The world economy is on a razor’s edge as higher interest rates and inflation dent corporate earnings, but it’s still a seller’s jobs market for business masters graduates in many developed economies.
“The German labour market in 2022 was stable and, as the Baby Boomer generation is retiring in large numbers, the need to replace them will continue to provide solid job prospects, despite uncertain economic times,” says Maren Kaus, the director of career services at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management in Europe’s biggest economy.
Yet with a healthy, but unpredictable job market, both companies and recent graduates have to remain flexible and strategic. “Long-term employee retention will continue to play an important role for employers, whereas career planning and the right job selection is key for graduates,” Kaus says.
In an uncertain and fast-changing world, jobs change, and some appear while others disappear. “Robotics, machine learning, cyber security, and AI are rapidly evolving and reshaping industries and jobs – providing many opportunities in 2023 and beyond,” says Kaus.
Long-term career planning is thus quite difficult. “Self-awareness is key to adapting,” says Claire Gaudissart, head of career coaching at ESSEC Business School in France.
If you know who you are, what makes you tick, and how to communicate that desire, she says you are set to navigate the present economic uncertainty.
Even so, ESSEC hasn’t seen a negative impact on employability for masters students. “In France the current market is dynamic, and employers are in need of talent,” Gaudissart says. In a sign of the enduring value of a masters degree from a top business school, employment outcomes have remained stable at ESSEC.
More than 97 percent of graduates of pre-experience programs will have tended to find a job in under six months, even those who graduated in 2021 and were most impacted by Covid-19.
The pandemic roiled the world economy, leading to a downturn in the job market for business graduates, but it has bounced back strongly last year and that resilience has remained at the start of 2023.
“Our business students are not worried about their job opportunities. They know that the job market is likely to be good for them,” says Joep Elemans, director of the Career Centre at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, in the Netherlands.
In fact, they can seemingly afford to be choosier about their post-masters careers. “[The economy] is allowing students to have an open mind about what opportunities are out there for them, promoting a curiosity to try new things and take on new challenges – whether that is in different fields, countries, or companies,” says Rachel Hartley, associate director of the masters in management (MiM) at Spain’s IE Business School.
Indeed, student job preferences are changing. “The four-day work week is getting higher and higher on the wish list of students and they are less likely to want to work for companies who are not seen as environmentally-friendly,” Elemans says.
That also includes not wanting to work for companies who have such clients. “For example, consulting or IT companies who do projects for fossil fuel companies have a harder time recruiting young talent,” he adds.
However at ESSEC, placement surveys indicate similar employability trends year after year: 80 percent of graduates pursue first jobs in consulting, financial analysis, and marketing, in fields covering consultancy, investment banking, tech, and industry.
But, given that business graduates face uncertainty, what skills do they need to ensure a long-term career - and how can they develop them while studying for their masters?
Self-reflection, critical thinking, strategic planning, and lifelong learning are key to thriving during these challenging times, schools say. “Students need concrete, transferable skills. This enables them to be agile and competitive,” says Hartley at IE.
Transferable skills can be soft skills such as leadership, communication, empathy, but they can also be hard skills such as technology, data analysis, and languages.
Thus, students should take advantage of everything their education offers – from their professors, program curriculum, career advisors, clubs, and other campus resources in order to develop, expand, and execute their unique toolkit.
As part of that, career services are fundamental for students, and are a core function of their journey through a masters program – and beyond. They tend to include CV reviews, pitching, cover letter writing and LinkedIn profile designing.
“This is why I recommend that students start collaborating with their careers departments beginning on day one of the program, in order to build a strategy for job searching, networking, interviewing, and preparing for the transition into the workforce,” says Hartley.
An effective and personalized careers strategy can help students parlay the knowledge they gain in a business masters program into a job.