Skip to main content

Experienced vs. Freshers – an MBA perspective

Shubham and me compiled and created an article during our first year of MBA. It was never published, nevertheless MBA aspirants will find it very useful. Publishing it online for the same purpose. However, Shubham and myself claim a copyright on the text .... and of course very many thanks to all our freinds whose views have helped us compile the article.

Experienced vs. Freshers – an MBA perspective

Nikhil Kulkarni, KPMG
Shubham Choudhury, Infosys

Ashita Mittal was placed during her final year in engineering college with a leading software firm. But she never wanted to be another brick in the wall. She wanted to differentiate herself from other graduates who start their career at the lowest rung of organizational hierarchy. MBA was a natural choice for her. On the other side is Shailesh Dhawla, who worked as a software engineer with a leading software consultancy firm for 3 years. He started his job with some ends in mind, like working with a known company, client and an on-site trip. When all of them happened, the next thing was the ladder. MBA seemed a better choice to re-skill himself and make the path up the ladder easier.
Two people, different reasons but a common destination: B-School. But what about the results each one gets after the degree? What about the amount of learning each one of them can accomplish during the course? What about their performance post-MBA or during summer internships? In most international B-schools like the Harvard or Wharton work-experience is a prerequisite for entrance into an MBA course; not so in India. Most B-schools in India have a balanced ratio of freshers and experienced students. Whether the model followed by Indian B-schools is correct or not is a question of concern, but a more fundamental question is whether the students themselves perceive differences based on their being experienced or not, as significant. We will try to answer this question in the following paragraphs.

Why MBA: Differentiate or Die
In India better career paths, better pay-scales and the glamour associated with an MBA degree are major reasons why students opt for education in Business Administration. However, probably the most popular reason for students to pursue any course is peer pressure. Many freshers may be prone to such influences.
Those with experience find that MBA is a preferred way of switching areas/industries. Also when the transition from junior or middle level to senior management is desired, the ability to grasp the big picture is necessary. One's thought process improves when he learns to see the big picture, the window to which is an MBA, which provides exposure to all functional areas in an organization.

Why is experience important: nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced - even a proverb till life has illustrated it
Students with experience have a perceptible advantage in terms of final placements at the end of MBA studies. They generally tend to be more disciplined and focused as they have higher stakes. They can easily relate practical problems and situations with theoretical solutions and are also in a better position to appreciate how distorted the theory is vis-à-vis practice. Their orientation is different with a larger end in mind. They are also better at handling people. They tend to have a better idea of what they want and hence have stronger work habits.
Finally they can contribute better in class discussions, and can experiment with other functional areas during the summer internship which is a risk a fresher can't afford.

Does that mean freshers are at a disadvantage: there is no adequate defense, except stupidity, against the impact of a new idea
The most important advantage that freshers have is an open mind. They have new ideas and a fresh perspective which is not biased towards any particular field or sector. They are not constrained by rules and hence can think and do things which experienced people might not. This also makes them have a higher risk taking capacity.
Fallout of this is that freshers are usually preferred for jobs which require creativity, enthusiasm & commitment. Freshers are also good at brainstorming since diversity element is higher for a fresher. They are usually more energetic which means that class dynamics improve due to presence of freshers. Last but not the least, freshers are seen to be academically stronger.
In summer placements, many companies tend to prefer freshers over people with work-experience, to join them for projects. Experienced students have a certain amount of prejudice in going about things, adopting past practices, and thus being rather stereotypical. On the other hand, freshers are more open to new ideas and are more likely to take bold, innovative steps in conducting their summer projects.

When MBA: chance favors only those who court her
People with various levels of work-experience go for an MBA. It is not unusual to find people having 1 year to 10 or more years of experience in the same batch. The question is- what level of work-ex is ideal for leveraging maximum advantage out of business education? General consensus is that 2-3 years of experience is good enough for a person to understand the dynamics of an organization, understand different functional areas and experience 2 levels of organizational hierarchy. People who have worked for more than 7-8 years tend to form rigid opinions about the workings of the organization, which may act as a mental blockade in learning new concepts. On the other side of the spectrum, people with 1 or less years of experience are almost as good as freshers as far as practical knowledge is concerned.
The catch -- higher the number of years of relevant job experience, better the chance of lateral placements.

What results to expect after the degree: with every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see
A major advantage of a job post MBA is better quality of work and resulting job satisfaction. The jobs usually involve a business angle, where budgetary decisions have to be made, profitability is directly linked etc etc. In a nutshell – let other men do other things, mangers must manage affairs of the company.
The rise in salaries is typically to the scale of 2-3 times for freshers, as compared to what he/she would have received in a job without MBA. For people with experience the immediate rise may be less steep, may be about 20-50 % but in the long run the career growth may provide a gain of 2-4 times.

Engineers – boon or bane: the more the world is specialized, the more it will be run by generalists.
With an increase in the output of engineering colleges and the rising numbers of engineers seeking an MBA, a new distinction (apart from freshers vs. experienced) has come up in B-schools i.e. Engineers vs. non-engineers. Most leading B-schools have an equitable mix of both categories of students.
There are some obvious advantages that engineers enjoy. Number crunching comes more easily and naturally to an engineer which is what much of management is all about. Also engineers are not technology-averse, hence in the IT enabled world of today it might be a bit easier for them to understand a lot of technical stuff that comes in with problems. This is all the more important when technology is inseparable part of doing business.
Engineers are also seen to have stronger work habits. This is because typically Indian engineering courses are quite rigorous than other courses. Also engineers are already exposed to quarter or semester based system during their graduation (unlike commerce or arts students) which is the system followed in all leading MBA courses. Engineers also have task orientation especially the do-ability or execution part of the problem.
However most engineers who pursue an MBA should be cautious to ward off the disadvantages they have due to the engineer-genes they carry. The most glaring problem is grappling issues relating to the commercial face of business. The transactions, the finance, are not too easy to grasp.
Again, the psychological or human (read HR) aspects might be appreciated far better by an arts graduate than an engineer. Usually engineers focus more towards the process and tend to take the people involved for granted; if this habit is not corrected it may prove to be a major problem in an organizational setting. As a corollary they do not seem to understand team dynamics; everything from teamwork to Organizational Behaviour may appear to be a dissonance. A typical attitude is ‘team work is more of social loafing’. It has also been observed that engineers have lesser creative bent of mind than non-engineers. Finally, though this is not a thumb rule, typical engineers may not be very good at communication skills, an advantage which people from arts/humanities background may enjoy.
In a nutshell: It is like driving a car at night. You never se further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip.

But then, who is better – freshers or experienced: people differ not only in their capability but also in their "WILL" to do it.
The answer is that this depends on what is the task at hand. If the task at hand is totally new to the person who has been given the responsibility of carrying it out, then ideally, there should not be any difference in the way it is done, provided the people (the fresher and the one with experience) are of equal caliber. Typically some problems encountered are, a fresher might feel overwhelmed and may not perform to his full potential; a person with work experience may approach some task on the nature of which he has partial information with some over confidence, and may not perform to his potential.
Again if the task is something that the person with experience has done before – the answer is obvious, ceteris paribus. In case of a completely new task though, a fresher has the advantage of having an open mind. People who have been in the work force may carry strong biases.
An experienced student is aware in terms of the surroundings and the way of working. He is also practical in at arriving results or actionable/ useful reports. But, creativity might be affected. Ultimately, everything boils down to the individual.
When asked whether freshers felt that they could have benefited more from an MBA if they had some experience, the answers were highly subjective – YES, if wanted to specialize in some particular field; NO, if wanted to do general management.

What next: you are today where thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where thoughts will take you.
The essence of the whole story is that whether you are a fresher or an experienced person, you must know your abilities and shortcoming alike, to be a successful manager.

© 2005: Nikhil Kulkarni, Shubham Choudhury


  1. thx a million fr ur article....being an MBA aspirant and a fresher engineer, it definitely left me enlightened....

  2. thnks fr dis usful... infrmation...the way u hav clarified the notions of frshers and wrk ex people in b schools and in their lateral placmnt is very good and apreciable..being an frshe engg graduate it realy helped me to clear my perception towards mine time of doing mba..

  3. I must say this is the best in-depth study of the fresher vs. experienced debate that i have ever read.Seldom, do people come across blogs with such sensitivity.Thank you very much!

  4. it was a excellent article ,it just answers all the question that we ( a fresher eng. ) practically face before going for an MBA.thanks a lot .

  5. Lot of things are driven by market trend..
    The industry surely needs people of every bend and mould.
    But still we, Indians look only from the perspective of getting jobs.
    MBA colleges are becoming mere placement agencies..
    I think best things could be learnt by self initiating.
    Shouldn't colleges focus more on creating vigour for self-doing ?
    Fresher or work exp/ engineers or non-engineers if they will be initiating something of their own then they will be open towards everything to solve the problems they face in doing so..

  6. as companies are getting more object or process oriented and the integration of information technology has also removes lots of being a person with work-ex will more be useful, isn't?

  7. Very useful article ..This has really boosted my morale.

    Thank you.

  8. beautifully written. can somebody thrown some light on the point mentioned in the second last answer?
    "When asked whether freshers felt that they could have benefited more from an MBA if they had some experience, the answers were highly subjective – YES, if wanted to specialize in some particular field; NO, if wanted to do general management."

  9. Good article, Nikhil. ITM Institute offers executive mba programs for the working professionals. It has 3000 working professionals pursuing mba currently and an alumni of over 10,000 students. The programs help to advance your career and raise your performance levels.

  10. very interesting & informative blog. I am very happy by reading your blog posts. thank u very much...


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How will travel industry transform post-Covid

Unlike philosophers, journalists and teenagers, the world of entrepreneurship does not permit the luxury of gazing into a crystal ball to predict the future. An entrepreneur’s world is instead made of MVPs (Minimum Viable Product), A/B Tests, launching products, features or services and gauging / measuring their reception in the market to arrive at verifiable truths which can drive the business forward. Which is why I have never written about my musings or hypothesis about travel industry – we usually either seek customer feedback or launch an MVPised version and gather market feedback. However, with Covid-19 travel bans across the globe, the industry is currently stuck – while a lot of industry reports and journalistic conjectures are out, there’s no definitive answer to the way forward. Besides there is no way to test your hypothesis since even the traveller does not know what they will do when skies open. So, I decided to don my blogger hat and take the luxury of crystal gazing

A Guide to Privacy on Social Media [apps]

The recent announcement by WhatsApp to update its privacy terms - and 'accept or leave the app' stance - led to an exodus of users from Whastapp to competing, privacy-conscious apps such as Telegram or Signal. A week after the exodus began, Whatsapp clarified its stance - and WhatsApp's CEO went about providing a long Twitter clarification . And then, many returned, many who considered moving stayed put on Whatsapp. This post is meant for those who are still sitting on the fence - it clarifies questions like: What is this all about? What do I do? Is Whatsapp safe? I've heard Telegram is Russian - so how is it safer than Whatsapp? I can't move because my business contacts are on Whastapp - how do I secure myself? PS: I've modeled this post based on several conversations I've had with friends and family on this subject, dealing with the chain of questions they ask, then objections they raise, then clarifications they seek - and finally the change resistance

Ekla Chalo re

Watched "Bose- The forgotten Hero" on Saturday. Gem of a movie and probably the best of Shyam Benegal. Subhash Chandra Bose has always been an inspiring character in the history for the youth. This post however is not about the movie, its about the lead song 'Tanha Rahee' which is based on the poem 'Ekla Chalo Re' by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. I had pasted the English translation of this poem on my blog earlier. However, yesterday I found the original bengali text of the poem and found that the meaning in the above translation was not exact. So I have endeavourer (with the help of Shubham ) to re-translate it into English and Hindi by myself. Here is the output of my work: Bengali Jodi Tor Dak Soone Keu Na Asse Tobe Ekla Chalo re Ekla Chalo Ekla Chalo Ekla Chalore Jodi Keu Katha Na Kai Ore Ore O Abhaga Jodi Sabai Thake Mukh Firae Sabai Kare Bhay Tabe Paran Khule O Tui Mukh Fute Tor Maner Kath