Choosing a specialisation

Choosing a specialisation

Swatee Jog tells you to look beyond those superficial misconceptions while picking a specialisation in your MBA.

It is that time of the year when MBA students in their second year are required to choose their areas of specialisations. The generic specialisations offered in India are the triumvirate of Marketing, Finance and Human Resource Management (HR). Making the right choice decides the course of our career to a large extent. But this appears to be an unnerving task for many. There are some things one must bear in mind before making the right choice of specialisation. 

Understand your strengths and weaknesses thoroughly. Not being good at something should not be the basis of one’s reason for elimination of a certain specialisation. Students should not choose HR because they are weak in accounts or choose Marketing because it appears easy and consists mostly of theory subjects. 

This application of the law of elimination can go wrong many a times. For example, the HR stream seems to consist of only theory and very little of finance. However, modern day HR managers need to work deftly with spreadsheets and know accounting as well as the finance guys to better handle wage bills and make projections. 

MBA-HR: Human Resource is all about dealing with people, although of late, it involves much more than that. A student can choose HR if he or she has the inclination to talk to people, a knack to see beyond what one portrays, a keen sense of human psychology and a flair for counselling.  A shy person or even a dominant one who always likes people to listen to him cannot become a good HR manager. HR requires one to possess the quality of empathy, good listening skills, helping nature, ability to counsel neutrally and in general be non-judgmental. 

It also requires a thorough knowledge of labour laws, compliances and skillful handling of union matters. An HR professional’s role is not all about interviewing and selecting candidates. It involves much more: Like conducting induction programmes, employee engagement schemes, legal compliances, appraisals and could also involve layoffs and retrenchment. In such cases, one must tactfully handle people while keeping the company’s image intact. 

They also play the role of a buffer between the management and the employees. In today’s era where trade unions are fast dissipating, the HR manager has come to play the role of a union leader in many cases.  HR professionals today, also find work as consultants, they can handle HR tasks outsourced by companies including payroll work, run recruitment agencies to whom many prominent companies outsource the recruitment functions or at training institutes. 

MBA- Finance: Finance is an extremely dynamic area which requires dexterity with numbers. In MBA Finance, a student studies accounting, the dynamics of mergers and acquisitions, derivatives, stock market nuances and the like. He or she also becomes adept at corporate taxation and budgeting.  A finance professional is expected to understand the accounting process, derive ratios and their implications, deal with banking operations, taxation issues, IPOs, stock market, dividends and receipts etc. He has to be thorough in working with spreadsheets and other universally accepted accounting packages like SAP, Tally etc. Additionally, he must be adept at analysing raw data, derive logical inferences through analyses, use these inferences and take decisions. 

The number of students opting for finance is high in almost all institutes. This is mostly due to the impression that an MBA in finance would enable them to cherry-pick any job. This, sadly, is not the case. Unless one has an innate flair for numbers and an analytical mind, feels at ease with data and is capable in handling complex finance tasks, one should not choose this specialization. 

MBA-Marketing: An MBA in marketing is something that is frequently associated with glamour, media and advertisements. Students opt for marketing specialization owing to its fun and glamorous nature, but soon come to face data, research and creativity issues, not to mention the ever-looming targets. many students feel that after an MBA in marketing, one would be heading a team of salespersons, giving them targets and monitoring sales. 

Surprisingly, even an MBA in Marketing has to begin his work with selling, which is an integral part of marketing. Dirtying your hands in rural markets, at bazaars or going from company to company for B2B sales is something that comes as a rude shock to many. A bubbly personality and a flair for the languages are not enough to be a successful marketing professional.  Not all MBA-Marketing students end up in media houses or advertising agencies. Most go on to sell products from across categories like automobiles, electronics, seeds and fertilizers, pharmaceutical products, lifestyle products, sports equipment or even ERP or security solutions. 

The ability to think out of the box is a pre-requisite for any marketing professional, one which cannot be taught but can very well be learnt. He must be able to spot opportunities where none exist, be aware of competition and have latest information of strategies that work or don’t work. 

It helps that he/she has excellent communication and convincing skills, has enough perseverance and is also a good motivator. If selling is not what you like to do, then think twice before choosing this stream. The world out there looks at an MBA as not just one with the required knowledge of theory, but one who can get things done and show results. 

He or she is expected to plan, budget, execute and deliver in a given time frame. He is expected to be an enabler, a doer, a go-getter. One can meet a career counselor or even take personality assessment/ aptitude tests to get a better understanding of one’s innate capabilities before making that crucial decision of choosing the specialisation. 

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