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Career Growth in the COVID Environment: Advice from MBA Students

Posted August 10, 2020 by Kevin Anselmo - Communications Consultant - GBSN

Just a few months ago, no business school student could have predicted that the summer 2020 job market would be the worst in recent memory for western countries. But that is indeed the reality that has faced recent graduates. In all likelihood, current students looking for career opportunities in the near future will also be navigating opportunities in an environment punctuated by a pandemic and social injustices.

In the midst of these trials, there are many examples of MBA students who have secured interesting jobs and internships in the last few months. We asked some schools within the Global Business School Network (GBSN) to share stories of students who succeeded in the job market during the pandemic. Here are some of their keys to success that can be helpful for other students who are or will soon be on the job hunt.

1. Leverage Specially Designed Educational Experiences

Many business schools have programs specifically designed to create employment opportunities. The career center at ISM Group in Senegal, for example, partners with firms like the Cofina Group, a company in the financial services industry, to provide students with support. The ISM Group and the Cofina Group’s Young Professional Program trains select students on site and then potentially reintegrates them into their country of origin as full-time employees. Martial Baron Mbenguélé, originally from the Congo, is one person who went through this experience.

“The career center believed in me and involved me in an adventure that has been fruitful, fulfilling, and most beneficial, despite the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mbenguélé said.

Hind Zizi, of the ESCA Ecole de Management in Morocco, can also attest to the power of experiences. An international business major, Zizi developed a specific interest in Asian business and global brand management as a result of an exchange semester in Seoul, South Korea, and then translated this interest into a new opportunity.

“Once back home, I shared this newfound passion with the head of our career department, who suggested I acquire additional experience and then helped me land an internship in a renowned communication consulting agency in Morocco,” explained Zizi. “I had the opportunity to lead the public relations for the account of a multinational Korean company.”

2. Communicate Effectively

Maddie Handler, a 2020 MBA graduate from Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, joined the GBSN team in April as a program coordinator. She offers a unique perspective on finding career opportunities in the midst of a pandemic as a recent graduate who just secured a job and who also worked as an employer relations project leader at Thunderbird while she was pursuing her MBA. She recommends that students pay more attention to how they are positioning their expertise online.

“An online presence is an important way to communicate one’s professional value, and LinkedIn is the ideal channel to do this,” she said. “It is also a free way to connect to others and learn about new opportunities. Unfortunately, many students don’t use the channel the way they should.”

Handler also thinks that students need to be bold.

"We live in a society that is very hesitant; people aren't always open to reaching out to the CEO or the director," she said. "Students need to be fearless in exploring opportunities. The worst someone can tell you is no."

3. Leverage Your School’s Career Center

While certain sectors are down in today’s environment, it is not all gloom and doom. Hiring is still happening, and many business school career centers are informing students about industries that have done well in the midst of the pandemic and are helping them identify job opportunities that were not initially on their radar.

The students interviewed for this article spoke about how their school’s career center helped them find opportunities. They also noted that not all students are taking advantage of this resource. Career centers need to communicate their value proposition effectively. But it is also incumbent upon students to proactively use the career center’s resources offered.

Jonah Bergstein, a full-time first-year MBA student at the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, was able to secure a project management internship at the meal services company Peli Peli. He proactively attended the different career fairs and mixers organized by the C.T. Bauer College of Business’ Rockwell Career Center and worked with a career coach at the center to sharpen his resume and networking skills. Even when offered virtually, these events and services provide vital connections to opportunities.

“I would not have gotten my summer internship if it were not for the work the career staff does,” he said.

Zizi concludes that career centers can serve the vital role of “lending an attentive ear to students and to job markets and become a bridge for opportunity.”

This article was originally published on the GBSN website.

Kevin AnselmoKevin Anselmo is a communications consultant for GBSN. He is the creator of Interview an Innovator, an online course experience that helps students learn critical digital communications skills, and establish a positive digital footprint.