We get this question frequently on discussion forums and over email. In fact, a little to frequent for our comfort. So it doesn’t hurt talking about it again here. If you are an MBA applicant with considerable experience, you now have our permission to say ‘Duh!’ and skip this post.
There seems to be a general perception among a lot of Indian MBA aspirants that the earlier they get their MBA from abroad, the better their job prospects would be in terms of company choice, role, designation and salary. Most of them are either in college or haven’t been too successful with their Indian bschool applications (CAT for IIMs and other 2 year courses). When the best programs mainstream management courses in India aren’t so fussy about work-ex, why should international programs insist on work experience for being selected and making the most of the program?
Though there is no thumb rule and there have been cases where students with an excellent academic and professional track record have managed to get into the top business schools with very little work experience, there are reasons why we recommend spending a few years getting a decent amount of real-world experience before you decide to take a plunge into the international MBA world.
For a domestic Indian MBA programs, pre-MBA work experience is not the primary criterion and you can proceed with it immediately after graduation. However the process is quite different for an international MBA program. Here you need to leverage your pre-MBA work experience highlighting your meritorious achievements, professional accomplishments and leadership qualities at work. Business schools look out for potential candidates who can add value to their school and also benefit the most from the program. So if you want the b-school to consider you as a suitable candidate, you need to have some industry knowledge and hands-on experience in your chosen career field.
An international MBA is not just about learning business concepts or skills through theory. It tends to be practical and collaborative in nature with an emphasis on teamwork and insights into the real business world. There are the group projects, role-playing, simulations, case discussions to mention a few. The case study method is popularly used for teaching various subjects. It revolves around a real-life scenario with some issue or problem faced by a company with a lot of actual data and facts provided. You are required to evaluate it, use your knowledge and judgement based on your previous experience and present your opinion on how you would tackle the situation. Through these various interactive sessions, you get to know diverse points of view which give you different perspectives of handling various corporate situations. You should be in a position to partake in these discussions and not feel completely lost. The MBA journey can be a mutual learning experience if each student is able to gain (and provide) significant inputs from/to the class.
If you have completed over three years working at the time of applying, you can share your experiences and add some spice and flavour to your MBA essays and a thoughtfully created resume. By the time you set foot into your business school, you would have completed around four years of working which is generally the average for most top schools. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule and if you think you have gained rock solid work experience earlier than your peers, then we’ve got a different story.