes, many of which dig deep into your/your parent’s pockets, you must meticulously research about the B-schools you intend to apply to. Proliferation of B-schools in India is akin to that of primary schools in Delhi- one in every second Gali. Hence, you need to ask questions like ‘Whether this B-school fulfils all my requirements- ROI, faculty, specialization options, infrastructure etc.?’, ‘Whether this B-school holds the level of prominence that I desire?’ and ‘Will this B-school provide me with the vital network and resources which would help me in future?’. This approach can also benefit you in zeroing on the final choice of B-school, after you have triumphantly scored admission calls from different prestigious institutes.

Since only a handful of institutes offer distinctive specialized courses, like the PGDHRM course offered by IIM Ranchi, it would be good to be clear about the specialization you intend to build your career in. I believe, this is the most Strategic Decision, a budding manager has to take. You need to retrospect and introspect, comprehend your competence and then trace them to those required by every specialization. You need to envision yourself at least 5 yrs. from now- do you want to take up one of the jobs created by your choice of specialization? If you envisage yourself savouring the fruits borne by your seeds planted today, then go for it.

Kudos to the voice modulation of my Professor which stirred my cochlear nerves and I was brought back to the strategic management class only to hear my prof’s concluding remarks “Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different”. I, the economist friend for my professor, as he likes to call me, nodded my head, to the tune one of the most widely used jargon in B school: Strategy.


Authors: Ronak Johari  &  Priyanka Jain

IIM Ranchi

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