Work or Study?

Being an Indian, you are usually born into the idea that you need to study, study, study and this is the only path to success. A lot of people loose sight of why they are in a particular field of study and never think to question for a moment whether what they are doing is something they are truly interested in.

When I was back home in India about a year back, I met a family friend who asked me what I was doing, I explained that I had completed my undergraduate studies in the UK and started to work at an Investment Bank. His next question to me was not what I did at the bank, but rather when I planned to do my Masters. This is the attitude with which most people in India live in today, there is no questioning of why we want to do certain things, but rather follow a predetermined path because it is the “right” thing to do.

Having lived abroad for a few years now, I’ve grown more independent and started to question certain things. One thought that has been most pressing on my mind, especially for the past few months is whether I want to do an MBA. While this seems to be the general trend, and getting in to one of the top schools opens up a number of opportunities, I’m forced to compare this to continuing my professional career.

So what do MBA schools have to offer? Many boast about the average salaries ($150k-$200k, depending on the college) after graduation, but if you look a little deeper, this isn’t so surprising. Considering most of them end up in the Financial sector this is the average salary in the industry.

So salary is not a reason to do the MBA. Progression up the corporate ladder? Well, not quite. If you are not planning on switching industries, you probably have a better chance if you stay with the job you are at. Most multi national’s hire MBA graduates at an “Associate” level, which isn’t spectacular. Personally, if I stick with my current job and stay at the firm 2 years rather than do my MBA (which takes the same about of time in most schools), I’m pretty sure I’d make Vice President (one up from Associate).

That rules out climbing the corporate ladder. Am I being too superficial about what the MBA brings to the table? Is it more about the experience and the people you meet that could make an impact on your life in the longer term? This is the most likely true and in my opinion the only reason that someone should do an MBA. The academic content of the course you could learn anywhere, but the exposure in terms of access to glabal projects, and building a network that could otherwise take you a lifetime, is something the course could potentially offer. Most importantly, being in academic environment, generally gives you a breadth of knowledge and time to think beyond the present – work on the other hand, forces you to live in the now and be reactive rather than give you time to think, plan and strategise.

You could argue that this isn’t true for a lot of jobs, but irrespective of the field or the type of work you may do, there is only one reason you are doing it, to fix or improve the immediate business you are a part of. While in college, you are responsible for nothing, there is no business or money at stake and you are free to wander and dream of anything you want. You are never criticised for a mistake and encouraged to think out of the box.

While doing an MBA or continuing a professional career, both have it’s own merits, at the end of the day it is up to the individual to decide what their preference may be. Have I been able to make this decision? Not yet, and I have this very debate in my head everyday. So today, I decided that since I have a blog which I haven’t touched for almost a year and it’s about time I changed that!


2 thoughts on “Work or Study?

  1. Interesting indeed – cant help but agree to most of what you’re saying. I especially agree strongly to your point about the ‘Indian’ approach of higher education being the essential way of life. Its unfortunately true to a large extent, but at the same time, it gets people to study further without realizing it. Now, if you really think about it, further education (even if pursued without thinking if you need it) is not necessarily a bad thing. Education frees the mind, which then frees the soul to search for more.

    The essential gist of the question is whether you have figured out your calling in life. Or to phrase it differently, have you figured out the thing that makes you happy/passionate. It doesnt have to be inspired by what we society dictates (money, fame) – but rather, what gets us excited to wake up every morning. To a lot of people, this question is what anguishes them. So they study more to explore more, to answer this ‘million dollar question’.

    So I leave you with one thought, have you figured out what makes you happy? If so, maybe MBA is not your calling. Signing off 2 years of your life is a huge deal and not something that you should decide on a whim. You’re thinking about it everyday and its a good thing. I wish you well on your quest.


    PS: I think I’m coming across more reasons to pursue b-school and maybe soon enough (once I have figured it out completely myself) I’ll happily share my insight with you.

  2. I don’t completely agree with your first point, getting people to study without realising it is most definitely, in my opinion, not a good thing. People end up down a path they later find they may not be interested in at all, and only doing it because that’s what they’ve been told to do all their life. It may help those who find later in life that this genuinely is what they are interested in, but for those people who realise that this is not what they want, they have to start over again, or worse continue in a field they have no interest in.

    I agree that education frees your mind, but from what I what you are saying here, i’m assuming the education you are referring to is education at university. To me education is much more, it is about the people you meet, the conversations you have and your general exposure to the world around and beyond where you live. Admittedly college education can give you some of this, but it isn’t the only means, however, it may be the easiest.

    Regarding what I want to do and whether B-School is my calling or not, I think if it comes to going back to any sort of school at this point I feel B-Schools offer the closest to what I might be looking for.

    For now, as you already know I’ve decided to stick with work :).

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