In colleges and institutes across the country, the MBA is taken as a means to quick and easy money. It would seem that multinational companies are falling over each other to hire young people to “manage” them. If you ask them how they will manage, the answers are simple: we will have people reporting to us and they will do the job. The term “manage” to many youngsters means sitting in a comfortable office, giving orders to people and getting things done. The common definition of management that is parroted by students is that “it is the art of getting things done from others,” which is quite silly coming from a fresh graduate, to say the least.
A whole generation is thus opting for MBA because it means a comfortable life. Perhaps too comfortable. For instance, why should people listen to a young, inexperienced person and do things for him? Would it not be necessary to earn some skills, knowledge or respect first?
The inability to face these questions causes many young people to opt for a management career for the wrong reasons. They end up doing a course from a little known institute at a huge fees but the job is not as comfortable as they had thought. Frustrations arise when “getting things done” is not as easy as it seems, nor are the salaries as high as they were reported. As a result, young people flirt from job to job, hoping to find the perfect one, which of course, may not exist. It is, thus, very important to understand the career and to prepare oneself for what lies ahead to avoid frustrations later on.
The motivations for doing an MBA are obvious enough. The degree is a passport for jobs in the corporate sector. MBA as a career offers an excellent avenue to achieve your professional as well as personal goals: challenge at the work place, money and status. The number of doors that can open for a good MBA is unlimited. All those challenging and rewarding opportunities that were near impossible to get, become possible now.
However, these motivations are external. They answer the question, what I should get and not what I can do. Recruiters find it horrifying that the only thing that motivates young people these days is money and status. Extending this further, if money is the only thing that you look for in life, what prevents you from doing a bad or an illegal thing if your company so desires it? In the light of several corporate scandals that have emerged in recent years, companies are justifiably wary of people who do an MBA just for money.
It is therefore important to discover your real motivations for choosing a particular career. Look at yourself and ask the question, why should anyone hire you and pay you a high salary. Spend some time with yourself thinking about:
— What can I do?
— What value can I add to my employer?
— What are the skills I possess?
— What are my achievements?
— Why should the company hire me?
Answer the above questions with as much honesty as possible, and be specific. For example, the answer to the first question should not be “I can manage” which is too general. Instead, list down the tasks that you may have done in the past, in which you think you are good at. Similarly, answer all the questions specifically to be able to discover yourself.
Once you know what you are good at, you can discover what kind of job is suitable for you. You are then able to understand your motivations to do MBA or maybe any other course. The first step is really to discover your own self. Once your mind is clear you can convince any company to hire you. The mistake committed by many young people is to choose a career without knowing themselves, which results in frustrations later on.
What lies ahead
When money is the sole motivator, people are unable to see the challenges that lie ahead. They become too focused on narrow, short-term objectives. When a choice of career is done on this basis, problems are bound to arrive later on. When deciding about a career, it is important to take a longer-term view—one that fits both a person’s inner personality with the requirements of the job.
An MBA degree may enable you to get a job in a company, but your growth and promotions will depend on your performance.
Most management jobs are:
— Target oriented
— Time bound
— Customer oriented
— Require communication and presentation skills
Because of these reasons, the jobs can be stressful and time consuming. They also carry a high degree of responsibility and, consequently, high rewards too. For top managers, companies provide not only high salaries but also a number of allowances. The chance to grow and become a top manager is quite high for a person who performs.
Contrast these jobs to government jobs. These jobs are comparatively stable, do not carry high responsibility, and rewards may also be limited. Chances of promotion in government jobs are also limited.
The idea is to match one’s personality to the kind of jobs you would like to do. If you think you can take up the responsibility of running a department and can achieve results in a time bound manner, corporate jobs are certainly for you. Initially, the company will train you by making you work in sales, HR, or other departments and this training can be quite difficult. It is also not good to have very high expectations because companies do not pay very highly in the initial years. Students should,thus, be prepared to rough it out in the beginning. The better rewards and high salaries will come as one grows in the organization; high initial expectations will cause unnecessary frustrations.
Unfortunately, these essential skills are not taught in schools and colleges, which encourage rote learning. Thus most Indian students face difficulties not only at the time of taking admission in management colleges but also while finding jobs. Managerial selections usually are a three-step process: written test, personality test and essay writing. While the first step can be overcome by rote learning, the second and third step is based on skills. If you do lack these skills, your preparation is incomplete.
Every year several students get very high marks in the written test but fail to make it to the premier management institutes. The reason is that they are not able to get through the second and third stage of the selection process. Thus students would do well to prepare for all the stages and not leave anything to chance.
Based on interviews, we have listed down some commonly quoted things which give the message to the interviewer that you are not fit for management:
— The only book you have read is your course book, or “One Night at the Call Centre”
— You tell the interviewer that you expect a five-figure salary after doing MBA.
— You are aware of rankings of MBA institute than your own rank in entrance tests.
— You think that all IIM students earn a whopping salary.
— You think that bulls and bears are animals.
— The only thing you did in college was study.
— The reason that you are appearing the entrance test is that your parents wanted you to do so.
— You want to do MBA to “give back something to society” by doing social work.
The above answers may sound funny, but unfortunately, a lot of students do give them without batting an eyelid. Think about the above responses and try to go beyond them, and make your answers more serious by reading and becoming aware of the business environment.
The Written test
Various institutes conduct entrance tests for admission, while others take the score of centralized tests. The most coveted one is the Common Admission Test (CAT) conducted by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). These scores are accepted by over 100 other institutes. Students coming to their final year of graduation in any stream (engineering, arts or commerce) are eligible to appear for CAT.
The Management Aptitude Test (MAT) is conducted by All India Management Association (AIMA), which caters to middle to lower level institutes. The MAT is held several times in a year. It is easier than the CAT and its scores are accepted by a large number of institutes. The Xavier Admission Test (XAT) is conducted by Xavier Labour Research Institute (XLRI) and is accepted by over 50 institutes. Another centralized test is ATMA though it is not as popular as the others.
Apart from these centralised tests, some institutes conduct their own tests. Among them are: Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Sciences (NMIMS), the Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), University of Delhi. Engineers can hope to get into the MBA programmes offered by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and other programmes conducted by engineering institutes. Regional universities also have MBA programmes all over the country, for which they conduct separate tests.
Management entrance tests traditionally have 3-4 sections: Maths, English and Reading Comprehension and Reasoning. In MAT there is an additional section on general knowledge or business judgement and it has five sections. To avoid being taken by surprise, it is important to do a number of tests on different patterns, within the given time frame. The test is of 2.5 hours duration. As nobody can do all the questions in this time, the candidate must have the ability to pick and choose the questions that must be done.
The CAT has three sections: Verbal Ability, Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation/Reasoning. The number of questions can vary over the years, and last year there were 90 questions. However, the level of difficulty has gone up. The maths asked in CAT is quite tough and tricky. The verbal section requires students to have a sound knowledge of English usage. It also has five passages of average length 800 words each with about 25 questions. The data interpretation section has many questions on reasoning, which are again quite tough and tricky. A total attempt of 60-70 is considered quite good in this paper. Mistakes must be minimised, as there is a negative score for each wrong answer.
The MAT has five sections with 200 questions. It has 40 questions each of: Maths, Verbal Ability, Reasoning, Data Interpretation and General Awareness. The questions are quite easy and if one has done basic maths of the level of class 10, one can sail through the test. The verbal section is also quite easy: The questions are more or less direct, and the passages are shorter with the questions not so tricky. In the reasoning section one finds a mix of analytical and logical reasoning and the questions can be attempted with a little practice. The data interpretation section looks for the ability to understand simple graphs and charts. Quick calculations often help in this section. The general awareness section has a mix of static GK (history, geography) with some questions on business and economics as well. One can attempt well over 100 questions in MAT.
Other exams like SNAP, XAT, JMET and FMS have the same sections but the kind of questions can vary from paper to paper. How to Prepare
It is important to take a long-term perspective while preparing for the CAT. Many students make the mistake of mugging up shortcuts and speed techniques. These are unlikely to help. For example, if you do not have the habit of reading, attempting 5 questions after reading a 800-word comprehension passage would be very difficult indeed. Speed in mathematics is also developed over a period of time.
Adopt the following three-step preparation:
1. Do the basic concepts in Maths, English Grammar and Data Interpretation thoroughly. Use your class 10 books or study material of a coaching institute, for this purpose. Learn tables and other important figures (June-August).
2. Develop speed by taking half-hour tests in the each of the four sections. Time yourself so that speed increases (September).
3. Do full-length tests. Learn to allocate time, restrict mistakes and develop your test-taking strategy (October-November).
Following the above schedule will make you well-prepared to appear in the test.The Interview
Once you clear the test, you will be called for an interview. It may be preceded by a Group Discussion or Group Task. The interview is a one-to-one conversation in which the suitability of the candidate is assessed.
Contrary to popular belief, the interview is not a Q&A session, in which someone asks questions and you answer to the best of your ability. On the other hand, an interview is a conversation in which the interviewer is trying to discover the best in you, or your suitability for the position you have applied for. The ability and skill of the person being interviewed is to lead the interviewer by offering helpful facts and information. Remember that questions will be asked on whatever facts the candidate offers.
Very often interviewers take cues from the answers given by the candidate and want to elaborate on them. So one can lead the interview by mentioning those things in which one is confident. For example, when one is asked to introduce oneself, it does not mean that one simply speaks out the name and what he is doing. If a person ends with an interesting hobby or activity one was involved in, the chances of the interviewer asking questions on it will be very great. Likewise, one should try to end answers on interesting leads which can be picked up by the interviewer.Once you are selected
Your job is not over once you are selected for a course or for a job. Many young people approach the MBA as an undergraduate course, relying on cramming to get high marks. On the contrary, the MBA course is a preparation for your career. It is not like attending college, so the time should be used to acquire confidence and skills to fit into the corporate culture subsequently. If you have already worked before, you perhaps realize the importance of learning for the job. Fresh college graduates, on the other hand, tend to treat the course as just another way of getting a degree. As a consequence, many business schools prefer to take candidates with work experience than fresh graduates.
It is good to remember that companies will not give you a job because of your degree alone, but also on your abilities. The years spent in a business school should thus be a means to increase your abilities. Take up research projects, interact with companies and gain knowledge of the business world. Build strong conceptual skills and, at the same time, apply them to the real world.
MBA is a good career option. However, while taking admission, try to get into the better business schools, prepare well and learn to give your best.
MBA courses are divided in a way that a student gets exposure to general management skills in the first year and has to choose a specialization in the second year. This specialization is usually in Marketing, Finance, HR and operations. However, new courses offer specialization in a host of areas, such as retail, telecom, real estate, IT and others. Students are sometimes confused as to which stream to choose.
The general ideas are that HR is good for girls, marketing requires traveling and Finance is good for B.Com graduates. All these ideas are wrong and are based on perceptions rather than job requirements. Here are some wrong notions that people carry:
Marketing: Marketing jobs are not sales jobs. Marketing people do have an experience in sales, but their job is not limited to marketing.
Finance: Finance jobs are not accounting jobs. Most finance jobs these days are also marketing jobs.
HR: Contrary to popular belief, HR jobs may not be very comfortable. One may have to deal with unions, fulfill legal obligations, and also fire people when the need arises. These are tough tasks, certainly not for the weak hearted.Our advice is not to worry about specialization in the beginning. Join a management course and learn the basics of management, marketing, HR and accounting. Only when you know what a particular subject is, can you intelligently decide which area you want to be in. A major opportunity to learn is when you go for practical training after your first year. Use the opportunity to learn about different departments and talk to different managers about what they do. This will give you the correct