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How are business schools and this year’s MBA graduates preparing for the worsening job market?

The worsening economic situation affects us all. For many this is not the time to change job, whilst others are actively seeking an employer and will need to be mobile to create new opportunities.

With oil trading at near record levels, and the spectre of inflation haunting the central banks, the next couple of years could be tough for the traditional MBA recruiters. Goldman Sachs and Citibank have announced deep cuts in their staff, up to 10% in certain divisions. The move is part of a re-sizing effort amongst investment banks in response to market conditions, and reduced activity in areas such as M&A and the trading desks.

We’ve been here before of course, and might spare a thought for the MBA Class of ’02. These were the guys who headed to business school a year or two before, when stock markets were at exuberant levels, and bank and consultancy firms were fighting it out with sign-on bonuses for MBA graduates. Two years later the internet bubble had burst, business had dried up for consultancy firms and banks, and graduates coming out of business school were faced with the toughest job market in a decade.

So how different will the job market be for the credit-squeezed Class of ’08? And what have career services learned from the last downturn, and how are they preparing their MBA graduates for the current job market? 

Clearly the US market is hurting far more than in Europe. Patrice Houdayer, dean at EM Lyon in France, reports that, “We have not seen any real negative impact from the volatility of the financial markets. In fact recent meetings with JP Morgan, Lehman Brothers and Dresdner Bank in London confirm that our graduates are enjoying more and more success in Europe. One of the attractions of EM Lyon for the investment banks is the high proportion of women in our programs – even in turbulent times the banks are committed to recruiting such talent.”

But even the European market looks static when compared to emerging markets in Asia and the Gulf. Camila de Wit, Career Services Director at Esade Business School in Barcelona is emphatic about job opportunities for mobile MBA graduates.

“Internationally there are pockets of great opportunity, notably in emerging markets. As one Chinese recruiter commented, the only thing holding back growth is talent.  In Dubai and the GCC companies are recruiting anything that moves – Investment Banking, consulting, everything. The expert community is comparatively small in this market.”

What have career services learned from the last downturn, and how are they preparing their MBA graduates for the current job market? De Wit, believes that lessons have been learned.

“Companies have learned from their experience 5 years ago, hence current recruiting caution. Banks and consultancies were burned in the past, and this time they are ahead of the curve. Hiring is based on real needs with little or no speculation. They are looking to identify the most focused and motivated candidates. It is important for MBA graduates to know exactly what they want, and share a compelling story with the banks.”

Her view is shared by recruiters, who also stress the importance of professional experience, a key component of the MBA profile. “As markets in Europe get tougher organisations are looking for immediate results,” says Graeme Read, Group Managing Director at international recruiter, Antal. “That means candidates who have a track record of achievement in their field. An MBA is highly valued, but not if it’s all an individual has to offer.”



About symondsgsb

Matt is chief editor of MBA50.com, a website dedicated to the world's outstanding business schools. He is an internationally recognised business and graduate school expert, consulting to the world’s top business schools, and has written for many of the world’s leading publications including : Forbes, The Economist, BusinessWeek, BBC, Newsweek, CNBC, America Economia, Washington Post, The Independent, Boston Globe, Handelsblatt, 21st Century Herald, South China Morning Post, Vedomosti, San Francisco Chronicle, Expansion, Beijing Daily. Matt was Co-Founder of the QS World MBA Tour Matt is co-author of Getting the M.B.A. Admissions Edge, a B-school admissions bestseller sponsored by Goldman Sachs and McKinsey. His new individual school guides will be available in the fall.


One thought on “How are business schools and this year’s MBA graduates preparing for the worsening job market?

  1. Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

    Posted by Alex | August 16, 2008, 11:21 am

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