It looks like last year’s predictions of a meltdown in the job market for new MBA degree holders may have been as panic stricken and inaccurate as many of the other forecasts we heard in 2009. As Pamela Mittman, who heads up career services at NYU Stern business school, reports, “We’ve been cautiously optimistic throughout the past year, and we’re now seeing that optimism justified in a renewed commitment by recruiters in pipelining talent in the wake of the financial crisis. We’ve seen job postings for immediate hires up 40% on 2009 and vacancies in some sectors such as venture capital, private equity and consumer products up by as much as 70%.”
The recovery may not seem quite as strong outside top schools like Stern, but it still appears to be a reality across the business education spectrum. The latest research from the MBA Career Services Council, which surveyed schools across the USA and Europe, found 60% of career departments reporting more job postings this year than last.
However, according to Becky Joffrey of the Tuck School, in New Hampshire, these general figures may be masking a substantial shift in the hiring picture. She says that more and more Fortune 500 companies are now hiring international MBA students, not for classic head office roles in the U.S. or Europe, but to run operations in their own home countries. “With the rapid pace of globalization, corporate America has got the message that global growth requires talent with in-depth knowledge of the languages, customs and geography of other parts of the world,” she says. She cites examples from her school such as Manoj Sahoo, recruited by Cargill to run its Indian operations out of Singapore, and two other Tuck students joining Samsung to train in Seoul and then return to their native countries, Israel and India.
François de Wazieres, director of international recruitment for the cosmetics giant L’Oreal, says, “We are deeply interested in talent acquisition for our developing markets, because our sales in new markets will very likely exceed those in Western Europe this year, and our CEO is already talking about us reaching as many as 1 billion customers there.” L’Oreal looks for graduates of major U.S. and European schools such as Harvard, Wharton, HEC and IMD and gives them their initial exposure to the business in centers such as Paris and New York. “This accelerates their learning path within the company and readies them for operational and entrepreneurial assignments in our new markets.”
Becky Joffrey’s analysis of a shifting market is mirrored by Graeme Read, chief executive of Antal, an international management recruiter. “The professional and managerial jobs market has definitely picked up since the beginning of the year, but the most noticeable recovery is in the developing economies of the BRICs and N-11,” he says. “The most recent edition of our Global Snapshot, which monitors employment trends in 55 countries, found hiring up 53% to 54% around the world since January, but up 65% in Brazil, 72% in China and 73% in India. One of the key drivers behind this growth in emerging markets is a move away from the conventional expatriate model. Up until relatively recently these countries accepted a need to import management expertise from the West. Now, however, they want to take control themselves, and consequently there is a major focus on sourcing locally born professionals who have trained at a recognized business school. In countries like China and India, the ‘returner’ is becoming one of the most sought-after commodities in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, schools are competing to take advantage of this development. Harvard, for example, has increased its career services budget by 50% and is spending a sizable proportion of that on reaching out to potential new employers with a series of international conferences. Some of them are still taking place in traditional places such as London and Paris, but one of the most successful has been an event in Shanghai targeting organizations across China. The University of Chicago’s Booth School has taken a similar approach. Its career development team has tripled in size to allow it to focus on linking up with more overseas employers, and that new staff is spending more and more time on the road forging those new relationships in person. Nor is the focus on employment in emerging markets limited to U.S. schools alone. At the Warwick Business School, in Great Britain, for example, the economic tigers of Asia now account for nearly a quarter of post-MBA jobs.
Becky Joffrey points out that the shakeup in major financial centers such as Wall Street and the City of London has made managerial jobs with blue-chip commercial and industrial companies a more desirable choice for many of the brightest and best MBAs. The latest survey of corporate recruiting by the Graduate Admissions Council has found that while finance still remains the number one career choice for business school graduates, manufacturing, health care and energy are where they are ending up in practice. And all this is fueling a dispersal of business school talent around the globe. Looking for the global business leaders of tomorrow? Forget New York, London or Paris. Try Beijing, Mumbai or Sao Paulo instead.