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Strathclyde Business School

Success as an MBA graduate: it’s not just what’s on paper

By Irene Aitkenhead Taylor - Posted on 4 April 2013

Strathclyde Business School’s Career and Professional Development Manager, Irene Aitkenhead Taylor, looks at what today’s employers are looking for from MBA graduates…

For a careers professional, finding positions for MBA graduates, the greatest challenge is not sourcing vacancies. Despite current economic conditions, even a cursory glance at specialist MBA recruitment portals, general job sites and companies’ own recruitment pages will demonstrate that opportunities for talented graduates are still out there.

The greatest challenge is to make sure each graduate understands where their experience and skills fit in the market and to make their job search strategy one of targeted quality, rather than indiscriminate quantity.

While opportunities still exist, and MBA graduates remain highly desirable, employers’ attitudes to what makes the right candidate have changed. It’s not just experience and qualifications that count, but a record for delivery.

Talking to one such employer recently, this difference in the value of on paper experience and the attributes which can lead to success came through loud and clear:

“…a few years ago we looked for candidates with 5-7 years’ experience, at MBAs, and those with leadership and commercial experience, ambition and drive. Fifty percent of these hires failed.  Currently we’re looking for diversity and test five things;

 1.       Leadership skills

2.       The ability to build relationships internally, network, make stakeholder relationships and to be influential

3.      The ability to shape strategy

4.      The ability to deliver and execute this strategy

5.      The ability to create and communicate vision and bring along the team…”

Clearly, it’s not just about being the strategic thinker, devising the master plan around the boardroom table. No, of equal, if not greater, value to employers is candidates’ demonstrable ability to get their hands dirty, mucking in to convert strategic thought into tasks, actions and goals.

Potential leaders must now not only demonstrate experience and academic achievement on paper, but must also prove their ability to deliver.

As careers professionals the onus is on us to build graduates’ understanding of what companies want by having these conversations with employers. Building industry knowledge in this way we can identify the key attributes needed and work with graduates to bring out this desirable hands-on experience in their applications.

The talent is there but packaging it in the right way, and finding the most appropriate vacancy to make the most of it, is key to ensuring MBA graduate employability.

Are you a careers professional, what is your experience of what employers are looking for from MBA graduates today? Let me know in the comments below.

(Image courtesy of Strathclyde Business School)

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University of Strathclyde
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