An MBA – Because…

… will get me a job. Is it a bad thing to wish for? Certainly not. Will this answer be of any use to you while facing the interview panel? Most probably not. Not every interview is like this one in 3 idiots.

Not a long time ago, I got a mail from a student named Shraddha. Like a lot of other aspirants, she had a lot of fuss going on in her mind and was facing the same dilemma.

Why an MBA? Should I go for Finance, HR, Marketing or Operations as the specialization in Masters in Business Administration? Should I go for a degree or a diploma or would a certificate be fine? Which College should I choose or more commonly, is ‘X’ better than ‘Y’?

At every stage, while doing an MBA, aspirants are begging to answer such questions. Though a high degree of subjectivity is involved, the crux of the problem lies in the fact that – students take the decision to do an MBA first and then try to find a reason to justify their choice.

If you are here searching for the answer before beginning your journey, congratulations because you are a rarity.

Putting MBA Into Perspective

When almost every step on the corporate ladder is linked to higher education, is the average joe to be blamed for making this choice arbitrarily? Not entirely, but certainly more is expected out of an MBA aspirant.

So, if you are leaning towards an MBA, start thinking of your career as a canvas that you need to paint. Think about the colors you will need, think long term, think about value addition, think substance and think from your perspective and not what others are doing or saying.

More Importantly, do not take MBA as an end in itself, rather, a part of the journey. It’s not Olympic glory, but a means to achieve sustainable glory. Treat it –  ‘as a medium for getting something you want’. It’s a useful tool that will help you achieve a long term goal, a higher purpose, something centric to your life.

The Case of An Almost Ideal Guy

When I was giving my CAT exam, I had an intelligent fellow sitting next to me and as it normally happens before the start of the exam, we started chatting. It turns out, not only did he knew which company he wanted but also the colleges that the company visits for placements, what questions that company asks, what eligibility they ask all.

I was absorbing all this when I popped the question – ‘I believe that company comes in XLRI too, so would you be giving XAT?’

He said no because the profile that he is after is not offered at XLRI, rather some other profile in which he is not interested. Beat that!

Not only does this guy know where he has to go, but also the research he has done is just stupendous. What about his backup plan – he had applied to INSEAD and a couple of other colleges which got the same company with the same profile.

Is it difficult to be like this guy? Not so much, but beating that lethargy within and making that extra effort is what aspirants are normally afraid of. In an era of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, how hard is it to find the required info.

Steps to Finding – Why MBA?

Step #1 – Framing Support Questions 

This step involves asking a lot of questions and then doing a lot of research to find the answers. So, start by asking support questions like –

  • How does an MBA fit into the big picture in my life?
  • What is the cost-benefit for such an endeavor – You give up 2 years of work ex, money that you would earn on job + money that you would have to pay for MBA for an MBA degree? Is an MBA worth all this?
  • Find what all is taught in MBA – check out the curriculum, subjects, exam schedules, and pattern?
  • Will these learnings help me achieve what I yearn for?

A lot of time you will find counter questions like – I want to do an MBA because I want to be a financial analyst? So far so good. But why MBA, you can become a financial analyst by doing a CFA too.

What special purpose does an MBA serve? So, now the aspirant needs to dig deeper and show that he has considered the multiple options available to him or her, but MBA is the best one for so and so reasons.

In this particular case, an MBA can be better because not only do you learn the nuances of Finance, but you do so in a classroom with like-minded people, get involved in live case studies, interact with people from the industry, get placement assistance, gain extra edge over the competition, meet cross domain people and so on and so forth.

Step #2 – The Biggies To Rescue 

Read websites of the target colleges. More often than not, you will find a rant about why an MBA from that particular college is a value adding exercise. Here’s a few to chew upon – Harvard, LBS , Stanford, INSEAD and so on. You may also find this information under mission, vision, about us or other related places.

The colleges themselves are shouting out the reasons for doing an MBA, albeit indirectly. Why not make use of it? So buckle up and gather all this information from all the colleges you are targeting.

Once you have all this information, ascertain how it overlaps with the answers that you found out in Step #1.

I hope you will notice that a nice story is being formed here, where you are not only self introspecting but relating it to your target institute as well.

Step #3 – Learning From Others’ Sins 

Try and find out if there is an alumnus of the college that has done or achieved the results overlapping with your aspirations. A live example would help you ascertain the right track and if appropriate, can be quoted too.

It may also help you ascertain how good a college is,  and probably that person may interact and provide valuable insights and tips being a potential alumnus.

Step # 4 – Joining the Dots 

Once you have found out what an MBA is all about, what are the pros and cons, join the dots in the story. Tell the panel why an MBA is a mandatory pit stop on your journey and how you plan to leverage it for your career. Show them your vision and explain how an MBA is an important part of that vision.

In a perfect test, if you remove MBA from the broad vision, it should seriously impact your final aim. Ceteris Paribus, the harder it is to go to the destination without the MBA, the more sound your reason for doing it.

Overall, you want a job, a career, want to be an entrepreneur – the interviewers know it, you know it, even your neighbors’ puppy knows it. Yet, few make an effort to think and relate beyond that obvious goal.

If you portray yourself as someone who seeks an MBA only as a destination, you may end up portraying a shallow personality to the panel in question. Hopefully, the above exercise will help you tide over this question.

Questions All This Would Help You Answer

  • Is MBA useful for entrepreneurship?
  • How will it help me in the future?
  • What all I will learn in an MBA?
  • What if you don’t make it to the MBA of your choice?
  • What is my professional goal?
  • Why an MBA from ‘X’ ‘Y’ or ‘Z’?
  • Finance, HR or Marketing or something else.

This question can also be framed indirectly

  • What are your objectives in life?
  • Where do you see yourself 5,10,15 years from now?
  • What do you really want to achieve in life?

Some Things to Keep in Mind 

  • Be specific, realistic and confident.
  • Give due respect to research and data gathering.
  • Understand the final destination you are after, don’t be confused regarding your final aim.

Contrarian Perspective 

Many would argue that doing an MBA does not have to have a definite purpose, it can also be viewed as a short term endeavor that creates value for the employee and the employer. The benefits are so self-evident that the long term purpose can be discounted enough to be totally irrelevant. Also, since the long term goal of a person is mutable, it’s futile to align towards the same.

Taleb mentions in the Black Swan, that there are scenarios beyond what we see or can ascertain. There can be short term perspective or no perspective which may or may not justify doing an MBA. The beauty of this question rests in its subjectivity and an external view can only help as a guide or a mentor. Here is an interesting post on how to learn efficiently. 

Having said that, contrarians would have fun reading this article – Why 3% of Harvard MBAs earn 10 times the rest 97% combined? 

Further Reading – How to Solve Questions Fast?