A career at sea can be very demanding. The most attractive feature that draws mariners at a very young age to the industry is – the attractive tax free salary package. However beyond a certain stage, it’s not so much about the hard-earned crores stashed away in the banks, but about tackling the other problems that start popping up.
Many sailors look for a more stable career and better work-life balance after saying good-bye to their merchant navy jobs.
But unlike many other industries where you could build a range of skills and expertise, the highly specialised experience in shipping can become a stumbling block in the quest for new jobs after leaving merchant navy.
A few shippies who feel they’ve reached the zenith of what a shipping career has to offer start looking at ways to re-skill themselves and embark on a new career path. An international MBA after merchant navy can offer good career change opportunities.
At MBA Crystal Ball, we’ve worked with shipping and merchant navy officers and got them into good business schools globally (including the Top 10 MBA programs). And we have to admit, it’s among the more trickier ones to handle, for several reasons.
The good part is that shipping professionals have unique profiles, making it easier for them to stand out in the MBA application pool.
But it also creates new challenges while working on the MBA application.
Their career starts earlier than what the regular corporate world is used to. The crises they have to deal with are wide and varied – many months away from home, tough climatic and working environments, a rather non-existent social life (unless the ship docks or the sailor returns home), serious safety hazards (throw in pirates for good measure).
Captain Rakesh Renganathan had been there done that in the world of shipping and was looking forward to a new career. For the benefit of other merchant navy engineers, officers and captains, he lays out the roadmap – from planning to execution – that got him into one of the best MBA programs in Europe (IMD) inspite of a relatively low GMAT score.
Exploring a career change & MBA jobs after leaving Merchant Navy
by Rakesh Renganathan
I work as a Ship Captain. I’ve completed my B.Sc in Nautical Science from Mumbai University after completing my Diploma in Nautical technology from BITS Pilani. I have over 9 years of Work experience working onboard ships. I was fortunate to have a faster than average career growth and gained a lot of international exposure through my job.
Why MBA after Merchant Navy
An MBA will give me intensive exposure to all the major business functional areas to enable my corporate foray – from strategy and production to operations and organizational behavior. The oil and gas industry has a lot of opportunities for people with industry experience. I wanted to couple the industry experience I have gained over the years with the necessary qualification to help myself gain entry into the corporate scenario.
GMAT preparation while on the ship
GMAT was a tough part of my preparation as I wasn’t sure what a good score would be considering that I am from a very competitive Indian pool of GMAT takers. I bought a Video course on a USB that I could carry with me on the ship with a huge question bank to practice. I managed to score a 660 on my GMAT.
It is not the GMAT that is difficult. But, it is the decision of whether you want to go ahead with the score, especially when your score is below the magical number “700”. I knew that I did not have super good GMAT score, but, I always knew that my uncommon background with a handful of Leadership experience and International exposure would be my forte.
Why I decided to hire MBA Counsellors
I read a few blogs on MBA crystal ball’s (MCB) website and also a complete story of Hari puttar’s IMD MBA blog. This inspired me to knock on MCB’s door.
My first call to Sameer was when they were very busy with the second round of applications to the US schools. Sameer said it is going to be difficult to accommodate me, but, after he learnt that I’m applying only to European schools and I had time till end of March to complete my essays, he accepted.
He gave me an introduction into the application process and a few insights on what my strong points are and how I should be projecting that to my advantage. More than anything, when most of the consultants were charging a fortune to review the essays, MCB was charging a very nominal fee. I took the 3-college MBA application counselling package. Once, I was all set, I was put through to MG.
MG sent me an email of how we are going to go about the whole preparation process. I was onboard the ship in Brazil when I was about to start the essay prep. After the brainstorming session, most of our interaction was through email.
How I worked on and shipped out my MBA applications
Through the first brainstorming session, I finalized my 3 colleges with MG and it was a thorough interview by MG to get to know me. MG was very frank in his opinions and this was what helped in raising the bar in my essays. I put on my thinking cap and wanted to give it the best shot I can.
At the end of the day, I wanted to tell a story that would that would help me gain admission into the top schools not only in Europe but also in the world. My 3 choices were IMD, INSEAD and HEC.
During the preparation of my essays, I had to gather a lot of information regarding the colleges. The essay preparation process actually helped me understand what I wanted to actually do and which college would be the best fit for me.
With MG, it is a lot of hard work, he helps you create an unbeatable story but totally through your efforts and through your story.
If anyone wants to be spoon-fed, MBA Crystal Ball is not the place.
Once I was done with my first college’s essay, I could see the difference between my rough draft and the finalized essay. This was a huge step up.
I was satisfied and convinced with my essay. If it is not convincing enough for the candidate, it will never be convincing enough for the admission committee.
What I thought to be the easiest process in the application, turned out to be the toughest task I’d ever taken. I wanted a convincing story.
And to make it even tougher, MG would push me to the core always looking for something better. To my advantage, I still had time in my hands. It almost took me more than a month to complete the essay part. When I read the finalized content, I was convinced that I couldn’t have made a better choice than MCB.
HEC Interview & IMD Assessment Day
I managed to complete the application by the end of March well in time for IMD and HEC and well before time for INSEAD. I was getting anxious for the result and exactly on the 15th day after application, I got an interview call from IMD and HEC (on the same day).
I finalized 5th of May for the IMD assessment day. For HEC, I finalized the dates after confirmation with the assigned alumni of the college.
On the 11th of May, well before the promised date, I got a call from IMD confirming my admission. It was the day I was waiting for, for the past 7 months. As I had already decided during the essay process that IMD would be the best fit for me, I took the offer without further ado.
I’m writing this story as I’m traveling back to Brazil for another trip. MBA is a big financial commitment after all. Its time to earn some money…
Click here to read about my IMD assessment day experience.
Advice for other MBA applicants
To any MBA aspirant who is reading this story (and specially from Merchant Navy backgrounds), decide why you want to do an MBA first, this helps you narrow down on your target colleges.
Do not decide the colleges just on the basis of rankings. Harvard might not be the best college for everyone.
Once, you narrow down on your colleges, try to take the help of professionals or some one who could help you in bringing out the best story in you. It made a big difference for me.
But, more than anything, ensure that you learn about the colleges that you are applying to. This will not only help in a better essay but also narrow your choice down to only one by the time the results come out.
It is a time consuming process and there are no short cuts to it. So, plan well ahead and aim for the best.
A wise man once said “A dream doesn’t become a reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work“.