The global economic crisis is not over yet. Just talk to any member of the Spanish, Portuguese, Irish or Greek governments if you need confirmation. But it does seem as if the worst might be behind us. And that means job prospects for professionals and managers throughout the world are looking better than they have at any time since 2007.
PricewaterhouseCooper’s annual poll of business leaders on five continents, for example, has found the majority confident about corporate growth in 2011, yet worried about how to source the talent they will need to fuel it. And the latest edition of the Global Snapshot research from recruitment firm Antal International suggests that international employment markets have stabilised, with 52% of nearly 13,000 companies surveyed currently hiring staff and only 17% planning to reduce headcount (see table).
So, what does this mean for anyone planning to take an MBA in the next few years? Despite the general economic slowdown, MBA recruitment never came close to experiencing the sort of adversity it faced in the wake of the dotcom implosion and 9/11 a decade ago. Although hiring by the banking sector fell dramatically between 2007 and 2010, some of the shortfall in opportunities was taken up by a new generation of employers in the SME arena and by high-growth companies such as Apple and Amazon. But no one would dispute that finding the right job in these years involved a major investment of time, energy and commitment.
Now, however, there appears to be clear light at the end of the tunnel. The latest data from the MBA Career Services Council shows that 76% of schools are recording more on-campus activity than they did in 2010. And it seems clear from talking to business school careers services that recruiters of all types are not just back on US campuses in force, but practically everywhere else too.
According to María Not at the IESE Business School in Barcelona, the MBA job market has recovered significantly in 2011. “We’re seeing particular interest from the consulting firms,” she says. “Industrial firms are also very active and financial services is at least sustaining the level of activity we saw in 2010.”
Not’s optimism is mirrored by Inger Seiferheld of Edinburgh Business School. “We are definitely seeing more job offers being made to our students this year than last, “ she says. “Consultancy is the favourite destination and we’re also seeing interest from the financial services sector.”
Businesses also seem to be planning ahead more, rather than expecting to simply turn up on campus and have their pick of the best students. “Not only are companies coming on campus earlier so that they don’t miss out, they are also investing in more internships,” says Marie- José Beaudin of the Desautels Faculty of Canada’s McGill University. “Organisations are looking at building talent pipelines that will feed their needs over time rather than just recruiting for the here and now.”
However, the real news for 2011 is the indication that business schools are finally being seen as the key source of the managers and professionals of the future – those who can operate in truly international markets. “We’re seeing more and more multinationals looking for MBAs from Western schools who also have the skills sets and cultural awareness to help with the development of emerging markets,” says Beaudin. In many cases this means graduates returning to their country of origin under the umbrella of a global business, but an increasing number of students from Europe and North America are also seeing the attraction of gaining international experience in their first job.
This shift means the careers services at top schools have to reach out to a much wider range of potential employers outside their domestic comfort zones.
The Darden School at the University of Virginia, for example, has partnered with Duke, Michigan, UNC, UT Austin and Yale to launch an online MBA recruitment fair involving employers all over the world, and has introduced student-led ‘job treks’ to London, Shanghai, Beijing and Singapore.
The result? Major overseas recruiters such as British Telecom and HSBC are on campus for the first time. Just one indication that we are now seeing a genuinely global marketplace for the MBA.