If you have been checking out MBA and business school related websites, discussion forums and articles in the traditional print media, you are probably already aware of the rich, varied and transformational experience that the top international business schools can provide.
You would be hobnobbing with the best brains from across the world – a great way to strengthen your rolodex. If the need ever arises, you know there’s somebody you can reach out to, anywhere in the world – your management consultant buddy from Chile, the manufacturing industry veteran from Germany or your investment banking friend from the UK. During your internship, you could also get a chance to roll up your sleeves and work in an industry that you want to move into after graduating. Too good to be true? Or is there a catch?
Well, to be fair, these definitely are some of the potential benefits of attending an MBA program. However, it can be a high-stakes game as well, with plenty of scope for upside and downside, depending how you play it. Yet, year after year, enthusiastic MBA applicants jump onto the bandwagon without carrying out enough research about what an MBA education can and (more importantly) cannot do for them.
Almost all the competitive candidates applying to the top schools have good-to-great academic grades and impressive professional accomplishments in their pre-MBA careers. There’s little doubt that they are capable folks who’ve achieved a fair bit of success in what they’ve been doing so far and are now looking at accelerating the process. But somewhere along the way, a considerable amount of expectation mismatch starts creeping in.
Individual intentions for pursuing the degree vary, but you’d see some general overlaps. For many it generally revolves around the quickest way to reach their objective of gaining name, fame and fortune. For others, it’s just the strong desire to get away from what they have been doing. Other reasons might relate to the lack of growth opportunities, unexciting roles or the desire to make a bigger impact. Then there are the entrepreneurial ones who want to get equipped with the knowledge and resources to launch their startups. Each year, within the MBA applicant pool, there may be those who are just looking at an MBA degree as an escape route – a 2-year sabbatical that’ll help them get away from their personal and professional woes.
This results in an avalanche of emotions that clouds the basic process of questioning and challenging popular perceptions and beliefs. The MBA degree turns into an oasis in the middle of a desert. Many start believing they can start life afresh.
Whether it is hunting for a post-MBA job, an internship or just basic educational model adopted by most business schools, there are the good and the not-so-good elements to be aware of. Being aware of what these pitfalls can be, will allow you to evaluate the value that an MBA can add to your life, in a more realistic manner considering your specific needs.
Quitting a cushy job and putting on the brakes to the career can never be easy. There are risks that need to be evaluated and mitigated in a structured manner. Speculative discussions over online forums aren’t always the best sources of information. Seek out the credible and reliable sources of data. Is a school really as good as its brochure shows it to be? Dig into the specifics. Find out more about how business schools select applicants, what teaching methodologies do they follow, how does the placement process work and all the other aspects that are important to achieve your goals. Is there something you can do before, during and after you get into business school that’ll maximize the (tangible and intangible) Return on Investment for you? What is the best case scenario? What about the worst-case and the most-likely case scenarios? Come up with a plan of action for each.
It’ll be tough to get ALL the answers to ALL the questions before you can arrive at a decision. But once you are convinced that you are getting into this for the right reasons, get ready to fight it out for that coveted seat. The competition is intense out there. So prepare well and give it your best shot.