Why We Need To Challenge The Status Quo In Indian MBA Career Decision Making Process

India has close to 5,500 Business schools offering a total of 520,000 seats. Only 7% of pass-outs are actually employable in India. (Data Source: ASSOCHAM Education Committee 2016)

In the last few months, I have had a chance to interact with close to 500 students from established & growing Business schools. Lack of quality control, infrastructure & faculty are dominant problems in many Business schools. However what stood out in my conversations is the confusion each and every student goes through in choosing and committing to a career path. One common mismatch I could find is between the aspirations they have & the level of preparedness.

The first and foremost problem is avenues to develop employable skills. Leaving aside a few b-schools, many do not provide students with an opportunity to apply concepts they have learned. Rote learning of management concepts is still the flavour of the day. Add on top of this the academic overload of subjects which are hardly relevant nowadays. The entry mechanism to some colleges is solely through entrance exams and there is no element of soft skills scores/interview scores as part of the entry criteria. Placement committees have to fight it out a lot to get these students placed.

The second problem is related to student confusions’ because of the factory model of education in the initial years of their life. Their rush towards courses is mostly ‘engineer’ed by society and parents. Students lack a perspective to choose what best fits them because they were never taught to realise what suits them in the first place. Even a simple question like what are your strengths is met with blank stares or made up answers. Neither are students comfortable with what they are nor do they have an idea about what they really would like to do.

The third problem is the design of the current system. Something we all need to understand is education and career selection is a personal endeavour. American Declaration of Independence has said that all men are created equal, but let’s be honest, we all have different aspirations. Personalisation of learning & Personalisation of career choices is something which we haven’t been exposed to even one bit. No one inside a typical education system can take care of students’ most important decision of career choice except the student. Career services cells may be present but there are huge execution issues. By the time students realise the heat it will be very close to placement or graduation day.

The fourth problem is students don’t understand the importance of building networks and getting access to right advice. It is very natural for us to spend on books, stationery, certifications, educational material and more degrees. It is quite unnatural to spend on an expert to buy him/her a lunch or coffee and gain perspective on what it means to be in a particular role or sector. It takes patience and effort to build a purpose network and students are hardly taught the value of this exercise.

A year back I did a study on career satisfaction across various b-schools graduates (Batches 2012 to 2016).

  • 71% are actively disengaged in jobs
  • 59% have changed their first job and/or are looking out
  • 36% are ready for a pay cut to find a suitable job and career
  • 67% wished they knew in college what to pursue as a career
  • 73% mentioned the importance of a mentor/guide while taking career decisions

There are various factors driving this; however, two key factors are the inability of the candidate to decide what is good for him/her and clear lack of advice in taking such career decisions.It is easy to find faults within a system, but it is very hard to work very closely with the system to fix things with a combined vision.

To begin with, one of the solutions is to deep skill students right from the start of an MBA program. Rather than focusing and spreading thin across various subjects, start developing deeper knowledge on subjects and skills that interest them. Second is to do role clarity sessions with junior employees rather than typical senior management guest lectures so that students know very clear what happens on the ground, and whether that kind of role matches their aspirations. Finally, if top institutes can mentor and share resources with a cohort of growing institutes on best practices, it will be of great benefit. The best case scenario is when industry professionals can take their time out to help students actively.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the same!

Sumesh Nair

I'm an education entrepreneur and an ex management consultant, students are my passion. I spend my free time writing on education and psychology.