How One MBA Student is Dealing With the Coronavirus
The first impact of COVID-19 (the coronavirus) pandemic on MBA students was the closure of b-school campuses. Then, business schools moved learning online. For several weeks now, MBA students around the world have been studying, connecting with each other, and applying for jobs remotely from their own homes.
Not every MBA student is happy with this. There have been petitions from full-time MBA students requesting tuition fee refunds and reductions, given that they are not getting the full MBA experience they paid for. Prospective students also face a tricky few months ahead, with schools delaying MBA start dates and campuses still closed.
However, Renato Vieira, a Brazilian student who has just completed his full-time MBA at Alliance Manchester Business School in the U.K., says there’s long-term value to doing an MBA degree that won’t be impacted by the coronavirus.
Renato has over 10 years’ experience in the oil and gas sector and decided to pursue an MBA to make a career change. Still based in Manchester under lockdown, he tells us about his study and job-seeking experience during the pandemic.
How has your MBA experience been impacted by the coronavirus?
I was already on the final month of my MBA when the lockdown was put in place. I was working on a consultancy project with my team, and the only change was that we’d be presenting our findings to the client using a virtual meeting option, which is pretty common these days anyway.
Everything was clearly communicated, and we had enough time to prepare and make the final adjustments for a virtual presentation. The virtual delivery also provided flexibility for some colleagues who decided to return to their home countries before flights were canceled and borders were closed.
Unfortunately, due to the current circumstances, we couldn’t have our gala and the graduation ceremony was canceled. It’s a totally understandable decision but still is quite upsetting, since we really felt like celebrating our achievements from the last 18 months with our MBA cohort at the end of the program.
Nevertheless, we did have a “graduation Zoom” meeting, in which we watched a short video with some of the best moments from our MBA program (international travels, study tours, the MBA Tournament, sports events) and made a virtual toast to celebrate the end of the MBA.
What do you feel you miss out on learning online instead of on campus?
There is no denying that a great deal of learning in an MBA degree comes from the everyday contact with peers. This includes learning about your classmates’ cultures, aspirations, strengths, and even finding out how it is to work in an industry you’re not familiar with.
Natural interaction with your colleagues also happens during extracurricular activities, such as sports events, MBA competitions, TED-style talks, and even weekend trips. These are all great opportunities to learn more about yourself and experiment new things, such as trying a new sport or joining a case competition that will push you out of your comfort zone. Unfortunately, the current circumstances have limited these social interactions.
How have your post-MBA jobs prospects been impacted by coronavirus?
Definitely the biggest impact of COVID-19 for me came in job hunting. I was expecting an offer from the company where I did my internship, but eventually they went on a hiring freeze and I had to reassess my strategy.
My initial idea was to stay in the U.K. for a couple of years after graduation, but right now I’ll be better positioned if I return to my home country of Brazil, where I think it will be easier to achieve my goal of changing industries after the MBA.
Since not many new vacancies are being published, I’m taking this time to network with key people in the sectors and companies I’m interested in working with and closing any skills gaps that I still need to develop to land a job in that specific sector. Most people have been really receptive and eager to help, and I’m confident I’ll be very well positioned to rejoin the market when things get better again (or even sooner!).
I’m currently interviewing for positions in strategic planning in two fast-growing industries in Brazil, and I’m confident I’ll be able to achieve my initial goal of changing industries. The MBA has allowed me to hone the necessary frameworks and techniques to help me identify my transferable skills and design my value proposition to the job market. I guess now it’s just a matter of time until I find the right match!
What would you say to anyone considering applying to business school in this difficult time?
Starting an MBA is one of those “big decisions” that you will make throughout your life. It requires a relevant commitment of resources, especially time and money, and should be treated as a major investment.
In such a high volatility environment, candidates should also pay close attention to how they will finance their studies. If the exchange rate is too unfavorable right now, maybe a good option is to evaluate a student loan and protect your savings by investing them with proper financial advice. Of course, this is all very personal and there is no right or wrong, as long as you are comfortable with your strategy to deal with potential currency fluctuations.
Now, more than ever, candidates need to conduct due diligence with their target schools and ask additional coronavirus-related questions, such as:
- What procedures did the school put in place to ensure the safety of their students?
- How was the online program delivery experience? Were you prepared for that? Have you made the right adjustments if you weren’t prepared?
- What are the scenarios for the normalization of the program delivery? What if the lockdown is extended? What if the situation gets better earlier than expected?
- How is the school’s relationship with companies that hire on campus? What is the career services team doing to support students during this crisis period?
If the answers to some of these questions are vague or not satisfactory, maybe a candidate should rethink whether that school is the right place to pursue an MBA. No one can say for sure when things will get better, but at least knowing what to expect in different scenarios can help you make a more informed decision.
|Marco De Novellis is the editor of BusinessBecause, an online publisher dedicated to graduate management education, and is the creator and host of the podcast, The Business School Question. Follow him on Twitter @marcodenov.
Renato Vieira is a recent MBA graduate from The University of Manchester's Alliance Manchester Business School. Still based in Manchester, he is originally from Brazil.