Should I work for a while before an MBA?

In this article we shall address one of the most widely stated concerns of management aspirants – the importance accorded to work experience in the MBA selection process.
The challenge
This is a case specific issue and the answer varies from one person to another. An understanding ofwhat B-schools want and what you have to offer, will help you to manage the challenge better. Certain B-schools mandate work experience, and therefore prior experience becomes more of an eligibility norm in such cases.
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What qualifies as work experience?
There are a lot of myths surrounding the definition of work experience. The following may be of help in dispelling these misconceptions:
  • Work experience has to be a full time engagement and not merely a part time association.
  • It has to be an activity undertaken after completion of at least graduation. If this is not the case, then it may qualify more as an extra-curricular activity which was taken up along with academic activities.
  • It should be a paid-for pursuit, and you should be equipped to produce the relevant salary slips upon request.
  • The experience tenure has to be at least six months, for you to demonstrate professional learning and alignment. Anything less than this should not be mentioned in the application as it only projects a frivolous attitude.
  • The weight assigned to your experience will be even more if there is a positive correlation between your professional responsibility areas and your graduation stream. For example, a banking professional with graduation in commerce is apparently more relevant as compared to a banking professional with an engineering background.
What happens at the workplace?
The workplace is a great platform to evolve professionally as it ensures the following:
  • Application of theory to practice
  • Alignment with organizational culture
  • Sensitization w.r.t working in teams
  • Developing task orientation & a sense of responsibility
  • Developing domain expertise
  • Professional networking
  • Practical learning
Is it possible to get in without work experience?
It depends on your profile. B-schools prefer applicants with well-roundedmulti-faceted personalities. They appreciate diversity in profile intake. On one side, if they value industry orientation as manifested in work experience, on the other side they also value ‘freshers’ (a term used for someone without professional experience) as they are capable of adding bold ideas.
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You stand a chance without work experience as well, unless it is stated as a mandatory requirement. You just need to look within and assess your opportunity-aspiration spectrum. For example, you may be placed in a company in the final year of your graduation program, and you may get an admission offer in an MBA program. The decision depends on the ranking of the b-school and the professional equity of the company in which you have been placed. Having clarity w.r.t goals will project the answer as a writing on the wall!
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