Many have asked us if working in a government job reduces their chances of getting into a top bschool. Our response has been consistent – if you can demonstrate quality experience and impactful accomplishments in your application, you’d be as competitive as anyone else from the private sector.
Inspired by his parents’ careers, Harjot Sandhu, joined the government sector with the intention of making a difference to the nation. And the biggest employer in the country (i.e. the Indian Railways) provided him plenty of avenues to do that.
Six year later, he felt it was time to upgrade his skills, reinvent himself and prepare for newer, bigger and more exciting opportunities. And if the opportunity is good, he isn’t averse to the option of joining a government job after his MBA.
Why I chose an MBA after working in a government job
My journey from the Indian Railways to ISB
by Harjot Sandhu
Born in Moradabad (UP) and brought up mostly in Punjab, I did my Bachelor in Engineering (B.E.) in Computer Engineering from Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala.
Both of my parents worked in the government sector – my father is a retired doctor and my mother a retired IAS officer. I’d like to believe that I’m a compassionate and empathetic person and growing up I earnestly wished to make a positive difference in the world.
This fact along with my parent’s professional background (particularly my mother’s) drove me to give the civil services exam. I was fortunate enough to get through in my first attempt and was allotted the Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS).
Pros and cons of working in a government job
As is with any other job, working in the IRTS has been a mixed bag.
As for the positives – the IR provides you the opportunity to manage at a grand scale even at very young age. Imagine being responsible for increasing non-fare revenue in a railway division, which comprises around 150 stations and covers thousands of square kilometers or managing the logistics of moving freight traffic worth around 2000 crores annually.
Working in an intense 24×7 environment and managing/interacting with a wide cross section of people from different classes does enrich you at a professional as well as a personal level. You get to learn strategy, policy implementation, operations, man management etc. Being in a position of great responsibility, you mature beyond your years.
As far as the negatives are concerned – a very rigid hierarchy, inertia to change, departmentalism etc. are some that come to mind immediately. Driving positive change in the government is harder than what most outsiders would imagine. Not to say that it’s not possible, but it takes time and some luck as well.
Having worked in the Indian Railways for six years, I am on the cusp of promotion to a middle level management position.
After five years, the government provides the option of study leave where you get your salary and other allowances during the period of study.
So, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and do an MBA.
ISB application experience
I prepared for the GMAT on my own and got a 710. I was satisfied, if not exhilarated with the score. I chose to work with MBA application consultants because of a paucity of time.
Since MBA Crystal Ball had nice reviews and seemed genuine, I chose to work with them. I worked with Parveen for the interviews and essays. What was great about Parveen is that he helped me select the right stories from my work experience, provided me a framework to pen down my ideas and encouraged me to be authentic.
Parveen has a very patient and participative style of working where he values the input of the applicant immensely. This really helped me to write genuine essays which showcased my strengths and in a unique way.
The MBA interview prep with Parveen helped me prepare for the big day. The mock questions forced me to think deeply.
Luckily, one of the questions asked in the interview was the same as Parveen had discussed during one of our brain storming sessions.
At the end of the day, I feel very happy satisfied working with MBA Crystal Ball.
I applied only to ISB and got through!
Government job after MBA still a good option
As far as career goals are concerned, if get a great opportunity at ISB to shift to the private sector, I will.
Else, I’ll be joining back in the government sector in a railways job after MBA.
As the demand for MBA in government jobs soars and the number of deputations to international organizations like the World Bank, UN etc. which have MBA as an essential/preferred qualification increases, I see immense value for an MBA within government in the future as well.
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