Business Education Q&A

If you are an MBA student of the class of ‘09 and are still looking for a job, or you are thinking of setting up your own company, get the latest news and views from the FT’s monthly online Jobs Clinic now.

On Wednesday June 17, between 2pm and 3pm BST, a panel of experts answered your questions on

Our panel were: Michelle Antonio, Director of MBA Career Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; Lydia Price, Associate Dean and Academic Director of the MBA programme at Ceibs in Shanghai; and Andrea Buck, Head of MBA-Direct, the Financial Times specialist MBA job board.

I have completed my undergraduate (BBA) and postgraduate (Master in International Business MIB) at an Australian university and I have 7 years work experience. I have an offer to study for my EMBA from Cass Business School (City University) which is currently ranked no.14 (in the FT European Business Schools 2008 ranking). I will be majoring in energy which will be my new career path. I am 28 years old and I am currently residing in UAE.

With a Cass EMBA and with my experience, will an internship outside the country help me progress my career?
Jessin James

Michelle Antonio: It all depends on what your long term career goals are, the quality of the internship you pursue, and what skills/experiences this internship will give you to bolster your candidacy for an energy career. If your goal is to work in the UAE for the short to medium term, then it is not as essential that you pursue an internship outside the country. If you were trying to establish a career outside the UAE and were striving for an internship in the geography that you are targeting, then it becomes much more important to show your commitment to the region by seeking employment there. Also, consider the quality of the internship and the advantages this internship outside the country will give you vs. the quality of an internship you could obtain in the country. If you have a strong network in the country and can access robust opportunities that will bolster skill sets or functional experiences that you need to be successful in your Energy career, then that could count for a lot more than a lower quality internship (in terms of experience and exposure to skill sets) in a country where you don’t intend to work long term and thus do not necessarily need to build a network.

I am studying an MBA Finance at the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand. I want to seek a job in the west after completing my MBA.

Will my work experience in India and Thailand have any additional value when it comes to applying for jobs in the west?

I have 2 years work experience in India and Thailand in the field of manufacturing.

How badly has the finance job market in the west been affected by the current economic downturn?
Gaurav Kundalia, New Delhi, India

Lydia Price: The value of your work experience will be greatest for companies seeking to establish manufacturing operations in those countries, or alternately, to advise, invest in, or finance such companies. That being said, 2 years is a relatively short time to gain deep insight to an industry or country. To overcome initial scepticism among recruiters on this point, try to highlight unique and specific knowledge or skills you gained from the experience - especially those that will help the recruiting company to realize its goals.

 Major firms in the finance sector need capabilities for investing in Asia and advising others to do so - there is a lot of space to develop these capabilities within investment firms today. If you can play a role in expanding their knowledge and skill sets, you are likely to be welcomed by them.

Michelle Antionio: Most US employers recognize the value of hiring candidates with a global perspective and international work experience, especially as they think about long term management potential and where they expect their business to grow/expand. However, when companies are hiring newly minted MBAs, they usually focus on hiring them to fill an immediate functional need or geographical need, so having a global perspective is not the highest consideration, but something that is nice to have and becomes more important as you progress in your career and move into more leadership positions. Depending on the industry, function and specific company you are targeting, employers will place a different value on your Asian work experience. For example, certain industries, like consumer packaged goods, often desire candidates with first hand knowledge and experience with US consumer and cultural trends when hiring for their US positions. Your international work experience could, however, be very attractive to US multinational firms with operations in India or Thailand, if they believe you are willing to work there for some part of your career there, potentially immediately after completion of the MBA, with the opportunity to rotate to other geographies later down the line.

The finance job market, especially in investment banking, private equity, investment management and hedge funds has been hit very hard, with full time opportunities at the MBA level down around 50% at most top MBA programs. Many of our students sought positions in different areas of finance such as a corporate finance role within a company, financial positions within government and non profits, or positions within boutique banks focused on restructuring vs. M&A activities, so there are still opportunities to gain financial experience.

I have been teaching English in China for 2+ years. I am from the USA and have a business background and I enjoy China very much. I am here to help the students as much as I can. I have many students from various backgrounds from Business English, English majors, Engineers, and Post-graduate Engineers. Many ask me how they can start their own businesses here in China. I believe there is a tremendous opportunity for them but I have limited knowledge of the laws and regulations for small businesses in China (in English).

Is there a government office or other organisation in China where I can obtain information in English so I can explain to my students how to set up their own businesses. From watching the news, it seems to me that the country is trying to help new graduates start their own businesses, but so many do not have any experience and shy away from pursuing these opportunities.

I am speaking of students that are not living in the major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. These are the average, not wealthy, students that need advice on how to start a business with minimal start up costs. I believe many can succeed but lack the business experience and basic instructions on how to begin. Any help that you can provide will be appreciated. Thanks.
Bill Giles, China

Lydia Price: Here are two websites to check - they are geared toward foreigners setting up businesses in China, or specifically in Shanghai, which means that some of the content will be unsuitable for domestic Chinese entrepreneurs or those in other cities (e.g., tax rules). But they nevertheless will give you a basic understanding of the issues:

You can also look for and contact support groups set up by foreign entrepreneurs. One such group based in Shanghai is Nextstep On their website you can find a directory of business registration consultants who know the business registration process in detail. Legal firms and business registration consultants will often give a free introduction to students and educational institutions if asked.

Finally, try the local Economic Bureau of the Chinese government. There is likely to be an English speaking official who can brief you. If not, try the office in one of the major cities like Shanghai or Beijing on your next trip there!

What can Deans do to prepare a young generation of global leaders, who graduated from leading business schools worldwide, to face the present challenges in the finance industry, high-tech industry and small and medium size businesses?
Viktor O. Ledenyov, Ukraine

Lydia Price: The biggest challenges facing businesses today are not confined to any specific industry or region of the world. They stem from the highly complex web of connections between companies, individuals and governments in all parts of the world, and the new technologies that support and fuel these connections. They stem from threats to the natural environment and from uncertainties about the abilities of industries and governments to effectively regulate against harmful behaviours.

To face these challenges, students need much more than functional business knowledge and skills - the traditional domain of the MBA. It is essential that business school curricula place adequate emphasis on issues that transcend traditional business functions - globalization, digitalization, sustainability, knowledge management, systems and complexity, business history, handling ethical dilemmas and difficult conversations - to name just a few. These are difficult concepts for professors to teach, and for students to truly master and internalize. So we need to ensure that teaching is not confined to theory and concepts, but includes a strong element of practical application as well.

Andrea Buck: The current economic climate has led many schools to evaluate the content of their MBA courses and look at the ways in which classes are taught. In this context I think Deans can best prepare their students by keeping curriculum responsive to societal and industry changes, encouraging debate in the classroom and a free and frank exchange of relevant life and work experiences. As leaders, Deans also need to take a view across all stakeholder groups to facilitate and encourage the best possible interaction to enhance the co-existence of academic pursuit with real industry knowledge and understanding.

Michello Antonio: Wharton regularly re-evaluates its curriculum and we add news courses and co-curricular leadership activities every year. Since September, Wharton has offered students a series of “teach-ins,” and students filled a one-thousand-seat auditorium to hear Wharton professors take on financial crisis issues. Most recently we developed a course for this semester solely focused on the Economic Crisis with sessions on Leadership, Risk Management and Global Perspectives. We will continue to evaluate the curriculum at the undergraduate, MBA and PhD levels.

Can you advise on what is an appropriate salary for an MBA summer internship? Will it be pro-rata to a full time salary in these sectors or is it usually less?
Mary Goudge, London

Michelle Antonio: There is a wide range of MBA summer internship salaries depending on the industry, function and location of the internship. Also, given the current economic state, a higher percentage of MBAs are needing to take lower paid or even unpaid internships to get the experience they desire and need to position themselves effectively for the full time recruiting process. In terms of whether the salary will be pro-rata to the full time salary, it greatly depends because in some cases, the company does not have a formal full time MBA hiring program so there is no expectation or benchmark for what they would pay a full time MBA. In general, for industries like consulting and investment banking, where there is an established pipeline of summer to full time hiring, the summer monthly salaries are close to a pro-rata amount of the annual base salary, but keep in mind that year end or performance bonuses are typically not included in summer compensation but are a part of a full time compensation package.

Economists are beginning to see some light at the end of the financial crisis tunnel. What are the most critical themes that will shape the global employment market and define careers for the new MBA graduate? Also do you see a strong influence of Ivy-league education on jobs and compensation in the wake of the recession and recent outcry against the MBA degree?

Abel Iyasele, Lagos, Nigeria

Lydia Price: One thing that will certainly change going forward is regulation of the financial services sector. At present, though, there is no consensus on what type of regulatory changes will most effectively address the problems that led up to this crisis. Many people will be involved in the process of sorting this out over time. The process itself will create employment opportunities - in both the public and private sectors - for those with the interest and expertise to influence and guide policy as well as for those who will help businesses understand and adapt to the new realities.

The global crisis has also drawn the spotlight to China as one of the few places globally to predict continuing, albeit slowed, growth in the near term. This will naturally lead to an increased interest among MBA graduates to develop their careers within China or somehow in conjunction with China’s development. But it is important to understand that China’s continuing growth depends on the extent to which the Chinese government’s stimulus package is able to sustainably boost domestic consumption and investment, as well as the extent to which foreigners begin to once again invest in China and purchase Chinese exports.

In the near term, until the crisis truly subsides, there will be a shift in career focus of MBA graduates toward sectors that are more recession-resistant: health care, food and beverage, and government, for example. In the mid-term I think we will see an acceleration of trends that had already begun in some parts of the world toward careers that are less financially rewarding but more satisfying on socially relevant criteria. We can already see a growing interest in the financial services and consulting industries towards identifying and supporting socially responsible businesses. This trend is likely to accelerate.

Michelle Antonio: Based on our conversations with key employers, they appear to be moving towards a sentiment of cautious optimism in terms of the job market. One great resource we encourage our students to access to stay on top of the economic situation is Knowledge@Wharton where faculty are regularly sharing their insights and perspective on the financial environment.


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