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Getting a job in a global crisis: what skills are companies looking for?

The extent of the economic downturn facing the world due to COVID-19 is not clear, and companies are bracing for big disruption. How will this situation affect MBA hiring in future, and will it impact what skills they are looking for?

Margaret O'Neill, Head of Cambridge MBA Careers.

We interviewed Margaret O’Neill, Head of Cambridge MBA Careers:

The job market right now in summer 2020 – is it all bad news?

While the current job market is undoubtedly tough for MBA students currently seeking employment, some sectors are seeing growth, such as Edtech, biotech and the global supply chain and operations sector, which are increasing resources to rise to current and future challenges. The finance sector is better prepared for this crisis than it was for the 2008 world economic downturn. Balance sheets are in much better order, institutions are more robust and risk management has significantly increased across the board.

Is now the time to start an MBA?

As things are changing so rapidly, there is a unique opportunity to be part of the solution and to create the new business and social architecture for life with, and after, COVID-19. Working in a volatile and uncertain world, recruiters need those people who can manage that volatility effectively and deal with issues that have not been confronted before.

Big disruptive events will continue to happen; your MBA is a way to differentiate yourself to make sure you are part of the solutions when they happen.

Will recruiters want different things in their MBA hires?

We know from ongoing conversations with recruiters that what they are looking for in addition to the technical skills of analytical thinking, problem solving and commercial awareness, is a global outlook, humility and the ability to listen and learn from others with less power than them.

Also, change demands creativity. An MBA learning experience which values innovation, which creates diverse and vibrant communities and supports collaborative, team-based approaches will set you up to make a real impact in your future roles.

Honing interpersonal skills through ‘live’ team projects

The Cambridge MBA is an incredibly practical programme. There are three team projects during the year, each one designed to apply new knowledge and test interpersonal skills. Students are working with real clients in two projects, to add pressure to the experience, with the need to deliver real value to an organisation.

One important core course in the MBA, running over two terms, is ‘Management Praxis’ which focuses on managing yourself and others. It focuses on understanding your own strengths and those of others, how to work well as part of, and leading, a successful team. These management skills, learned through intense practice of theories and frameworks, and refined with peer-to-peer feedback, are essential building blocks to develop leadership skills for challenging times.

Uncertainty brings opportunity

Ambiguity and uncertainty give MBAs a tremendous opportunity to make an impact, to help to progress organisations by thinking ‘outside of the box’. Our MBAs are in an incredibly privileged position – they are a network of bright, engaged, global talent from across industries, sectors, functions and geographies. They can learn so much from the MBA, but also from each other and our incredibly supportive alumni. The Cambridge reputation is known the world over – but the right attitude, a drive to contribute, and the ability to engage teams to find creative solutions will really bring opportunity to thrive. Today more than ever, the world needs collaborative, ethical, purpose-driven global leaders.