A Strong And Diversifying MBA Jobs Market in 2013

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There appears to be a definite mood of optimism about employment opportunities across b-school campuses and corporate resourcing department around the world. While MBA hiring has certainly been adversely affected by the economic crisis, notably in financial services, it has not experienced a downturn comparable to the beginning of the millennium. Careers in consulting remain a staple for many MBA students who graduated this summer, with a growing number of opportunities in technology, e-commerce, luxury retail and energy sectors.

The GMAC 2013 Corporate Recruiters Survey found that not only are more companies planning to hire recent MBAs around the world this year (75%, up from 71% that hired in 2012), but also they expect to increase the average number of new MBA hires per company to 14.6, from 11.4 a year before.

In fact, a number of business schools are now reporting one of the best placement records in their history. 97.8 percent of Wharton graduates this year received job offers within three months of graduation, with median base salaries rising to $125,000, up from $120,000 the year before. MBA hiring at UT Austin’s McCombs was similarly strong, and points to competitive hiring and increased employment options for MBAs in the 2013-2014 recruiting season.  Director of MBA CareerManagement, Stacey Rudnick reports, “We saw a 6-year high for MBA students employed 3 months after graduation, with 96% of our students with job offers. A high percentage of MBA students (43%) took their full-time positions coming out of their summer internships.” Salaries at McCombs were up across the board, with the average salary over $106,000, and 71% of graduating students receiving a signing bonus, worth on average $24,700.

This optimistic picture is mirrored in the most recent Global Snapshot survey of management and professional hiring around the world, conducted by the recruitment specialist Antal International. Its poll of nearly 10,000 companies in 52 countries found 54% recruiting in comparison to 46% at the beginning of the year. As Antal’s CEO, Tony Goodwin, puts it, “Having gone through a long period of ‘making do’, it seems many businesses are now keen to refresh their senior talent pipelines.”

So is it good news across the board? Or is the ongoing revival of the MBA jobs market a silo-based one? Gary Fraser, who heads up career services at California’s USC Marshall says that the sectors showing the most activity are hi-tech, healthcare and consultancy. “We believe this increased interest is based on a few factors such as growth from new innovation, corporate stability and the California location that many of these firms offer.  We are seeing more company visits to campus, more firms hosting case competitions, and greater company participation in events held by student clubs like the High Tech Association and the HealthcareLeadership Association.”

According to Fred Staudmyer, Director of Career Management at the Johnson School of Cornell University, MBA hiring is still very strong in management consulting, corporate finance and marketing/product management. “Consulting is still a huge draw for MBAs and there’s still lots of work”, he explains. “Wall Street is somewhat less of a draw than in the past and there are fewer jobs there, particularly in sales and trading. Students are still very interested in finance and financial services, but not as many are signing up for investment banking.”

Staudmyer singles out the technology sector and new digital media as areas of continued growing interest and employment for MBAs. “Big tech is hiring more MBAs each year in the internet retail, social media, and business solutions spaces, and more of our MBAs are interested in earlier stage companies now.” But with recruiters in corporate finance still taking a cautious approach to hiring, he says there is a continuing need for students to broaden their search and remain open to new ideas. “I think we’ll continue to see more and more MBAs heading into smaller, flatter and agile companies over the next few years.”

Outside the US, hiring, while certainly healthy, appears to have largely shifted away from the dedicated entry programs of the past to more ad hoc sourcing of talent.  “Although some large consultancies and blue-chip companies still take this route, a lot of recruitment is now less formal, more opportunistic,” says Derek Walker, director of careers at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School in the UK. “And we’re seeing opportunities coming from a very wide range of sources – from alumni, from companies with a specific slot to fill, or through internship positions.

Because of this more varied employment market, school’s career services and the students they work with need to be as agile and flexible as the new breed of companies they now deal with. “Our ‘top ten’ recruiters are changing all the time, reflecting the fluid nature of the market,” says Tony Somers of HEC Paris in France.  “It means that anticipating demand can be a challenge. While the big picture remains fairly constant, on-the-ground needs can change quickly and we all need to be geared up to respond quickly and effectively.”

A widely discussed feature of the employment market this time last year, was the increasing trend for students from emerging markets to return home after graduation rather than seeking to stay on in the West.  GMAC reports that companies in Asia-Pacific are experiencing robust growth and planning for market expansion in 2013 and are creating higher demand this year for MBAs and master-level candidates. But with growth slowing in China, India and Brazil, there do seem to be signs of this growth tailing off, at least at US schools. “The majority of non-domestic students who come here and aren’t company-sponsored are staying on in the US for their first post-MBA job,” says Cornell’s Staudmyer. “There’s still a strong desire to experience professional working life in the US, whether or not an individual ultimately plans to head back to their own country or region.”

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