8 ways to boost your B-School experience
JUDICIOUSLY PICK and choose extracurricular activities on campus to make the most out of your MBA
Among various degrees and qualifications available in the market, an MBA has a relatively 'special' status in the eyes of its aspirants, the most common reason being the promise of assurance of a job. It is the new 'Great Indian Dream'.
Needlessly to say, the patrons offering these degrees do understand the same. That, coupled with increasingly balanced exposure an MBA programme provides, has led to a sharp rise in MBA costs over the last decade. Hence, it becomes all the more important for any MBA candidate to ensure that he/she is deriving the maximum value out of his/her resources (both time and money) invested in an MBA course.
Value of an MBA
Now, the notion of 'value' would also vary from person to person. This may translate into one or more of the following things in the Indian context:
1. Final placement achieved - often measured by pay scale, designation or the company where the candidate has secured placement
2. Diversity of knowledge/ exposure/ skills obtained
3. Diversity/depth of connections developed
4. Seal of an MBA degree
5. Living the student life for one or two more years
You don’t really need to read on if the value you are seeking is dependent on point 4 and/or 5 above. You have got yourself in an MBA course!
However, if 1, 2 and/or 3 is what you are looking to achieve during MBA, take a look at what we have to say below. Most of it is common sense really, but then common sense is very uncommon.
1. MBA is not about burying yourself in books
Managing a business is seldom learnt in a classroom through plain vanilla lectures. Hence, MBA institutes these days stress the importance of case work, hands-on projects and group activities. Often, you would find this reflected in your scoring scheme as well: your project may carry more weight in the total than those weekly quizzes. Hence undertake projects - lots of them - and do them well. Projects will enhance your skills, which you need in a real job. And where do you get such projects? Your faculty is one of the most easily accessible sources for a good academic, research-driven project. Next comes industry – well-networked MBA institutes have corporates offering 'live projects' where you would be consulting or supporting a real organisation on its very-real world problems.
2. Networking is not a dirty word
Ten years down the line, sharing the same business school will be a great bond. Sharing the same hostel dining table, all the more so. It is bonds like these (or the trauma of sharing a strict professor!), which act as motivators for people to really help each other.
It would be super if you come across as a collegial, likable personality, in general, to your MBA class, your juniors and your seniors. Additionally, don’t discount your MBA professors - apart from helping you in class, they can also help you in career planning. Finally, interaction with alumni, industry experts and any external entities like companies visiting the campus for placements, will give you a sneak peak into what possibly lies ahead of you, better preparing you for the job market.
3. Grades do matter
MBA may be the last academic experience you have. And it is always, always good to finish it on a high note. Not to mention, Indian recruiters have a tendency to give maximum weight to academic scores when they are evaluating student applications.
4. Internships matter even more.
In uncertain economies like ours, an internship is one of the easier ways to land up with a job - called a Pre Placement Offer (PPO). Even if your organisation is not able to afford you because of some external factors (example: a hiring freeze), try to do your internship well and get a letter of recommendation from your internship manager. That is the supreme validation that you have demonstrated success in a competitive corporate environment.
5. Choose your extracurricular activities wisely
Being part of your campus placement cell will put you at the centre of business development for your campus - you will be able to manage and communicate with multiple stakeholders better. Organising student-centric fests, participating in clubs, etc, will enhance your project management and team management skills. Cracking different contests, quizzes and especially business plans can lead to monetary rewards and specific, functional skill development. Needless to say, all of these activities would add to your profile and ensure that your CV appears well rounded to prospective employers.
6. Get international exposure
Participating in a campus student exchange programme can give you ground level, international exposure. Choose the college and the courses you take up wisely and make sure they really matter. If you can grab a project or internship while on exchange, or participate in an international event, it would be a feather on your cap. But also, be aware that in many B-Schools, participating in an exchange programme would automatically exclude you from many positions of responsibility that you might be otherwise considering. Everything is a trade off, decide wisely! Another way to gain some exposure to students from across the globe would be to network with incoming exchange students. Also, try and participate in some good international B-School contests and conferences. Some of the more renowned programs will fund your expenses if you make the cut.
7. Develop 'initiative'
Go the extra mile by signing up for relevant certifications outside your course but within your interest area (eg; CFA for finance), learning a foreign language or writing a paper (also see our point on 'Extracurriculars' above).
8. Have fun!
Your MBA can act as a 'reset' button, a lifeline of sorts. The best case scenario is when you know where you want to be post-MBA and you plan your activities with the purpose of achieving that goal. Even if you’re not sure, your MBA is an excellent opportunity for you to pause and focus on what is important to you: improve your communication skills, build a personal social media brand, start a blog, play in the college band, or even go on a trip with classmates. Do make an attempt not to get overly concerned with grades, CV points and placements. These would automatically come to you if you focus on having a great experience during your MBA. To sum it up - 'it will be your choices, and not your abilities' which will decide what you make out of your MBA and what your MBA makes you.
The author Prashi Agarwal is Director of ambitionME.