Besides offering career advice, a good business school will put you through a battery of tests to improve your soft skills, says Dr Tarun Pasricha.
An MBA degree costs a small fortune these days. The choices are many and bewildering.
Should you choose a domestic institution in India -- the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) for example?
Or should you cast your net wider and look at some global institutions -- Harvard, Stanford, INSEAD maybe?
How do you maximise your Return on Investment (ROI)?
If you are working, an investment is not only your savings or a bank loan but the opportunity cost of foregoing a salary.
And what’s the guarantee that you will land a job in today’s tough job market which will compensate for the time, effort and money you have put in over 12 to 18 months of the MBA program?
Have you thought through your decision to do an MBA wisely?
Have you mapped your career goals with the right business school?
Here are some tips to do exactly that:
Choose a specialisation stream early on
Even before starting your search for the right MBA school, it is extremely important to set your career goals.
Which function would you like to specialise in -- marketing, finance, operations, supply chain or human resources?
Does your past working experience give you an advantage or a disadvantage?
If you have spent the last 3 or 4 years of your working life in finance and now have suddenly set yourself a career goal in marketing, that’s probably not a wise thing to do.
However, if you been working in manufacturing and operations, setting yourself a career goal in supply chain and logistics makes eminent sense.
Even if you are a fresher with no work experience, you nevertheless need to choose a stream of specialisation before you join an MBA program. This way, you will focus your energies where they matter and single mindedly pursue only those activities which will put you at an advantage in your future career.
Pick subjects outside the curriculum
Besides the subjects being taught, see if your B-school offers opportunities to take additional subjects.
Make sure you devote out-of-class time to gather information in subjects which will help you in your future profession.
For example if you want to have a career in advertising, make sure you enhance your knowledge in such areas as communication and digital marketing, even if such courses are not offered by your B-school.
Do lots of projects
Choose a b-school which offers opportunities to do live field projects whether as an assignment in a particular course or on your own.
Choose the topic of the project in an area which not only interests you but will give you a competitive advantage.
For example, if you wish to take a shot at a marketing career in a highly competitive industry, why not study the impact of Jio on Vodafone and Airtel and write a short report, just for yourself?
Won’t that come in handy at a job interview?
Develop your personality
An MBA program is not just about learning about management theory and practice.
You must constantly be on the alert to grab personality development opportunities that come your way.
If you are of a shy and retiring nature, taking the lead in making group presentations to the class will help shed your inhibitions and enhance your public speaking skills and confidence.
Make use of your school's in-house counselling services.
Besides career advice, a good business school will put you through a battery of tests to improve your soft skills.
Acquire a global perspective
Choose a B-school which offers you an education in multiple campuses around the world.
Study in Dubai, Singapore and Australia, get exposed to diverse cultures and become a global citizen!
Being exposed to the business environment in other countries and doing live projects there will certainly enhance your candidature for an international management position and will kickstart your career.
Develop relationships with faculty
Faculty love students who express interest in their subject.
If you can impress them, they will go the extra mile, even after class hours, to inspire and impart learning to eager students.
Take advantage of this and remember they will remain your gurus forever if you develop a good relationship with them.
Many students who have kept in touch with their teachers have benefited immensely, obtaining counsel and advice at critical junctures in their careers.
Develop a network
Life is just not about academics.
A business school campus is also about developing relationships and making friends who might last a lifetime.
There are many examples of managers who have been helped in their career by their MBA batchmates. The right network can be a great value-addition to your career and personal life too.
Stories also abound about people who found their life and business partner at a B-school! So, why not MBA?
The author Dr Tarun Pasricha is professor of marketing and strategy, dean, BBA program, S P Jain School of Global Management.
Lead image used for representational purposes only.