When should the CAT stop chasing its tail?

If this was your 4th or more attempt, ask yourself if you still CATfight because your spirit does not want to accept the loss in the CAT battle or is it because the relevance of this specific type management education still motivates your fight.

What we see manifest in our higher education system is built on the premise of ‘scarce must be good’ and hence the corollary ‘everything that is good must be made scarce to remain good’. A lot of folks are now chasing those few coveted seats at an IIM and trying to prove themselves over others to get in and stake their claim. Complex models with factors like CAT score, 10/12th marks, months of experience, GD/PI with varying degrees of weightage have now been designed to cater to such a demand supply mismatch. These try to come up with a fair and objective way to select the ‘elite’ amongst the list of aspirants and grant them access to the panacea. As with any system, its users learn to beat it and the system tries to get more full proof to prevent from being beaten and the cycle continues….

Somewhere along this journey the prize for which the fight is happening is forgotten and the fight becomes the purpose. If you talk to young folks a year or two out of their graduation about their career aspirations, there is more mention of CAT than MBA. The purpose is to beat the entry barrier rather than evaluate the value and relevance of the destination.

What is even more disappointing is the desire to beat the system becomes so overwhelming that it does not matter if this form of management education does not make sense to their careers anymore. Folks with reasonably successful careers in different industries sometimes get into the CATfight that lasts 3-4 and sometimes 5 years or more, all the while neglecting the learning and progress they could have made in their current jobs and found alternate ways to gather the management skills they need for progress in their careers.

So when is enough? There, of course, is no right answer. Since your aim is to get into management roles ask yourself the ROI question. Is the fee + living + opportunity cost of earnings going to be recovered in a reasonable amount of time? If you do win after 4 or 5 attempts, what happens when you come up for campus hiring post MBA? Do you sacrifice your 4-5 yrs of pre-MBA or show up in a similar firm as you left before albeit in a slightly different role? Could you have got that in the two years break you took to study full time? Could you have gained more relevant business education through contextual coaching from industry professionals while continuing to build your career?

Can we re-imagine what management education should be for the mid career professional that enable them to transform their careers and help them transition to more business centric roles?