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What an MBA can do for your career

April 29, 2009 11:26 IST

I've known Abhay Agarwal* or over 10 years now. He is smart, intelligent, sharp, works for a large MNC and is reasonably successful in his career. We met over coffee a few days back and this is how our conversation went:

AA: I've put in my papers and am planning to join ISB in a couple of weeks.
TM: That's great. Congratulations! How much is it going to cost you?
AA: Around Rs 15 lakh, and one year of forgone salary (opportunity cost).
TM: That's a lot of money! You can buy a flat for that much.
AA: Hmm...
TM: So, why do it? You seem to be doing well in your career.
AA: I am sick of this software business. I want to get into investment banking or consulting.
TM: You must have done a lot of research about careers in IB or consulting to take such an important decision.
AA: I don't know much actually but I think I should do it.

A vast majority of people don't know why they go to IIMs, ISB or any other top business school. Most of them are attracted to the top salaries, big-name recruiters and the brand names. I don't blame them. I was much worse when I quit my job to pursue my MBA dream. In fact, I didn't even know the difference between inventory and an invoice (between you and me).

It took me three or four years (post-MBA) to understand and appreciate the value of an MBA from top business schools.

So for those of you contemplating an MBA, here's my take on why an MBA course is valuable irrespective of the salary or type of job you get at the end of the course:

  • Exposure to various functional units in organisations
    I worked as a software engineer prior to my MBA. I was an expert in one tiny area that not many people really cared about. I had no clue how my work translated into something valuable for our customers and shareholders.

An MBA degree gives you fast-track exposure to various functions in the organisation -- sales, marketing, human resources, product management, strategy, and an understanding that organisations need all of these to work in sync to be able to create value for all stakeholders

  • Acceptability in certain roles
    An MBA from a premier business school opens up doors to various opportunities. It's difficult to get into strategic consulting or investment banking or certain roles in sales & marketing without an MBA from a premier business school.

It's much easier for MBAs to switch across functions at a later stage in their career compared to non-MBAs or functional experts.

  • Exposure to diversity
    Two years in a business school offer unmatched diversity. I had graduates in commerce, economics, architecture, medicine, pharmacy and engineering as my batchmates. Working with them on projects was a great learning experience. It made me understand and appreciate perspectives that I never knew existed.
  • Networking
    Many of your batchmates in a business school would go on to do great things in their careers. Two years at a business school offer you an unmatched ability to connect with alumni to get a job, advance your career or for any business interest.

The writer is the founder of iimjobs.com, an exclusive job portal for MBAs from IIMs and other premier business schools in India. He holds a BTech in Computer Science & Engineering from Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University and an MBA from Indian Institute of Management Indore.

*name changed

Tarun Matta