How Top European Business Schools Help you Find Your Post MBA Career | TopMBA.com

How Top European Business Schools Help you Find Your Post MBA Career

By Pavel Kantorek

Updated May 27, 2019 Updated May 27, 2019

In terms of MBA recruitment, top European business schools are comfortably and consistently among the world’s best. Institutions like London Business School, ESADE, and INSEAD can boast employment figures of over 90% within three months of graduation, rising even higher if we look at six month statistics.

Salary data is equally impressive. Candidates who have studied at European schools which fall into the top ‘elite global’ category in the QS Global 200 Business Schools report enjoy remuneration which, on average, crosses the six figure threshold – before bonuses are taken into account. The only US schools which can compete with salaries enjoyed by graduates of INSEAD and London Business School are the powerhouses of Harvard and Stanford, and IMD’s figure of US$130,000 bests even this illustrious pair.

Certainly, the selective nature of this elite combined with the higher levels of work experience often required of European business schools (often averaging around five or six years) helps to create eminently employable cohorts. Nonetheless, these schools are doing something right when it comes to MBA recruitment.

International exposure

It is almost a truism that the cohorts at European business schools are extremely diverse – a diversity which is often very deliberately maintained by the institutions themselves. At IE Business School in Spain or IMD in Switzerland, no fewer than 97% of students are international. When looking for an international MBA career, this kind of international exposure can be invaluable – the 2012/13 QS TopMBA.com Jobs & Salary Trends Report shows that 67% of MBA employers highly value international experience.

“Our student body is so international that, everyday, students learn from their peers how people from different nationalities operate; it is an on-the-job learning experience,” reflects Ana Herranz Martin, of IE’s careers department. This, she believes, encourages lateral thinking and innovation in MBA candidates – qualities which are obviously valued by MBA employers. In fact, only interpersonal and communications skills were more highly rated in aforementioned report.

Isabella Pinucci, careers service coordinator at SDA Bocconi, also highlights the advantages of gaining international exposure through regular group work projects within a diverse cohort. “It’s very good practice to learn and work with people who are very different from you. Increasingly, in global companies today, you have to function in different contexts.” The academic content of the course at Bocconi, she adds, is also geared towards helping students get an understanding of varied international contexts.

A firsthand view of international business practice

It is not just in terms of exposure to a diverse peer group that MBA students at European business schools gain international experience. Many offer opportunities to directly experience international business in different cultural contexts through business treks, offered through students clubs or integrated into the curriculum.

At London Business School, the introduction of treks stands as an example of ongoing program innovation, explains David Morris, head of corporate sectors. “Last year we had an MBA review; one of the things which got introduced is global business experiences. We have trips to Johannesburg, Istanbul, to the US and Asia and India, so students can learn about different aspects of leadership and business.” These trips involve working with local businesses ranging from entrepreneurial ventures to outposts of larger companies, such as McKinsey.

These international business trips supplement those offered in conjunction with student clubs, he explains, through which students have the option of taking industry specific treks to relevant geographies. These include trips to Silicon Valley to meet tech start-ups, finance treks to New York or Hong Kong and healthcare treks to Switzerland. “These allow students to go out there and meet companies in international locations and get a feel for the place and the country as well as meet alumni.”

Real-world experience

Seeing how business is done in different contexts is obviously an extremely edifying experience for MBA candidates – but, of course, the MBA is a vocational qualification – and a chance to actually apply one’s newly acquired knowledge during the program van be invaluable.

This is something acknowledged at top European business schools, at which applied components play a central part in MBA programs. At Copenhagen Business School, for example, the final four months are dedicated to an integrated strategy project, in which students must provide a solution to a real-life problem “All of the students’ learning comes together in this project,” explains admissions manager Thuli Skosana. “The solution needs to be useful to the company from practical and theoretical perspective, forms basis of thesis.”

At SDA Bocconi, real-life experience is acquired through a (rare for a short program) mandatory summer internship, explains Pinucci. “During the internship students really network and participate in recruitment processes. This is a great boot camp for the job search afterwards.” She adds that on good years, a certain percentage of these mandatory internships are converted into full-time job offers.

One-to-one MBA careers support

One of the key draws of a top business school anywhere in the world is the tailored MBA careers support and assistance received by candidates. This is very much the case at prestigious European schools, at which one-to-one careers assistance is the norm.

“We have over 30 people in the careers services,” reveals Morris of London Business School, “a large portion of which work in the employment engagement team.” These include a range of sector specialists, who help students learn about different sectors, ascertaining whether they would be a good fit and offering guidance on for whom they should work.“Last year we ran over 4000 individual sessions and 50 workshops.”

At Bocconi, one-on-one coaching also plays a key role in helping candidates find an MBA career, and is something Pinucci believes is highly valued by candidates. Training programs are also on offer, going deeper than the practicalities of the various stages of the recruitment process. “Part of it is also developing your personal brand and presentation skills in order to make an impact with recruiters.”

These services, she continues, help individuals who might be struggling with the MBA job search to address their weaknesses. “We help them to map out a feasible career plan and implement it – we tend to spend most time with these students and with the really bright students who really understand the value of interacting with the careers services.”

It’s not uncommon for careers support to begin before the program has even started. This is the case at ESADE, explains Mary Granger, regional director for Asia: “Even before students step on campus, they are in touch with a career advisor to polish their CVs; once they get on campus they hit the ground running, so it’s important to be prepared!”

It is a similar story at London Business School, says Morris, a service which career changers find particularly useful. “We’ll do a lot of work in terms of understanding their career aspirations before they begin, identifying the companies and sectors in which they are interested.” This continues on campus – taking into account that aspirations may change over the school’s two year program – with student clubs being the vehicle through which the careers services glean this information.

MBA employer networks

Top schools produce high caliber graduates, thus these schools have unsurprisingly built up strong mutually beneficial relationships with the employers who look to their cohorts for MBA talent.

Copenhagen Business School, for example, works with 30 corporate partners, including names like Microsoft, Dong Energy and Nokia. Many of these, says Skosana, will bring their real life challenges for the integrated strategy project. It is not uncommon for candidates to be recruited through this process.  Around 60% of SDA Bocconi’s cohort are employed through the school’s network, and employers are offered several different ways to identify and approach prospective recruits – ranging from simply posting a job, to hosting a challenge.

At London Business School, Morris says, as well as putting students in touch with different schools through the various mediums of careers fairs and CV databases, there is a large focus on creating an ecosystem. “We try to encourage off-campus activity. We do a lot of work in the hubs around London, such Level 39, Google Campus, and General Assembly and try to encourage students to go to events and network. A lot of companies don’t have a dedicated MBA recruitment model, so a lot of contact is the consequence of individual vacancies and candidate job search.”

The tech-hubs highlighted by Morris highlights another advantage of European MBA study – a surfeit of diverse opportunities beyond paths like strategy consulting and investment banking. “Energy, healthcare, tech and online are hiring in strong numbers. A lot of companies are moving from the West Coast to Dublin or London for their European operation. Further afield, similar things are happening in Berlin.” These are international companies, he explains, and speaking German is not a prerequisite.

And this really highlights the employment advantages of studying in Europe; the truly international perspective and opportunities afforded by study in this multifarious continent. “I believe that almost no company today is truly only local,” concludes ESADE’s Granger. “Global management skills are evermore important, and the European MBAs have a long tradition of offering holistic training for global careers.”

This article was originally published in April 2016 . It was last updated in May 2019

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Written by

Mansoor is a contributor to and former editor of TopMBA.com. He is a higher and business education specialist, who has been published in media outlets around the world. He studied English literature at BA and MA level and has a background in consumer journalism.

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