How MBA Students Maximize Career Services

Exclusive access to expert, tailored advice is a major perk of attending a top business school

The MBA job market is proved to be remarkably resilient, even in the face of headwinds. The global economy is slowing down, as interest rates climb, but unemployment is still low around the world. That means companies are continuing to make employment offers to MBA graduates, but securing a post-MBA job won’t be easy.

It takes hard work, given the number of people who apply for positions at the top employers. Happily, business schools are on hand to help. Most offer extensive career services that can help students and graduates find employment, but the onus is on them to make the most of the services on offer.

“Students are at the center of their MBA investment and own their success. Simply put, they should build time into their schedule each week to reflect on their needs and goals, explore what is available to them, and then take action,” says Christine Murray, associate dean and managing director of career services at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.

A major perk of being in an MBA program is having exclusive access to a collective, curated group of people and resources, including one-on-one career coaching. Those career services also help students to explore careers and specialisms they may not have considered, facilitating a change of direction.

“Having exposure to other industries and functions helps students broaden their perspective on what types of careers are possible with an MBA,” Murray says. “MBA career centers often work closely with student organizations to plan experiential activities, such as career treks and career days, where students are exposed to business professionals who have varied backgrounds, and organizations they may not have heard of prior to their MBA.”

Building a longer-term career

So, in addition to connecting students with an extensive range of recruiting opportunities, career services provides the ideal platform to explore career options, not just for the immediate post-MBA career, but also for the long-term.

“Students who take full advantage of what we have to offer will achieve the career transformation they envisage,” says Tony Somers, director of employer engagement at HEC Paris, a business school in France.

He insists the current market correction in the technology sector, with big employers announcing layoffs after having hired aggressively during the pandemic, has not significantly affected hiring, at least for the moment.

Future career success depends to a significant degree on knowing yourself, he adds. “We put a lot of emphasis [on that] here, because MBA students are making an important life-long career decision during their studies, and a successful life-long career depends hugely on happiness and personal satisfaction in their subsequent career choices,” says Somers.

“We encourage students to not rush this part, especially given the range of options that will present themselves during their MBA,” he adds.

Digital skills sought by employers

It is easy to apply for a job, but your chance of success depends on how well you are prepared; you need to match yourself to the job market. What are the key skills that are most important to employers right now?

“According to the World Economic Forum, 50 percent of job vacancies require digital capabilities,” says Amber Wigmore Alvarez, chief talent officer at Highered, a global career platform used by business schools and universities worldwide. “These include basic software and hardware skills, digital transformation including processes, use of relevant data towards solutions, data analysis, awareness of cybersecurity risks and information management.”

She also highlights the classic MBA skills, such as customer and result orientation, flexibility, and collaboration. “Generally, companies hiring MBAs are looking for smart, agile, critical thinkers who can operate within global teams and matrixed environments, and meet tight deadlines,” adds Murray at Georgetown, adding that “employers also are looking for leaders who have been successful in managing remote teams, given the changing nature of the workforce”.

The recruitment process itself is also changing, says Wigmore Alvarez, who is an associate professor at IE Business School in Spain. “The most significant changes in how employers are hiring at the moment is stemming from the highly advanced technologies for talent recruitment that are fundamentally changing the world of global HR,” she explains.

Job candidates should familiarize themselves with assessment tools that are being used by employers to accelerate matching with relevant candidates, she adds. “Recruiters no longer have to settle for surface-level insight. They can now see how a candidate matches up to each of their success criteria, for total transparency.”

Furthermore, alumni networks should be used as they are incredibly powerful. “This is the key takeaway,” says Wigmore Alvarez. “Make those meaningful connections with working professionals or alumni from your school and be prepared to ask for advice and the questions that will set you in the right direction when it’s time to explore career options and go to market.”

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