MBAs face employment lesson

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It is just over a year ago that Martin Bustarret left Insead, MBA in hand, to work for International SOS, the global healthcare company. At the time, the world economic meltdown barely cast a shadow over the recruitment process.

At International SOS’s headquarters in Singapore, Mr Bustarret (pictured), a Frenchman, is in charge of developing large medical projects, often supporting oil or mining corporations when they move into a new region, supplying doctors, nurses and medicine. In the past year, he has spent about 25 per cent of his time travelling, as far afield as Indonesia, Ghana and Liberia.

One of the elements of the job he enjoys most relates to the additional social requirements as part of the mining or drilling concession – healthcare education or malaria prevention.

For Mr Bustarret, two factors attracted him to the Singapore-headquartered company: it was a truly international company, with 60 offices worldwide; and he wanted to “work in a company that makes sense, that makes a contribution”.

While Mr Bustarret, who claims he was never cut out to be a management consultant or a banker, chose International SOS as his favoured recruiter, many MBAs graduating this summer who did believe they were destined for those two professions will look at Mr Bustarret with envy.

For as the bulk recruiters from finance and consultancy rein in their plans, many MBA students will have to make compromises in three areas in order to get a job. First, many will have to rethink the geography of where they work, looking at areas such as Asia and the Middle East rather than the US or Europe.

Second, they may have to take a job in a small or medium-sized company rather than the huge partnership or conglomerate they had expected. And third, they may have to look at lower-paying industries.

The business schools are laying on a special welcome this year for smaller companies, says Marianne Wisheart, head of human resources at Power Advocate, the energy consultancy. “It’s really exciting. The schools have been rolling out the red carpet.”

As a company with 75 employees, such a welcome at the US’s top business schools is a novel experience. “We’ve been able to penetrate some of the top-tier schools that we haven’t been able to recruit from before,” says Ms Wisheart.

Though a small company, 30 per cent of employees have an MBA and others have technical masters degrees. Successful applicants will probably take up jobs in management or supply chain management in the privately owned company, which gives share options as part of the pay packet.

Pay will certainly be an issue for many graduates this year. At Molson Coors Brewing in the UK, which is one of the companies looking at recruiting MBAs at London Business School for the first time, salaries will not compare to those offered last year in the City. But Richard Bradley, head of client services at Alexander Mann, to which the brewer outsources its UK recruitment, says successful candidates should be able to see a 25 per cent increase on the salaries they earned before their degree. In the longer term, the MBA should give them the ability to rise rapidly through the company, he says.

Though many companies are able to recruit MBAs for the first time, they will still have specific requirements. Power Advocacy, for example, will be looking for those with an engineering or technical background; International SOS will require a global mindset.

Mario Ferraro, general manager for international human resources at International SOS, says a growing number of schools are providing global managers. “We see from one year to the next that business schools are more able to provide these (global managers).”

Mr Bustarret’s advice to MBAs graduating this year is to be realistic. “You can’t change industry, location and type of job all at once. What I would advise is, be sure of your strengths and build on that.”

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