Often, you look at the statistics coming out of MBA colleges, and you get intimidated. In fact, before I applied to IIMB, I was petrified. “Oh good lord, everyone will be three-four years older than me.” “I’m only 21, how will I make any friends?” “I’m so young, no one will take me seriously.”
These insecurities aren’t unique to me. Freshers don’t do MBAs. It’s an adage that has been bandied about for years now. A few recruiters I spoke to, a few executives and CXOs here and there, they all told me the same thing. “Do your MBA after you work for a few years, you’ll learn more.”
But I didn’t want to do it after a few years! Once you start working, getting back into the groove of studying is hard! It’s painful, I mean, who wants to go back and take more maths exams, anyway? I didn’t want to, and I had just finished my engineering degree. I can’t begin to imagine how someone with two, or even four, years of work experience feels.
And yet, I came here. I was reminded of something I had read, “Courage isn’t the lack of fear, but perseverance through fear.” I worked through my worries, and came here on June 12, 2018, to look for a hostel room. The first person I met has since become one of my closest friends on campus, and he’s four years older than me. To be honest, that did more to assuage my worries than any random quote from one of the million books that I’ve read.
Funnily enough, freshers aren’t discriminated against and I’ve found that my insecurities were fairly baseless when I started here. Once you’re through the door, and after the first week of introductions, your work experience no longer matters. Alright, that’s not wholly true, it comes into play during placements, but I’ll talk about that process in a bit. In classes, in terms of learning, in terms of understanding, freshers do pretty well! I attribute it to years of having freshers in the class. While you’ll always have that course where the prof starts talking about some random corporate situation that you can’t relate to, even those examples are fairly obvious to visualise, at least from a theoretical standpoint.
If you want to learn more, it never hurts to watch television drama - a lot of the situations that come up in our HR courses, I’ve seen on Suits already. Just… don’t tell your profs that a television drama is your source, I’m not sure how that’ll pan out.
The elephant in the room, however, is placements. For many of us freshers, it’s the first time that we’re seeking out a job. There will be many, and I do mean many, jobs which don’t let freshers apply. Minimum work experience restrictions of twenty-two months is not uncommon. It will happen that one of your top choices of firms will restrict based on work experience. Trust me, it’s frustrating when you’ve made an impression during the PPT, and then you can’t even submit your resume. At the same time, the comfy General Management jobs will prefer people with work experience, because, as a fresher, if you have more experienced people reporting to you, there is a potential for conflict that is not easy to resolve.
Similarly, actual situations are sometimes given to you in interviews. With no experience under your belt, it is difficult to envision anything in a practical setting, and hence, you end up spitballing those situations, oftentimes making mistakes.
But on the flip side, freshers have a slight advantage in that several roles prefer freshers. A lot of it has to do with the fact that as a fresher, you are not moulded into a specific culture yet. Teaching anyone skills is easy, but if they’re not the right fit, well, there’s little you can do as a recruiter. Someone who’s never worked anywhere is more malleable, and as such, is likely to be a good cultural fit.
And here’s the thing! Companies understand that you’re a fresher. You’re not expected to know as much as someone with a lot of experience. You’re judged keeping your lack of experience in mind, and as such, it’s not unreasonably unfair. You have to demonstrate the ability to keep up with a steep learning curve, of course, but that’s not an unreasonable expectation.
A lot of freshers do really well. But at the same time, it boils down to what you want to take away from your MBA. Success here is measured by your own yardstick, and as such, you get to decide what makes your MBA experience complete. As someone who’ll be 22-24 when you graduate, you have a whole life ahead of you, there’s no hurry. You can experiment a bit, and cherish your experience. As a fresher, you’re under no obligations, there’s no need to settle down immediately. You can pull the absurdly long hours that are needed for the harder jobs, and learn more as a result. My advice is to treat your being a fresher as a matter of fact, and see what you can do within that constraint.
I mean, hey. If nothing else, pulling all-nighters is something you’re used to, right?