What should keep you awake if you're a fresh MBA or planning to go for one?

Not getting the job is no longer an issue, not getting the job you want possibly is | Illustration: Ajay Mohanty

The early numbers are out, and it does look like the Covid pandemic will have no impact on hiring at top B-schools. Or on the size of the offers. The Covid pandemic thus, joins the list of other irritants like a broad slowdown, financial sector crisis, the Trump distractions and more that have failed to put a crimp on hiring at the top B- schools. What this shows is that the sort of large, established firms that are still wedded to a planned recruitment cycle are still unable to find the talent they need outside the handful of top business schools in India. Talent that, even if a little or very rough around the edges, still offers the best hope to be moulded to perform well for these firms in the short to medium term.

Students today probably can’t even imagine the days when just getting a decent job, preferably above a randomly decided baseline salary, was considered a good enough start. When not getting a job was a real risk, as the alternative could simply be an extended job hunt. Which is where the world has changed today, for good.

Not getting the job is no longer an issue, not getting the job you want possibly is. And if that happens, what can you do? For one, if you have loans to repay, go on and make a fist of the job you do have, who knows it might just grow on you, besides helping repay that loan, fast.

On the other hand, if, like so many friends, you are considering joining a startup, or even starting one of your own, remember, the downside to the decision has never been lower in history, as far as this writer can recall. This is because not only is the stable, long term job gone for good, but the new environment for those who tried to be different was never better. Even if they fail.

Consider the massive liquidity surge that the world is awash in. It’s still an underappreciated fact, is is its ongoing impact, possibly. This massive liquidity surge that looks like it won’t be going away for some time yet, pretty much guarantees that any business that is close to being viable, or even halfway viable along with a good story to tell, can survive.

The funding environment has never offered as many options and hope, as it does today, if you do want to go down that route for your venture. From angels, to family offices, to VCs to founders who have just come out of a ‘liquidity’ event, the options are exponentially higher today for young businesses.

With buzzwords like ‘fail fast’ in vogue, acceptance and even welcoming of failure was never higher in India. And then there is the explosion in support groups. That actually support you. Be it your alumni groups, and now, alumni entrepreneur groups. Established B-schools with a little history behind them offer an invaluable opportunity to early entrepreneurs to benefit from the old school network. At the FMS Entrepreneurs network, I have seen fellow founders help each other out with everything from contacts, to banking disputes to finding the best and cheapest resource for specific projects. And then, if you ask nicely, are the alumni who will go out of their way to support your funding dreams if they are convinced. Always remember, when it comes to funding, a warm introduction will beat out a cold call, nine times out of 10, irrespective of the idea.

So what should keep you awake, if you are a fresh MBA, or planning to go for one? For one, stop treating your B-school as a glorified placement office. Academics will always trail industry when it comes to changing, and change has been particularly fast in recent years. Your summer internship, and the many other ‘industry interfaces’ you are expected to do, really do matter now.

The general management competencies of an MBA remain in demand, but specialising and going for a PhD could open up hitherto completely ignored avenues, including very good teaching careers when the corporate treadmill has run its first 20 year course. Again, something I write from experience, and observation. And teaching management too, when you think about it, or speak about it to your professors, has changed beyond recognition. Besides research, there are enough opportunities to consult, advise and more that can keep any thought of boredom or stagnation at bay.

So fear not, it’s a brave new world if you have entered a top B-school. It’s still a world of possibilities if you have gone with an MBA course that makes it to a broader and more inclusive ranking. But if it is neither of those, then you seriously need to question the two year investment of your time and money in a course that might not really prepare you for a fast changing world. Treating your two to three years after graduation as one long internship might be a better idea, where you work for money, yes, but place learning and figuring out what you are good at, as priority number one. This might help save you on the effort and time of doing a course too many still do because ‘everyone else was doing it'. And if you do it right, you may not even need the two year MBA, or who knows, no MBA at all!


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