The coronavirus crisis has upended the job market for MBA students, but there are a number of bright spots. Business school careers advisers report robust hiring activity from the technology, financial services and management consulting industries that have long looked to MBA programs to satisfy their hiring needs, among many other sectors.
Technology companies especially are riding high off the back of a boom in demand for their products and services as the global economy is rapidly digitized. This includes not just the likes of Amazon, Apple, Amazon and Google but firms across the value chain, from companies specializing in everything from data tracking to delivery and logistics.
“With work and personal life moving to private homes, this is where consumption of everything from entertainment to clothes shopping happens – a big growth factor for tech companies,” says Sophie Schaefer, corporate relations manager, ESMT Berlin. “We see continued hiring especially in tech companies across all sizes and sectors.”
Bright spots in the post-MBA career landscape: technology, healthcare, and more
According to data submitted by users on the TransparentCareer platform for MBAs, more than 30 percent of jobs reported in 2020 were in the technology industry; in 2019 and 2018, tech jobs represented fewer than 20 percent of the total. The growth is also because Covid-19 was relatively less disruptive for tech companies’ operations.
Outside of this staple store of recruitment opportunity, several niche areas of employment are increasing in economic sectors that have grown since the Covid-19 outbreak. That includes life sciences and healthcare, which have also risen in popularity among MBAs as the vaccines gives pharma companies in particular a renewed sense of purpose and profits.
Meanwhile, agribusiness is growing amid fears of food insecurity, and companies on the cutting edge of sustainability are also recruiting, as environmental, social and governance issues are brought to the fore by the pandemic as economies look to “build back better”.
“Is Covid-19 the tipping point that finally persuades governments, industry and ordinary people that sustainability and managed growth will be absolutely crucial to our economic and general well-being in the coming decades? If so, then this sector will start to grow exponentially,” says Tony Somers, director of employer engagement at HEC Paris.
The world was edging closer to this tipping point before the pandemic, but coronavirus has raised concerns that corporate altruism will go out the window as companies look to cut costs and prioritize their survival.
Over the longer-term, Somers expects to see growth in public sector jobs for MBA students as governments pump unprecedented stimulus into their economies. “Depending on how things develop in the next six months, governments will have a much more interventionist role in daily life, therefore creating more employment in roles that are more strategic and lucrative for graduates,” he says.
Somers adds that currently, the financial technology sector (fintech) is a growing area of employment, particularly in retail banking in more developed countries as bank branches are closed and services forced online because of the Covid crisis. Elsewhere, in the broader financial services industry, he reports an uptick in jobs in the private equity and venture capital sectors as funds look to capitalize on the disruption and buy companies at knockdown prices.
Several careers managers conclude that consulting is another bright spot as strategists shift from transactions to helping businesses survive the pandemic and to restructure supply chains. Governments have also spent lavishly on consultants to advise on the coronavirus response.
Not all is rosy for MBA job seekers
This does not mean, however, that the picture is all rosy for MBA students looking for jobs this year. “Some firms delayed the start dates for their 2020 graduates, which has had some downstream effects on delaying or reducing the number of offers typically made for full-time hires from the class of 2021,” says Kerry Kidwell-Slak, director of career curricula at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
She notes other pandemic impacts: “Particularly in the technology sector, we are seeing shortened timelines for the recruitment process and aggressive efforts on the parts of recruiters to identify and make competitive offers to top talent early in the recruiting process.”
Kidwell-Slak also reports that many companies are putting a renewed emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion in their hiring efforts following the global Black Lives Matter protests. This includes making additional efforts to reach out to traditionally underrepresented groups and seeking to demonstrate their commitment to diversity as part of their overall offer package.
Meanwhile, Sarah Rumbaugh, CEO of RelishCareers, says that some students have had their internship start dates pushed back: “Some companies have had to reconsider whether having specific MBA leadership development programs makes sense for them at this time.”
She adds that students, recruiters and universities have had to adapt to new online recruiting processes that didn’t necessarily exist pre-Covid, so everyone is learning on the fly, in many cases.
“Virtual recruiting requires an extra level of outreach and ability to showcase yourself authentically,” she says. “I typically advise job candidates that they should spend equal time networking to the time it takes to apply for positions.”
ESMT’s Schaefer agrees that networking is key. “Engaging with industry insiders, getting advice and increasing your knowledge is very likely to be rewarded by open doors on the job market.”
Meanwhile, Georgetown’s Kidwell-Slak says job candidates should continue to put time and effort into tailoring their applications to demonstrate sincere interest in the industry and an understanding of its unique challenges in the pandemic.
Lastly, Somers at HEC spotlights the growing importance of soft skills alongside technical abilities. He says “students need to hone their skills regarding video pitches and build resilience” in these uncertain times.