12 Sep 2016 19:41 IST

Take charge of your future

Some pertinent advice on how to make the best of your two years in B-school

Once you have secured admission in a B-school of your choice, your life-transforming journey begins. There are a number of things that an MBA student needs to keep in mind while going through the programme. Let’s have a look at some of them.

During graduate programmes, there is more emphasis on information; and evaluation is done on the basis of how well one has memorised a given theory or concept. In contrast to this, in the MBA, emphasis is placed on self-learning, analysis and knowledge creation instead of just acquisition of information. Here, the teaching-learning plans include a greater use of case studies to give a contemporary context and enable students to use theories and concepts to come up with possible solutions in a learning-by-doing situation. The possibilities are infinite for an MBA student, depending on his/her curiosity and passion to learn.

An MBA programme is both costly and time-consuming. While the tuition fee, accommodation costs and incidental expenses may vary from B-school to B-school, it is important to do some serious self-analysis and decide on one’s focus areas to make the most of this once-in-a-life time, career enhancing opportunity.

Need to make a roadmap

The priorities at B-school are: Focus on academics, work towards career goals, participate in extracurricular activities, develop the social fraternity, and understand the importance of family and friends.

Find the options among the courses/subjects/topics you are interested in studying during the course and make sure that you enroll for them. Most B-schools expect 100 per cent attendance but really, it needs to be more an attendance with 100 per cent attention and involvement.

Look out for those professors who are not only wizards in their respective domains but are often involved in conducting cutting-edge research in specialised niche fields, in addition to teaching innovatively. Look out for those visiting faculty experts specially invited from diverse industry sectors, foreign universities and even different paths of life, such as rural leaders, Bollywood celebs, sports heroes, adventurers and spiritual leaders, and make sure you attend their talks as they can contribute valuable lessons in management skills.

Be participative, learn from diversity

There are multiple opportunities, including live projects and assignments, where you can apply skills learned in classroom sessions to solve real-life problems. More than a century ago, the concept of Learning-By-Doing was introduced to the world by John Dewey, in his famous book called My Pedagogical Creed (1897). The true learning in MBA is through experiential learning.

The more you participate, the more you learn.  Classmates are not to be seen as competition, they are an important part of your MBA education, so go all out to become a great team player as it is a valuable step towards becoming a member of the learning community.

Summarise and review

Summarise and review what has been taught in classroom lectures as these review sessions can provide valuable inputs on assignments and the practical work that follows. During your MBA, you aren’t always going to learn from books, the learning may come from different sources and, hence, summarising becomes all the more important. It keeps you updated, helps find gaps and overcome them to develop a holistic view of the subject and, at the same time, make you better prepared to tackle tests and end-of-semester exams.

Goals change, and people change too, during the two years of MBA, so it is important to schedule time to reflect, review and reset goals as they change.

Think and develop global awareness

Remember, it’s crucial in today’s fast-paced, interconnected and complex world for students to be able to embrace a global business mindset. B-school students study management concepts in their classes; there is thus a gap in application as they don’t understand how this knowledge is to be applied in real-life situations. Today, what the recruitment manager likes to see is the application orientation.

So, while you develop domain expertise, it is also important to have an overall, all-round perspective on the business sector that you wish to enter and how you can contribute to the growth of any organisation.

Develop team skills

Concentrate on developing leadership skills by bringing value to group meetings and activities. However, there is no need to lead in each and every meeting or initiative; let others lead as well.

Peer learning is also a great way of updating and refreshing your knowledge. Participate in all kinds of team activities, like group case studies, simulations, industry interaction programmes, arranging roundtables and conferences, outbound programmes, assisting in placement activities and participation in inter-college level academic and extra-curricular competitions.

Extra-curriculars are important

Extra-curricular activities can be great opportunities to have fun as well as to learn, network and create an impact. Don’t see them just as an additional note on the resume, as these are fantastic platforms for self-discovery to find how you lead, work with diversity and cope to help your team emerge as a winner in a crisis situation. These not only set you apart from others but could very well be a highlight of your two years at B-school; they may become the defining factor in the future course of your corporate or entrepreneurial career, and personal life too.

Work for a cause

The knowledge and skills learned during your MBA should be put to use for a social cause as well. Working for society need not necessarily mean working with a big NGO. So many challenges may exist in the surroundings where your B-school is located; all you need to do is apply your skills to make a difference in people’s lives. Horace Mann rightly said: “Doing nothing for others is undoing us”. Imagine the transformation that would be caused in society if all MBA students work towards making a difference in society.

Fine-tune your language skills

Communication skills, undoubtedly, play a crucial role in one’s professional life in the globalised environment that in Corporate India has become. For a fresh MBA graduate, it becomes all the more important from the campus recruitment viewpoint. Focus on polishing your communication skills in English and, considering the dynamics of the global economy, it will be a good idea to learn a second foreign language too.

Network for long-term relationships

Networking with peers, faculty experts, internship mentors, coaches, visiting faculty from industry and leading figures from professional associations is important but think also about developing long-term relationships. B-schools are a great place to meet a lot of interesting people and those that are interested in meeting you, so invest your time and energy in spending time with such persons; some of these will turn into long-term and rewarding relationships.

Be selective about internships, placement

An internship is a wonderful opportunity where you can exhibit the translation of your skills into performance and learn about a particular industry and its operations in detail. Select an internship in the industry in which you intend to work in the future. It will help you enhancing your knowledge and leveraging the gains from the internship during a placement interview.

Select a job/placement irrespective of the designation and salary. Rather than worrying about starting your career as a trainee, the job content and ‘cultural fit’ with the organisation should be the major considerations.

Education is all about reflecting on oneself, in pursuit of being better and finding your true calling ... so go right ahead and enjoy this life-changing experience called the MBA.

(The writer is Group Director, WeSchool)