The MBA world according to head-hunters
In any employment market the people who can see both sides of the situation are the intermediaries - the recruitment agencies and head-hunters. They know the quality of candidates available, the number and type of employment opportunities their clients have on offer, and can judge the market value of qualifications and experience.
So for this, the world's first truly global recession, we talked to head-hunters in five key global cities: London, Mumbai, New York, Shanghai and Singapore. We asked them what their prognosis is for MBAs graduating this year, which sectors were holding up and whether anything could yet be said about when things might improve again.
The capital of the European finance market has seen turbulent times during the last year with banks nationalised and some experts estimating 50,000 jobs could be lost in financial services during the next two years.
Curly Moloney is managing director of Moloney Search, a head-hunter which specialises in the UK graduate, MBA, young-executive and executive markets.
“I think people are only just seeing the start of how difficult things will be,” she says. “MBA recruiting is one of the areas that will be really squeezed. We are seeing MBA programmes and MBA hires being the place where people are most cutting back their numbers. Clients are being very strategic about which school they go to and what previous experience they want. It is not just MBA recruiting any more; they are really looking at past work experience.
India's premier commercial centre has so far avoided the ravages of recession. However. terrorist attacks in November 2008 have affected tourism and may also impact on wider confidence.
Dinesh Mirchandani is president of Boyden India, the Mumbai-based operation of the global executive-search firm. He has an MBA from Boston University and is a former Principal Software Engineer with Digital Equipment Corp.
“You don't find many people here saying that the India story is affected,” he says. “In fact, the India story is very much intact. What has been driving matters along in the last two years is not only the global economy, but domestic demand, and this domestic demand is still vibrant in terms of goods and services. There are still crowds in the malls; they are not deserted the way you hear about in the US. The Indian middle class have not over-borrowed in the way they have in the West and they are still flexing their buying power. In fact, now that housing is a lot more affordable, middle class two-income families are doing fine.
“The sectors that aren't doing well are the usual suspects: financial services and real estate. The two areas that don't seem to be badly impacted are FMCG, where things are more or less business-as-usual, and pharmaceuticals. It is too early to tell if the recession will be shallower and shorter here, but we think it should be the case.”
The world's financial centre, New York is the city where the recession began. It was the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 that alerted the world to how profound the downturn could become.
Adam Zoia is CEO of Glocap Search, a New-York-based firm which has offices in London and throughout the States. He is a former lecturer in undergraduate economics at Harvard.
“What is remarkable about this current situation is that it is affecting pretty much all sectors, all industries and all types of role,” he says. “The restructuring firms are hiring pretty actively although the numbers are small; healthcare is a sector where there is comparatively good stability in hiring; some of the new energy sector is hiring out of MBA programmes in small numbers, but nevertheless there is some.
“It is hard to imagine that given the advanced state of the economy of the world that MBA graduates are not going to be in high demand again fairly soon. There is still a structural shortage of that demographic, so things will bounce back. It is just difficult to predict when the upswing will come. I think there are a couple of things that are clear. When you have massive lay-offs and dislocation as you are having now, whenever the economy turns around in six months or eighteen months, there is going to be a pretty big snap-back. People are in panic mode at the moment and as soon as a more normal level of economic activity resumes there is going to be a real shortage of people left in these companies.”
Shanghai is China's mainland financial centre and the city that best exemplifies the extraordinary growth of the country in the last decade.
Steve Fisher is Senior Client Partner (Industrial Markets) for Korn/Ferry International in Shanghai, one of the world's biggest executive-recruiting firms. He has two decades of experience in South East Asia.
“I would much rather be graduating as an MBA from a regional school looking for a position in China than I would be looking for one in the US,” he says. “The prospects might not be as robust as they were eighteen months ago, but there is still a big supply-demand imbalance here for talented people. Things may not be as good as they were, but they are no means dismal. A person will have to be more creative and more proactive in approaching the multinationals, but a lot of the state-owned enterprises and listed Chinese enterprises are hiring and would be interested in people with an internationally accredited MBA.
“China is being very proactive about alternative energy, and there is a lot of growth in wind and solar, as well as in biofuels. The industrial sector has been the most active from a hiring stand point. There is a lot of investment in public infrastructure and both the multinationals and the Chinese companies involved in that sector would be good prospects. The pharmaceutical industry is still growing so people with undergraduate degrees in biology or chemistry would have opportunities here. For Mandarin speakers who have an MBA and local knowledge I would be optimistic about their prospects. It will just take some perseverance.”
''MBA talent is increasingly in demand in the Middle East especially as many of the regional economies have shifted their focus away from reliance on traditional sectors such as Oil and Gas, towards a more diversified knowledge economy system and apparatus,” says Amer Zureikat, Regional Manager of Dubai’s Bayt.com, the leading job portal in the middle east. “MBAs from top universities and business schools retain their allure both to regional employers as well as to the multinational corporations that are increasingly setting up and expanding operations in the region across multiple sectors. Moreover, as more and more international MBA schools set up in the Middle East and the MBA becomes an increasingly accessible and common advanced degree in the region, the degree is becoming increasingly viewed as an essential tool in a professional's arsenal for career progression and advancement.''
Written By David Williams
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