COVID-19 has caused disruption in almost every aspect of life, including business. But it's also shown the ways that an MBA can help you become more adaptable, and maintain security, even in uncertain times.
Marcel Kalis has been head of career services at ESMT Berlin for the last 14 years, and has watched the jobs market closely over this period.
If there’s one thing he’s learned from his time as a careers director, it’s that the world keeps going, even in times of economic uncertainty, and the need for multiskilled workers will always be there.
For him, the value of an MBA in uncertain times can be outlined in four major ways.
1. An MBA helps you build a broad network
When times become tough, it's even more crucial to have a solid network to fall back on.
For Marcel, COVID-19 has opened up space for innovation in this aspect of MBA life. “Although online networking has been around for a while, the crisis has emphasized that you can do it from any place, any time,” he says.
“Our students have concentrated on being proactive by organizing networking sessions and making contacts online,” Marcel adds. Now that it is the best alternative, MBAs are spending more time reaching out and arranging calls with ESMT alumni to gain detailed insight into their chosen careers.
Pre-established career services have simply moved online. This includes the ESMT ‘strengths finder’, where students get individual careers assessments and coaching. “In fact it’s even worked better,” says Marcel. “We keep asking ourselves why we haven’t done this before!”
Online events may even help the school bring in professional speakers from around the world, not just those within travelling distance to Berlin.
The pandemic has highlighted the way business schools might run their careers services better, allowing them to provide even stronger support amid unpredictable circumstances.
2. An MBA helps you hone fundamental business skills
Overwhelmingly, employers agree that an MBA helps foster the fundamental skills they value most, such as problem-solving and teamwork.
“It’s in times of uncertainty that businesses are in most need of smart, adaptable people to help them survive,” says Marcel.
“Problem-solving and working in teams is only successful if soft skills, like empathy and communication, are valued," he explains. "This is even more valuable when things are unpredictable."
Whatever happens in the market, skills fostered on your MBA will remain a solid asset.
3. An MBA can help you pivot to a new industry
With its campus in Berlin, ESMT is well situated to help you create contacts in new industries, and help you keep your job options open.
“My main piece of advice given the current uncertainty is to focus on the industries that do hire,” says Marcel. “Be realistic. If your focus was on the tourism industry, for example, you might want to think about adapting.”
In ESMT’s 2018 cohorts, 78% of students changed their role, and 70% changed their industry all together. Each year, more than 90% of ESMT MBA graduates are offered jobs in Germany.
Within the ESMT MBA course, integrated projects allow you to learn on the job, and connect with SME's, corporates, entrepreneurs, angel investors, leading researchers in innovation, incubators, and more.
In the' Innovation and Entrepreneurship' track, students get guidance on how to move from idea through to implementation, and such projects can act as a springboard for MBAs creating their own startups.
Berlin is also known for both e-commerce and tech, two sectors that boomed during the pandemic. Major players like Amazon and Microsoft have offices in the city, offering great opportunities for MBAs based in Germany.
“Over the last eight years, Berlin has built itself up to be one of the best startup hubs in Europe,” Marcel adds.
With or without crises like COVID-19, he is confident that Berlin will remain ripe with opportunity.
4. An MBA is an investment in your future
“Sometimes a crisis is a good opportunity to do an MBA,” Marcel says. “During the 2008 financial crash, many people who were laid off started investing in their education.”
The average salary for the 2018 ESMT MBA cohort stood at around $95,000, though of course new numbers may be lower this year, reflecting the impact of the pandemic.
MBAs can still be confident that they’ve made a valuable investment long term. Even as the market waxes and wanes, an MBA will continue to be a mark of quality that will set you apart from competition.
“Despite the initial shock of COVID-19, companies are adapting, and learning to work virtually,” notes Marcel. “They do have the jobs for MBAs.”
“Resilience was always one of the big words in the MBA world,” Marcel concludes. “Now, it’s more important than ever.”