The MBA is always about change. However, if you are planning to study for a full-time MBA and to change sector or location upon graduation, look more deeply into the Career Services provided by the business schools. Some schools will take you directly to your new long-term career path. But you need to have clear and realistic goals and always remain actively involved in the process.
Career success builds schools’ reputation
It is not a coincidence that business schools which top the rankings on graduates’ return on investment (ROI) happen to take their career services seriously. Gianmario Verona, MBA Director at SDA Bocconi, Italy, is proud that “The career services are a crucial part of the MBA programme, because the success of our MBA depends on MBA students’ success”.
With the world financial crises of the late 2000s and the resultant shrinking employment opportunities, many MBA-bound professionals challenged the fact that the MBA is still regarded as the ‘golden key’ to rapid career growth. Many were no longer sure of their employment prospects – even with an MBA – and whether they would have a good post-MBA ROI. These events were crucial, especially for those considering full-time MBA enrolment, because their interest naturally shifted to part-time and executive formats which allowed students to retain their jobs and still gain the knowledge, skills and brand of an MBA.
Business schools’ best counter argument was to continue to effectively assist their students in finding the right jobs as soon as possible after MBA graduation. According to the Forbes’ ranking focused on the ROI that business school graduates receive, the recent leader outside the U.S. is the IMD Business School, Switzerland. “What I found really amazing is that the school really wants to make us happy… and to find for you not a job, but really a long-life career path”, shares an 2009 alumna, Valeria.
When are MBA career services important?
The MBA itself is a big change, but one usually plunges into it to achieve an even bigger change. In 2013, Francesca Roveda from the Recruitment and Admissions team of SDA Bocconi (another European leader on post-MBA ROI) reports that, “90% of the graduates made at least one of three changes: function, sector, location; and 7% made all three”. Effective career services are especially important if your goal is to get your immediate post MBA job abroad in the country or region where you will do your MBA. If your full-time programme is a one-year course, time really flies – the studies are very intensive and your job hunt will require an additional structured effort. You will be facing a new market, a new culture and often employment and visa regulations. If you are studying on a two-year programme, you will have a bit more time, plus a summer placement and/or projects. These opportunities might eventually take you to a prospective employer, but do not rely on coincidence. If you see yourself as being employed and progressing on the corporate management ladder, especially in another country, you will benefit from a systematic and focused career service.
Career services for managers – A to Z
“It was really about guiding you, about your soul search – what is it really that you want to do in your life and in your career”, shares IMD graduate, Joe. When a school speaks about the professional growth of its students, it means more than CV, search techniques and interview drilling. Typically, a full career service will provide an initial review of your goals and aspirations, followed by an individual coaching session which will help you understand yourself and clarify your intentions.
Check out: MBA Career Services are More Comprehensive
In MBA career guidance, an intensive leadership discovery and development component is a must. Only then will you begin to work with career consultants on understanding the sectors/ industries you aspire to, as well as the requirements of the recruiting companies. The personal presentation through a CV, interview, case-based test, placement, etc. is just the routine part of the career counselling process. It is the work of self-discovery and finding the right match which is the essence. A-Z career services are a process integrated into MBA study. Schools have dedicated career teams to work with you from day one of the programme.
The career consultants are also specialised in different sectors and industries. It is also part of the career counselling role to build relations with companies, and speak with recruiters in order to understand which would be the best profiles for those positions. Schools need to commit additional efforts in times of crisis when there might not be enough recruiters or available jobs. “One result of the weak economy is that many companies are cutting costs by using managers, rather than professional recruiters, to recruit graduating MBAs”, shares Sherrie Gong Taguchi, former assistant dean for Stanford’s MBA Career Management Centre and vice president of university recruiting at Bank of America. Schools, answer is to “coach first-time recruiters to help them develop effective recruiting strategies”.
Career centres also face challenges, but their reward is to see alumni well positioned soon after graduation. Some of the typical hurdles are “student anxiety about not being able to find a job; unrealistic expectations that the school should do most of the work and place them in jobs; difficulty in keeping staff skills and up-to-date knowledge” in a dynamic economy and “staff burnout”, all of which are typical for any of the “helping” professions, as revealed by Taguchi in her article, “Tackling the Top 10 Challenges in Career Services” (GMAC Newsletter, 2013). She lists some of the most popular approaches to generating more jobs: hiring an outreach person or dedicating current staff to more outreach to develop new relationships with potential employers; and appealing to alumni to offer summer or full-time job opportunities.
GMAC data of March 2014 suggests another interesting trend which might affect MBA careers centres – nearly 10,000 GMAT test takers indicated entrepreneurship as their intended focus in Testing Year 2013. It remains to be seen whether this trend will bring additional expectations of MBA career services, or rather, take some of the load off career consultants.
Be active in the process
You should research carefully to ensure a match between where you are aiming for, and how the school can help you. Some schools are known to have excellent placements in the consulting sector, others in industry, etc. Do your homework. First clarify your goals and then find the best schools which can assist you in achieving your target. Schools will require you to be proactive and to work with the career centre to successfully re-enter the job market. This focus on your career will be as important as the courses in the programme, stress many b -schools. They also recognise that during the MBA students are always exposed to new ideas and opportunities. Personal career coaches help students to refine their goals and combine initial and new ideas in order to generate an action plan. However, they are also very critical and if something is not a good idea, they will tell you – which does make a difference.