Picking your time – The advantage of work experience before the MBA
By TopMBA.com
Published: June 22, 2006

While a number of business schools in India and across the Asia Pacific region will still accept students straight after their first degree, a growing proportion of top MBA programmes around the world insist on a significant level of hands-on experience in the workplace.
Melbourne Business School, Australia and Thunderbird, The Garvin School of International Management, USA, for example, look for a minimum of two years professional experience. IE Business School, Spain and Cass Business School, UK, specify three years, while at Ashridge, UK, the minimum specification is five years previous work experience.
One of the main reasons schools now insist on this level of experience, is the expressed preference of recruiters for individuals who can ‘hit the ground running’, as soon as they graduate from an MBA programme. According to the latest TopMBA.com research from the organisers of the QS World MBA Tour, which surveyed more than 500 employers in more than 30 countries, over 50% of potential employees of MBAs look for candidates with at least a year’s prior work experience. Only around 8% of organisations are willing to look at individuals who have clocked up less than a year’s experience before embarking on their MBA studies.
However, this pressure from recruiters is only part of the reason behind the drive for experienced students. Sandeep Gupta worked for major companies such as Cadbury Schweppes and Siemens before studying at Cranfield School of Management, UK. He believes prior work experience plays a key part in getting the most out of the MBA experience: “Sitting in the classroom, during a case study discussion, it’s easy to identify with the characters involved because, more often than not, you can see a similarity between what you have experienced in the past and what the case study depicts.” He continues, “However, since you are now sitting outside the workplace, you can see the situation with a more neutral perspective and can identify who could have done what to produce a different outcome. There’s also an element of glamour and awe associated with words such as ‘vision’, ‘strategy’ and the like, which are used liberally on an MBA programme. These words have little meaning unless you can fit them into the bigger picture. And the only way you can do that is through prior practical experience.”
Sandeep Gupta’s view is shared by another Indian MBA, Rajesh Kothari, who studied at IESE, Spain after six years working in the financial services sector at home. “I found my work experience was invaluable to me on the programme. Making a real contribution to classes is extremely important – this most certainly isn’t the sort of study where you just politely sit and listen. When you want to make a point in class it definitely helps if you can draw upon previous experience and if you don’t have it, it really shows. The case study approach offers a very practical form of learning and the ability to draw upon six years in the workplace was a major bonus.”
Source: www.TopMBA.com

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