The year 2020 is great for an MBA degree if that is your desire. With the job market in doldrums, from the pandemic and depressed economy, the best use of your time is to acquire new learning that will boost your career. So, if you want an MBA, this is the best time to duck out of the job market and commit yourself. Here’s how to guarantee selection in a B-school.
1. Why a B-school now?
Your reason for wanting an MBA seat should be rock solid and not just an escape hatch from your current mess. Firstly, you are a final year student or a fresh graduate struggling to find a good start. A two-year MBA from a great brand, brings you back with greater value into a changed market. A good first job then increases your wealth manifold through compounding effects on your salary each year. Secondly, you want a career switch because either you do not like your career or because your industry has been hit, like say travel/ hospitality/ telecom. An MBA gives you the credibility for a direction change irrespective of your past. Finally, you want to be in general management and not a specialist in your domain, and a good MBA degree is the best initial signal to find those roles. No other reason is worthy enough. Know that an MBA does not guarantee more money. Great performers in management and specialist roles have equal wealth creation opportunities.
2. How to choose one?
Which country do you want to grow your career in? Choose an MBA program in that country for the maximum opportunities on graduation. Next find the most credible MBA brands there through news articles and conversations with alumni. That brand will be on your resume for life. Cost, duration— two years or less for executives, education loan, post MBA placements and time away from family are other factors to look at. Create a few options to work towards.
3. Mind the clock
Finally, get down to work towards getting the seat of your choice. Each MBA program has different requirements for selection and rigid deadlines. This phase is all about managing your time and energy. If you are considering multiple applications while either juggling a job or balancing your college schedule, it’s a tough task if you want to get it right in your first attempt. Note down the timelines for various stages of the application process across MBAs and block enough time to deliver quality over limited applications instead of chasing quantity.
4. Cracking the test
Your MBA usually requires a score from an entrance test. For international and executive MBAs it’s typically the GMAT while for Indian B-schools it could be the CAT/ CET/ MAT/ others. For the GMAT, a 700+ score is decent enough to be taken seriously. For Indian MBAs, the test score is often the biggest factor in shortlisting for an interview. The right way to an assured great score lies in two simple steps. Firstly, gather around 30 high quality mock question papers and solutions. Each day, solve at least one and master the solutions to questions that stumped you. Once you finish the lot, go back to the first paper and repeat the process. Complete three to four cycles in two-three months and you are a ninja. The second step is to find the discipline for the preparation. If you need to either quit your job, drop your academic grades or join a coaching class to get the discipline, go for it.
5. Essay forth
From now on, it becomes a team effort. Don’t try this alone. If the selection process requires a couple of essays in response to questions about your life and career, you need a bunch of people, especially other MBAs, to read your work and offer critical feedback. The right approach to writing is to review your life and motivations and communicate it like a story-teller. Since you have never been trained nor have any experience in this, your initial output will be terrible. Take the help of a paid coach or someone who has mentored essay writing applications. Read up sample essays on the net. Make sure that you have re-written your essay 15-20 times after seeking inputs from multiple people before you submit a good story. This may take a month while balancing your test preparations. Simultaneously, identify ex-bosses/colleagues/ professors who will write your recommendation letters if asked for. Discuss your storyline with them, and make their work easier.
6. Chatting up the final step
The interview process is the final hurdle and currently it’s over a video call. This too is a critical team effort. After essay submission, don’t wait for the interview shortlist. Download 100 odd standard MBA interview questions and jump into mock interviews right away. First, ask your family members and close friends to spare 30 minutes each time for interview and feedback while you are developing the answers. Feedback covers content, presentation, communication, impact and how well it fits in with the application essays. Once you are reasonably good, schedule mock interviews with people who have conducted many interviews or who have graduated from good B-schools. Three weeks of about five interviews a day will now get you your choice MBA seats!
RETHINK YOUR DECISION
1. Your pocket is empty
Should you or shouldn’t you do a full time MBA? Consider the cost of an MBA. Add to that the lost salary, that you would have earned otherwise in that time. Next the interest burden of an educational loan. Is the cost worth the MBA? Will you recover the cost quickly through a higher salary?
2. You want to start-up
The actual learning from trying to build a business outweighs classroom learning. However, a good B-school and the network of smart friends will increase access and credibility later. Consider doing short management programs in different reputed B-schools while you start up directly.
3. You are happy
You love your industry. You like your function and role. You believe that an MBA certificate will qualify you for more opportunities in the same space or help you get promoted faster. You are right. However, continue with your job and opt for a part-time/executive/ online MBA for similar benefits to your career.
4. You are super-skilled
You are an expert at your job. There are few people who have the level of specialisation that you have. Avoid an MBA. Unless you dislike your domain thoroughly, go in for further studies in an adjacent space that adds to your expertise instead of a general all-round MBA education.
5. You dislike people
You prefer roles where you are an individual contributor and do not relish working in teams or dealing with other people. Post MBA, you will seek solitary roles and the value of your degree will quickly diminish. Why then waste your time and money chasing an MBA?
(The writer is a career coach, mentor and the author of Yoursortinghat.com)