Business students hunt for an edge in the post-Covid jobs race
Oscar Norén was prepared to go the extra mile for a business degree that could help him land the type of job he wanted. In fact, the Swede travelled nearly 10,000 miles to join a masters in management course — at the University of Sydney Business School.
“I wanted to do a MiM to improve my overall business acumen but also to give me valuable international experience — which it sure did,” says Norén, who graduated in 2019. “The international cohorts were one of the best experiences during my MiM.” The masters helped him secure a job at food-delivery company Foodora back in Stockholm, where the q-commerce business (“q” stands for quick) is testing home deliveries using robots.
Norén selected Sydney after careful research because it offered a case-based methodology he felt would enhance his learning and career prospects. “Those class discussions and weekly presentations are something I benefit from in my role today,” he says. “I feel comfortable in how to argue my opinion and give recommendations in a structured way, which is crucial for my role.”
Choosing a MiM that will give graduates the edge in the hunt for jobs is especially important at a time when the pandemic has led to a surge in MiM applications while depressing the graduate employment market.
Céline Foss, director of the Management in International Business MSc programme at Grenoble Ecole de Management in France, notes that the net employment rate for her most recent cohort was 78 per cent, compared with 85 per cent in 2019.
“It’s still strong, but slightly down,” she says. “The good news is that, post pandemic, there will be some catching up to be done by companies that put recruitment on hold during the Covid-19 crisis.”
Tony Somers, director of employer engagement at HEC Paris business school, agrees that few companies have indicated they intend to freeze hiring in the medium to long term.
Job prospects will be brightest in industries that have boomed during the pandemic, academics advise — for example q-commerce, ecommerce, marketing, supply chains, technology and health.
Employers in growth areas such as big data, artificial intelligence, automation and digitalisation are also more likely to be hiring, adds Foss. “Employers are looking for graduates who have both an understanding of the various technology tools and, crucially, how they can be utilised with the human processes and functions throughout an organisation,” she says.
The ability to think digitally will be valued across all sectors, according to Maria Obiols, careers services director at Esade business school in Barcelona. Demand remains strong in sectors that traditionally recruit MiM students, she says, including consulting, financial services and FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods), “but they are now looking for graduates with a more customer-centric mindset, more adaptability, and who have digital skills”. Last year, two-thirds of the roles that Esade MiM graduates went into had a digital focus.
MiM students will have their own ideas about what they want to do after graduation. An increasing number are looking for careers in sustainability-based roles, says University of Exeter Business School MiM director Claire Dinan. “The majority of recruiters don’t have specific graduate sustainability programmes in place, so graduates wanting to work in sustainability need to take more creative approaches to finding roles,” she says. Exeter students have found jobs in this field by targeting employers through the networking platform LinkedIn or simply approaching organisations directly, she adds.
Whatever the target role, Grenoble’s Foss advises that MiM students make use of their school’s job-search and career-planning tools, which are likely to include individual personality type analysis, help with CVs and covering letters, interview and presentation practice, and coaching and advice on optimising your social media accounts for employers. Sydney, for example, offers a three-part skills seminar in association with Google, teaching students how to build an authentic online presence.
Some schools are tailoring their career-linked courses to current circumstances. HEC Paris, for example, is offering a series of webinars and online workshops titled “Managing Your Career and Job Search Strategy in Time of Crisis”, “Persisting in Your Job Search” and “Building Resilience”. The school has also tweaked its interview advice sessions to focus on online interviews.
Most schools will also offer networking events where students can meet recruiters, virtually if necessary. Access to a robust alumni and contact network is essential, says Foss. “It helps with direct contacts for employment, and introductions and advice from alumni already in employment,” she adds. “A good alumni network is a confidence boost for students from those who have faced similar challenges, doubts and disappointments during their career and job searches.”
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Networking not only enables students to build meaningful relationships but also helps them grasp how companies and markets work and evolve, says Esade’s Obiols.
Norén recalls: “I tried to [make] contact with some of the companies I was interested in working for after my graduation. I also started applying for jobs as early as possible, so I would never feel stressed about it. But I think the biggest mistake people make is to go for high-status jobs or what other people expect them to do. I say, go for what you want to do — it will pay off in the long run.”