Honing skills with NGOs before entering corporates

Meet AB an MBA student from XLRI who very proudly boasts of working in an NGO (non-governmental organization) before he hopped onto his corporate job with a financial consultancy in Delhi. He belongs to the new breed of corporate newbies who are going the extra mile to gain practical experience by working with a grass root level NGO. He volunteered to work with an NGO for an internship as he felt the exposure and knowledge that he would gain during his tenure would help him, when he moved to the corporate world and he was right in making this career move. Gone are the days where only straight A’s got you the best job the moment you step out of your MBA institute. Practical experience of the things that you learn in the classroom is as important, because only then will you learn the real meaning behind the words that you hear your professor say, right? Many students today are opting to intern or work with an NGO or NPO (non profit organization) before entering the corporate world. But there is a catch here; the students prefer working with a grass root level NGO where they can interact with people at the truest level. Working with an NGO one thing, but why do these students opt to work for an NGO at the grass root level as opposed to an NGO based in the city? The reason is simple students want to work in a grass root level organization because that is where the real skills are tested as there are limited resources to work with.

Since NGOs provide an experiential form of learning as opposed to a classroom one, there are real lessons to be learnt. What may sound workable in textbooks may not actually work in the real situation. It ups the ante at the mental as well as at an emotional level ad the student learns to take tactful decisions. Working in an NGO is like starting your own small organization so imagine the kind of knowledge that a student can acquire if he / she takes his /her stint seriously.

It is a mutual give and take relationship. The student needs to learn how the real world works outside the classroom and NGOs need people who know the technicalities of management so that they can help them utilize their limited resources to the maximum. The work experience helps us derive a practical experience of every aspect that we learn in our classrooms and also much more. When the student is entrusted with a certain responsibility while working for the NGO, the manpower too is limited, so getting the work done to the optimum level becomes vital and this hones people management skills. Today, the social sector has become an indispensable part of the corporate sector. Large corporates have standalone CSR departments as well and many exercise social consciousness. This is a good place to blend both the social with corporate line concept means, having both the mind to think and the heart to feel. Most students come with the idea of learning something or some just to fill out the mandatory requirement on their resume not many pursue their careers in this field, as it is still perceived as an upcoming sector. Recently two students from London who worked with a NPO for almost six months wanted to learn and practice the nuances of waste management. Experts say that is the best learning ground for an MBA student and before entering to corporate world, he/she should work with a NGO at the grass root level to understand the true and real meaning of their degrees. The biggest challenge for a marketing student pursuing an MBA in marketing will be to market the cause of a grass root level NGO with limited resources whereas the challenge for a finance major student is to give the maximum return and manage the already frugal funds of the NGO and the challenges will differ as per the degrees.

It’s a known fact the NGOs today, as opposed to the past, function like corporate firms. It’s no longer unstructured and functions in a manner that could give them an edge over the other industries of India Inc. And for management graduates who want to be more industry ready and equip themselves with good management skills, working with an NGO could be a viable option.

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