Friday, January 28, 2022

A back-to-school guide for working professionals entering MBA courses

Saturday, January 15, 2022, 12:21
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By Nitish Jain

There are many reasons to do an MBA but the ones we hear most frequently are ‘career change’ and ‘career acceleration’. The impact of an MBA in achieving both have been time-tested. It is no wonder then that the MBA degree is considered the most popular graduate management degree in the world. 

The decision of going back to school for an MBA, especially as a working professional, is an important one, and as daunting as it may sound, everyone copes. 

Choose an MBA that lets you learn anytime, anywhere

MBA programs, by their very nature, are intensive, challenging, and all-consuming. The workload will be heavy, and you will find that you hardly have time for everything you plan to do. And, in the midst of all this, you will have to complete assignments, prepare for case discussions, work on team-based and individual projects, and prepare for examinations. 

If you need to work full-time and/or care for a family, investing in an MBA that is both flexible and compatible with your personal and professional schedules is preferable. Thankfully, there are several options to choose from—full-time/part-time, 1-year / 2-year, online/in-person—and you must research different programs to determine which best suits your situation. Key factors include your goals, financial ability to be out of a job, time available to devote to studies, and expected outcomes. 

Online MBA programs are growing in popularity amongst working professionals who find the “flexibility to study through important life changes” as the main benefit. Long gone are the days when online learning was considered inferior; today, online MBAs are equally acknowledged and valued by employers. Not only do they match the rigor and engagement of their on-campus counterparts, but depending on your situation at home/work, an online degree might be the smarter choice. 

Most online MBAs offer a combination of ‘synchronous’ and ‘asynchronous’ classes to make your learning experience compatible with your personal and professional schedules. A handful of business schools offer live online lessons through high-tech virtual learning platforms that let you learn on the go. You could be in any corner of the world—at an airport or in the mountains—all you need is a system with a stable internet connection. 

Personalized online tutors can offer round-the-clock learning support and answer your questions anytime, anywhere. EdTech chatbots can help analyze the learning material and assist with coursework and personalized learning pathways. 

Be prepared to embrace new experiences and perspectives

An MBA is a life-changing experience made so by the diversity of cultures, academic/professional backgrounds, and personalities of its participants and faculty. Participants who opt for an MBA usually have at least three or more years of work experience; the requirement of work experience for Executive MBA programs is much higher. In my experience, the higher the in-class work experience, the better the peer learning. 

Reputed MBA programs draw in students from around the world and team-based study groups offer a great opportunity to figure out how to work with people you don’t know. By facing tight deadlines and working with classmates from different parts of the world, you learn and practice important ‘human skills’ like empathy, collaboration, teamwork, and delegation. You can develop important interpersonal skills and learn to work in culturally diverse teams—a must-have skill to succeed in global organizations. 

Most students come to an MBA classroom expecting to be taught answers. The emphasis, however, must be on learning to ask the right question. If you are open to learning new things and embracing the diversity of experiences in your classroom, then an MBA can transform into one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. 

While the journey of completing an MBA as a working professional is not a piece of cake, the rewards make it well worth pursuing. Not only do you receive an invaluable degree that employers love and value, but you are also showcasing to employers that you possess the skills and motivation necessary for career growth and advancement. 

But, it is wise that before you make that big decision about applying for an MBA, you take some time to think of how an MBA will align with your long-term career goals. It can most certainly improve your career prospects and place you on a fast track to success, but it will not guarantee you a job in your dream organization or solve all your work woes. An MBA is a significant investment of your time, money, and energy, so you must logically make your decision.

(The author is President – SP Jain School of Global Management. Views expressed are personal and not necessarily those of Financial Express Online.)

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