Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why does someone want to do an MBA???

This we all need to get absolutely right. I'd say that this is perhaps the most important part of the whole MBA admissions process. Is it because all schools ask you to explain this as a part of their essays and the essay we write in response to this question is a crucial part in our getting shortlisted for the interview? Perhaps - but that comes only later.

In my opinion, having a clear response to "Why MBA?" defines the whole MBA application process for everyone. It is like the steering wheel. It helps us find answers for all other questions that pops up during the admission process.

Off the top of my head, these are the questions one might have to answer in the MBA admission process:
  1. Why is this the correct time for you to do an MBA?
  2. Why is this the correct school for you to do an MBA?
  3. Why does this particular short term professional goal make sense to you?
  4. Why do you say this to be your long term goal, professional or otherwise?
  5. How do you see yourself surviving or succeeding in this particular school?
It is a huge circle, as one might have to loop forward and back to try answer the Why MBA question and each of these questions. But the important point to note here is that one need not have very clear or complete answers for some of these questions (like u need not even have precise answer for the short term goals question) but u need clear cut answers for the "Why MBA" question.

Now how does someone answer this question??? I met a current second year ChiGSB student @ the Coffee Chat held in Bangalore. One of the guys who attended the meet asked him a question on how to write better essays (yeah - there are people who ask these kind of questions in a student meet). He said "Divide a sheet of paper into three columns. Your present skill sets, from your education and career, go into the first column. Your target skill sets and career goals go into the third column. Now try to map between these two and you'll realize what you need to do at business school." I guess that works perfectly well.

This sentence might be cliche, but this is very true - Don't look at the MBA as the end of it all. It is anything but an end. It could be a new beginning for some, a part of a jigsaw puzzle for others, a stop in a continuous journey for others - each student will (and must) have and know his reasons for doing an MBA.

As i said above, the answer to this question also depends on how we answer all these other questions and the answer to this question defines the answers for these other. They're all so beautifully interlinked. So in a way one can get the "complete picture" by the time you figure out answers to all these questions.

Enough of ranting about how important this. I guess we all agree. Now let me try explain how one can figure this out.

I started with looking back at my life. What have i done all these days, what have i acquired during my formative years, what skills do i possess, what are my passions, what are my second loves - basically what is my profile! It is important not to fall into the typical definition of a profile here - Indian/IT/male/25yrs old-4yrs exp. This is just the numbers, doesn't make a profile. My belief if that everyone lives a unique life and hence can present a unique MBA application. The story i tell (which basically is my definition of a PROFILE) will be different from a majority, if not all, of the applicants. So I started with this.

Based on your understanding of you and your profile, you will be able to answer a lot of the questions that will come up during the MBA admissions process. Big city or Suburb? Large class (900) or small (150) or somewhere in between (500)? Competitive or Cooperative? Or any of these questions. You should be able to see where you will fit into! The top ranked schools are not necessarily the best for you. MBA is a personal choice :) And it is important to make the correct choice.

Once i had covered the past experiences, i looked into the future. What do i want to be after an MBA? This is the target we are trying to achieve over the next two years. This is the beginning that might define the remaining of your life. It is very important to take an informed and well researched decision here and not fall for the flair. I remember giving a series of articles titled "A day in the life of..." These were perhaps one of the first literature i read on this topic. Of course one has the able services of Google and Wiki, both of which will literally throw us into a wild maze of information. It would be a better option to try Wiki after you've zeroed in on a few roles. If u go there with an open list - you'd end up insane :) Also, once when you have zeroed in on a few (which is one or two) roles of you choice - go visit the websites of the companies which are major players in those roles. All the I-Banking companies had information of the various jobs they offer and i read most of them. This becomes especially important for a career switcher like me. I wanted to know if THIS was the exact thing i want to do.

Now that the past and the future has been explored, are we done? Nope. I then focused on the time I'd spend in school. Apart from the business education one would obtain during the two years at school, one also has to remember that he gets to spend two years with a group of amazing people and wonderful facilities. So it is also important to think of the life in b-school outside the classroom. What are your favorite pastimes/passions? Do you intend to continue them while at school? Do u intend to learn something new? What kind of options does the school provide u in these areas? Does the school organize events related to these stuff? Or is there something close by that will help u pursue your interests? Obviously - one can make compromises here based on what one thinks as compromisable entities :)

As you can see - i have not answered the question directly, because there was never a direct answer for this. The answer to Why MBA is the big picture - the whole purpose thing. So by the time you can say you clearly know why you need to do an MBA, you'll know a lot about yourself and your life - what it has been and what it will be. If someone cannot answer the individual questions but just feels or knows that he has to do an MBA - he is either lying or hasn't yet done the necessary research.

Once i knew the purpose, i next researched about the schools. This is very important because i wanted to know whether there are schools that helped me do ALL that i wanted to do in life. I was a bit apprehensive about that happening and wanted to know exactly what a school could offer. Once i started researching, i figured out that i can actually study about a particular thing i was planning to do outside work. Needless to say - i added this as my second long term aspiration. Such research will only help us add more weight to the application - not in terms of content but in terms of relevance.

My school research went on so well that i actually chose all 5 schools i eventually applied to even before i started preparing for the GMAT. Actually there was a list of around 10 schools i had shortlisted before i started preparing and the select 5 kept changing :)

So the next post is about School Selection and I'll write about more of that in detail :)


MADAN said...

Some useful insights Iday !

Should definitely help future aspirants.

Sudha said...

dude! this post is going to go down in the history of mba applicant blogdom! :P

quite comprehensive, and very nice.

Nitiman said...

Hi, I have been following your posts(on your blogs and on pg) for quiet sometime. You write really great! Thanks for all the help rendered.
Looking forward to reading more from you from chicago GSB...

MBAstarter said...

Nice compilation - your series is surely gonna help future applicants.

Anonymous said...

a very true to the heart account! I fit exactly into the category of people who think that an MBA is best for them at this point in their career, but when asked to substantiate about it, are at loss to provide compelling reasons :(. This has inspired me to try and get to know what really happens post MBA, what kind of work will you do, are the mba jobs really that glorified and stuff.

Thanks for taking the effort to pen your thoughts.

SN, Bangalore

Sreenath said...

Very nice..a good writeup..thanks for this..eagerly waitin for the rest of the series.

Iday said...

thanks :)
let me know if u have any suggestions for any posts.

Anonymous said...

Could you provide some useful links on "Why an MBA" kind of questions. Also when you list out the college shortlisting process, could you add your thoughts on which colleges have better acceptance for people with an engineering + IT Tech background who would like to make a career change.

Thanks & the best of luck,

Anonymous said...

Hi Iday

lets say I intend to make career shift from technology to i-banking then how would I link my past with my future goals as I don't have any i-banking background compared to someone on wall street.
It seems that you also planned career shift from technology to finance. How did you demonstrate your interests and how did u establish link between the past and the future?


Abhijit said...

iDay, at one place in your blog you mention:

"...Once i started researching, i figured out that i can actually study about a particular thing i was planning to do outside work. Needless to say - i added this as my second long term aspiration. Such research will only help us add more weight to the application - not in terms of content but in terms of relevance.

Can you please elaborate what you mean by this? And perhaps give examples?

Many thanks.

Best Regards,
- Abhijit

Iday said...


I have plans in the non-profit sector, which i believe would impact people on a very large scale, for a very long time. But in the Indian Schools, i could not see any courses inclined towards Non-Profit sector, nor other initiatives towards empowering students to work in these sectors. In the US schools, these courses are in plenty, apart from opportunities to meet with companies and people who are at the forefront of such initiatives. That is what i meant.


Anonymous said...

hey abijit what is the work one has to do after doing an mba also what r the rules of the mba schools like can anyone who has done gradation through corresspondence go fr a regular mba how difficult is the work i hav done my graduation through corress from bangalore state open univ i mean will i get problems if i go fr the regular mba in addmission process

vignesh said...

tanks.. I'm a final yr tech student who got a job in IT sector... I thought of writin an MBA entrance test jus like that.. Your post was an eye opener..