A rat race with no winners

07 Feb 2020

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A Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) is something just about everyone and his dog has these days. You tell someone you have completed your postgraduate education and they instantly tend to assume that it must be an MBA degree. Universities in our country are producing ridiculous amounts of MBAs but you know what the result of mass breading is, right? Unreliable, inadequate product. Of course, it is not like the three laws of motion and does not apply to each and every case but the overall situation is not too rosy.

Everyone has reasons for having opted for this degree. One might do it to add some much-desired credibility in their resume, but, honestly speaking, by the explosive rate the epidemic of MBA has spread in our country, the recruiters will most of the times judge if you are worth your salt on what your work experience tells them; not that piece of stamped paper.

Anyone can buy an MBA these days, no one can buy the work experience and knowledge from doing the job itself. By ‘buying’ I don’t mean ‘buying fake degrees’, but the money one spends – of their father do – paying fee to those MBA-bestowing universities … they just sit there, ensure the required attendance and that is all; If you can pay, you can play.

They hardly learn anything, specially the ‘Executive MBAs’. It is only partly the fault of the universities, as the students mostly don’t learn anything because they are not there to learn. They are there to get a degree so they can show it at their office for a promotion next quarter.

There is a lot to learn while doing MBA, but the opportunity cost today seems a bit too high to warrant such an investment. Think long and hard before you go for it.

An MBA programme teaches students how to operate a business or alternatively how a business operates. Be mindful that an MBA programme, along with most other variants of education, is nothing more than structured guidance. What you choose to do with the guidance is solely up to you and that is ultimately where its value truly lies.

Whether or not people have an MBA degree doesn’t seem to have much to do with whether or not they will be able to create happy, successful lives for themselves. Having an MBA really just means that you paid your money, and you went to class and studied sufficiently to pass enough of your courses to graduate.

It doesn’t predict whether you’ll be able to apply what you have supposedly learned to the real world, and – most importantly – it seems to have very little bearing on whether or not you will be able to continue to learn, to keep acquiring the skills and knowledge you will need along the way. For all the wisdom a student might accumulate in a full-time, two-year MBA programme, the real value in a graduate business-school education is in learning how to think like a businessperson.

For those who opt for MBA for the sole reason that it will improve their skillset, ask a professional and he will tell you that one learns the best on the job. No amount of theory could prepare you for the practical skills needed. One must consider all the opportunity costs. Identify what skills or knowledge of a specific job you would like to obtain and then try to get a job in that area.

Just like anything (even MBA applications), you need to be proactive to search and ask for the job you want experience in. At least you still get paid, acquire practical work experience and not just end up with debt.

In recent past, people have been opting for an MBA to switch their career paths as well. Passing out with a Master’s in Business Administration is assumed to stamp a person as a versatile employee who can be relocated to a whole list of departments in an organisation. People assume it to be a Master key more than just a Master’s degree.

Why do an MBA, incur expenses of hundreds of thousands of rupees for two years or more only to change jobs? Why not do it now? Ask for internship may be, work for free even for a short time to gain valuable experiences for your CV to diversify and land the job you want now.

People who are midway or just past midway of their careers often choose to do MBA to socialise, network or just to have a good time off their jobs. The desire of a guilt-free career break or search for new direction is a reason (subconscious or not) for taking an MBA.

Given the high cost and additional work involved in this demanding course, I would say itis better to take a month’s off to travel the world, meet people or spend time with family. Not only it gives your battery the recharge you desperately need, it will definitely help you learn more about your true likes and dislikes during that period of idleness to give you a better sense of direction and purpose for your next phase.

How does it feel when a prospective employer puts your MBA credentials aside during the interview and asks, ‘tell me what you know about this job and what you can do for our company?’ People blame the interviewer; the employer. But it will be wrong to hold only the employers responsible for such an approach without bringing the business schools in the argument.

The local business schools equally share the responsibility for the treatment MBAs are given in the local or international job market. From the employers’ perspective, overwhelming majority of our MBAs lack the skills, competence and aptitude that today’s business world demands. Employers see little value in hiring an MBA compared to a bachelor’s degree holder, for both are lacking the skills employers are looking for. Only one costs more.

This supposedly reviving economy is just another kick in the knee (or wherever!) for prospective employees. The organisations in this flaccid economy, even the big ones, are forced to reconsider their hiring standards and policies. This although can be a good opportunity for bright individuals with degrees from lower ranked colleges to make their mark, but how can one not feel the pain for someone who has spent millions of rupees for their MBA from a top school and is now constantly running out of employment opportunities that suit him money-wise? It is depressing to see our MBAs working on such meagre salaries after spending considerable sums of money to get this degree.

MBAs used to be help one stand out from the many graduates. Now that elite group is more like a crowd. In the early 1990s, you had to be enrolled in a full-time programme to attain an MBA. These days, you can get one part-time or online from schools that are hardly household names.

Ask yourself this important question. In fact, it is the only question you really should ask yourself before you start rolling down the MBA hill: what are you going to do with your MBA degree?

One of the greatest losses is when students complete the MBA journey and then do nothing to change their life with the guidance they received. Now, if that is intentional, then fine, but in many cases, it is not. What happens is that people just don’t know what to do.

Initially, they are charged up and ready to make a change and then life comes calling; bills, student loans, family responsibilities, reality, fear, etc. and their focus shifts and they end up back in the rat race they originally intended to get out of – but now with an additional considerable amount of either student loan or an empty saving account.

So, before you consider going through the efforts of embarking upon a programme, ask yourself this vital question. Most importantly – be honest with yourself. You can still choose to do it, but it has to be a conscious decision. Going into something with a false sense of reality will certainly yield a fate not desirable.

The point is not to prove anything against the usefulness of an MBA, as there is certainly a lot to learn there. But the opportunity cost seems too high to warrant such investment, and there are just too many promising alternatives to achieve the same outcome. To put it in a nutshell, the return on investment (ROI) is critically low; and MBAs themselves are told to avoid such undertakings!