Officers who’ve served in the Indian army, navy, air force or any other related units (commando, NSG, paratroopers etc) in the armed forces face a strange and ironic situation. After serving the country for a major part of their career and discharging their duties in the toughest of environments when they try to transition into the private sector, corporate employers from the business world aren’t exactly waiting for them with their arms outstretched.
An MBA from a top business school can be a great way to re-train military candidates and prepare them for the difficult journey into the job market. Army officers bring with them phenomenal leadership, team-leading and managerial experiences. So the conventional CAT based MBA programs meant for freshers and students with lesser experience are out of question. But the GMAT based MBA programs are definitely worth considering.
According to a survey done by Military MBA, an education network for military officers, the number of defense professionals enrolled across all in MBA programs (full-time, part-time, ) shot up from 4.4% in 2010 to 8.1% in 2013. Greg Eisenbarth, executive director of MilitaryMBA.com, says that the demand for military officers armed with an MBA degree is high. At 93.5 percent, the employment rate for military MBAs is higher than other students. “They learn leadership from the ground up, at a very young and formative age,” Eisenbarth says.
But there are still several hurdles to be crossed before a corporate job with a high paying salary can become a reality. Most jobs that employers are trying to fill aren’t designed for former army and military officers. This means that army candidates are competing with (possibly more relevant qualifications and experience) civilians for the same role.
There are considerable differences between army life in the military (where ‘service before self’ is not just a rule, it’s a philosophy) and what one might expect in a regular white collar job in management consulting, investment banking, marketing or operations.
Army officers work are often exposed to logistical and operational challenges that are far greater in magnitude. And we aren’t just talking about war time. Even in non combative situations the kind of projects managed by military personnel can put their decision making, conflict management, leadership, risk-taking, time management skills to the ultimate test in the most intense conditions. Compared jobs in the corporate world, the stakes (and the cost and implications of failure) can be very high.
Corporate jobs bring their fair share of challenges. Decision making is still relevant, but the need to absorb larger quantum of data (across disciplines covering finance, strategy, human resources) over a wider time frame changes the dynamics. The biggest difference between army jobs and corporate civilian life could be the overall culture. And discipline is just the tip of the iceberg. Then there’s bureaucracy, politics and a whole lot of inefficiencies in the system that need to be tackled.
Compared to the training received at the National Defence Academy, life in an MBA class can be very different. Apart from the regular questions that are asked in MBA essays and interviews, army candidates face the additional hurdle of trying to convince the Admissions officer that their plan to transition into a corporate post-MBA job is well thought-out and practical. They also need to go the extra distance to prove that they have the academic and professional potential to compete and collaborate with other students who have already spent many years in traditional MBA industries before coming to the MBA class.
If their army job as a lieutenant, officer, major, colonel, combat trainer, ammunition expert, procurement manager or logistics planner has given them specialised skills (problem solving, interpersonal skills, planning, mentoring, resource management etc), how well they include that in their MBA admissions process is very important. Equally important is the need to be able to provide a rational and convincing road-map that takes them to their post MBA goals.
The best way to start off is to get a solid GMAT score to demonstrate that your mind is capable of delivering the same impressive results in an academic setting. Here are some GMAT success stories to get you started.
We have worked with Indian army officers and got them into the top business schools in India and abroad. Our clientele has also included the occasional re-applicant who had been rejected by his dream school and then went on to get an admission offer from the same school after we helped him with some course correction.
So if you are a short service commission officer due for a release soon (or with any other army or military background) and are hoping to get into a top GMAT based MBA abroad (INSEAD, Kellogg, Duke, Ross etc) or in India (ISB, IIM Ahmedabad PGPX, IIM Calcutta PGPex, IIM Bangalore EPGP), drop us a note on info at mbacrystalball dot com.
It’s not going to be an easy road. But as a soldier in the Indian army, you’ve faced bigger challenges. Retain that fighting spirit and keep going.