Here is an incident that happened to me a few days ago, the type that is replicated on a near daily basis across almost all B-schools in the land. It was around midnight that me and my project group came to know that an assignment and presentation we’d thought wasn’t due for another 2 weeks was in fact due come the morning class in 9 hours’ time. It wasn’t a herculean assignment but no pushover either, and many of us were busy with other things at the time. In spite of that, although there were questions asked about whether we would be able to do it in time, there was no going down on one’s knees to ask for divine intervention (which usually means praying for the professor to fall sick and cancel the class). At the end of the day, there was a calm division of labour, the work was finished and we even managed to get some sleep.
The story sounds mundane enough, but I think back to what our reaction would’ve been to a similar situation in the first term, and I’m sure I can hear many a gnashing of teeth and a few wounded howls about the unfairness of life and the misery of existence. Over time that has certainly changed. Now last-minute deadlines are viewed more with a sigh of bored contempt than the respect afforded to the Grim Reaper.
Even as I write this piece, I know I have a bunch of submissions due today with final term exams starting just a day after and the imminent threat of final placements lurking in the shadows with a looming spectre of not getting placed and finally having to resort to living on the streets with a sign saying “Will quote strategic jargon for food” around my neck (which in more organized segments is referred to as consulting). Of course, this stage comes after a year or so of mooching off my parents again, until they can’t take it anymore and cut me off.
But there’s another point to this apart from mocking the noble profession of consulting (and if karma has a sense of irony, I’ll end up becoming a consultant). The point is that between all the hubbub and debate over whether an MBA actually confers upon you some superhuman powers (or even some usable skills), I came to realize that we have actually become passable crisis managers. Sure, we might feel a little out of our depth in certain scenarios such as halting the siege of Leningrad armed with just a fork, or landing an airplane in foggy conditions while blindfolded. But the smaller stuff like fitting in a month’s amount of work in a day or keeping away thoughts of destitution are something we are usually up to. And that is one of those marketable skills that we ‘learn’ in our two years, which recruiters so love, hoping that it will enable a seamless transition into corporate life and its mountains of work and drudgery.
Buff banter apart though, we too are human and can feel disquieted. There are times when we are faced with challenges and there is self-doubt that silently creeps in and makes us question our abilities. The closest thing we have to superpowers are the ability to stay awake for 3 days in a row, a strong aversion to sunlight and stress-tested livers. And for many people like me, who are in the twilight of their B-school life, there are moments of concern at the thought of stepping out into the ‘real world’ and facing the music.
But I guess that’s okay. I know now that it’s not just me alone who has those fears. And we can take some solace in the fact that we don’t go out there completely unprepared. We are equipped with some skills that will help us cope. And I don’t mean the strategic models and frameworks, but more the experience of surviving in a competitive environment and being able to form a support system that helps you stay sane. And there is also the support system you made in here, which will hopefully be there for you out there.
So as many of us prepare to move on to the last phase of our life in a B-school, here’s the refrain that will get us through. “Panic? Never heard of it. I’m an MBA.”
Nadeem is still trying to make sense of Life, the Universe and Everything now in the middle of his second year and planning to have a great time while he tries to figure all that stuff out. You can read more of his work at nadeemraj.insideiim.com
He's an amateur storyteller at 42shadesoctarine.wordpress.com