As the global recession now looks imminent, with the IMF hinting it could be as worse as 2009, here is a small write-up that perhaps will answer a question that would pop in a lot of your heads. Is it the right time for an MBA? Traditional wisdom suggests that recessions or economic downturns are the times when the MBA (or higher studies) applications rise. The logic is quite apparent and undeniable. Recession often leads to increasing unemployment or perhaps in more refiner terms, fewer new opportunities. It, therefore, hinders the job jumps and switches that would have otherwise happened in a growing economy. Hence, people flock to higher education institutes to add value to their CVs and augment their skills and learnings.
Digressing from the primary question, my two cents on the Indian economy would be different from the ongoing analysis. The Indian economy was in doldrums considering a huge demand dip even before COVID-19 situation, but a recession might not occur for Indian markets. If the COVID-19 situation is contained, with monetary and fiscal policies floodgates open, demand might see an uptick and gradual growth. However, the big 'if' with this prediction is that peak cases in India remain reasonably low, vaccine gets developed early, and the strategic interventions (such as active screening of international visitors) keep the contagion in check. The world, on the other hand, might see a U-shaped recovery, however, with the united efforts, it might tilt to a much desirable V-shaped recovery.
Coming to the initial question. Is it the right time for an MBA? Let me provide a little more clarity regarding MBA. Though an MBA does open a gateway towards newer opportunities that otherwise would either have come with much more time and experience, it is more than just those opportunities itself. MBA is a very holistic experience that offers you multiple things. To briefly articulate a few, I would list the following,
- Business Fundamentals: It provides an overarching view and understanding of how businesses function. Marketing, finance & accounting, operations, strategy, information systems, organization design, etc. remain the tenets on which businesses operate. MBA exposes you to the theory and application of it, which will prove to be useful. The blend of theories and cases prepare you for real-life business use-cases and take up managerial responsibilities.
- Developing Leadership skills and stamina: The rigorous curriculum prepares your stamina towards taking up leadership roles. You must have read about HUL acquiring Horlicks brand for almost half a billion USD. Well, that's a lot of money. And for sure, this decision by CEO would have involved a lot of analysis (and in MBA parlance, known as 'due diligence'). Taking such decisions requires stamina and the ability to ask the right questions, drill down more in-depth, and, more so, persuade the team, the sell-side for a successful merger (or an acquisition). Additionally, the ability to persist with the decision and make it successful is the test of stamina. MBA starts preparing you towards that kind of journey so that you can helm leadership roles.
- Life-long network: It provides you with a life-long network—a network of highly accomplished people in diverse sectors. The network spans from your batchmates (who will rise to leadership positions or be successful entrepreneurs) to alumni who have already made it big and significant in their life. It is for that network that the MBA becomes a useful experience.
- Transformational Experience: Above all, it is an experience as well, that could be life-changing for some, transformational (to varying degrees) for others. The entire pace, network, competition, collaboration, rigour, and all provide you with an unmatched experience that you may cherish.
- Opportunities: And last but not least, opportunities. I have already expanded on it. It doesn't need further expansion.
In short, an MBA is a full package. The recession or the news might bring doubts in your mind to go for it. However, you need to evaluate it more holistically with a longer temporal horizon. The short-term certainty does affect our choices. However, you may want to look at your career from the periscope of a long term trajectory. And when it comes to long term horizon, it makes sense to not cull your MBA preparations, at least not for the current crisis, if you had your reasons for doing it in the first place. The idea is to keep exploring and understanding the nuances of the MBA program and what it offers so that you make the right choice.
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