Here’s an interesting phenomenon. After cracking some of the toughest entrance exams in India (JEE, CAT etc) you’d assume that it would be smooth sailing for the best talent in the country. Many would believe, life after MBA should be cool. An IIT BTech degree or an IIM MBA should be enough to get you through the rest of your professional life without any hassles. For a few who get their dream jobs right out of campus, that may be true. But a big chunk doesn’t feel that way.
Why is it that graduates from IIT, IIM and many other elite institutions and universities starting buying GMAT preparation books and repeat the competitive admissions process, this time with international bschools?
Here’s are a few perspectives. For the sake of convenience, let’s stick to IIT to refer to the best engineering colleges in India and IIM as a representation of the best MBA colleges in India.
This may seem strange to folks from other countries. But in India, a significant number of IIT graduates end up in industries and roles that their Btech degrees have little relation with.
So you could have a Btech in Metallurgy graduate from IIT Kharagpur developing test cases for custom developed software to be implemented for a financial services client.
Compared to a tough field job with a mediocre salary, a Civil Engineer from IIT Roorkee might prefer the air-conditioned campus in Mysore with a nice salary, free gym membership and unlimited coffee from the well-stocked cafetaria.
After a point in time, the guy who was hailed by his relatives as the reincarnation of Steve Jobs starts getting disillusioned. Rather than changing the world, he’s now sitting in a cubicle changing the table structure within a rather ominous looking database schema.
Many IIT graduates don’t wait for that long. For them, an IIT-IIM label sounds much better than a simple IIT tag. It’s also a good way to get away from the pure technical work that fresh engineering graduates are expected to handle.
So after 4 long years in an engineering course, they head back into class to gain additional insights into the wonderful world of management.
The best management consulting firms in India, the top investment banks, private equity funds flock to the campus to shower a select few top performers with attractive roles and high salaries.
But there’s a pecking order there as well. Not all IIM grads get the red carpet treatment.
The rest reluctantly accept the jobs (ranging from mediocre to excellent depending on which side of the fence you are on) and head back to the corporate world 2 years after their buddies from IIT did.
The fortunate ones get into their dream jobs from campus. Some prefer entrepreneurship and launch their own start-ups.
A miniscule number might launch their own political party and get the tag of the fastest growing IIT startup.
This is the ‘live happily ever after’ track.
There’s an uncanny clarity of thought right from the beginning. There’s the right mix of talent, skills and opportunity. And most importantly, destiny has ensure that all these ingredients are falling in place at the right time.
A lot of folks take up whatever comes their way and get settled into corporate life. The company brand, the perks & facilities and the social prestige that comes with it all, is sufficient to act as a golden handcuff.
They occasionally crib about how they got the short end of the stick and how life after MBA should’ve been different. But the corporate track continues for years and the career curve reaches stagnation.
This category is the most likely to face a burn-out and a mid-life career crisis.
After 3-4 years, a few consider the option of getting back to bschool for a second MBA degree [Here’s a little more on USA bschools accepting second MBA applicants from India].
They think a sabbatical is the best option to rejuvenate their careers and gain more clarity about what they really want to do.
Many are vaguely aware of the expense and risk element, but these factors get pushed down in the priority list.
Whether you are from IIT or IIM or any other engineering / management college in India, if you are hovering precariously around the third career track, here’s a word of advice.
Don’t jump into another degree before you’ve addressed the basic questions. You may end up in precisely the same situation all over again i.e. a great international degree (this time it’s several times more expensive that your earlier ones) that does little for your career after 4-5 years.
A large number of Indian professionals who’ve taken emotional (as opposed to objective) decisions to fly abroad hoping for a life full of money, happiness and sunshine, get a second jolt in their lives, when they realise that things aren’t as easy as they expected outside India.
Whichever career track you see yourself in, stop for a while and do some introspection. Talk to friends and colleagues who according to you have the track that you’d like to get on to.
Ask them specific questions to find out for yourself if they are really happy or is it just a facade.
It’ll give you real world and first hand perspectives that would be more helpful in sorting out your own dilemmas.
If you are looking for something more formal, unbiased and structured, we offer personalized and confidential career couselling and guidance.
Before you leave the site, read this amazing and inspiring turnaround story of an IITian who dropped out of an MBA abroad.
Disclaimer: This post isn’t meant to belittle anyone from IIT or IIM or the other top universities in India. It just highlights the ironic situation where the best talent from India is forced to accept jobs that hardly do justice to their potential. That is probably the primary reason why despite having the best academic brands from India on their CV, many still head to foreign shores in their quest for the top jobs and also for a second MBA.