The MBA is a gateway even during a gritty recession when the bursting of the mortgage bubble and the bank collapse in the US, for example, tipped the scale of the work/life balance. In the business world, obtaining an MBA degree still gives you a chance to move to a higher job position as you acquire a different level of management skills.
Prospective MBA students have indeed been knocking on the doors of international business schools, continuing a trend that started in 2008. The pay-off has been quite tangible.“Recent MBA participants have gone on to work for over 300 companies in more than 60 countries,” says Jake Cohen, Dean of the MBA programme at INSEAD, while 10% of the students at IE Business School (ranked 3rd in Europe and 8th worldwide by the Financial Times) start a new venture after graduation. “I personally decided to go to IE Business School because it was always a dream of mine to found my own company, and as IE has a very strong focus on entrepreneurship, it was the ideal choice for me,” says 2007 MBA graduate Bernard Niener. Having a clear idea about how you are going to use your MBA to advance your career is crucial. Not all MBA graduates are as forward-thinking as Niener. Yet if you want to avoid a struggle to find a job in a shrinking market, you should draw up an action plan. Here are some tips to help you speed up your professional launch.
Honing your skills, identifying your weaknesses and overcoming them is the way to achieve the goals you set for yourself (a higher salary, a change of job, a leap up the hierarchical ladder, etc.). One of the best things about an MBA is that you can tailor your coursework as a choice of optional subjects allows you to focus on those that interest you most or that can be most useful to you on the job market. Top graduate schools have impressive facultative programmes that practically cover all areas, ranging from accounting, economics and entrepreneurship to languages, marketing and strategic and international management. So if you want to put an entrepreneurial spin on your MBA, you may take classes in new creative ventures, for instance, or optional business management classes.
Your peers and your university’s alumni network can be a valuable source of information. High-ranking universities pride themselves on their job placement record (over 1,500 companies posted full-time job offers for IE Business School MBA students in 2008- 2009). You can trust their alumni to give you advice. They can help you identify the job that best suits your skills and aspirations and advise you on where it is best to cast your net, i.e. which companies are recruiting. Some of your peers can do the same, as a large proportion of MBA students have substantial work experience and see their degree as a means to advance in the workplace and not as a fresh start.
Graduate schools have a vested interest in their students’ professional growth and their key mission is to put their MBA graduates in management positions. Most of them offer comprehensive career services for free. Hult International Business School, for example, boasts lifetime career management courses that ensure each student’s job search is both efficient and strategic. The university provides exposure to industries, companies and professionals relevant to post- MBA career objectives. The lifetime career management programme includes a series of workshops (CV and covering letter writing, job search strategies, salary negotiations) and one-to-one sessions to give students the basic tools to begin their job search.
Campus interviews with recruiters are a good starting point, but it is advisable to do a bit of research yourself and apply to a number of companies after you've done your homework and have carefully selected them (scanning through your university's career database will give you information on potential employers' profiles and provide you with company rankings). Following industry blogs and news on the latest business trends can also give you an idea of the best place to apply.
Be ambitious but not over-confident. Remember that you are a newcomer. Your MBA is a lifelong passport for career growth and the pay-off will come in due time. When negotiating your salary, do not aim for the highest figures. Remember that your new employer is ready to invest in you and give you the opportunity to move up the corporate ladder. You shouldn't expect to start straight from the top. Be prepared instead to show commitment to enhancing your skills and becoming an asset to the company (your salary will increase proportionally).