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entrepreneurship education

Does MBAs Prepare People for Successful Jobs or Entrepreneurship?

Business degrees can significantly increase the value of candidates if a university spend more time teaching their students critical soft skills
Does MBAs Prepare People for Successful Jobs or Entrepreneurship?
Image credit: Pixabay
Senior HR and management consultant
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

We often hear HR experts and organisational leaders wailing the ever increasing disastrous gap between what students learn in a business school and what they are actually expected to perform in an actual job role. With an ever increasing trend of having an MBA from a private reputed university, especially among the young people, the idea that MBA degree holders are academically and practically adrift is gaining wide-spread popularity. 

Experts suggest that the return on investment from an MBA has never been high for young people — because the value addition from a business college degree decreases as the number of graduates increase. Today, business education — especially an MBA — is considered by students as a platform for developing exclusive social networks and getting access to corporate recruiters with ease. So are business schools doing enough to prepare its students for the high demanding professional world? The answer is ‘not necessarily’.

The MBA gets people to start thinking in a particular manner and always make them believe that they will be self-responsible for budgets, departmental planning and corporate decisions from  day one of entering a job. Marketing, HR, finance and leadership theories usually taught at the MBA level have little influence on the jobs and entrepreneurship of young people. Business students are trained to find a single right plan and they execute on it. Unfortunately, in the constant changing business environment where competition is stiff, business professionals need to take tough decisions based on experience and market analysis. 

In an age of pervasive interference and volatile job evolution, it is difficult to contend that the information acquisition historically associated with a business degree is still pertinent.

Jack Welch, CEO of the century said: “If traditional MBAs are missing anything, they miss a lot of the human equation about building teams, about being generous managers who love to see their people succeed, and who love to give their people raises and promotions.” His further advice to business graduates is "Don't be a jerk".

Ibrahim Mohammed, a business management consultant and managing director of Straxecute Consulting in Dubai said, “Although MBA is important,  people must understand that along with traditional classroom theoretical courses, they must acquire skills and behaviours highlighted by successful CEOs and managers in the corporate sector. Business management must not be made complicated with excel charts and powerpoint presentations; rather a well-defined operational plan and strategy is something that is easier to understand and can be implemented at all stages of the corporate hierarchy is the need of the hour. But, all this requires people management skills”.  

Business degrees are also perplexed with social class and play a crucial role in plummeting social mobility and extending inequality. Across the world, especially in South Asia and the Middle East, people with affluent backgrounds enter leading business schools based on their ability to pay hefty fees rather than on meritocratic grounds. Employers also make the mistake of attaching value to university qualifications; conversely, they should be paying attention to the skills and values a person possess. This mistake made by HR is often caused because they view a business degree as an unswerving indicator of a candidate’s intellectual proficiency. If a degree from a reputed university is the focus of attention, why not just use psychometric assessments as a substitute, which are much more prognostic of future job performance, and less bewildered with socioeconomic status and demographic variables?

In spite of the issues, business degrees can significantly increase the value of the candidate if a university can spend more time teaching their students critical soft skills. Good recruiters and employers are dubious to be enthralled by people lest they can exhibit a certain degree of people management skills. This is possibly one of the major differences between what universities and employers look for in applicants. Employers want candidates with higher levels of emotional intelligence, suppleness, empathy, and veracity, those are rarely the attributes that universities seem to nurture or select for in admissions. 

There is also a tremendous prospect for business schools to reestablish their significance by helping to fill the ever increasing the learning gap that many young managers face when they enter the job market, start their own venture or are promoted into a leadership role. These days, companies prefer people who can actually perform at work whether they have a formal qualification or not. Sometimes, organisations confer leadership positions to people without much formal management training, because they trust their organisational learning culture and decision making. 

Every so often, the most resilient ‘individual contributors’ are promoted into management roles, even though they haven’t developed the skills needed to lead a team. But, if more business schools can invest in teaching these crucial skills, businesses would have a larger amount of skilled candidates with operational, tactical and leadership capabilities.

In short, workplace undoubtedly call for a paradigm change. With ever increasing amendments in business methods, automation and artificial intelligence creeping into all sector of work operations, demand for skilled labor is skyrocketing. More and more people are spending more and more money on higher education, especially on an MBA, and their primary goal is largely pragmatic: to enhance their employability prospects and be a prized contributor to the economy. Even if the value attached to a business degree is valuable to those who obtain it, organisations can help change the storyline by putting less weight on “MBA” as a measure of intellectual proficiency and job potential, and instead, approach hiring with more impartiality.

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