I encounter many young men and women who have been led to believe that acquiring an MBA degree is somehow the final solution to everything. Many times, their families too urge them on.
To me, this phenomenon represents a great tragedy and demonstrates the complete failure of the education system in correctly guiding students towards what is genuinely meaningful and appropriate for them. And certainly, as counselors, we can do very little to change the public’s view at large except write articles (like this one) which people will ignore.
In general, it is the fault of parents, who have unhealthy expectations of their children and wish to live out their unfulfilled dreams through them. There are always comparisons being made, with the children of neighbours and colleagues or relatives. And, even more seriously and devastatingly, with siblings who appear to be more successful. The tension and misery in a young mind is immense.
Many people spend their lifetimes in occupations that are inappropriate for them and live a life unable to achieve their true potential because of zero career guidance in their formative years. We have engineers who would rather be lawyers. We have lawyers who don’t like pursuing a career in law. We have software engineers who really dislike coding. And of course, we have the MBA craze where young men and women become sheep and join the herd without any idea of what an MBA entails.
MBA education is India, with a few pockets of excellence, is often below average in quality. Most faculty, have rarely worked outside the academic environment and cannot bring experiences and cases into the classroom.
In fact, it is the classroom discussion which is the most educative, and that is best achieved when the students themselves have at least 3-10 years of experience. If you ask me i’d say embarking on an MBA at the age of 21 or 22 is a silly and absurd thing to do.
As a counselor, I have seen people as young as 15 years old asking for suggestions on the best MBA schools. It is difficult to alter their thinking and ask them to be patient when they too are subject to peer pressure and parental nagging.
Recognizing these constraints, I do not try to achieve too much in my sessions. I seek to let them express their true desires. Even this simple task , which requires time and a patient ear, is often enough. At least they confront what they like and what they do not like, which they have not been encouraged to express at home or school. I ask them to list down what they truly like and what makes them happy. The results are interesting. Some want to do art. Others, a career in fashion design. Someone else may not be sure just yet what they would like to do, which I tell them is just fine. I then focus on making them identify their positive qualities and avoid being prescriptive.
It is sad that young people are reminded brutally of what they are NOT, rather than be praised generously for what they are. Many have a poor self-image because of this and suppress their true passions.
As counselors, while we can easily gauge what they really ought to do as far as academic pursuits are concerned, we also recognize that they live in constraints we cannot influence easily. What we can do is infuse self-confidence and help them positively alter their image of themselves. In the long run, they may make more informed decisions. Especially about the glamorous MBA.