Friday, October 24, 2008

MBAs during Recession

Lot of readers of this blog are MBA students so I thought I would share my thoughts about the tough times ahead for aspiring management graduates.

This is placement season in most of the business schools and the worried look on the face of my colleagues in placement team confirm the fact that things are not rosy out there. Companies have cut back on their campus visits and jobs are slowly but surely drying up.

I think its time to do some reality check.

All the students who are now sitting for placements this season entered the MBA course when things were nothing but perfect. Last five years was the best period for any professional students.
Irrespective of the size and quality of the school, recruiters came in and took people in bulk. I used to tell the students that this is the right time to enter the job market armed with a management qualification.

Suddenly things are not the same.

Accept the Reality

I would urge my students across the campuses to please accept the fact that times are going to be tough. There is no need to deny the inevitable. We are in a slowdown. There will not be mass recruiters coming in and taking 50 or 100 students at a time.

According to placement co-ordinators, the number of companies visiting the campus may see a 50% drop.

Companies are going to be choosy

Having said that , I don't think that there will not be jobs. There will be lot of jobs. Even during economic slump, corporates need people. But the demand for human resources is going to come down drastically .

So companies are going to be choosy. Earlier during growth period, companies used to recruit in plenty because they were expanding very fast and time was short to pick and choose.
So the HR departments took the " Swim or Sink " approach where they recruited plenty without much scrutiny ( cannot afford to be because demand is huge ) . The idea is that those who can swim will survive and others will move out .

At one point of time, talk of the town was that anybody who can speak well will get a job. But now corporates cannot afford to splurge.

That means there will be less number of jobs and more candidates.

IIMs and top tier 1 business schools may not suffer much but the hit will be taken by the tier 2 and lower level business schools.

So What should MBA students do now ?

I am giving certain thoughts and would urge you to please put in your thoughts too in the comments section.

Be Realistic

Its time to crash- land. Please accept the fact that salaries are going to be low this time. You cannot blame either the college or the industries for doing that . The fact is that most of the corporates are tightening their budgets.

Hence be prepared to work on a reasonable package. I have to emphasis on the term " reasonable " because most of the students have their salary expectations based on the time when they joined . What I learn is that the salaries offered to freshers have come down by 30 %.

Most of the companies are now linking salary to performance ( usual practice !) and hence be realistic in your expectations. So when an offer comes to you with a reasonable salary, accept it. The focus should be on survival.

Start your workout

Its time for the students to have a self- assessment about the skills and knowledge . When the jobs are less and competition is more, you have to be prepared to fight hard to convince the recruiters that you are worth it.

Please accept the fact that No recruiter will take you because you have an MBA degree . They will take you for your skills . If you are able to prove your worth, you will win the job.

So do the following activities :

Be aware
Read business dailies and magazines and prepare notes on the major issue that are haunting global economies .
Brush up your communication skills.
In the past you will be recruited if you have good communication skill. But now you will be rejected if you do not have communication skill. ( Have you understood the difference ? ) .

Know the funda well
Those who tell that theory and practice are different is giving you wrong ideas.
How will a recruiter check whether you work hard ?
He will ask you fundas .
If you cannot answer then it shows that you cannot do your work well. So make sure that you are prepared to face funda questions .

Don't hate sales jobs, start loving it
I teach a course on Sales Management and I know the negative vibes from the students towards sales jobs. But remember that sales jobs are easy to get especially during recession times. If you can prove the recruiter that you can give him good volumes, he cannot resist taking you .
So be open to selling insurance , soaps or beedis whether you are a finance pro or an HR diva ( pun intended)

Even if you lack communication skills, one factor that can land you a job is having the Attitude. But alas no business school teaches how to have that attitude. I have seen many students with funda and communication skills fail because of attitude.

What are those critical soft skills that recruiters look for :

Confidence in yourself. But make sure that you understand the difference between confidence and arrogance.

Ability to do basic work : Recruiters love people who can DO Stuff. So if you can convince them that you love getting dirty on the field to get things done, you can get that dream job.

Clarity of thought : Are you clear about what you are and where you want to be ?

And the most important of all is

Proof /Evidence
Can you give proof that the person that the recruiter is looking for is you. If not then try to get those proofs.
Give recruiters proof that you are hardworking .
Give them proofs that you are a leader .
Give them proofs that you can deliver what is expected out of you.

Evidence can be in the form of awards , accolades, stories , personal reference, project reports , activities etc.
If you do not have proofs or evidence to support your claims then you will have tough time convincing the recruiters.

Its not late , so start building your case with stories and evidences.

All the very best.