On Campus

MBA: A strategic choice?

RAUNAK JOHARI PRIYANKA JAIN | Updated on March 26, 2014

Envision your future at least five years from now. Do you want to take up one of the jobs based on your choice of specialisation?

The CAT 2014 results are out. What hasn’t changed is the hue and cry around this event, which is the same we saw a year ago. But what is always in flux is the pattern of the CAT itself. Soon, a time will come when we will probably measure the complexity of CAT and the fairness of Prometric on a year-on-year basis, just like we do any other index.

Once, in a strategic management class, I was dreaming about my journey to IIM Ranchi. A journey where 90 per cent of my caravan comprised tech graduates. Suddenly, it struck me: isn’t the journey of every other MBA-aspirant who makes it to one of India’s prestigious colleges strategic in nature? (Yes, that’s what a B-school does to us — we start applying management concepts to every facet of our lives). To quote what my professor said: “Strategic Management aims at attaining sustained competitive advantage”. What we can cull from this is that ‘success in CAT should aim towards attaining a sustained competitive advantage in every phase of the selection process’.

Competitive advantage

How is ‘sustained competitive advantage’ related to your performance in CAT or in the B-school where you finally end up? How can you use it to make the best of the choices you face to eventually become the star manager of tomorrow?

Inevitably, you need to take decisions throughout — from filling out forms of various institutes to deciding on the specialisations during your course. Without realising that these decisions are of paramount significance in the long run, we take them frivolously and end up being in the wrong place at the right time. For example, people may opt for a particular B-school just because it markets itself well enough to be pervasive in most newspapers and online Websites.

Some aspirants take up a specialisation just because they didn’t get selected for any other specialisation (repeating the mistake they made while doing engineering). Every decision you take during the process of getting ready to sell yourself in the market affects your career. So, into this must go a whole lot of thought, thorough research and assessment of various alternatives.

Good research

When you apply to colleges, many of which dig deep into your/your parent’s pockets, you must meticulously research the B-schools you intend to apply to. You need to ask whether the school fulfils all requirements — ROI, faculty, specialisation options, infrastructure etc. And if it has achieved the level of prominence desired. Will the school provide you the vital network and resources which would help in the future? This approach can also benefit you in zeroing in on the final choice of B-school, once you get admission calls from different institutes.

Since only a handful of institutes offer distinctive specialised courses, such as the PGDHRM course offered by IIM Ranchi, it would be good to be clear about the specialisation you intend to build your career in. This is perhaps the most strategic decision a prospective manager has to take. You need to retrospect and introspect, understand your competence before making your choice. . You need to envision yourself at least five years hence. Do you want to take up one of the jobs based on your choice of specialisation? Then give the matter deep thought.

As my professor would say: “Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.”

(The writers are pursuing a Post-Graduate Diploma in Human Resources Management at Indian Institute of Management Ranchi.)

Published on March 26, 2014

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