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:
- Why is this the correct time for you to do an MBA?
- Why is this the correct school for you to do an MBA?
- Why does this particular short term professional goal make sense to you?
- Why do you say this to be your long term goal, professional or otherwise?
- How do you see yourself surviving or succeeding in this particular school?
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 mba.com 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 :)