The MBA Labor Market is on the Rise

As economies bounce back globally, job markets are at the heart of a post-Covid recovery

Although the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global labor markets and causing a large increase in unemployment, the MBA labor markets appears to be in a reasonably good shape in 2021. With the global economic recovery underway, job markets are opening doors to career seekers. Yet, the competition for the business graduate remains intense.

Since the pandemic-induced recession has had a major impact on the availability of graduate jobs, it has damaged employment prospects for those who graduated during the pandemic. Consequently, this year, the competition for graduate jobs is at a record high, with a backlog of former students from last year adding to the pressure on the career path for new graduates. It means that business students graduating this summer are hunting for an edge in the job race, competing not only with their peers, but those having waited for the job market recovery during the COVID-19 recession.

“Competition for graduates are certainly intense”, comments Mai-Gee Hum, the Director of career management services and corporate partnerships at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business in Canada.

While acknowledging the pandemic has made the situation for the graduates worse, Hum remains positive about the job opportunity. The labor market for business students has recovered in the wake of COVID-19 despite slow growth in wages. Data from the Graduate Management Admission Council shows that 92 per cent of corporates seek to hire graduates in 2021.

Career opportunities are amongst the corporate winners from COVID-19

Despite the recession caused by the pandemic, the tech industry is standing strong

The main job creators for MBA students this year are the big winners of the Covid pandemic. According to career coaches and employment data, they include technology, alongside venture capital and private equity firms.

On the other hand, the COVID-19 recession has left a long-lasting impact on other sectors such as hospitality, retail, and natural resources such as the oil and gas industry, all of which have few vacancies.

Hum claims that, nevertheless, employment prospects for those graduating in 2021 is bright, especially for those who are willing to start their career in finance, consulting and e-commerce. For example, Hum adds, job availability in banking is positive in the midst of economic recovery after the pandemic. Consulting jobs are also booming as businesses have grown during the pandemic, when the demand from corporates for business consulting was high. The job opportunities in healthcare are also bright in the post-Covid era.

However, as Hum notes, industries like entertainment, travel, and tourism have not yet shown positive signs of bouncing back with a slow change in recruitment.

There are smart ways to find a job for MBA students despite fierce competition

What career experts advise is clear: be flexible with industry, learn how the virtual hiring process works, and prepare to impress interviewers with what you have done to resolve the pandemic-induced challenges.

For jobs in major companies, the candidates need to demonstrate their capability of managing uncertainty, highlights Patti Brown, a global MBA director at ESSEC Business School in France.  Brown adds that this requirement is not new, since it has been always requested by employers; but it has been certainly emphasized during the pandemic.

“Demonstrating how you have coped with ambiguity in the time of the pandemic can be a way of showing how innovative you are,” says Liza Kirkpatrick, managing director of the career management center at Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. In other words, candidates need to take the COVID-induced circumstances as an opportunity to prove their flexibility and networking.

“The point is to show confidence in what you have done to deal with the unexpected situations and what you have learned from those challenges,” adds Kirkpatrick.

For those whose internship was cancelled last summer, it cannot be more emphasized. “Internships were cancelled since companies were not ready for remote workers,” says Dominique Gobat, senior careers advisor at University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.

According to Gobat, graduates who managed to show their flexibility and management skills were successful in the competition, even during the pandemic. Gobat says it shows how much companies value candidates’ soft skills.

Then, what graduates need to learn would be how to get to grips with virtual recruitment, learning how to use the benefit of this recruiting procedure. “Employers and graduates are both positive about the virtual recruitment system as it allows efficiency for job interviews, both time and money-wise,” says Kellogg’s Kirkpatrick.

Virtual recruitment is a good way for companies and candidates to keep the hiring process economical. Kirkpatrick explains, “Employers were able to expand their reach across MBA programs and students were able to manage interview conflicts, which in the past made them miss opportunities”.

What are new ways for recruiting MBA graduates?

Online job interviews, especially on Zoom, are a common practice in companies around the world in 2022.

Kirkpatrick advises to preparing for Zoom interviews and improving online job search skills as well as communication skills will give you an edge on such a competitive market.

Kirkpatrick emphasizes the importance of preparing for any interactions with potential employers and recommends using the university’s job center and alumni association to get hints for informational interviews from graduates who are already in the industry.

ESSEC’s Brown, underlines that companies today, for instance, Snap and Amazon, strategically use alumni networks within the corporates to get recommendations from their current workers when employing new workers.

Regarding virtual recruitment that has been popularly used during the pandemic, Brown agrees with other experts that it will remain in the post-covid era, so much that she put several sessions in a curriculum to help students’ online interviews. Brown adds, “We have alumni now strategically placed in companies such as Snap and Amazon, which are hiring and favor recommendations from current employees.”

Another piece of advice from business schools for the 2021 cohort is, “Have a plan B, C, D, E and F,” and “Don’t be a snob; the company that is unknown today could be the Amazon of tomorrow”. Schools encourage their graduates to stay open and motivated to venture into a business they might not have been interested in before.

“Students who can diversify their job search approach on-the-fly and have a strong desire for personal improvement are finding their way into great jobs”, agrees Luca Allaria, MBA career advisory manager at St. Gallen. Allaria underlines the importance of demonstrating their open mindsets to accept feedback, to question themselves and to make unplanned changes if needed.

The last tip from Kellogg’s Kirkpatrick is that students should not wait for the one perfect job since there is never only one path to a successful career. Kirkpatrick adds, if you did, “you may be missing the doors that are open to you.”

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