Tagged! – We Owe It To The ‘IIM Brand’ Tag

Two years into a corporate job, I have been directly and indirectly subjected to (intentional/unintentional) awkward queries of whether an ‘IIM brand tag’ makes a difference to one’s career. And somehow, I am always equally puzzled at the sheer meaninglessness of the question every single time I am confronted with it!

First of all, let’s make it clear that even if one does go for it to get the brand-tag for one’s resume, there is nothing wrong with it because that is how our corporate (or even our society for that matter) thinks and functions and the sooner we accept this fact, the sooner we will be able to focus on more serious things.

Having set that straight, let’s move on to discuss why the question is meaningless. Everyone knows that cracking CAT and getting an IIM call is just the starting of a rollercoaster ride. You have to be really committed to the course if you want to see yourself an accomplished MBA after two years. So a majority of Janta (If I may digress, I feel that ‘population’ as a word does not justify all the undertones the word ‘Janta’ carries, so I like using it as is) in IIMs is in for the real deal. They know that they won’t get as much sleep as they would want to or they won’t get to live life like a carefree 20-something.

The two years of MBA at an IIM is not a cakewalk. You go sleepless for days preparing for projects for both internal submissions and corporate competitions. You have to learn to always be prepared because IIM profs just love surprise quizzes. You have to give those late hours in the library to better your finance concepts. And you have to learn to make friends among competitors. You don’t do all that for just the tag. You do it to be able to learn from some of the most mind-blowing subject experts you will ever see in your life. You do it to hone your capabilities so that you are better prepared to face what lies ahead. You do it to overcome your tendency of underestimating your own brains.

CAT is not about ‘let me try my luck at getting an IIM brand tag’. CAT is about ‘Do I deserve to spend two years of my life at one of the most prestigious campuses in India?’ It is about testing your own capabilities and mettle. That ‘tag’ is a validation of our abilities, efforts and hard work. Many of us spend several years living a lesser life, wondering if we indeed are the brilliant student our parents and teachers were proud of, wondering if it all was just a fluke or sheer luck. And when one day, GDPI results are out and the window after you login to the site says that ‘you are in’, you start believing in yourself and your dreams. And, by the way, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years of extra hours of studies besides your grad college studies or your job hours to reach this day.  It just doesn’t happen overnight!

I completely agree that an IIM degree does not ensure a successful career because by definition, success is not dependent on a single variable called education. It takes a lot more to carve a success story. I also believe that even though we like calling ourselves IIM graduates, it is not the thing which we are in for.

I do not intend to say that the IIMs (or any Tier-1 Bschool) are the only options to consider for MBA and also they are not the only authentication to your capabilities. But saying that it is just about the brand, not only demeans the years of hard work people put in to get into a premier B-school, it demeans the efforts of a whole bunch of other people who enabled IIMs to provide quality education. So, I think that the next time someone asks you if that IIM tag made any difference to your career, it is your responsibility to tell them that it is not about just a tag. And share your version of why it is so much more than that. This ‘tag’ has given us the confidence to face the world. This ‘tag’ keeps on telling us that we are stronger than our challenges.  We owe it to this ’tag’.

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