Friday, 9 March 2007

Work-ex for an MBA at ISB

As an ISBian, I keep getting queries from potential applicants whether their profile is good enough to be selected at ISB. One of the more worrying aspects for many aspirants is the amount of work experience they need before they can apply. ISB has a policy that reads
Preferably two years of full-time post qualification work experience.
We'll come back to my interpretation of the "preferably" in this statement in a short while, let me look at the aspirants first. Some of these people are really young; it's not rare to come across people in their final year of graduation and they go - "How should I spend my next two years before I apply to ISB?". Whew! talk about focus! Do you know why you want to do an MBA, I ask. And the reply usually starts with "ummm..."

Back to the subject - the number of years of work-ex is just one method of quantifying how much you have worked. The other method to measure the work-ex, perhaps not quantitatively, is to look at one's résumé. When one writes one's résumé, it takes a single line to mention how many years one has worked. What about the other lines? What is the story that they tell? Do they speak of a leadership that raised the value of your organisation? Does it speak of a benchmark you set for yourself, or for others? Does it speak of knowledge? Does it say that you chased your professional desire? Well, what does it speak of?

At the end of the day, when ISB's admission committee receives a huge bunch of profiles, it's the résumés that are going to get compared (yes, there are some other things that get compared too - a GMAT score, recommendations, essays, yadda yadda yadda - but let's stick to CVs for now). Naturally, a person who has worked for long would have a greater chance of having a richer résumé than one who's worked for say, just a year.

I also came this article earlier today: Opposing the Youth Movement. It justifies business schools seeking only those who have lots of work-ex. Essentially,
The whole concept of an MBA program is based around peer-to-peer learning—people coming with diverse experiences into a structured framework, where they're learning potentially how to run a business. So I don't feel that people who have experience are going to gain as much from [a program that admits undergrads]
This is probably a good description of the thought process running at ISB.

Right, so what can an ISB aspirant draw from all that's written above? Here would be my quick list:
  1. Forget an MBA - focus on your career. When the time to think about an MBA comes, you will know.
  2. Pick a career that gives you exposure to multiple aspects of business. B-schools value diversity all the way - in fact, a person who has spent two years in a programming job, followed by two years in sales might have a better looking résumé than one who's done four years purely in sales. Not trying to make a blanket statement here - but do think about it.
  3. Try to stay with an organisation long enough to have seen different aspects & levels of the company's hierarchy. Unless you've spent enough time to experience hierarchy first-hand, it might get difficult to learn from it, or comment on it.
If you prefer to comment or ask questions by e-mail about this post, my address is


Arjun said...

1 and 2 on your list seem to be kinda contradictory. On the one hand you're saying don't think about an MBA upfront and then you say pick a career that helps get an MBA admit. My take is that, its important to pick a career based only on interest, that will automatically take care of good professional growth and experience, which in turn will help the MBA admit chances whenever one needs it.

chiranth said...


yeah, I guess it does read slightly contradictary. Thanks for pointing it out.

But I guess you get the picture - it's the career that one should focus on, and not worry at each and every moment whether it's time to apply to a b-school.

Anonymous said...


so what is basic fonda of experience? to get into mba

1)to accelerate ur career
2)expe quantity does not matter..matters how much u gained in terms of knowledge, skills in ur experience.
3)vision , aspiration to grow,and to excel......i.e. focus.

lastly i think mba is the platform to get into flow of management who it really requires.

is it right?

Anonymous said...

one more Q it need of presenting ur plan of career based on ur previous experience ,before getting into mba, since mba may change ur career path.

chiranth said...


yeah, you're pretty much following the general drift of what I've said - except for your first point. It doesn't make sense to say that "work-ex will help you advance your career". That apart, yeah, prior work-ex definitely gives an MBA student a lot more to think about during the course, and come up with a lot of clarity about what one's expectations of the MBA are.

As regards your second question - let me see if I understand you correctly - you are asking if it is necessary to have a career path in mind that is based on your previous work-ex given that you might be switching careers post MBA?

Two points to that:
1. If you are considering switching careers - you'd better be sufficiently experienced with a career to make that judgement call.
2. Career-switches (especially the lateral moves) expect any one of the following three things:
a. Prior experience in the destination industry
b. Prior experience in the destination role
c. Tons of academic work in the destination role/industry during your MBA
As you can see, hte first two depend significantly on prior experience/exposure. So, think accordingly.

Would be glad if you leave a name the next time you stop by this blog.

shailesh said...

so what is basic fonda of experience? to get into mba

1)to accelerate ur career

ans ----

It doesn't make sense to say that "work-ex will help you advance your career

little confusion , i will make it simple , i think "MBA will help you advance or accelerate ur career with prior experience

is it right?

by the way thanks a lot for ur response .it is well clarified