How To Prepare For A Life At A B-School

I am writing this as a shout-out to all those MBA aspirants out there who have, for the better or worse, decided that their sole aim in life right now is to get into an IIM (or any b-school, really).

Like a certain character in a certain 90s movie who waded through 500 feet of excrement and came out clean on the other end, I too have braved these waters and landed in an IIM. Needless to say, I was very unprepared for the plot twists that were in store for me.

Let me get the usual stuff out of the way first. Whether or not you decide to go for coaching is up to your work life or study life balance. If you’re a lazy snob like me, go sleep in a coaching center. At least your subconscious will pick up some formulas. Now, the first thing you need to know is that life in an IIM, like life anywhere else, will be terribly biased and unbalanced. You’ll be up against the best in the country every minute of every day. Those people from IITs & NITs will have a solid network of alumni to fall back on, which means they’ll be hitting the ground running. But if, like me, you come from some unknown college, you’ll have to learn FAST. This is the time you’ll start to either curse yourself for not studying in 10th & 12th or thank Almighty for the strict parents he gave you.

Now, on to the big guns; namely, work experience. Does it really matter? If you ask me, experiences matter more. If you’re a goody two shoe guy with only a lot of academic achievements and marks, then yeah, you’ll probably clear CAT. But you’ll probably not have anything to say during the GD or interview. Assuming that by some miracle you manage to fool the interview panel (probability of 1: 2 to the power <insert phone number>), you won’t be able to fake it during any of the events pre-processes in college. Work experience matters, in the sense that it helps you understand a lot of stuff inside and outside the classroom better and faster. But in my opinion, nothing beats real life experiences.

So what exactly do I mean by experiences? At this juncture, I’d like to introduce a jargon here, namely, POR or position of responsibility. It is basically any important position you’ve held in your school, college or institute and where you’ve done something meaningful. If you don’t have any, I extend my heartfelt condolences to you. Even if you work your ass off, others with PORs will simply outclass you every time (remember what I said first about unfairness?). So my advice would be to start collecting some PORs ASAP. If you’re in college, it’s relatively easy. Just take the responsibility for an event or a workshop. If you’re working, have some great work-related achievements. If you’ve taken a break, find an NGO that suits you. Whichever way you choose, try to do it sincerely. Who knows? You might even end up having some real fun along the way!

Another point to be noted in case of PORs, is best expressed through one of my favourite movie dialogues. “If you’re good at something, never do it for free”. Start recording your achievements. Take certificates or some sort of proof for all the work you do. Even if it’s volunteer work, get in touch with someone who can verify it.

In the course of doing all this, it’s pretty inevitable that you’ll end up stepping on some toes. But the important thing to remember is, don’t mess up any relationships – ever. You’ll understand the value of networking only later in life to be willing to on a bit of trust here. I’m pretty sure you’ll thank me later.

An important point I’d like to tell all those jobless engineers out there. Sleep is a luxury few here can afford. Stop sleeping for 9 hours. Now. Start surviving on less sleep and you’ll save a lot of stress and tension in your first weeks here.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with two pieces of general advice. The first being read, read, read some more. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Whatever you read, if you’re doing it correctly, you’ll get the benefits of it sooner than you think. For me, it was like I had been preparing for an exam I hadn’t even known about, so when it finally appeared before me, I couldn’t believe the privilege I was enjoying. The second bit is, break out of your comfort zone. This could mean many things to each of you. If you’re not a traveller, travel. If you’re not an extrovert, be the soul of the party. If you’re not a dreamer, dream. After all, you need to dream, before you can do it.

Adil Sulthan

A lone wanderer in the pursuit of happyness.

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