Saturday, July 11, 2009


Heads, there is a recession. Tails, there is no recession. It is a toss up really. If you believe the stock markets they are swinging like a pendulum. According to them, theres is a recession one day and good news the other. What to do? Who to believe? And in the middle of it all, what should I do? Is this the right time to stay put in my job or try my luck at getting into b-school? On the one hand, enrolments in colleges increase each time there is a recession (in the US) and on the other hand, companies layoff some and many others continue with their jobs.

What if I come out of college and the economy has not recovered yet? Or, worse, what if, the recovery happens now (as per current trends in the stock markets of some countries) and the market stagnates by the time I come out? What if my college does not get all its students placed? Will there be competition from students returning with foreign degrees?

Like a lot of other questions, these are all extraneous factors that, should, of course, be a factor in your decision to pursue your MBA, but you should not drive yourself crazy thinking about these factors. If you are, then, clearly your entire decision process for an MBA needs a re-think.

There are good reasons to do an MBA and there are equally good reasons to not do an MBA. There are good careers that can be had with an MBA and there are some amazing careers that can be had without an MBA. Look around you. For every MBA, you will find a non MBA who is doing well. So, clearly, as a human being, you cannot climb into all the buses. Decide (and I cannot exactly tell you which crystal ball to look into) and then be at peace. All I can say is that for many of us a single bus will not take us to our destination (this coming from personal experience). Just as there is no silver bullet in life. And in any case the MBA (or this piece) is no silver bullet.

Look at your strengths. Look at what you are good at. Ultimately, it is far better to focus on what you are good at and become the best than pick up something you are doing because everybody else is and try to make a living out of it. So, if you are good at technology, try to excel in it. There is a great demand for Technical positions and will continue to be. There are certifications and exams you can take for your entire career. And once you have picked up one platform, really, there is nobody but you who prevents you from learning a second one. If you are very good at communication, look for a specialized job opportunity that makes use of it. There are opportunities of that nature in media, corporate training, journalism - or even online.

But that does not mean you cannot use these inherent strengths to complement your MBA, but neither does it mean that you lose out if you don't do an MBA now. There are many who do an MBA and use it sharpen their skills in these areas like technology or communications. There are others who do an MBA with more than a few years of industry experience under their belt. There is no "single" way to run a career and you will see it all around you, in every career.

There is no easy way to figure out what your strengths are either, but looking at your own life and what you have done well in (honestly, without believing in conspiracy theories) is a good indicator. Write a honest note to yourself in terms of what you want to do and love doing (regardless of what the world is doing) in its most basic terms often gives you the answer. Or, write a note to yourself on what you definitely do not want to do. That may have the answer too...

Many look at the MBA as an option to change their careers. But is the MBA the only way to change careers? Nowadays, companies are open to let their employees try their hand at various types of jobs at a junior level. At a senior level, by and large, job rotations are quite common. And when you use that option once, can you use it again? So, use the MBA-to-change-career option wisely.

Are you trying to get out of a temporary trough at work? And think that the MBA will help? It will, for sure, but it will not insure you from any future troughs. And if that happens how do you plan to get out of that?

The MBA is not an escape route. It is an entry. The degree does not guarantee anything. On the contrary, it increases responsibility. It assumes that the person with the degree has certain positive attributes. (And unfortunately, your predecessors have also given the degree a certain degree of blemish which will be passed onto you and which you will have to do your bit to redeem.)

So, why would you do an MBA? Do an MBA if you are interested in the running of businesses. Do it if you like working on strategy. Do it if you want to start your own business and hence know the nuances of writing a business plan and successfully translating it into a profitable business. Do it to explore the various facets of business. Do it to increase your worldview. Do it, if you see the MBA as a year or two of hard work that will pay you dividends in future.

If you are seeing the MBA as a break from work, well, surely you will have friends in college, but, believe me, breaks are better spent in Goa or other areas for a lot lesser in monetary terms, than in college.

Finally, an MBA is not the only key to riches and El Dorado. That key, ultimately, is with you and will remain with you, regardless of the qualification you pursue.

So if you have decided to pursue the MBA, do it with all your heart...

(An edited version of this piece was published in Advancedge, July 09)


Kavi said...

back in college, i had a 'guest lecturer' telling us that the MBA is nothing but a 'personality development course' !

Coming from him, after he completing his MBA and climbing many rungs in the corporate ladder, set many of thinking or brand the lecture as a crude piece of reverse snobbery !

It boils down to individual pursuits and passion in those pursuits. Technology and the modern times have made so many things irrelevant.

The other day i read about a young school kid was making about a $1000 a month sitting in Tuticorin out of his blog !

And you are so very right. When you say MBA is no silver bullet !

Ashwadhy said...

So true and well said. I think its high time the misconceptions were spelt out. We have been talking about this phenomenon and was glad to see your thought on it too.

Karishma said...

Read this in the advanc' edge. :)

It did make me re-think. :)