Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rags to Riches .. or Riches to Rags

This article appeared in the June 2012 edition of India Today.

Vinod was one of the many who had joined his college, bowled over by the intellectual faculty and fantastic facilities that were on offer according to the brochure. With an impeccable placement record, the college promised him relief from his job that he had grown to hate in the last year or so. Months of burnt midnight oil had finally brought him to this, and he had been looking forward to life as an MBA and the riches that the college ‘promised’ him with an average package that was thrice what he was earning at present. He looked forward to the future, certain that life as an MBA graduate was all about cut—throat competition, corporate meetings held in mahogany board rooms and lavish expense accounts. 

18 months later, instead of an offer letter Vinod received a reality check. He was one among the many in his college whom no one had approached for a job.  Desperation and peer-pressure crept in, adding to the EMI burden from the bank loan that he had taken to fund his education. He started mailing his CV to every job opportunity that he could spot. Finally he joined a sales representative in a local company that paid just about as much as his earlier job, regretting his decision to do an MBA every minute. 

This isn’t really a one-off story. The rat race that Indians love to join has ended up making a MBA degree almost de rigueur. With more than 2 lakh aspirants appearing for the CAT every year, B-schools have started sprouting in every nook and corner of country much like the engineering college boom a decade back. Aspirants strive to join a B-school to get out of a ‘boring’ job, only to jump into an even bigger pit. For example, many candidates join an MBA to quit the IT industry but don’t realise that B-schools receive a major chunk of placements from IT companies. 

An MBA degree is certainly not the key to a door that leads to a lifetime of riches, and few B-school applicants realise this until it’s too late. A degree in management involves a lot of hard-work. Sacrifices have to be made, not just during the course, but afterwards as well. Getting a management degree is a decision that needs to be thought through deeply as it is something that will stay with you for a lifetime — in all probability it is the degree that will define your entire career path. You need to love what you are going to be studying and doing; failing which life will become an endless struggle. 

With the rupee hitting unprecedented levels, an MBA aspirant needs to consider the global economic scenario where things aren’t as rosy as they seemed in the pre-recession days. Not everyone who does an MBA gets to be an investment-banker like Hrithik Roshan in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, able to afford handbags worth 12,000 euros and pursuing sky-diving in Spain. 

What an MBA does offer is two years of fun interspersed with a lot of hard work. It may or may not result in a job with added responsibilities and a chance to switch career paths. If the decision has been taken with a long term goal in mind, it might also offer you an opportunity to achieve these goals. Though a management degree can open all these doors, one must remember that it is not the only route.

At the end of the day deciding upon whether to pursue an MBA degree should not be an overnight decision or snap judgement. Take a call after putting in a lot of research and personal introspection, instead of blindly hunting for ‘median and mean-salary’ data in the placement reports. Ensure that you have thoroughly researched the college that you will be joining and find out if the 'opt-outs’ in the placement reports are  actually people who are taking the plunge into entrepreneurship and not people whom the college has not been able to place.

Secondly don’t just join any B-school that accepts you. Be sure to check its accreditation and placement cell. In the present recession, coming from a well-recognised school does matter to an extent. Employers want the best and competition is fierce, so the two main factors distinguishing you from the herd will be your work experience and academic record.

Ensure you have a back-up plan. Evaluate your options and make the right decision. Do not sign up for a management degree just because your BFF wants to. Go for it only if you feel that you possess a genuine interest in management and wish to be the best in your field. Keep in mind that there will be fierce challenges ahead and the road might get bumpier before it gets smooth. Always keep these points in mind and then decide whether an MBA is viable or not. After all, you may like your current job a lot more than selling soaps, biscuits and shampoos.


Zwa said...

Machi Respect...

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