Of mid-career crisis and an MBA

September 9th, 2010

In the past one month, I have received calls from a couple of my friends asking me for any career enhancement programme that I could suggest.

They have been working for over seven years in the corporate sector and wish to take up a short-term course to get ahead in their area of specialisation.

But to my disappointment, I have not been able to help them so far.

Every expert I speak to, directs me to an MBA programme in some specialization or the other.

What I fail to understand is, why should I go only for an MBA—executive or a full-time or otherwise?

I don’t wish to spend a year or two of my career on the campus or pay a whopping Rs 15-20 lakh for a diploma or certificate programme which will get me back to where I come from.

I wonder if there are any specialised programmes for many such executives who can afford to or would like to spend only around 6 months to pursue a course which helps them specialise in their area of work.

Am sure, distance education could be an option and with every other player today entering into the distance education segment, offering some certificate course or the other, there’s certainly no dearth of options.

But most of these courses add little to your practical knowledge and are beneficial only for the company which starts it. As the CEO of a company (which has launched a string of vocational education programmes in the past few months) rightly put it, “Distance education is the next growth area for our company.”

But let’s face it, employers themselves admit they prefer people with a full-time programme than a course in distance education.

So while you may end up paying a good Rs 2 lakh even for a distance learning programme, there’s no surety if the course will add to your skills or knowledge or will be a source of a better job (if you are looking at that).

In fact, a journalist friend who wished to major in economics, recently enrolled with one of India’s top ten universities for a distance learning programme. She however, quit in two months when at every weekend class she would be told there are no faculty members to take classes and she should come next week.

So even if you are lucky to find the course that you are looking for, there’s no guarantee that you would be able to take it.

Another instance. When a friend was looking for a career in certified financial planning, we called one of the very few institutes that hold the programme. Their official advised me against joining his own institute as they did not have faculty members (He was in exit mode to join a mutul fund organisation).

I wondered, had my friend joined the institute without doing proper homework, she would have paid a good Rs 4 lakh for a two year programme (sans teachers). But yeah, she would have got a free laptop!!

And this is not an isolated example. Two months ago I rang up a highly-recognised local institute for a six-month programme in communication, the co-coordinator said they will begin the programme only when they get enough number of inquiries. They wanted to fill 70 seats. A little more homework on the institute revealed, am doing better off.

This took me back to my student days in journalism classes. I was highly irritated to know that we were still being taught the age old methods of making news papers.

This, when the newspaper organizations themselves graduated to QuarkXPress, years ago.

So while we spent a good Rs 1 lakh for the programme, at the end of the day we would sit with newspaper cuttings trying to place them on a piece of chart paper cut in an eight column size and make dummy newspapers. The most surprising part of the entire exercise was that it was common– at an institute in a three tier town like Visakhapatnam and a metro city like, Delhi.

The sad part is, while the course cost at the institute in Delhi has doubled in the past five years, the age old teaching methodology remains in place. I don’t know how it is at Visakhapatnam now.

Meanwhile, I have suggested to my friends to get in touch with their HR departments and seek recommendation for an executive training programme (from any institute) that the company could have tied up with. Am sure, the companies know it better when it comes to training their manpower.

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