MBS MBA FAQs: Career Prospects

Every couple of weeks I get an e-mail from someone looking to do an MBA from Melbourne Business School. I get asked lots of different questions in these e-mails but the ones I get most often cover admissions advice, post-MBA career prospects and the MBS careers office, and what my impression of MBS is now that I'm in the job market.

I've been meaning to blog about my replies to those e-mails for a while now but have only just gotten around to doing so. Here then is the first of those blog posts, this one covering career prospects and questions about MBS' Career Services Centre.

Q. What is the Career Services Centre at MBS like?

A. It's pretty good and it's getting better. To give you an example: Back in 2006, when I started my MBA, the concept of an "MBA internship" was relatively new in Melbourne (and maybe even in Australia where internships and apprenticeships are generally 6-12 months long and are often something you do after your undergraduate degree). My MBA intake was the first to have an internship built into its program and, of the 30 or so people who wanted to do an internship, only 12 managed to get one. Things have improved drastically since then: of the 50 or so people who wanted to do an internship this year, over 45 got one. Most of that is thanks to the Career Services Centre's efforts of the last couple of years.

The Career Services team is pretty impressive, too: they have a general careers consultant who can help you figure out what you want to do with your life and a bunch of industry specialists who really know what they're talking about. The industry specialists also have great relationships with all the big companies in their designated industries. They also have a coordinator and general manager, both of whom know pretty much everything that's going on and are a valuable resource in themselves.

The Centre also runs weekly career-related workshops (which are invaluable), holds a two-day residential careers/leadership training session (which is awesome), and manages the relationships with all of the companies that recruit from MBS (see next question).

Q. What kinds of companies recruit from MBS?

A. All kinds, including some of the biggest, most successful, and most well-known companies in Australia and the world. There are on-campus recruitment sessions/presentations held throughout the year and here is a list of some of the companies that held one during my last term there:

Q. How do MBS students get/find their jobs? What kinds of jobs do they get, how much do they get paid, and which countries do they get these jobs in?

A. For details on all of this, read MBS' graduating class survey for 2007. The data for the 2008 survey hasn't been collected year (that should happen next month) and I'll blog about that once the results are in.

Keep in mind, though, that 2007's "average" starting salary of AU$105,211 doesn't actually tell you much because it doesn't capture the massive difference between graduates starting in, for example, C-suite positions and earning over 150k per year and graduates working in non-profits and earning under 70k per year. This is problem with averages.

What you can do to supplement this data is to look at industry-specific salary ranges as reported via salary surveys conducted by these four recruitment firms:

Notice how salary averages change across cities and industries and how they vary among the surveys themselves.

Q. What are the chances of using the MBA to switch industries?

A. It's never easy to switch industries but the MBA is a great degree to switch with. That said, unless you work really hard, are incredibly persistent, and get a little lucky, you are unlikely to get your dream job in your target industry right after you graduate (particularly if you want to get into something like investment banking!). Instead, you'll probably start at a lower-than-expected position in your new industry and will then work your way up to your dream job. This, by the way, is compared to the position someone from that industry would start at if they went and did an MBA and then came back. However, once you do make the switch, you're likely to move up the corporate ladder (i.e. to your dream job) quicker than someone who doesn't have an MBA.

The best part: you have tonnes of resources to help you make the switch. This includes not only books, elective courses, and industry clubs, but also your classmates, faculty members, Career Services staff, and alumni.

The most powerful industry-switching tool available to you, however, is your MBA internship. Assuming you manage to get one in your target industry, you'll not only get some industry experience on your resume, you'll also get networking contacts, lots of news and information about that industry, and maybe even direct contacts in companies that you might want to apply to for a job.

Q. What does it take to get a job in management consulting?

A. Lots of hard work, a love of numbers, the ability to see the big picture and the interconnections between elements, and the right (i.e. management consulting) attitude. The advantages you'll have

in being an MBS student include:

  • You'll get taught how to do all of this
  • If you like it, there are numerous electives you can take that will teach you how to do it even better
  • MBS has great relations with all of the top management consulting firms in Australia. Indeed, many of its lecturers have worked in those firms in the past.

That said, there are two things you have to be ready for.

  1. Consulting firms will only hire you if your grades are really high (i.e. top 20% of your graduating class high) and, even then, only if you do really well on their case interviews (which are never easy).
  2. Only one or two people get into any of those firms in a given year and there are lots of smart people at MBS who want to get into management consulting so there's plenty of competition.

In other words: the prospects are great if you work really hard, do lots of preparation, and get really good grades. If not, your prospects are still good but it might take longer and may be harder to get in.

Finally, the Career Services Centre and the student-run MBS Consulting Interest Group will guide you in all of this.

On to other topics...

Those are the most popular career-prospect questions I tend to get. I'll move on to other topics next time but if there are any other specific questions you want me to answer on this topic, please let me know and I'll cover them in a subsequent blog post.