Boost Your Global Career

Economies around the world are still trying to gain traction after the global meltdown and subsequent eurozone crisis. But that can be good news for MBA holders.
Rebecca McReynolds |  April 4, 2012
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To better understand how today’s economy is shaping international hiring trends, we connected with four experts who spoke at Columbia Business School’s recent Pan-Euro reunion in London. The panel, assembled by the school’s Career Management Center, included Helen Bostock, director of Global Head Graduate and Embark Resourcing and Development, Barclays Wealth; Diane Morgan, associate dean, degree programs and career services, London Business School; Lena Triantogiannis, partner, Egon Zehnder International; and Anthony Vardy, managing director, United Kingdom, Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann.

From an economic perspective, most of the recent news has been pretty bad. How should recent and future MBAs be reading the current hiring environment?

Helen Bostock: There is still a healthy pipeline in some industries — financial services, for example — but the job market is much more challenging now. With fewer positions open, employers are being much more focused. They are looking for specific skill sets based on immediate needs. That increases the competition among the top tier of candidates.

Lena Triantogiannis: Another way to look at this is that there is a shortage of leadership. This will become even more critical in coming years. The aging of the baby boomer will create a huge vacuum in the leadership bracket, and if you overlay that fact with even modest growth assumptions, five years from now companies will have only half of the leaders needed in that age bracket.

What are the major trends shaping the middle- and upper-management job market?

LT: The new leadership movement is from west to east. From 1992 to 2001 educated talent from Asia flooded westward, while western capital was going east. In 2001 those flows reversed. Talent is moving east, and cash is flowing to the West. This flow of leadership talent will fundamentally define the next chapter of globalization over the next 20 years.

Anthony Vardy: In Europe, adding women is the largest single focus, but companies are being extremely inclusive in the candidates they are recruiting, regardless of color of skin, nationality, disability, or sexual orientation.

HB: We should note, though, that the reality of the global marketplace is much more complex and layered. India, China, and Taiwan are the growth economies, and many Western companies are either launching or building out their Asia operations to take advantage of rising consumer demand. Still, many of these firms are entering into partnership or joint venture operations, which means they are looking to source local talent.

Where are the key growth areas among industry sectors and geographic locations?

DM: We’re seeing a lot of hiring in Latin America for people who have knowledge in that area. There is a huge surge of start-up businesses in Brazil as that country shifts from state-owned enterprise to private ownership. Companies are looking for people who can help execute their strategies at every level, from management to production to marketing.

LT: Definitely the health, energy, mining, and utilities sectors must be included in the growth areas. Some economies and some sectors have followed the logic of specialization, which has served them well. For example, Germany has specialized in manufacturing, the UK in financial services, etc. But we are all now realizing that the implication of this is volatility to the employment market in the short term. So there is a question of whether they will start rebalancing their economies by expanding other sectors.

HB: There are clearly some global growth sectors: science, technology, and healthcare. We also know that, as developed countries move toward being knowledge-based economies, growth areas will include professional and business services as well as management, scientific, and technical consulting services.

What kind of packages, perks, incentives are they offering top candidates?

HB:Large firms are still offering sign-on bonuses, but they aren’t as big as they used to be. Some of the big investment banks are offering total packages in the $100,000 range.

DT: Compensation has always been a main area of attracting people, but there is a growing importance in attracting people not just with money but also with career advancement and development. When you think about your career choice you need to think about more than compensation. Does the job offer meaning and purpose, and a life in balance? The generation coming up will put more importance on that.

Does age matter?

HB: Experience matters. For example, we are recruiting people into our Embark program, which is for individuals who have a proven track record of success in another industry and are looking to transfer their skills and become private bankers. If you have an MBA you may get a small premium, but mostly we are looking for maturity.

AV: There was a trend toward youth culture a few years ago, but I think there is a much more open-minded approach now. We are seeing more demand for people with significant experience of difficult economic times. People under the age of, say, 45 will not previously have worked in a seriously challenged global economic environment.

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