How an MBA helps Build a Global Career

After Covid lockdowns international mobility is making a strong comeback, especially for business schools with an established global presence

Covid grounded business travel and stalled global recruitment but as the world emerges from lockdowns international mobility is returning. In some cases, changes to working practices have broadened access to overseas employers.

For experienced professionals looking to build a global career, they may consider applying for an MBA program. Business schools sell themselves on the international diversity of their students, staff and faculty, with international projects on different continents a core part of the MBA experience.

While Covid-19 disrupted global recruitment for MBA graduates, schools are seeing a strong recovery in hiring levels for recent graduates. As companies recover from the pandemic, they are looking to rebuild their workforces and adapt to changing business practices. MBAs are very high in demand because they have the strategic and technical skills to drive these changes.

“We are sending students to multinational firms and we have alumni across the globe who are sharing postings and requesting resumes,” says Eric Young, assistant dean of the MBA Career at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in Washington D.C.  “While hiring may look different than it did pre-pandemic, international mobility is making a strong comeback – especially for schools with an established global presence.”

Importantly for those students who want greater flexibility in their working lives, the shift to remote working has created new opportunities to interview with companies abroad and work in a global role without the travel, which can be extensive.

“We have seen a significant rise in remote options for post-MBA roles, along with more flexibility of location during summer MBA internships,” says Young. These ‘optional location’ roles allow student interns to work remotely for the duration of their summer internship with an option to spend a week or two working at the office headquarters.”

A lasting trend: online recruiting

It’s perhaps too early to evaluate what will happen to the world of work as a result of changing work patterns brought about by the pandemic, but what is abundantly clear is that companies have fully embraced the opportunities offered by online recruiting.

“The ability to personally engage with students in a small networking or one-on-one setting, minimize the time spent away from the office, and significantly reduce costs is an irresistible combination for companies,” says Tony Somers, director of employer engagement at HEC Paris.

The only downside is the understandable Zoom fatigue on the part of students, which he says was especially noticeable in the final weeks of this year’s recruiting season. Nevertheless, despite being able to offer in-person events since the beginning of this year, around half of the companies recruiting at HEC prefer the virtual option.

This means more choice of prospective employer for MBA students. Almost one-fifth of Indian School of Business alumni today work outside India on a longer term basis with countless others who get an opportunity to secure a global role with a multinational company on a short term basis.

These jobs require cross-cultural competencies that business schools can help to nurture through global study experiences on the MBA. “The ability to communicate and work with colleagues and clients across geographies and cultures is the top cross-cultural competency that ensures the success of those that are hired,” says Uday Virmani, senior director of career advancement services at Indian School of Business.

International exposure

Many business schools help students develop cross-cultural competencies through a variety of offerings, from international exchange programs to global consulting experience. Likewise, most business schools recruit faculty who have been educated abroad or who have international experience of some kind.

At Georgetown McDonough, students have the opportunity to travel abroad for summer internships across the US and in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and South America. The MBA class just returned from their week-long Global Business Experience trips, where they travel abroad to consult with a Fortune 500 company to address complex business challenges and experience the local culture.

“While abroad, many students also take the opportunity to network with employers and Georgetown alumni in those international regions,” says Young. “This year, our students traveled to Chile, Germany, the UAE, Singapore, Spain, Morocco, and Mexico, to name a few.”

Apart from the obvious importance of sensitivity to different cultures, HEC Paris’s Somers says skills such as emotional intelligence, critical thinking, resilience and flexibility are crucial for those seeking a globetrotting career.

He adds: “Almost 80% of those recruiting MBAs at HEC Paris are international in origin. Even those who are French in origin are essentially international with extensive global reach. These facts show how global the experiences on offer are.”

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