Let me start with the clichéd question: “Why MBA?” (Henceforth referred to as ‘the question’) You should pay utmost importance to the question, not because it fetches you THE coveted seat, but because once you get that seat, you will end up asking yourself the same question almost everyday. Though the emotions and tone of the question are going to vary from whining to depression to anger, none too mild either. However there will also be that day when you exalt and say ‘Yeah MBA’ but I am not talking about that today. The question may also help you decide where and how to devote your ‘precious’ time, what to prioritize, which companies/profiles to apply, which streams to choose etcetera. You should be thankful to the B school industry that makes it mandatory for an aspirant to prepare an answer to the question.
The Reality Check
You should also know that there are very few people, who survive an MBA and still have the same answer to the question. I have seen monumental shifts within a span of a couple of hours, sometimes even less than that. Why this happens, because the answer is too narrow, usually spanning around aiming a specific industry (Finance, Consulting etcetera) and making big bucks. The first part is glamorized, tarted up with fancy and catchy words, and the latter is subdued. That makes you dependent on external factors, so if fate takes a dump on economy and finance job market sinks; there are higher chances that you might end up changing your answer to the question.
What you will go through
You will be kicked out of your comfort zone on Day Zero. Also anything told to you about what’s it like to do an MBA is a lie. Simply because it’s a new and unique experience for everyone, so whatever your friend, sibling, or an acquaintance told you, is not what you will get. You will get to know yourself better, that is highly probable, but there are also chances that you will accept that understanding. That, in my opinion, is something you should always grab, because more than knowing what you can do, you should know what you cannot do (For the pompous egotists: Sweethearts, remember there is a deadline for everything, so yes there will be things that you will not be able to do). And of course you will have to learn and apply diverse things in too short time. You will also realize the importance and limitations of your time.
What you should expect
You should expect the sky or more, nothing less, and that should be in both dimensions: The effort you are willing to put and the opportunities that are going to come up. But again the aim should be yours, and not a polished version of others’ success stories. Aiming small is not a crime, not achieving it, is. You should expect to improve yourself, in every aspect, because the external opportunity part is really not in your hand, unless you plan on creating them and become an entrepreneur. So if your comfort zone needs to be kicked, you should be the one to do it, believe me it is much less painful and much more awarding than someone else kicking it. Know what you want to learn and put a razor sharp focus on it.
What should you do
It is important to go by the standards and learn to frame your answer (even if it is specific to an industry or too specific) to the question properly; after all you need to crack the interview. My suggestion is to keep a reality check and keep on asking, over and over again, is it the real reason? If not, then what is. There is no shame in changing your answer, because that is what brings you closer to reality, that is what you have paid big bucks for: to become knowledgeable and take better decisions. You should do it because the horizon is wide open, and you should not constrict yourself to the clichéd choices. One is here to experiment, learn and explore, to know one’s limits, to really know your weaknesses and strengths (not just the glorified adjectives). Once you know your limits and how to live with them (or eradicate them) and where to focus your strengths, you will get what you want.
Contributed by: Tejit Mithal, PGP 2012-14. This piece was written in Rajdhani Express, when the author was headed for Summer Internship Location, after he was well fed and slept for 7 hours straight. This piece would not have seen the light of the day had any of these were missing or Wi-Fi service on train or a cheaper flight ticket would have been available. The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.