Even Online, Employers Still Value Business School Graduates

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McKinsey & Company’s global talent acquisition lead Brian Rolfes suggests that a reliance on online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has little negative impact on MBA jobs prospects. In fact, he says, the Big Three consulting firm will hire its largest ever incoming class in 2021.

When campuses closed and business schools switched to online delivery due to the coronavirus outbreak, students were forced to adapt to a new way of learning.

The majority felt schools dealt well with the disruption. In a survey of 600 business students conducted by higher education consultancy CarringtonCrisp, 66 percent said their school made good use of online resources to continue course delivery.

When it comes to getting jobs, students have also witnessed the value of pursuing graduate management degrees. Companies across the board continue to value business school graduates, with recruitment set to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2021.

Whether studying offline or online, the value of a business degree remains and studying online may even bring some advantages for students when it comes to connecting with employers.

Demand for business school graduates

Despite the pandemic, applications to business schools boomed in 2020, with two-thirds of business school programs reporting an increase in application numbers.

In a time of economic downturn, more people turned to management education as a refuge and opportunity to upskill. When they graduate, these students will be better-placed to advance their careers and apply for jobs in a healthier jobs market.

Indeed, GMAC’s 2020 Corporate Recruiters Survey revealed 90 percent of employers plan to hire MBA graduates in 2021. 95 percent of respondents from Fortune 100 companies remained confident in the abilities of graduate business school students.

Despite COVID-19, companies in consulting, at 64 percent, finance (74%), and technology (75%), plan to keep headcounts stable at least. Consulting recruiters are however more likely to delay starting dates for new hires, with 51 percent of recruiters following this path, compared to finance (26%) and technology (16%).

Employers appreciate business school graduates for their communication skills, strategic thinking abilities, and versatility, according to the survey findings.

The skills business school students picked up during the transition to online learning the last academic year will also be priceless in the recruitment cycle, with employers looking for new skills in a post-COVID world.

Alongside managing strategy and innovation, managing tools and technology is a skill predicted to grow in demand in the next five years.

Just like business schools, companies had to pivot to a virtual way of working during the pandemic. This means many of the skills developed in the last year—forming virtual connections, working online, learning new technology—are similar to the skills companies are looking for now.

With remote working set to continue—the percentage of workers permanently working from home is expected to double in 2021—the ability of recent graduates to adapt to online work, and have the resilience to carry on through it, are attractive qualities recruiters will notice.

Connections with employers

The online environment may also help candidates get closer with companies.

In the pre-pandemic world, employers could only recruit at a limited number of schools in person. Now, the necessity of online networking and recruiting is opening doors, removing geographic barriers and meaning students can apply for jobs at companies globally from their homes while employers too can widen their recruitment.

This extends to internships too, with many schools running virtual internship programs.

“A company that didn’t recruit in person may be even more accessible now,” suggests Megan Hendricks, executive director of the MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance (CSEA).

Usual expectations have changed in terms of physical presence, and so students accessing companies online is the new normal, although they will have to pay more attention to online profiles, Megan notes.

Paying attention to where your name appears in an internet search and making sure your LinkedIn account is up to date to showcase your experience are simple ways of ensuring employment success.

Think of your online profile as a low-cost way of ensuring future career success, Megan explains.

Showing up to virtual career fairs is crucial too. “There is more participation in these events now than in the past,” Megan notes, so making sure your online profile is easily navigable and visible can help you stand out.

Adding value

Employers are impressed by students who have turned the challenges the COVID crisis presents into opportunities.

Two London Business School MBA students, for example, launched their own startup supplying personal protective equipment (PPE) to care homes and corporates in need following the coronavirus outbreak, while the virtual MBAs Fight COVID-19 initiative pairs MBA students with firms in need of their expertise.

“Anything students can share about what they did in the pandemic, or even what they’re currently working on to help their communities, can be highlighted on their resume,” says Megan.

Students who pursue an MBA during COVID-19, or another graduate business degree, have many opportunities to add social impact work to their profiles, as employers seek out candidates with a social conscience.

McKinsey too has offered pro-bono consulting work to companies impacted by COVID-19, Brian explains.

The firm will hire over 1,000 MBAs in 2021. Those candidates recruited by the firm, he says, “have the opportunity to get involved and see their work make a difference in communities around the world.”

MBA admissions will be especially competitive this year amidst increase demand brought on by the pandemic. For guidance on how to help your applications stand out from the pack, access our free Full-Time MBA Application Guide.


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