Are You Ready for Business School

There were plenty of times when my daughter, in medical school then, would look so tired, unable to say anything and can’t seem to lift her arm. More to reassure myself than her, I would ask,   “You still want to be a doctor?” Her answer was always unwavering, “If I am not going to be a doctor, I can’t think of anything else I could be.”

So you are going to a business school. You are as determined as my daughter was while studying medicine; you have bought a one-way ticket to an MBA.

Are you ready for it? Oopppsss, not quite.

Going into a business school is tough and far from easy. You just don’t walk into one and enroll. You’ve got to have a package of letters of recommendations, essays, passing grades in GPA (Grade Point Average) and GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), a list of academic activities, work experience, etc. If this is not enough, you need to fight against fierce competition if you aspire to enroll in the top business schools.

These tools, if I may call them that, require years of preparation. Desire and tools cannot make one conquer the Everest. It is through years of preparation.


So how does one prepare for a business school ?

1.  Do well in college:

Many students, I included, do exceedingly well in high school. But the liberating atmosphere of college is like a siren’s song tempting most to slacken, to just get by.

There’s no easy fix to this. In college work and career seem light years away. Until we start submitting transcript of records for employment opportunities to find out that ours is a shame.

For what it’s worth, nothing beats having good grades from day one of college until the last. If you must enjoy your first two years, dig in and aspire for a good GPA as you approach graduation.

Whether you are contemplating of pursuing a simple life of an employee or to be an executive some day, having good grades make you appealing either way.

Take it from me. I’ve been there.


2.   Engage in school activities that will train you for leadership roles:

Nothing beats a management job, in self-satisfaction and pay. The problem is that this requires a good amount of leadership skills.

Do you have what it takes? Depending on the school of thought, “leadership” is either in-born or learned. I would rather take the latter than spend all my life figuring out if I was born a leader or not. You’d do the same, don’t you?

And what better place can you get your initiation into leadership roles but in college? Getting involved in activities like sports, civic action, debating clubs, community service, etc., will highlight your areas of interests and strengths and help you find a “best fit” when you enter the job market or the appropriate post graduate course.


3.   Determine if your short and long term goals need an MBA:

An MBA application requires the writing of an essay about your short and long term goals and how an MBA can help you attain these.

This could be daunting especially if you don’t have one. Make use of your senior college years to start laying them down.

To make it easy, follow these steps:

–  Decide what you want to be 20 – 30 yrs from now;

–  Break them down into smaller chunks of 1- 5 years, 10 – 15 years, etc., short term goals;

–  Draw a plan on how to accomplish these;

–  If you have to work, find one in areas that support your short term goals;

–  If further studies are needed, focus on subjects that support your them.

Along the way check each one to find out if an MBA is the only way to achieve them. There’s no point in getting one if you can get by without it.


4.  Take the GMAT a few months before or after graduation:

There are business schools that don’t require a GMAT but the more prestigious ones have this as a requirement for admission. To allow you more leeway, it is better to take it. It’s a good confidence-builder.

There also no passing grades in a GMAT test. But there are maximum or minimum points, high or low that business schools find acceptable for admission.

To be on the safe, aspire for scores on the maximum or high side. You can easily do this by taking the test while still in college or a few months after graduation. A GMAT is basically math and language test – things you frequently encounter in the classroom. Taking it much later, when memories start playing tricks on you, can make it more challenging


By the way, my daughter became a doctor. Her determination to be a good one is as intense as her desire to be one it leaves me, as her unofficial driver, breathless at times.

Are You Fit for an MBA ?

My first foray into a business school was an off-campus course offered by one of our top universities that leads to a degree in Masters in Manufacturing Management (MMM).

I would rate that experience PG. I stopped after two semesters. Needles to say, I did not get the degree but I got one of the professors stricken off the faculty for incompetence.

What is the moral of the story?

Standing up to a lazy and incompetent professor? No! Post graduate studies is not for everyone. Some of them may become lazy and incompetent professors.

Who should go to a business school?

I am more realistic than discriminatory to say that an MBA is not for everyone. I saw how an  MBA class looks like if populated with students woefully inadequate in handling the required dynamics of a post-graduate course.

To get the best and most out a business school program, students must preferably have the following:

 1.   A plan:

By “plan,” I mean a career plan.

Going to a business school is academically tough, time demanding and expensive. It would be foolish to go through all these without a whit of an idea what to do after graduation.  Yet many insist on getting an MBA hoping that it will lead them somewhere. “Hoping” is not planning.

Imagine career planning as a menu to bake a cake. The main ingredients are attitude, ambition and plain hard work.

Mix them together, put in a bit of right job match and favorable corporate culture. Then put the mixture in an over. Take it out after some time and, Voila! You have a cake – your career growth.

To make it attractive for executives to take a bite, you put in a good amount of icing – an MBA degree.

A lot of students are only after the icing, without the cake.

 2.   Real world work experience:

I have met a lot of students, fresh from college, going straight to business schools. They reasoned that it would increase their employability and chances of getting managerial positions.

I admire their ambition, not their reason.

Unless your father owns the company, you don’t become a manager on account of your having an MBA. And entry-level jobs hardly need an MBA either.

Most of my classmates in my post grad class were toddlers, work-wise. They could not make decent business reports and get totally floored when challenged by the more experienced guys. They became out of sync when classroom discussions involved the practical side of management.

You don’t put the layer of paint before building the house.

 3.   Leadership experience or leadership potentials:

This is rather subjective because the degree of leadership experience is relative and “leadership potentials” is difficult to define.

But a good candidate for business schools must have the skill, ability or the art of getting things done through and with other people.

A business school is where business movers and shakers are born, future managers are made and business strategies take shape. These need men with lots of chutzpah.

Problem-solving, decision-making and business planning are not for the faint-hearted and the meek.

A business school is not the place for fence-sitters, free-riders or passive observers.

 4.   A career change:

A young doctor, after doing a long and arduous operation, grabbed a cup of coffee. Feeling its effect on him after a few sips, a gem of an idea formed in his tired mind – to put up a nice coffee shop in the city.

And put up, he did, in a good part of a shopping mall. Beyond his expectations, it caught the patronage of the average income group to the well-heeled.

That was more than 5 years ago. He has long abandoned his scalpel for roasted coffee beans. He, now, has many outlets all over the country – either franchised or company-owned.

What he started generated a plague. We now have more than half-a-dozen coffee shop names with branches spread out all over the city. We even have several outlets of the world-famous Starbucks.

That career change is not unique. And just like most career changes, a big gamble. To make it work requires a very high sense of business acuity, ether in-born or acquired from a good business school.

Want to go to a business school? Assess yourself carefully, i.e., your goals and aims in life. If you can get them without going through the hassle, well and good. Otherwise, prepare for a very tough, but enriching ride.

Why Go to a Business School ?

In a recent interview, one of the U.S. presidential hopefuls was quoted saying, “if you are jobless and you are poor, chances are that it is your fault.”

Daily, our senses are numbed by the incessant news of high unemployment rate in theU.S. Its noise is so loud, drowning out the fact that this problem is not nation-wide. In fact there are states having problems in filling up vacancies. The problem is employability.

Looking for a job is not a problem. To be qualified for a job is.

If you think this is incredulous, try interviewing some members of the Occupy Wallstreet group.

So why go to a business school?

The above are just a couple of reasons why a business school is not such a bad idea. Here are a few more:

–   Acquire deeper business knowledge:

Life revolves around business. Everything around us is a product of business of one type or another. The food we eat, clothes we wear, the things we use, car we drive, the house we live in, etc. are products of business.

Delivering a baby has a business component behind it, so is dying. War is a business, so is politics.

When theU.S.was at the brink of defaulting on its debt obligations, that was a result of business gone haywire; so are the current financial woes gripping the European Union.

Maybe you don’t care, or think they are too far off or beyond your comprehension. Until your company down-sizes or relocates overseas or engage in business process outsourcing threatening your job security, then it becomes too close for comfort and personal.

Knowledge in business can help you understand these things, makes you prepare for fallback positions in case the roof falls on you and your family’s heads.

In this age of “knowledge economy,” lacking a deeper knowledge of business theories and principles is a direct route to obsolescence.

–   Establish a network of friends and connections:

Though not the primary purpose, but a positive consequence of going to a business school  is the formation of a network of friends and connections.

The environment in a business school practically assures meeting people who could become your lifelong friend, an associate, a boss, business partner or competitor, or a wife or husband.

Many a job in corporate America is landed not by sheer qualification but by strength of connection. And this is true in every part of the business world.

–   Professional development:

Business schools are primarily intended to do just that – to make you a better professional. People go there for that purpose. If it eludes you, then you’ve got to be the biggest joke to ever go through its portals.

By necessity you are to make workable business plans and formulate strategies to achieve them.

You will pore over mounds of data to support your case studies and make reports out of them; you will go through volumes of financial reports, balance sheets, profit and loss statements and cash flows of hypothetical business enterprises, then make your own analysis and formulate decisions for action.

Is it that tough? No, tougher. The above is just the tip of the ice-berg. Separating the grain from the stalk is not easy, you know.

But at the end of the day, it should make you stand out, professionally, over those who haven’t gone through the ordeal.

–   Personal development:

I have had several interactions with people from really good business schools and they are just awesome. They speak with authority and certainty on business issues and they carry themselves with an enviable degree of self-confidence.

Getting into a business school is an adventure of discovery – your own. You will be working with people a lot smarter, cooler, funkier, and classier, etc., than you.

This experience can be quite humbling; it will make you do a personal inventory to see what you need to discard about yourself, what to retain and what to improve.

It is the process of removing the husk to expose the grain.

–   Career transition and/or development:

I have a degree in mechanical engineering. As I climbed the corporate ladder, I transitioned accordingly – from being a purely process engineer to a process engineering manager, then to Far East Process Engineering Manager.

Though I earned my managerial skills through management-sponsored seminars, others going through the same transition do it in style. My life-long buddy and classmate, earned an MBA from the Asian Institute of Management, paving the way to a directorship of engineering in the largest brewery in my country.

During the last world war, a young kid sold salted peanuts to help support his orphaned siblings. He grew up to head one of the largest conglomerates in the country with world-wide operations.

Along the way he earned his MBA from a local university. His children got theirs from prestigious business schools in the U.S.

Going through a business school can be tough and expensive – inherent qualities of a diamond. Be that diamond among your peers, your associates, your organizations and your business community.

What is a B-School ?

Sometime last week, my son, fresh from high school and agonizing over what to do for college, suddenly asked me, “Dad, what is a b-school?”

At first blush, I was tempted to say that a b-school is where people learn how to make B movies. But I thought it too smart alecky and off the mark, so I decided to be on the safe side by asking, “Why do you ask?”

“Well,” he added, “some of my classmates are excitedly talking about going to a b-school for college.”

“I really don’t know son, but I will check and get back to you soon,” gently closing the issue, tacitly admitting that fathers don’t know everything.

So I hurriedly referred to that bottomless source of information, the Internet. And, voila! There it is.


What is a b-school?

A b-school is the nerdy term (akin to html, php, seo, meta tags, linking, tweeting, etc) for business school. I call it “nerdy” because it is coined in the current electronic age and simply did not exist when I was my son’s age.

But then and now, a b-school or business school is school that offers programs centered around business studies.

Most of the university business schools are faculties, colleges or departments within the university, teaching predominantly business courses.

In North America, a business school is often a university graduate school offering Masters in Business Administration or equivalent degrees.

It can also mean a two-year program that grants the Associate’s degree in various business subjects.

In Europe andAsia, some universities teach only business.

Typically a business course can be an undergraduate program leading to a BBA (Bachelor in Business Administration), graduate studies leading to MBA (Masters in Business Administration) or Executive MBA, and Doctoral studies.


The evolution of b-schools:

The emergence of b-schools is a necessary offshoot of man’s desire to make money in the exchange of goods and services.

Though business and its intentions remain the same since The Aula do Comercio inLisbon,Portugal, which, in 1759, is the first institution to specialize in the teaching of commerce, its modes and methods of teaching and its theories and principles have changed so much over the years. .

What first started as an academic endeavor within the campuses of age-old universities and institutions, soon found its way off-campus, then through correspondence and now, through online teaching.

Then, in 2010, the SKEMA Business School(School of Knowledge Economy and Management) became the first business school to offer business courses and degrees in China, France, Morocco, Australia and many others. It is the first French Business School to open a campus in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S.A.

The Internet has made business very dynamic. This dynamism will put a tremendous pressure on b-schools to keep in step if they hope to attract the best and the brightest of enrollees.


What attracts people to b-schools?

The business theories and principles taught in b-schools attract people for several reasons. Among them are:

–   For students, the potential to land juicy management positions after graduation;

–   For entrepreneurs, to be able to manage their business better;

–   For corporate guys, to increase their promotability or improve their management skills;

–   For those in marketing, to set buying trends or innovate products whose business cycles are approaching obsolescence;

–   For those in other sciences, to establish the business value of their undertakings;

–   For those in public service, to influence government policy decisions on matters that can sometimes affect our lives.

Whereas a country’s direction is set by policy-makers, how to get there is purely business. A deep knowledge in business can:

–   Squeeze a country’s finances bone-dry;

–   Support or bring down governments;

–   Buy politicians who, more often than not, are just too willing to oblige.

Every now and then things get screwed up, i.e., the currency crisis in 1997, the recent near credit-default of theU.S. a few months back and the current economic crisis inEurope, are but a few examples. When they do, politicians are simply booted out of office by democratic means or by bloody coups.

The CEOs? In good business times or bad, they continue to receive fat bonuses and expensive perks. In very rare situations, where their stay at the corporate helm is untenable, they are given separation pays that will support them comfortably for a lifetime.

Occasionally, one or two land in jail, though.