MBA placements: A perilous illusion

The placement season is on, and every B-school student is getting the jitters. People may admit it or not, the notion of getting placed causes some distortion in everybody’s sub-conscious mind. Every year, during this time, students get ready to face their ultimate test. The placement season creates a lot of hoopla in the business newspapers, and B-schools do a lot of chest-thumping about getting their students placed within three days or of some eight-digit package being offered to their students. In a recent survey, it was found that 70% of the students who landed a job during their campus placement quit those jobs within a year. Such magnitude of disillusionment is worrisome. The reason is, the Masters’ degree, being the last educational qualification for most of us (unless one goes on to do a PhD), is a reflection and culmination of years of experience, wisdom and introspection.

Our bachelor’s degree, coupled with our industry experience, made us aware of the transition from college to industry. In that process, we realised the demands and requirements of the industry as well as the Indian education system (whether what we were taught does really help you in a work situation or not). Only then did we decide to go for a Masters’ degree.

So, the question arises: Why MBA? From a woman’s perspective, it’s the best way to put off marriage for a further two years and gives her the freedom for that period. On the whole, the reasons to go for an MBA degree are simply three things -- ‘herd mentality’, ’peer pressure’ and ‘rat race’. Firstly, the curriculum of an engineering degree in India is nothing it should be (I say this because 80% of the students on MBA programmes are engineers). How many engineers in India get into research and file for patents, compared to their counterparts in the West or even in China?

Some individuals feel so harassed and maligned by their ‘post-bachelor degree job’ (or may be by their bosses) that they seek asylum in the form of a further two years of college life (it’s kind of a penitential act). Others succumb to the societal obligations of acquiring a masters’ degree (“MBA nahin karoge toh ladki kaise milegi?”). But once they have entered the race, everyone feels they will end up with a plum job, which is a mirage. In pursuit of enshrining a P&G brand in your marketing CV, or a McKinsey brand in your consulting resume, you go all out, with all guns blazing. It’s the last chance to grab the ultimate career. The desperation is evident. (Flash forward: You are either doing copy-paste stuff in Excel, playing pool or TT at your workplace or meandering on the roads, pleading with people, “Sir, please buy this, I have targets to achieve”). The Placement Committee remains on its toes for a 100% placement, irrespective of the ‘job-student fit’.

A Masters’ degree can be quite expensive. So, students resort to loans, at a very high-interest rate. This debt needs to be repaid. Also, for most, soon they are going to be married. So, they plumb for any job that comes their way. And after a few months in that job, the depredations of a sclerotic corporate world create an existential crisis. Some jump into the ‘start-up’ bandwagon, while others continue preparing for CFA level 3. Others start preparing for civil services examination, hoping that they will land their desired job. But the propensity to take risks is very limited. Continuous cash flow for a dignified existence is an indelible proposition in most minds.

Asylum for mind

Unlike engineering, which is a specialised field, the MBA falls under the ambit of ‘generalists’.  In reality, an MBA graduate is not sure of what he aspires to do. So, when you are not passionate about the work you do but slog it out for 10-12 hours a day, accompanied by a disproportionate remuneration, it’s a very bad situation to be in. It’s like being ugly as well as not having a good physique. It’s acceptable to be ugly, but one always longs for a good physique. So, even if you don’t have a ‘fit’ job, a good salary compensates the void.

The media needs to be blamed here, too. The ramifications of the glorifying headlines of top drawers of salaries at the B-schools and the dubious 100% placement, published in the newspapers, aggravate the herd mentality. Every business school in India may boast about the robust curriculum, excellent infrastructure, or an erudite faculty, but ultimately the game boils down to placements. So, it’s high time that our B-schools end this charade and allow the youth to follow their ‘hearts’ through proper counselling and adopting a competency-based recruitment process rather than on the basis of mere academic excellence. To sum up, I would say “B-schools are not creators, but act as an asylum for existing minds.”

(The writer is an MBA graduate and blogger)

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