Helena Pozniak
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Career Guidance at Business School

The Guardian

“The key goal of going to business school is to boost or change career,” says Richard Bland, head of employer engagement at London Business School (LBS). While undergraduate careers advice caters for a mass audience, at business school it’s a sustained and bespoke affair.

It’s not unusual for Bland to see the same student some 15 times in a term and within reason, his door is always open. MBA students receive a mix of one-to-one coaching, strategic advice, networking guidance, CV and interview clinics and ongoing support. Before they even arrive on campus, business schools urge them to write a CV, build and “work” their network, complete psychometric tests and arrive with a plan A, B and even C.

While students have every right to expect that their investment of time and money will lift their job prospects, says Tony Somers, director of the MBA careers management centre at HEC School of Management in Paris, they won’t get it on a plate. To be fair, he says, most students do seize the reins and start plotting their career route for the next five to ten years – with considerable success. “But sometimes we have to be like mum or dad, and say ‘guys - they’re not waiting for you’.” HEC’s career programme during the course is based on the advice: now yourself, know the market, match yourself and the market.

More than 70 per cent of HEC students change function or sector, more than 50 per cent change geography and up to 90 per cent manage this shift within three months of graduation. “The almost universal evaluation of MBAs worldwide five years after they graduate is ‘it was worth it’,” says Somers.

His team sees three critical times to intervene – as the course kicks off, and before and after the recruitment season, especially if students haven’t been successful with on-campus recruiting. During their course, HEC students are urged to attend weekend “boot camps” in a key sectors of interest such as finance and consulting – which allow students deepen their knowledge, learn how to build a relevant CV and how to interview specifically for their chosen industry. Equally these offer students a chance to discover if they’ve chosen well. “Our goal is to get people on the right track as quickly as possible,” says Somers.

About halfway through the HEC’s course, students are invited to give a “dragons’ den”-style presentation to alumni of their career action plan to date – and undergo some serious quizzing. “This doesn’t mean a student has to have everything worked out,” says Somers.

Careers skills students learn on an MBA should last them forever, says Bland. “We offer multiple interactions, access to major recruiters, help in written and oral marketing, how to pitch, how to network, how to sell yourself.”

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