How to Set Fees as a Consultant Freelancer

To survive as a consultant in any industry, you need to charge fees that will enable you to stay in business; at the same time, both you and your clients need to feel that your fees are fair and equitable. So how do you find the middle ground that seems fair to everyone involved?

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Ways to Motivate Individuals to Become a Winning Team

In sports, we often talk about athletes who “want it” more than others. These are the players who show up early, who use up every last ounce of energy in pursuit of their best performance. Players for whom defeat is viscerally painful, the ones who will stop at nothing to succeed.

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Supporting Teams Your Business Needs to Succeed

Teamwork is critical to building a successful business. Successful entrepreneurs engage a brain trust of mentors and advisors who coach them for free, and they develop strategic partnerships with individuals and businesses.

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Lessons I Learned From Ditching My 9-to-5

A year ago, after months of late nights and weekends spent working my side hustle, I made the leap into freelancing full time. Since then, I’ve been consulting for various small businesses, helping them launch their online presence.

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How Much GMAT Should I Score?

“How much GMAT score should I get for XYZ school?”  I have heard this question being asked consistently over the past six years, since MBA Decoder came into being.  Now that b-schools have started accepting GRE, applicants have added GRE to that same question.

For the “cent percent” marks obsessed Indians, the answer could not be more different than an 800 on 800 (GMAT) or a 340 on 340 (GRE). Logically, you can only score the GMAT / GRE as per your capability to perform on the test. A few other factors can influence your performance- your preparedness and you luck on test day. In reality, a target score defined by a third person is not going to help much.

A better approach is to look at the average scores of target b-schools. An ideal score is several points above that. For example, if ISB’s average score is 704, its advisable that you get 710 or above. Having said this, we are aware of applicants who scored a 760 GMAT and were not invited for interview and we have also helped a few applicants with low scores of 660, who were admitted. The point is,  your admission chances depend upon the overall strength of your application. The GMAT is an extremely important criterion, but it is still one among many others.

If you are applying to foreign universities, the situation becomes a little different. Admission spots for the Indian applicants are much smaller here as compared to ISB or IIMs, where the demographic is entirely Indian. This intensifies the competition manifold.  It would be rare to find an Indian with a score of less than 720 at the top 20 US colleges.  For these colleges, class average of GMAT score are not very indicative for Indian applicants, you should aim for atleast a 20-30 point jump over those.  Another guiding factor is being closer to the top end range of the class GMAT (b-schools publish 20th to 80th percentile range of GMAT in their class profile summary). For colleges that rank beyond the top 20, a GMAT score close to 700 will still keep you in the game, although higher scores and competitiveness on other criteria will help you race up to scholarships.

 

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ISB’s Early Entry Option: Q&A with the ISB Admissions Team

Recently. we had a chance to chat up with Sanjay Dhingra, Senior Manager in the admissions team at ISB and incharge of the Early Entry Option 2015. He gave us some sound inputs that will help Early Entry Option applicants make their application stronger.

Here is the interview:

1. Who should apply to the Early Entry Option? What qualities do you look for in an applicant who applies to Early Entry Option?

Graduates with less than 24 months of work experience by March 31, 2016 are eligible to apply to the ISB PGP through the Early Entry Option 2015. The Early Entry Option is not a separate programme at ISB, but just a deferred admission to the PGP. Consequently, we judge a candidate applying through the Early Entry Option on the same parameters as we judge the regular PGP applicants – Academic & Analytical Ability, Leadership Potential and other Personal Attributes.

To know more about what ISB looks for in applicants, click here

2. Other than knowing that he/she will definitely study at ISB, what is the advantage for a candidate to apply to Early Entry Option?

While there is no additional incentive to apply through the Early Entry Option, the benefit of early career clarity is tremendous. With their PGP admission secure, admitted candidates can completely concentrate on their job and enhance their learning from the work they do.

3. As in the case of YLP, are Early Entry Option candidates mentored by ISB before they start their course at ISB?

Early Entry Option is not a separately run programme, but just a deferred admission offer to the PGP for high potential candidates who do not have the 24 months of minimum work-experience required for enrolling in the next starting PGP Class. Such admits will join the PGP class after completing their 24 months of work-experience, which is a standard for the PGP and hence no additional mentorship is provided.

4. What is the selection criterion? Is any factor such as GMAT, GPA, extra curricula activities that has more importance than the others?

Early Entry Option applicants are evaluated on the same criteria as the regular PGP applicants. No factor has enhanced importance. However, since Early Entry Option applicants have less than 24 months of work-experience at the time of application, many may not have significant achievements at work to showcase in the application. Consequently, they may focus on highlighting their Leadership Potential and Personality strengths through examples from other (non-work) areas like extracurricular initiatives at or outside of work or at college level.

5. Is the academic component, comprising GPA and GMAT more important for the EEO applicants than it is for the regular cycle applicants?

As mentioned earlier, academic credentials and GMAT are an important component of the overall evaluation but not the sole criteria that would decide the final selection. Whether it is an Early Entry Option or the regular PGP application, the application evaluation is holistic in nature. However, given the competitive nature of selection, it is advisable that Early Entry Option applicants aspire to do well in the GMAT to enhance their prospects.

6. As the EEO applicants don’t have enough work experience, from where can they draw their examples for the essays?

Early Entry Option applicants can quote examples from their college, internship or volunteer work. The essay questions are structured in such a manner that the examples from workplace are not necessary. For example, one of the topics this year asks for a defining moment in the applicant’s personal or professional life when the applicant had to make a risky decision.

7. Anything else you would like to mention about the Early Entry option?

Early Entry Option is a great opportunity for fresh graduates to secure their admission to the ISB PGP well in advance. It is an answer to frequently asked questions like “Shall I accept an admission offer from a lower ranked B-school or wait to apply to ISB”, “Shall I go for a MS programme without work-experience or wait to apply to ISB after getting work-experience”.

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Factors to Consider When Selecting Business Schools

We recently wrote a blog on ways to research business schools. But before that you need to know which factors should you take to account when zeroing in on your perfect list of b-schools.

Here are some criteria that can bring method to your research:

Job related Factors:

1. Employment opportunities: The main reason why people do an MBA is to increase their employability skills. Therefore going through the employment reports of business schools is a key step in your research. These reports will provide you a lot of data: percentage wise breakups of the industries and functions where students got a job; names of recruiters; figures for internship recruitments and some hard facts on how many students found employment in the first three months of graduation, how many students made use of on-campus recruiting and how many converted their summer internships into full fledged jobs. If your post MBA interests lie in energy and utilities for example, and a particular b-school’s employment report shows a chunk of people getting jobs in that industry, you know you would want to apply to that b-school.

Another way of identifying business schools is by finding out about target employers who visit there and the roles they hire students for.

Its also worthwhile to find out about the resourcefulness of the career services of your target b-schools. Niche industries like media, energy, real estate, government may be hiring only a tiny percentage of the class population, but don’t let this deter you from applying. Most often, the career services teams and the industry related clubs will go out of their way to help you network with the right recruiters.

2. Industry hubs – Some regions are hubs for particular industries and studying in those regions may just as well increase your chances of finding the right recruiters. For instance the Texas based programs such as McCombs, Jones School of Business (Rice) and Texas A&M are located in the largest energy hub of USA and getting a job with a Chevron or Exxon is going to be relatively easier in this region. Canada is another energy hub and B-schools like Schulich will help you target the right employers. Similarly, New York, Paris and London are the places to be if you have your eyes fixed on fashion to going to Stern, LBS or HEC Paris/ INSEAD will offer you the right opportunities in luxury. Check out our previous blog on the research triangle park which houses b-schools like Duke (also an energy industry filler) and UNC Kenen Flagler.

3. Clubs and other resources- Most clubs at any business school are student led. Its therefore in students’ interest to keep these really active. Industry (real estate/ media and entertainment/ private equity etc) and function (consulting/marketing/operations) focused clubs hold career treks, seminars, competitions and talks by industry bigwigs, all of which go in adding to your MBA experience. Typically every club has its own website – trawl through this and reach out to the Club leaders to know more about the club’s activities.

Academics Related Factors:

4. Electives and Concentrations– A specialization/major/concentration basically means the minimum required electives/credits you are required to take in a subject to make it a concentration. Although its not mandatory to take concentrations/specializations, if you want to deep dive in a subject, they can be a good way to do it. At business schools like Harvard, Stanford, Yale and Ross, you can only take electives and not a “specialization”.

Most business schools allow you to take two or more concentrations in subjects as diverse as strategy, marketing, data analytics, finance and leadership, to name a few. Some b-schools also have a tie up with the CFA institute, so you have the option of completing your CFA along with the MBA.

In general, different b-schools have different formats for electives/ concentrations and certifications, so closely look at what your target b-schools have on offer.

5. Star faculty on campus- Some b-schools have management gurus, some have research mavericks and some others have Nobel laureates as their faculty. They may be the single-most reason you want to go to a particular b-schools. However, we are not talking about an awe-struck, starry eyed you applying to a program, because a marketing guru you have heard about is teaching there. Nobody wants a teenager-like gushing about a faculty member! There has to be a more intense reason for you to study there – you may have a deep interest in his subject or the research he is doing and think it will help you in your career.

Some b-schools allow graduate/research assistantship, where you can work with a particular professor to assist his class or his research work. Also, you may want to take an independent project under a faculty member and gain from his insights.

6. Flexibility in curriculum – Do you want to go to Harvard because you study a fixed curriculum for your entire first year, or would you rather prefer Chicago Booth, where you can select all your courses save one, and completely customize your curriculum? B-schools vary in the flexibility they offer on the course content, although all of them allow you to take electives in the second half of the program.

The bigger MBA programs that are associated with universities also let you to select electives outside the business school. So you may land up taking a few electives in technology or in law or in public policy from another college affiliated to the same university as your target business school. This flexibility is great if you want to study offbeat subjects that don’t typically come under the ambit of an MBA education.

7. Mode of curriculum delivery– Some b-schools are known as the case method b-schools. Examples are HBS, Darden, Tuck (to an extent), Richard Ivey (Canada) and IE (Spain). Some b-schools are known for their experiential learning approach- MIT, Ross and UCLA come to mind immediately. Although most b-schools have a mixed format curriculum, yet some of them, such as those listed above are famously known for their approach. If you are not a case study enthusiast, joining a b-schools that uses almost 500 cases in the two years curricula may wreck your MBA experience. Its important to find out the b-school’s pre-dominant style of teaching and whether that fits your learning requirements.

Admissions related factors:

8. Eligibility criteria- double MBA/ 3 year education/ TOEFL requirement – Indian applicants sometimes face challenges regarding their eligibility. European programs accept a three year undergrad degree. While most US b-schools also consider it as an equivalent to the US four year undergrad degree, some b-schools like Berkeley Haas don’t. If you have not done an MS or another degree course, there is no point applying.

Some b-schools do not allow a previous MBA; however this criterion is best checked with the schools themselves, as the Indian programs offer a diploma (PGDBM), which is technically not an MBA.

Similarly, some b-schools, particularly the European ones, require a TOEFL/ IELTS score and you may want to take either of the two tests to make it to the target b-school, ask them for a waiver (on account of your good English, and “convent educated” background) or just swap that b-school for another one.

Having GMAT and GPA scores above the b-school’s average figures is another benchmark for the Indian applicants.

9. Financial aspects (Fee, scholarships, financial aid)- Not all b-schools are made equal and they definitely don’t cost equal. B-school fee can cost you anywhere from INR 25 lakhs as in the case of the top Indian MBA programs (ISB & IIMs) to upward of INR 1 crore as is the case with HBS, Wharton and the likes. Other hidden costs only take these figures up north! While there is always an option to take loan from your own country, some b-schools offer loans to Indian applicants. What you need to find out is whether the credit agency requires a US based co-signer or not. Unability to arrange loans has been a party pooper for many Indian applicants, despite getting admission.

Scholarships exist, but not in abundance. Some b-schools have more scholarship money to give out as compared to others. It will be worth the effort to find this out from the school website, current students and alums and apply for a scholarship where you need to submit a separate application.

And then there are others:

FIT : This is the most used word in the MBA circles. How exactly do you determine your fit with a b-school? While all of the above factors play their roles to establish your fit with a b-school, there are some other uncategorizable ones that matter.

10. Small size v/s big size classroom– You may feel lost if you have 750+ students in the same class as you, as in the case of Wharton. And when you double this number to make room for second year MBAs then its definitely a big party. Do you find your place in this big party or a cozy get together, which you can find at, say Tuck, which has a class strength of 280. The size of the class also matters from the perspective of your alumni network- smaller classes will have smaller networks. For you as an international student, there may be still lesser alumni back home.

11. Big city v/s small city- Studying in a fast paced city like New York may be among the biggest lure for you to select b-schools based in New York. Or as a first time international student, you may want to soak in the experience of a small town school, where your life is centered around the b-school, students and campus activities. Plenty options abound.

12. Network- Building a strong network is among the most important reasons for a person to go to business school. A lot of job finding happens through your alumni network, with alumni arranging for job interviews in their companies (off campus recruiting) or alumni coming for the off campus recruiting. From this perspective, its important to figure out if your target school’s alums work in your target companies.
You will have access to your b-school’s network for life. Hence try to understand how strongly bonded the community is.

13. Personal development- The one/two years spent at business school will help you develop your softer side. While a large part of the curriculum will help you build your leadership capabilities, negotiation, communication and time management skills, there are features like experiential learning programs, trips to global destinations and activities & events held by the social and diversity clubs that will have a huge impact on your personal development within a short two years. Attending business school is not called a transformative experience for nothing!

All of the are mentioned on b-school websites, and you will learn a lot more about these experiences by reading up student blogs.

Most important! No Indian can leave this one out…..

14. The quintessential Indian relatives– last but not the least is the  Indian relatives, who are omnipresent, no matter where you do your MBA from. While some are happy with the arrangement of having guardians within the same city, others may not apply to the business school, just because their extended family stays in the vicinity. You take your pick!

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Top Eight Reasons to do an MBA

Are you at a stage in your career where you are clueless as to what the next stage should be? Need a boost but unsure about how to get it? You might not know it yet, but an MBA might be the answer, if any of the following problems bother you:

1. You have hit the glass ceiling: Despite all the hullabaloo about gender equality in the workplace, most women feel the presence of a glass ceiling that restricts their further growth. Fortunately B-schools are aware of this and are making concerted efforts to correct the gender gap on campus. Once you get in, there are diversity groups such as “Women in Business” almost on every campus that will create a supportive community to make your MBA experience fruitful.

2. You are stuck in a Rut: You have had a steep learning curve in your job but the growth has slowed down now. Even if you stay on for another year, there would be the same agenda points, same clients, same operations. You’re itching to take up new challenges, diversify, learn and play in a bigger arena, but can’t find the right opportunity. An MBA will expose you to a range of professional opportunities and help you broaden your horizon.

3. You need Skills 2.0: You are ready to move into a higher managerial position, but need a different skill set to justify your next position. The best MBA programs are designed for just that. They’ll smoothen the transition from functional to managerial and equip you with an upgraded repertoire of skills need to fuel the next stage of your professional growth.

4. Your first MBA came with an expiry date: You completed an MBA in the early part of your career and took what you got. Although you’ve got valuable work experience now, yet you are ready for better opportunities that require higher managerial skills. A second MBA from a top college can be the best key to opening shut doors.

5. An MBA is your mandatory path to growth: If you’re working in an industry such as consulting or banking where an MBA is required for career progression beyond a certain point, not getting one is probably not an option.

6. A Chance to Re-Align your career: Many people are already finished with their bachelors’ and are two years into a job by the time they begin to understand their own preferences, strengths and weaknesses and the possibilities ahead. At this point, many look to change profile or switch companies, but some wish to move to a different industry altogether. Depending upon what you have in mind, an MBA is a foolproof way to re-align yourself in a new direction.

7. You are a Philomath: You love to study! You are a CPA and FRM already and have taken 10 MOOC certifications in the past two years. Yes, studying perennially is your thing. Go ahead and apply for the MBA, only just be sure to convince the b-schools that your learnings will be put to test in a real world business scenario. Shortly put, you will go back to work and not another course.

8. You are start-up material but need some grooming: You may have launched a start-up which never really take off. Or maybe you’re fed up of working for someone else and dream of starting your own company. Or maybe you’ve got an idea which you want to refine and are looking for like-minded partners for your venture. In all cases, joining a good MBA program will be a good bet. Over the recent years, entrepreneurship has gained a lot of traction at business schools, and they are going all out to give you the right ecosystem to start your venture. And you’re sure to come across some very talented people on the same wavelength as you.

So, as we said, these are some of the most common reasons given by applicants for pursuing MBA. If one or more of them strike a chord with you, you know the path you have to take.

Go ahead and dig deeper into this blog for more about how to get started, schools and admission procedures, or contact us!

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Submitting an Application That Shows Maturity

“Making the best use of my resources and circumstances always is my passion. It helped me get several opportunities to display my personality as a self-starter, team player and multi-tasker.

After engineering, I got a job in IT which was a new field for me; I decided to give it my best. My resolution led me to be among the top three performers in our batch. While working in IT, getting certified on the skills is a major achievement. I was awarded with certificates on my skills and also on new technologies”.

Every year, we get several essays like this one, which go on a never ending, mindless banter! Can this essay impress?  Not really!

The essay not only does not impress, but also tells another thing about the applicant: that his ideas and thoughts lack maturity. He does not have the ability to analyze a situation and serve the reader information after assimilating and filtering it. The result is a salvo of thoughts flying in all directions, but making no impression at all.

Why does your maturity level matter to a business school?

Because, the level of discussion in an MBA class is of very high quality. You will have students with as much as ten years of work experience. How is the level of discussion that you engage in, adding to their experience? What are others getting to learn from you during class and project discussions? Unless the insights that you have drawn from your work are of high quality, there is little knowledge that you will contribute to the class. And this is also likely to get reflected in your essays.

Even if you do write solid essays with help from friends, family or admissions consultants, the interview can be another place where you can give yourself away. Many of the MBA interviews have behavioral questions that test you on specific experiences. If you are asked what was your biggest achievement, and your answer revolves around earning an IT certification, it will not be a very powerful example.  Rejection could be on the cards!

The good thing is that you can work on your professional maturity.  Become aware of what you speak and how you speak on a day-to-day basis.  Make your communication with people around you more meaningful.  And when you write your essays for the business schools, give better insights than the example above.

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