MBA With Work Experience Vs MBA With No Work Experience – An Age Old Debate With No Correct Answer
The “fresher vs work-ex” debate wrt to MBA is an old one. And frankly, there is no one correct answer. Both the set of choices have their inherent advantages and disadvantages.
A. When “fresh”ness beats experience
- Academic predisposition: It’s easy for straight-out-of-grad-school candidates to get acclimatised to the academic rigour of B-schools since that is what their lives have been for the past 4–6 years. On the other hand, people who’d strayed away from academic for half a decade need more time to get into the groove of classes, quizzes, assignments, and examinations.
- Higher risk-taking ability: Experienced folks would tend to have a certain set of responsibilities. They are at that stage where they are either married or planning to, with kids or planning to, already applied for a home loan or planning to, and so on. All of these commitments would mean that there is an extra constraint they need to keep in mind when making any career choices. They might have to forego job content and growth potential in favour of financial security.
- Unbiased-ness: Having not been indoctrinated into any particular way of thinking (yet), freshers usually are able to think about a problem statement from multiple viewpoints, adding something “out of the box” to the discussion, due to lack of any innate prejudices.
- Open-ness: While I was completing my MBA, I was more open to trying out different profiles. I did my intern as an investment banker. I would have been equally happy with a consulting or marketing stint. And I am currently in a product management and strategy role. During the 2nd year, when all subjects are optional (electives), I filled up my time-table with a wide range of courses, while the experienced ones usually stuck to a more homogeneous academic calendar.
- A wider range of options: Continuing from the point above, I had the advantage of applying to any profile without whereas the folks on the other side would usually be grilled if they plan to switch career paths.
- Soft-reset: On the topic of trying out a newer career path, experienced folks who do it usually get the short end of the stick, as their previous work experience is not counted as relevant and they are usually offered the same role (in terms of seniority) as their younger counterparts. In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for a better starting point, but it will definitely not be worth their total experience.
B. And the other way round
- Clarity of thought: People who have already worked for a few years prior to pursuing their business administration degree know what is expected from a working professional. They are also more sure of what they want to achieve from the program, more informed of the repercussions of their choices. The ones starting with a blank slate would be investing time in trying out new things, while their wiser counterparts, being crystal clear about their goals, would have already started on channelizing their efforts.
- The theory-practice linkage: Having experienced the other side, industry-experienced candidates can better link what is being taught in the classrooms to the kind of professional situations one can hope to encounter. There are a lot of things that can’t be taught with slides, a greenboard, and textbooks.
- Grounded in reality: The Ben Kenobis of the MBA batch usually have a less idealistic view of the world, both within and out of the campus gates. They have seen both the light and the dark side. The younger padawans, i.e. the Skywalkers, are oft prone to being over-excited, trying to classify everything as one or zero, good or evil, yes or no. The masters know that not every pursuit would be successful, and understand the value of patience and perseverance. While the are usually over-eager to master the force, trying to get everything done as soon as possible, without truly closing their eyes and delving deep.
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