Advice for First Years From The Class of 2013


Is MBA Recruiting on the Rebound?


“The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”

You’d think Mark Twain was speaking on behalf of the MBA these days. You hear criticism from every corner. The naysayers dismiss the degree as the ‘pedigree of the privileged.’ The pedagogy is derided as too “generic” and “theoretical.” Not to mention, it’s quite fashionable to argue that “you’re better off being an entrepreneur.”

These days, you’ll still hear how MBAs stoked the economic collapse. They’ve even become a punch line. Ever hear this one: ‘When reviewing a startup, add $500K in value for every engineer and subtract $250K for every MBA.’ You’d almost believe MBAs were the new English majors!

Question is, does this cynicism reflect reality? Quite the opposite, argues Tony Somers in a recent essay in The Financial Times. The director of the career management centre at HEC Paris, Somers upends the conventional wisdom, claiming that the MBA is headed towards a “golden age” with recruiters. Come from Europe, where the economy is not nearly as robust as the U.S., that’s saying something. So what’s behind his optimism?

For starters, Somers is no Pollyanna. He concedes that the pre-meltdown days – where employers would fall over each other to woo second years with obscene signing bonuses– aren’t coming back. Quite the opposite, he warns graduates to adjust to lower expectations. “They may need to embrace the likelihood that although such careers will not begin or develop like those of their predecessors, they will, however, still turn out to be stimulating, rewarding and, perhaps most important, sustainable.”

That’s a golden age? Using that logic, we should celebrate the 70s – disco and stagflation included – just because Microsoft and Apple were launched then!

What’s more, Somers observes that consultancy firms, which once vied with investment banks to net the most MBA talent, are moving away from MBAs, considering “specialists with less obvious backgrounds, such as scientists, doctors and mid-career industry types.” While Somers touts that sectors like consulting and banking “will certainly play a key part in the growth of MBA hiring over the next few years,” he adds that their hiring binges “may not be as large as [they had] been in the past.”

So where is this golden age going to come from again?

In Somers’ view, growth will stem from MBAs being hired by organizations “that may never have thought of hiring MBAs in significant numbers before” (You know, the b-school equivalent to the public sector fallacy of balancing budgets by reducing waste). Here’s how Somers explains this emerging phenomenon:

“Rather than being viewed as an expensive indulgence, a newly qualified MBA is now seen as a logical hire by an extremely wide spectrum of employers for a similarly broad range of roles. MBAs now fill slots in sectors as diverse as luxury goods at the likes of LVMH and L’Oréal, and are favoured hires for many of those technology and new media such as Amazon, Facebook and Google that are continually reshaping the way we conduct our lives.

And the demand for MBAs is not just coming from the companies that dominated the hiring market in the past. Industrial giants such as GE and Schneider Electric are fighting for top talent for their international expansion, while a substantial proportion of new graduates are now taking up places in fast-growing SMEs.”

Like most Financial Times guest columnists, Somers doesn’t bother to back up his assertions with hard data, just name-dropping and wishful sentiments. Still, he does touch on a point (covered by U.S. News earlier) that is certain to make MBAs more attractive to employers:

“Career treks, networking events and boot camps are all part of our efforts to help our students to understand the nuances of careers in consulting, finance, luxury, marketing, energy and entrepreneurship. Our goal is to ensure that students know themselves, know the market and can ultimately match themselves with the market.”

In other words, b-schools are devoting more time to helping students market themselves to employers. And those efforts – more than Somers’ vague prescriptions to “embrace the change” and “grasp the opportunities” – are more likely to lead to a golden age.

Don’t Miss: Insider Tips from an Expert MBA Recruiter

Source:The Financial Times


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.