Mind over matter while stepping into a B-School
It’s that time of the year when all the hard-work and sweat pays off for a chosen few for entering Business schools. Decisions are made and toasts are raised for those who were lucky enough to scrape through arduous and unforgiving rounds of elimination to finally call themselves future biz-leaders. Most people will already start planning in their heads about what they will be doing once they are back to school and how will they approach the daunting task of coping with the course-content. It might come as a surprise to a lot of you that about 1-3% of each batch of B-school grads drop out in the first month of their program when the ‘induction’ sessions are just heating up. Why do you think it happens?
There is just one answer to this question – not entering B-school with the right mind-set. Most of us are either intimidated or plainly jolly after the ‘biggest achievement’ of our life. That makes us blind to the requirements of being a student at all these prestigious institutes. The sheer overwhelming quality of students and the rigor and routine after our relatively ‘chill’ engineering college schedules or jobs where a good number of students find themselves not being utilized fully gets to us and makes us incapable of taking decisions and acting swiftly in response to the academic grind. These result in pre-mature dropouts in the 1st term, not accounting the 10% drop-outs or failures that one sees by the end of Year 1. Considering the competition one endures to see oneself entering these great institutes it is a shame that one has to leave it half-way, which basically is a loss to those who just missed out on their dream so narrowly.
So what is the mindset that one needs to take along while entering a B-school?
Be Confident. Confidence in the right measure is a boon to have. To consider oneself no less than any other is a requirement because most times we simply get awed by the profiles of students and initial glitzy show that students put up in and out of the class-room. Every individual is unique and capable enough to outshine others. Remember that all of us have come through the same selection process! And the additional complacency with regard to academics and placements that a student with a great profile carries around is a terrible liability to have. People who topped in their schools and colleges have flunked and people who were mediocre have shined in my batch. Past performance is certainly not an indicator of future success. Once the initial tension and excitement wears off, it is the dedication and persistence of a student that takes him forward. Setbacks will come and have to be taken in the stride with a smile. The guy who won the Gold Medal in my batch was not someone who awed us with his profile right from day one, but was a friendly looking dude, who possessed the ‘run-of-the-mill’ profile but yet gained our respect through his performance quiz after quiz, term after term.
Know Thy Self. Knowing about oneself comes in very handy while making realistic judgments on things such as how will you fare in a specific course or can you handle the rigors being in a Placements Committee and balance it well or how will a competition or a line on resume strengthen the inherent weakness in your profile. All this requires a fair deal of introspection – that doesn’t happen in a day. Another aspect of it is to know much you can chew to digest. Participating in every B-school event/competition sounds all hunky-dory but an honest effort at each of them requires considerable number of man-hours. Knowing how much you can pull-off requires you to know your ability to put up with long-hours on your laptop and burning the mid-night oil. Talking a lot about these things with people will also help you analyze yourselves. However, in the process never judge/make opinions about yourself. Trust me! It is more of harm than a help.
Know, Interact & Help rather than just Network. Now I come to a really important part of my discussion. Networking remains a phenomenon that catches on when people get fresh-admits to B-schools. They talk to so many people even before joining the B-school to the point that they develop opinions about them and limit their interactions based on these judgments, which according to me is a major folly. Take a chill-pill and interact with people over chat and phone on a need-to-know basis. The real bonding only begins once you get your hostel-rooms, seating arrangements in classes. Knowing people to simply get your work done will be seen through and will not be appreciated one bit. One must realize that everyone is just as good or evil as you are. So being honest and genuine is the most appreciated quality in a B-school.
Help your colleagues! Sharing is learning. These are things that you must keep in mind for the rest of your life. Knowledge remains the only asset that multiplies when shared, not wealth. Don’t think that teaching your friend that problem or concept is going to ruin your chance at your dream job. Teaching him something will only strengthen your concepts and keep you in good stead during your grilling academic section of interviews.
Indulge in the Diversity. Another important aspect that hurts people like us who join B-schools is the fact that we are judged and put in silos. Groups are formed based on – the city you hail from, the grades you get, the graduation background we come from or the goals we have. While this is a natural tendency it curbs the purpose of coming to a B-school. Life in a B-school is just too precious to be wasted on a group that is created by a society we come from. This is our chance to know other cultures, other religions, argue & counter-argue. Moreover, while being in these pre-defined groups, one’s individuality goes for a major toss. There is none who could make opinions about your interactions and even if they do, it counts for zilch. Be free, experiment! Hence appreciating and enjoying the diversity that your B-school
Have an Open Mind. This helps the most. We enter B-school with pre-conceived notions about how life in campus. At times, we forget everything about what we ought to and begin thinking only about placements. By the end of the first month, most of our dreams/notions are pretty much shattered as the lies and half-truths fed to us are exposed. Concentrate on attaining the end by focusing on the means towards it. A long and daunting task can be made easy if it is divided into smaller-tasks. One should also look to work on things that one wanted to do for a long time or something that you are really passionate about or will help you do better at your job later in life. All this will lead to success and the confidence of making it through to the tough times of placements and examinations. The best way of keeping an open mind would be probably to not read such articles. But then hey, since you are already reading it, we thought why not give you the right stuff to read.
At the end of the day, enjoying the MBA program is of utmost importance – the two most important years of life before you enter/re-enter the big, bad world of business. Apart from the basic requirements of completing it, it is pretty much a sand-box type of a setting which gives one the freedom to pursue the one’s way. You can be top the batch by working the hell out. Or you can be the all-rounder by doing things you love while being good at academics. The choice is always yours – The Blue Pill or the Red Pill! And a whole bunch of other pills that you can choose from! J
– Charan Iyengar
(The author is an alumnus of IIM Kozhikode – Class of 2011 and has worked as a Technology analyst at HSBC and JPMorgan in the past. He is a consultant with Wipro Consulting Services)