[This guest post is written by Sameer Kamat. He is the founder of MBA Crystal Ball, an admissions consulting venture. After completing his MBA from the University of Cambridge, he worked in the area of Mergers & Acquisitions for 5 years before leaving the corporate world to become an entrepreneur. He is also the author of the best-selling Beyond The MBA Hype. This article draws upon the insights covered in the book.]
The perks of an MBA degree (career opportunities, education, network and an upswing in the earning potential) can be excellent, but only if candidates spend enough time introspecting and carrying out the background research to ascertain if they are indeed going in the right direction. If not, there’s a bright chance that they would end up chasing a mirage.
MBA programs come in all shapes, sizes and flavours. But if you’ve been contemplating on going for an advanced management degree, here’s a short list of questions that you can use to kickstart the introspection process. These questions apply to all programs, irrespective of the program type or geography or duration.
Some of these might seem obvious. But surprisingly even the basic questions are ignored by aspirants in the mad rush to get a glamorous new qualification on their resume. Rather than get drawn into the hype, take a step back and address the following key questions first.
What is my motivation for considering an MBA?
Many decisions about higher studies get influenced by peers. It can get tough to move away from the herd and ask yourself what it is about the degree that attracts you.
Some might want to take it up immediately after completing their basic graduation (bachelors degree) for a headstart in their career. Others who already have some work experience in an industry might want to change tracks. Or it could be simply the desire to make much more money. Often it’s a combination of these and other factors.
It isn’t too uncommon to see aspirants rushing to fill up the MBA applications in a bid to escape from what they are doing, or what they might end up doing if they continue with their current status. Forget why your friends are doing it. Think about how an MBA will help you.
What post-MBA job would make sense for me?
Most students choose their basic graduation stream (medical, engineering, law etc) without a deep understanding of whether this is the right career for them. Often the test scores they get (and the obscenely high cutoffs that certain colleges have) dictate the direction that their careers will take. Sometimes it is due to parental pressure. The concept of vocational counselling is almost absent. This is probably why a large chunk of bright folks end up in jobs they don’t like.
Going back to the academic world to get an MBA but with the same mindset is a sure shot recipe for disaster. You don’t want to go away from a job that you don’t like to end up in another one (after your MBA) that you hate.
What MBA format suits my requirements?
The MBA industry can offer a confusing mix of products for you to consider. Apart from the full-time MBA there are numerous variations like the part-time, executive, correspondence, 1-year, 2-year, Indian, International. Phew!
Unfortunately there’s no single answer about which of these is the best. The answer is dependent on what you are expecting from the program.
You would need to consider the upside and the downside of each format. Some parameters you should think about are cost, knowledge, timing and the need to develop specific skills. Use these filter criteria to narrow down to that one format which would be best for you.
Is this the right time for me to get an MBA?
In India, it is a norm to move directly to MBA applications in the final year. Some folks consider it after a few months or years of work-experience. For the conventional two-year full-time MBA programs, being a fresh graduate isn’t a hurdle in the process.
However for international b-schools (and some in India), the Admissions Committee expects applicants to have several years of work experience before they can be even be considered. When the profile of students (age, experience levels, industries) varies, what they expect from the degree also varies.
Ask yourself if it would help to be a little more patient and gain some solid work-experience before considering an MBA program.
What is the market value of the degree?
Though many schools might confer an MBA degree, their perception in the market can vary widely. Not all of them are respected and coveted by employers.
The reputation of the B-school providing the degree, the selectivity of the entrance process, the quality of education, the backgrounds of batch mates, the professors’ competence, the bschool’s industry networks and many other aspects need to be considered.
How would you define the Return on investment (RoI)?
Apart from the regular financial definition, RoI can mean different things to different people. It is not always about the money. Your compensation package might be a key decision parameter for you. But don’t ignore the intangibles benefits of the experience — the academic and practical knowledge, a boost to the career, the business network spread across cities and the overall transformational experience you are expecting from the MBA. All of them are important, albeit with different levels of importance.
It is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your life. So think about it holistically. The questions listed in this article are just a few to help you set the ball rolling. If you approach the entire process in a structured and logical manner, the answers will start falling in place and you’d have more clarity on what to expect from an MBA.
[Beyond The MBA Hype is available on Flipkart and all leading bookstores. You can connect with the author on Twitter @KamatSameer]