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A rainy autumn day in a business park to the west of Reading is an unlikely starting point for a trip to the UK. But for 15 students at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, just outside Chicago, there was a clear purpose.

They were using their Thanksgiving break last month to visit companies in the London region to investigate opportunities for working in the UK, either on graduation or as an intern during their three-month summer break next year.

Traditionally, the European job market has been difficult for US MBA graduates to break into, even when the companies involved are multinationals, because there are usually separate recruiting initiatives in each geographical region.

“The on-campus recruiting in Kellogg is very robust,” says second-year student Stephen Silzer, who was one of the joint organisers of the Eurotrek. “It’s not as easy to get those contacts in Europe.”

One of the four Americans on the Kellogg Eurotrek, Mr Silzer says he is looking at opportunities in both the US and Europe: “I’m not saying I am dead set on working in Europe, but if the opportunity is there . . . ”

The six companies hosting the students in the UK – Abbott, Amazon, BP International, Google, PepsiCo and Yahoo – were eager to persuade the students of the joys of working for their respective companies.

At the Theale Business Park near Reading, Salman Amin, president and chief executive of PepsiCo UK and himself a Kellogg alumnus, turned on the charm. Casually dressed in a sweater and no tie – in contrast to the Kellogg students – Mr Amin told students that what made a difference in MBA students was not brains nor technical know-how, but leadership and how to deal with adversity. “In my opinion, Kellogg does that better than any other business school.”

While PepsiCo UK promoted itself as a flexible employer – 30 per cent of the management team works part-time, according to Ben Lamont, talent acquisition manager – a trip to Google in central London in the afternoon revealed a different culture. With free breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, Google employees are well fed, ran the cultural mantra from the Kellogg alumni who hosted the presentation.

Google, according to a study compiled this year by Universum, the Swedish recruitment analysis company, is the most popular recruiter among MBA graduates in the US, and ranks third among European MBA graduates, ahead of Goldman Sachs, General Electric and LVMH. This may be one reason why its London office was particularly busy during Thanksgiving week, playing host to students from 10 US business schools, including Yale, Chicago, NYU Stern and the Darden school – 75 students in all.

Good contacts

The aim of the exercise, according to Alison Parrin, MBA recruitment manager, was to open the doors to the students and talk about the roles they could expect from Google. Although the offer of internships or jobs was not the aim of the meeting, she says: “Certainly students have [already] followed up with me.”

At Kellogg, Marisa Voorhees, senior associate director for alumni relations, says the Eurotrek students made good contacts during the trip. “By the end, students were very interested in working in Europe.”

While Google was proving particularly popular with US MBA students, so too were the A-listed banks and finance houses in the City of London. More than 260 students from eight of the top US business schools – Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, Kellogg, MIT Sloan, NYU Stern, Stanford and Wharton – eschewed the traditional Thanksgiving turkey to attend the London Banking Days programme.

This is the second year that 12 top banks, including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and UBS, have held the two days of information and networking, and it is proving increasingly popular.

Sessions at the event included one on investment banking versus hedge funds, another on the value of an MBA and a third on starting a career in London. There was also a speed networking event.

“The purpose is to give the banks the opportunity to educate the students on what the European financial markets are about,” says Jackie Wilbur, director of career development at MIT Sloan.

Pitching their skills to London-based banks will put MBA internees from these top schools in direct competition with their European peers from schools with two-year programmes, notably London Business School and Iese Business School in Barcelona.

Asia

But these days, for students who want to work in finance and banking, London is proving attractive, says Ms Wilbur. This is particularly true following the debt crisis in the US. “What New York is telling our students is, look to Europe and look to Asia,” she adds.

US business schools have the “trek” culture down to a fine art. MIT Sloan students have access to 60 or 70 treks during their two-year programme, both industry-focused trips – finance or biotech for example – and geographical ones – to India, Hong Kong or London. And they are not alone. Kellogg students also reel off the list of locations and industries on the trek calendar.

The problem, it seems, is trying to fit them all in. Or, indeed, to have any time to study.

PepsiCo trawls schools in search of top international talent

PepsiCo UK, the soft drinks maker that also owns the Walker’s Crisps and Quaker Oats brands, took the first steps last year to becoming an international MBA recruiter. Like many consumer or technology companies in the UK, it places
a real value on MBA graduates, writes Della Bradshaw.

The issue, says Ben Lamont, talent acquisition manager, is that attracting the best people is becoming more competitive. “The question is, how do we go to a diversified and new source of talent and bring them into our business?”

MBA graduates tick all the right boxes for PepsiCo, he says. They are academically qualified with a strong professional background and are self-starters. They are also actively looking to get back into the job market.

PepsiCo UK did its first campus presentations at two UK business schools, London Business School and Warwick, in February, looking for both graduating students and those who wanted a three-month internship. It has since expanded the number of European business schools it actively works with to four, adding Insead and IMD to the list. Next year it will also recruit in the US at the Kellogg school at Northwestern University.

The UK arm of PepsiCo does not have a formalised training programme for MBAs and those that it recruits are placed where there is a vacancyThe idea is, however, that these individuals will move quickly up through the business, says Mr Lamont.

The scheme has already had some success; three MBA graduates from the targeted schools have recently joined PepsiCo UK, with a fourth joining in January.

Barclays arm to recruit MBAs

Business school graduates are no strangers to the banking world, but in the past it was investment banking that was the mainstay of MBA recruiting.

However, for the first time, this year the global retail and commercial banking arm of Barclays Bank in London has thrown its hat into the ring.

In September, a pioneering cohort of 26 new MBA recruits joined Barclays GRCB on a three-year programme that will see the newcomers work in three global locations, potentially for three different divisions of the business and even in three different roles – strategy, marketing and finance, for example.

As well as an MBA from a leading business school, Barclays makes it clear that it only wants candidates who can speak at least two languages.

Barclays says it is aiming to generate 50 per cent of its retail and commercial banking profits from outside the UK by next year. So the aim of the Global Leaders Programme, says Lucy Tarrant, MBA manager at Barclays GRCB, is to recruit a different type of person into the financial company.

“Barclays has an ambitious growth profile,” Ms Tarrant says. “This is a programme we desperately need.”

The bank is hoping to run a summer internship for around 20 first-year MBA students next year and recruit 30 full-time employees during September 2008. Eventually it could recruit as many as 50 MBA graduates each year.

Ms Tarrant says that although the retail and commercial banking arms of Barclays have a well-established graduate-trainee
programme in place, MBA students will give a “quicker return on investment”.

At the end of their three-year global rotation, the MBA graduates are all expected to take up positions as senior global managers, she says.

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