Careers to Fit Your MBA

While earning an MBA alone does not guarantee positive career results, employers do value the specific abilities that MBA programs cultivate, such effective time management, complex problem solving, and the capacity to work with a diverse range of people.

According to U.S. News & World Report, more students enroll in master of business administration programs than any other graduate program in business. There are several reasons for this trend, most notably that MBA careers are associated with above-average salaries. A recent U.S. News survey found that the median annual salary and bonus among 2017 MBA graduates was $105,146. Industries associated with these higher earnings for MBA holders include consulting, financial services, technology, and healthcare. Employment rates are also better than average for these degrees: The average employment rate for a 2017 MBA graduate three months after completing their studies was 84%.

While earning an MBA alone does not guarantee positive career results, employers do value the specific abilities that MBA programs cultivate, such effective time management, complex problem solving, and the capacity to work with a diverse range of people. MBA recruiters also encourage aspiring business administrators to begin their job search early; for many, this journey begins while they are still earning their degree. Business schools often host networking events and industry insight conferences to help students prepare for life after college.

This guide is designed for students who may be wondering how an MBA can help their careers. We will examine a variety of professional fields for MBA graduates — such as accounting, marketing, human resources, and management — and offer tips for finding a job and launching a successful career.

What Are Employers Looking For in an MBA Graduate?

Due to the comprehensive nature of MBA programs, graduates are equipped with a broad skill-set applicable to a wide range of professional roles. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) 2017 Corporate Recruiters Survey, which collected data from 959 companies worldwide, 86% of respondents planned to hire an MBA graduate that year. As the table illustrates below, recruiters hire MBA recipients to fill various roles in organizations, including positions in marketing, business development, finance, data analytics, and consulting.

The survey also reviewed the most sought-after skills among employees with an MBA. The five most important skills, according to respondents, were communication, teamwork, technical competencies, leadership, and managerial abilities. Additionally, the survey noted that employers in different global regions tend to prioritize certain skills over others. In the United States and Asia Pacific, for instance, employers emphasize communication and teamwork. In Europe, teamwork is also prized among employers, as are communication and technical skills. Business leaders in Latin America, meanwhile, rank leadership, technical skills, and teamwork as most important.

According to Poets & Quants, employers in the U.S. also hire MBA graduates for “succession planning,” wherein qualified candidates are hired to replace current employees planning to retire. While organizations have many reasons for hiring MBA graduates, nearly half of those surveyed indicate they hire MBA graduates simply due to “past success with business school hires.” In other words, earning an MBA can give recent graduates a headstart in the job search just by virtue of having completed the degree.

Job Functions in Which Employers Plan to Place Recent MBA Graduates, 2017

Job Function Global United States
Marketing 71% 68%
Business Development 71% 67%
Finance 71% 68%
Data Analytics 69% 68%
Consulting 66% 66%
Operations/Logistics 65% 60%
IT/Systems 65% 61%
Accounting 65% 60%
General Management 64% 63%
Human Resources 61% 53%
Investment Banking 50% 46%
Source: GMAC

MBA Employment Outlook

MBA Graduate Employment Type

According to the GMAC 2018 Alumni Perspectives Survey — which collected data from nearly 11,000 business school graduates — roughly 79% of MBA graduates are employed in an organization, and another 10% are self-employed entrepreneurs. Recent graduates are more likely to find work in technology and products/services roles, while alumni who graduated earlier tend to work in fields like finance, accounting, and consulting. According to alumni respondents, the average salary for those with an MBA is $115,000, but salary estimates depend on a student’s field of specialization. MBA’s in finance jobs, for instance, are usually the most lucrative, while jobs in operations and logistics tend to pay the lowest salaries.

Another common trend among MBA holders is working for companies with a global presence; the survey found that 61% of business school graduates work for companies with locations in at least two countries. Company size is another key factor. Roughly one-third of business school graduates work for organizations with more than 25,000 employees, and nearly two-thirds are employed by organizations with more than 1,000 employees. Additionally, 29% of these graduates work for companies that are publicly traded, compared to the 13% who work for family-owned businesses and the 8% who work for startups.

In terms of career advancement, business school graduates can be divided into five career stages: entry-level, mid-level, senior, executive, and C-suite. As one would expect, job responsibilities tend to increase as employees advance to new levels. For example, the GMAC survey found that, among entry-level employees, 28% managed a budget, 9% made hiring decisions, and 23% supervised employees. These percentages rose gradually for each successive level, and among C-suite employees, 96% to 97% were tasked with the same duties.

Job Function Median Base Salary Signing Bonus
Consulting $147,000 $25,000
Finance $150,000 $50,000
General Management $147,500 $47,500
Marketing/Sales $128,750 $20,000
Operations/Logistics $107,000 N/A
Other $150,000 $40,000

Source: Stanford

Salary Opportunities for MBA Graduates

The salary of an MBA graduate depends on several factors, namely their industry of choice and their employment level. Other factors, however, include location of employment, experience level, and the specific type of MBA earned.

The GMAT MBA salary calculator is a handy tool for determining potential earnings among different fields and levels of employment. According to the calculator, the median annual salary for MBA holders in all industries and employment levels is $125,000 — but these earnings also depend on factors like experience and industry. For example, the calculator indicates that the average MBA in healthcare salary for C-suite level employees is $175,000, while the MBA starting salary for entry-level employees in finance and accounting is $55,000. Median annual salaries for each of the five employment levels in all industries are listed in the table below.

Explore MBA Career Outlook

Careers for MBA Graduates in Accounting

Senior Accountant

Senior accountants manage other accountants and keep their company’s financial records organized and up to date. Attention to detail is imperative for these senior-level employees, as are math and organization skills. Most senior accountants have a graduate degree in accounting and several years of experience as non-managerial accountants.

Senior Auditor

Auditing is a branch of accounting that investigates organizations for mismanagement of funds. Senior auditors manage staff auditors and oversee the entire auditing process for different companies, which includes analyzing statements for errors, omissions, and other discrepancies. Most corporations prefer to hire senior auditors with a master’s degree in accounting, business, or related fields.

Financial Manager

Financial managers ensure their organization has up-to-date finances by preparing financial reports, managing investments, and working with executives to develop short- and long-term goals. They also study market reports to determine potential areas of expansion. Many employers hire financial managers who have earned a master’s degree in accounting or related field, such as business administration or economics.

Careers for MBA Graduates in Finance

Personal Financial Adviser

Personal financial advisers consult with individual clients about their personal investments, mortgages, taxes, and/or retirement/estate planning. Because each client has different needs, financial advisers tailor their advice based on individual circumstances. Advisers who earn a master’s degree and certification in their field are well-positioned for advancement opportunities.

Senior Investment Associate, Financial Services

Senior investment associates sell investments, insurance, financial services, and financial tools. Most work for mutual funds, banks, or insurance service providers, and are required to earn passing scores on the Series 6 and 7 exams from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Most employers prefer to hire candidates with a master’s degree in finance.

Senior Financial Analyst

Financial analysts consult with businesses and individuals regarding stocks, bonds, and other types of investments. Senior financial analysts manage analyst teams, delegate tasks, review financial reports, and deliver presentations to executive-level employees. A master’s degree in finance or a related field — such as accounting or economics — is preferable for this career path.

Careers for MBA Graduates in Marketing

Market Research Analyst

Market analysts use data from consumers, competing companies, and market activities to determine demand, pricing, and other factors that help position their organization’s goods and services in the marketplace. They are also expected to present their findings to organizational leaders and clients. Some market research analyst positions require a master’s degree in fields like marketing research, sales and marketing, or business administration.

Director of Sales and Marketing

The director of sales and marketing supervises all personnel in their company’s sales, marketing, and public relations departments. They lead initiatives that improve their organization’s overall sales and effectiveness in advertising, and may participate in staff recruitment, hiring, and training. A degree in fields like business, marketing, or communications is typically required for this position.

Creative Director, Advertising

Most creative directors in advertising work for ad agencies or other organizations that feature a strong advertising presence. They oversee personnel responsible for creative products and services, and collaborate with employees in other creative fields, such as graphic design and copywriting. A master’s degree in advertising or a similar field is often required for this position.

Careers for MBA Graduates in Economics

Economic Analyst

Economic analysts use market data and research to provide forecasts and consultations to organizations, public agencies, or — in some cases — elected officials. They also rely on a wide range of datasets related to commodities, currency, labor costs, and other key economic factors to inform their work. An education in business — as well as a graduate degree in administration or public policy — are often required for these positions.

Economist

Economists use data and research trends to understand how resources, goods, and services are produced and distributed. They perform both qualitative and quantitative analyses to generate accurate results, and apply their research in a wide range of professional fields, such as business, education, and healthcare. A master’s degree is considered the minimum qualification for most economist positions.

Senior Economists

Most senior economists work within the financial industry, developing policies and analyzing economic research on behalf of their organizations. They often collaborate with chief economists and personnel from other departments to create plans and set goals. Most employers hire senior economists with at least a master’s degree in economics or a related field.

Careers for MBA Graduates in Technology

Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts develop, coordinate, and implement various security measures to safeguard their company’s computer and information systems. They usually assist with disaster recovery plans — which dictates how an organization should operate when its information security has been compromised — and also study new technology security tools and programs. Some employers prefer to hire information security analysts with an MBA in information systems.

Information Technology Manager

Also known as computer and information systems managers, IT managers oversee their company’s technological operations and infrastructures, as well as the personnel who handle information security, network technology, and software development. They also implement protocols for data access throughout the organization. Many organizations prefer to hire IT managers who have an MBA or other graduate degree.

Project Manager, Information Technology

Project managers supervise short- and long-term projects by ensuring they are carried out correctly, quickly, and efficiently. IT project managers work within their organization’s technology divisions, and evaluate individual employees based on their performance during different project stages. A graduate degree in IT or computer science may be required for these positions.

Careers for MBA Graduates in Human Resources

Human Resources Manager

HR managers oversee and direct their company’s administrative functions. They often recruit and screen candidates, conduct new employee orientation, consult with top executives, and act as intermediaries between management and other employees. This position may require an MBA in human resources or related fields, such as business administration or labor relations.

Human Resources Director

HR directors handle employee complaints and grievances, while also overseeing compensation and benefits, recruiting and hiring, staff operations, and budgeting for HR operations. In addition, they evaluate various programs to ensure they comply with organizational goals, professional standards, and legal regulations. A master’s degree is often required for HR director positions, particularly high-level roles.

Manager, Compensation and Benefits

Compensation and benefits managers process pay, health plans, retirement plans, and investments for their employees. They also may help determine pay structures for different personnel and, in smaller companies, may handle other HR-related duties. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with a master’s in human resources.

Careers in Supply Chain Management

Logistics Analyst

These professionals study manufacturing, storage, and shipping processes to ensure their companies operate efficiently and cost-effectively, and implement changes to the supply chain to generate optimal results. Some larger organizations prefer candidates with a graduate degree in fields related to analysis and business management.

Supply Chain Manager

Supply chain managers build communication between sales and customer service personnel, implement logistical policies for their organizations, and maintain an inventory that reflects current demands. They also consult with suppliers and perform analyses to ensure their company’s contracts are cost-effective. Supply chain managers generally need an undergraduate or graduate degree in fields like business administration, logistics, or sales.

Director, Supply Chain Management

A director of supply chain management oversees all operations and processes related to their company’s goods and services. This includes material and resource identification and acquisition, inventory management, pricing, and purchasing analysis. A master’s in supply chain management is often required for this role.

Careers For Executive MBA Graduates

Chief Financial Officer

The CFO leads their company’s accounting and financial divisions and all related personnel. They typically oversee purchasing and pricing, investing, account and debt management, and may also compile organizational transactions in databases of financial books. Some employers, particularly larger organizations, prefer CFO candidates who have earned an MBA.

Chief Operating Officer

In most organizations, the COO is the second-highest ranking executive behind the CEO. They develop and implement company-wide standards, and consult with mid-level managers and supervisors to ensure that all personnel comply with these policies. Most COOs have a strong background in business and management, including an MBA or master’s degree related to these fields.

Chief Executive Officer

The CEO oversees an entire organization. They are responsible for evaluating the job performance of other executives and making key business decisions. These decisions can have a positive or negative effect on a company, and when the latter occurs, a CEO often shoulders the blame. CEOs are usually required to have an MBA.

Careers for MBA Graduates in Environmental Management

Sustainability Consultant

Sustainability consultants make an organization’s operations more efficient and environmentally friendly, which can boost a company’s revenues and overall reputation with the public. Many focus on the environmental impact of manufacturing and shipping processes by managing waste and minimizing energy consumption. Most sustainability consultants have a degree in a field related to environmental management or business.

Sustainability Manager

Sustainability managers optimize their organization’s waste and energy consumption, improve efficiency, and implement sustainable operations. Some also serve as company representatives for partnerships with government agencies and nongovernmental organizations. The job requires a blend of sales, marketing, and public relations skills.

Sustainability Director

Sustainability directors create company policies and initiatives that promote efficient and environmentally friendly operations. Reducing an organization’s energy consumption and environmental impact can represent significant financial investments, and directors often must work within a prescribed budget. Many employers prefer to hire sustainability directors with a master’s degree.

Careers For MBA Graduates in International Business

International Sales Manager

International sales managers generally work for organizations that export goods and services to other countries. They monitor overseas deliveries and transactions, and negotiate sales with international buyers and clients. Larger companies typically hire candidates with a master’s in international business or international relations.

Global Sourcing Manager

Global sourcing managers supervise personnel who source goods and materials overseas. They maintain close working relationships with vendors and suppliers around the world, and communicate their organization’s goals to ensure a frictionless sourcing process. Global sourcing manager positions usually require an extensive business background and fluency in at least one foreign language.

Global Marketing Manager

Global marketing managers work for multinational organizations in a wide range of industries. They oversee a company’s global marketing budget, facilitate overseas development, and maintain close relationships with international partners. At least five years of marketing experience and an MBA are often required for these positions.

Careers For MBA Graduates in Risk Management and Acquisitions

Risk Management Analyst

At organizations outside the financial sector, risk management analysts evaluate various types of data to help their company minimize financial risks and avoid setbacks. These datasets may include liability insurance options and claims, as well as HR-related factors like employee injuries and terminations. Within financial institutions, analysts evaluate investment opportunities, financial products, and broader organizational strategies.

Senior Risk Manager

While the day-to-day duties of senior risk managers vary by employer, they generally evaluate their company’s operations to pinpoint and mitigate various financial and legal risks. Targets of their investigations include unacceptable workplace conditions, theft, fraud, and unethical business practices. A degree in fields like economics, finance, or statistics is often required, as well as extensive experience.

Director, Mergers and Acquisitions

Mergers and acquisitions is a catch-all term for business transactions that consolidate companies and organizational assets. Directors of mergers and acquisitions engage with potential partners, evaluate the market and competing organizations for possible opportunities, and perform financial risk analyses to determine investment options.

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Entrepreneurship as an MBA Graduate

Among the 84% of MBA graduates who are employed by companies or seeking employment, the GMAC 2018 Alumni Perspectives Survey notes that 10% of today’s MBA graduates are self-employed entrepreneurs. Becoming an entrepreneur carries many perks that appeal to business school students. As the first table below demonstrates, the most common reasons for pursuing an entrepreneurial career include the desire to be one’s own boss, the belief that self-employment is the best pathway for one’s goods and services, and the potential for higher earnings compared to those who work for an established organization. The average entrepreneur in the U.S. has an annual revenue stream of $7 million.

MBA programs prepare graduates for entrepreneurial careers by providing a comprehensive overview of business administration and management practices. Additionally, some schools offer MBA programs with entrepreneurship specializations that emphasize the crucial elements of self-employment. Also of note is that some industries attract more entrepreneurs than others. The GMAC report states that 36% of entrepreneurs who graduate from business school pursue careers in consulting, 26% work in products and services, and 13% find careers in finance and accounting. Roughly 85% of entrepreneurs launch a business on their own, while 8% purchase their company from another owner, 5% inherit the company, and 2% receive a transfer of ownership.

Launching a business can be an expensive undertaking, as potential expenses like business insurance, taxes, and professional permits, licenses, and fees begin to add up. For this reason, securing venture capital from outside investors is integral for many entrepreneurs. According to Forbes, U.S. startups received $148 billion in venture capital funding in 2017 alone. Those industries where entrepreneurs seek and receive venture capital most frequently include energy and utilities, technology, manufacturing, and health care.

Motivations for MBA Graduates to Become Self-Employed

Motivation % Marked “Very Important”
Wanted to Be My Own Boss 65%
Best Avenue for My Ideas/Goods/Services 64%
Opportunity for Greater Income 61%
Flexible Hours 58%
Balance Work and Family 56%
Always Wanted to Start My Own Business 52%
Working for Someone Else Did Not Appeal to Me 31%
An Entrepreneurial Friend/Family Was a Role Model 27%
Couldn’t Find a Job 8%

Source: GMAC

Percentage of MBA Graduates Who Sought Venture Capital (VC)

Industry Sought VC Received VC
Energy/Utilities 33% 75%
Technology 29% 73%
Manufacturing 23% 92%
Healthcare 21% 87%
Products/service 14% 50%
Consulting 6% 55%
TOTAL 14% 69%

Source: GMAC

How to Find a Job as an MBA Student

According to U.S. News & World Report, 91% of online MBA students in 2015-16 were employed when they began their coursework — and 34% received financial sponsorship from their employer. However, most MBA graduates pursue new jobs upon receiving their degree, and for many, the job search begins prior to graduation.

RelishCareers is a hiring platform designed by MBA graduates from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. According to a 2017 RelishCareers survey of MBA students, 54% of respondents landed an internship in September of their first year of business school. Only 16% waited until the second semester to begin searching for an internship opportunity. Both first- and second-year MBA students required five-and-a-half months (on average) to secure their internships, and one in seven reported they spent at least 10 hours a week on being recruited for one.

Both first- and second-year MBA students required five-and-a-half months (on average) to secure their internships

The survey also revealed a correlation between early recruiting and recruiting experience satisfaction. Roughly 73% of respondents who began recruiting in August or earlier said they were satisfied with their recruiting experience, while 56% of those who began recruiting in September were not satisfied. Furthermore, 20% of those who spent three hours or less on recruiting per week were satisfied, compared to the 50% satisfaction rate of candidates who spent more than 15 hours per week.

Ultimately, students who put time and energy into their recruitment — and begin the search as soon as possible — end up happier with their experience. In this section, we’ll explore some of the resources MBA students can use during the recruitment process.

Where to Start

MBA students have access to a wealth of on- and off-campus recruitment opportunities, such as career centers, networking and recruiting events, alumni associations, and job fairs. Students are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities while they are still in school — or, if possible, before they even begin their studies — to learn more about MBA degree jobs and career expectations.

  • 1. Your School’s Career Center

    For many MBA students, their school’s career center may feel like a second home. As they apply to different programs, students should contact the career center at each prospective school to inquire about mentorships, career coaching, networking events, access to peer advisers and alumni, and information about online careers and memberships. Some career centers offer other opportunities, as well. For example, the MBA Career Management Office at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business offers company treks to different cities, where students can participate in internships and attend conferences.

    Additionally, students should use these conversations with career center employees to gauge the quality and effectiveness of the school’s MBA programs. As noted in a 2017 article in U.S. News & World Report, students should ignore “a business school’s marketing materials” and inquire about past graduate success. An MBA program’s overall job placement rate is an important marker, as is the number of alumni who enter their field of study after graduation. If possible, applicants should connect with alumni and ask about their MBA experience at that particular institution, and whether the school’s career center played a role in their career success. Lastly, applicants should research the companies that recruit on a given campus. According to experts, business schools with a high concentration of on-campus business recruitment tends to correlate with more MBA graduates landing jobs.

    Career centers can be a valuable resource, but MBA students should still broaden their job search to other avenues. Fredrik Marø is the CEO of Evisors.com, an online marketplace that connects MBA students with experts in different business fields. Marø told U.S. News & World Report that even the most robust business schools have a hard time providing individualized attention to each student. “Career offices are doing a great job, but not even Harvard Business School — with 40 career coaches on staff — can cover all the jobs, industries, and functions that students are interested in,” Marø said.

  • 2. Career Coaching and Workshops

    MBA students should take advantage of a school’s career coaching and workshop opportunities. Career coaches are usually alumni of the same business school with strong professional track records. Career coaches at Harvard Business School, for instance, must have at least five years of postgraduate business experience in industries commonly sought after by students and alumni. One-on-one career coaching offers individualized training for each student based on their career goals; coaches can sharpen a student’s job search strategies, and provide advice about important details like writing cover letters and resumes, interviewing, and negotiating salaries. Prospective MBA students should inquire about available career coaching opportunities as they explore different schools.

    Career workshops can also serve as a helpful introduction to life as an MBA student, and the business world in general. These workshops give participants the chance to review case studies and solve complex problems they may encounter once they enter the workforce. Financial institutions like JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley offer interactive workshops for pre-MBA and first-year MBA students. ExperienceBAIN Global, a division of Bain & Company, also offers interactive workshops, networking events, and webinars to prospective MBA students.

  • 3. Job Search Courses

    Job search courses can be another beneficial option to pre-MBA students. These courses usually consist of different modules dedicated to individual components of the job search process.

    For example, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business offers the Summer Webinar Series, an interactive course sequence that students complete prior to beginning their MBA program. The first component of the workshop emphasizes “career deliverables,” in which students develop a career prospectus to help them pinpoint postgraduate career opportunities, detail past career accomplishments to discuss during job interviews, and produce an individually tailored resume. Upon completion, first-year students then connect with career coaches, who they meet with regularly throughout their MBA program. Additionally, students complete five on-campus seminars in topics like job communication, networking, interviewing, and accessing resources from the school’s career center.

    For many, one job search course will not be enough. Students are encouraged to attend seminars and workshops throughout their program to uncover opportunities for MBA jobs, learn about real-world conditions, and receive feedback from experienced professionals.

  • 4. Networking Events

    Networking is fundamental to a successful MBA experience. According to The Balance Careers, at least 60% of all jobs are secured through networking. Students can engage in formal networking by attending industry events or joining a professional organization. Job seekers can also practice informal networking by reaching out to friends and past colleagues about job leads and placing cold calls to companies.

    U.S. News & World Report notes that, whether a student earns their MBA on-campus or online, face-to-face networking is essential. Students should attend as many of these meetings as possible, beginning with pre-enrollment campus visits and classmate introductions during the initial stages of their program, followed by company events and MBA career conferences throughout the academic year. Establishing accounts on networking sites such as LinkedIn can also help MBA students create a strong professional presence.

    However, networking can carry a steep price. Some MBA networking events cost thousands of dollars to attend, and students are often required to cover these expenses themselves. For this reason, students should first consider networking opportunities coordinated through their school, which usually carry a lower price-tag than those sponsored by outside parties. Networking with recent MBA graduates and alumni can also be an effective strategy with a minimal financial investment.

  • 5. Career Fairs and Forums

    Career fairs and forums provides students the opportunity to meet with potential employers and exchange information about job opportunities. Those who attend may also receive feedback regarding their qualifications and postgraduate employment expectations. MBA students can learn about fairs and forums through listings provided by their business school, such as this career fair dates and locations list from the UC Davis School of Management.

    Emily Bennington of U.S. News & World Report encourages researching career fairs to learn which companies send representatives; this ensures an opportunity to speak with all of their biggest prospects. According to the Career Fair Tips guide from the University of Missouri’s Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business, confidence is key for career fair attendees. Friendly greetings, handshakes, and eye contact go a long way with company representatives, and students should not shy away from sharing their qualifications. Students should also dress as though they are attending a job interview, and bring a stack of resumes to hand out to recruiters.

  • 6. Recruiting Events

    In addition to sending representatives to career fairs, many companies host recruiting events to fill vacant positions and meet suitable candidates. These events extend beyond the formal career fair model and use engaging, experiential marketing techniques. One recent example is Amazon Jobs Day, which was held at multiple locations nationwide in the summer of 2017. The event saw more than 20,000 attendees and is the largest hiring event in the company’s history. Other recruiting events include competitions, weekend retreats, and “hackathons,” which allow programmers, coders, and software developers to meet and participate in collaborative tech projects.

    MBA students that attend recruiting events should make it a point to interface with the company’s employees. Karen Heise, interim director of the Weston Career Center at the Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School, tells U.S. News & World Report that students should meet with company representatives after employer-sponsored events have ended. This gives students the chance to exchange business cards and establish a one-on-one connection with the recruiters. Students who attend recruiting events should also dress professionally and come prepared to pitch ideas.

  • 7. Alumni

    Business school alumni are valuable resources for MBA students because they have firsthand knowledge and experience in the corporate world. They are also familiar with the student’s MBA curricula and can provide helpful insights about courses to take and events to attend. Prospective students can even use alumni feedback to gauge potential schools. The Economist publishes an annual “Alumni Effectiveness Ranking,” which scores the top 25 business schools based on feedback from alumni respondents.

    Students can also access different opportunities and resources through their school’s alumni association. According to FlexJobs, an online search tool for part-time employment, making initial contact with the alumni association is an important first step. Online alumni communities can be a useful way to interact with past graduates and receive helpful career advice. Many alumni associations also host online career portals where students can browse job openings — and employers can evaluate potential candidates. Other alumni association services may include webinars, career fairs, and networking events.

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School Services Post-Graduation

According to Ivy Exec, MBA graduates can look to their alma mater for job resources and opportunities. As we’ve mentioned, alumni associations are a great starting point: they host job boards aimed at recent graduates and experienced professionals alike, and many alumni prefer to hire people who attended the same school. Alumni clubs across the country also offer numerous networking opportunities for MBA job seekers.

In recent years, many colleges and universities have introduced one-on-one advisory services for alumni, which often includes career counseling, resume critiques, and mock interviews. Many are available to school alumni at discounted rates — or, in some cases, free of charge. In addition, some institutions offer webinars, conferences, and other continuing education programs delivered on campus or remotely. College reunions may be an additional networking opportunity, as well, particularly if other business school graduates are planning to attend.

Recruiters and Headhunters

During their job search, MBA graduates will likely encounter recruiters and headhunters. Both of these professionals fill vacant positions for companies, but they go about their duties in very different ways.

Recruiters may be internal or work in-house for one company, or they may be external, third-party personnel who work for a recruitment agency that fills jobs for multiple organizations. Recruitment agencies advertise their services on job boards and other career-oriented sites, and locate jobs on behalf of candidates who elicit their services. In general, there is no fee for those who locate work through a recruiter.

Headhunters, on the other hand, work on behalf of companies or job-seekers themselves. Rather than advertising their services, headhunters contact job-seekers directly if they believe the candidate is right for a position. Headhunters typically work on commission, which gives them stronger incentive to fill positions than recruiters. However, people who find jobs through headhunters must often pay for these services. It is also important to note that neither recruiters nor headhunters actually hire candidates; that is typically left up to a company’s hiring manager.

The choice between using a recruiter or a headhunter depends on a candidate’s skill-set. Recruiters generally fill low-level, unspecialized roles, and may be responsible for filling multiple vacancies at one company. Headhunters pursue candidates for positions that require more skills and experience, or roles that have more inherent value within a particular organization.

When contacted by a recruiter, MBA graduates should review the position and ensure it is right for them. They should not assume that they are the only candidate being considered, nor should they assume that the position is tailored for them. They should also tailor their resume and CV to the specific position, since the hiring manager will also review these materials and their presentation may factor into the hiring decision.

MBA Job Boards

Job boards and job search engines may be a useful source of available jobs for MBA holders. Companies often pay job boards a small fee for listing vacancies, and site visitors can apply for positions directly through the website. Job boards also store resumes that have been submitted, and employers pay to access them when looking for suitable candidates. Some job boards are generalized and cover a wide range of industries, while niche job boards focus on one particular industry. Niche job boards in the business sector include TalentZoo for marketing positions, CrunchBoard for IT and tech startup jobs, and JobsInLogistics for roles related to supply chain.

Job search engines — such as Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com — operate differently. They collect information about open positions from company websites, but employers do not pay to advertise vacancies. As a result, job seekers who use search engines can find information about openings at many different organizations — millions of them, in some cases — but a large number of these openings will either be duplicates acquired from separate sources or outdated and no longer valid. The most popular job search engines for MBA grads include eFinancialCareers, SalesJobs.com, UpWork.com, and OneWire.com.

Leverage Your Contacts

Networking is an important step toward finding a job, but the process may be fruitless unless MBA graduates can leverage their networking contacts into meaningful opportunities, both for themselves and their associates.

Fostering relationships with “power contacts” — such as executives and top-level managers — is key to leveraging a business network, writes Tom Searcy of Inc. It’s up to the graduate to maintain this relationship on their own, rather than through other people in their network. Helping a new contact solve a complex problem may pave the way for a valuable relationship built on mutual trust and respect. Following up is also crucial. Thank-you notes, recommendations, referrals, and handwritten messages are a simple way to stay connected with contacts.

Identifying valuable contacts is another important skill in leveraging a network. Rather than pursuing opportunities with every contact, effective networkers invest time and energy into potential high-value contacts. Peer advisory groups can be another useful networking tool. These groups consist of only a handful of members, each of whom is personally invested in exploring options and brainstorming with the other people in the group. Joining an advisory board, which explore strategies for one specific organization, can lead to similar results as well.

Consider Independent Work

The term “gig economy” refers to a business environment where independent contractors and short-term or temporary positions are commonplace. In recent years, the U.S. and Europe have trended toward a gig economy. A 2016 McKinsey Global Institute survey found that 162 million people — or 20% to 30% of working-age adults — work in some sort of independent professional role. This population includes free agents and casual earners who choose to earn their primary or supplemental income from independent work, as well as financially strapped individuals who would rather earn a more traditional income, but must “gig” by necessity.

Many MBA graduates are reluctant to become part of the gig economy, since their degree is tied to above-average earnings and high-profile organizational roles. However, author Diane Mulcahy writes in the Harvard Business Review that MBA graduates may benefit from choosing gigs over full-time jobs. Full-time job growth has stagnated, and companies cannot offer the same measure of job security they once could. Additionally, hiring full-time employees is roughly 30% to 40% more expensive than hiring independent workers, due to factors like health benefits and retirement planning. Mulcahy adds that students should learn to cultivate the skills and attitudes necessary to succeed in the gig economy because it may provide more job opportunities in the long run.