Many who sign up for an MBA program do so with an eye specifically on one goal – international work experience. It’s a great career move for many reasons.
One, considering the astronomical sum spent on acquiring an MBA degree in, say, the US or Europe, it makes good financial sense for Indians to find work overseas, so that they can repay student loans.
Another reason to work abroad post-MBA, for a few years (if not longer), is to start building an international career, or at the very least, to get some exposure working in a culturally different set-up.
This is an invaluable asset in your resume as it speaks to your ability to work in a global environment while also suggesting that you have the soft skills and survival skills needed to make that happen.
Today, most companies and industries work in an international environment, and having a manager with overseas work experience on board makes you a top candidate for a plum post.
Optimising Your Overseas Job Search After MBA
With an MBA in hand, the world is indeed your oyster but landing a suitable job overseas takes strategising, planning and foresight. Here are some guidelines that will maximise your chances when you put yourself out there.
Hone Your Interpersonal Skills
Working in a new culture demands strong interpersonal skills and the soft skills needed to get along with a variety of people. Remember, you are not on home turf and this brings its share of challenges at the workplace.
Leaning on your interpersonal skills is a good way to go as employers look for soft skills like the social perceptiveness, active listening and excellent written or oral communication.
Strong interpersonal skills are also critical for networking, and networking and communication are key ingredients for success in an increasingly connected world.
Since a large percentage of Indians who acquire an MBA degree abroad are proficient in English, this helps plenty when looking for jobs overseas, when competing with candidates from other countries where English is not their first language.
Research Market Trends
At different times, different countries or markets exhibit a greater or lesser tendency to hire talent from overseas. These trends change over time and directly influence your quest. On similar lines, industry too reflects the same trends.
Traditionally, domains such as technology, finance, consulting and manufacturing are partial to hiring international applicants. Aligning your goals with market trends will, naturally, increase your chances of hitting pay dirt.
Often, larger companies are more open to hiring culturally diverse candidates as they are more global in their outlook and also have international operations, so they can place these candidates in field offices across the geographies.
But don’t give up on smaller firms. While they may seem reluctant to hiring international candidates, that can change quickly if convinced that you will be an asset.
Maximising Your Strike Rate
Another valuable tip is to use a three-pronged approach and build a long list of target companies you would like to apply to. These three ‘prongs’ would be: companies in the US, companies in other countries and your home country.
Also, although you may have a very specific job profile in mind, remain open to other opportunities that are available.
Choosing The Right Country
When selecting your MBA program, think not only of the reputation of the business school you hope to enroll with but also of the state of the economy, job scene and your specific career prospects in that country. Of course, you can always move to a job in another country after you get your degree but it always helps to be aware of your chances.
The US is every MBA hopeful’s first choice and rightly so. It boasts the largest number of business schools and the world’s best, apart from a handful outside its borders.
Although the UK sees a steady stream of Indian students every year, questions are being raised about its MBA programs (as the cost of a UK MBA is much higher). The country’s new visa regime and the growing uncertainty about getting MBA jobs in England are further deterrents but the country remains a good choice for shorter duration, one-year MBA programs.
Apart from the biggest MBA brand in the UK, London Business School, there’s Cambridge’s Judge Business School and Oxford’s Said Business School for you to consider.
Canada is not as popular as USA when it comes to MBA programs but it offers a strong bait to MBA students – work permits ranging from 1 to 3 years. But here’s a country that’s finding itself on an increasing number of MBA hopefuls’ lists in India – Singapore.
The top MBA programs here are National University of Singapore and Nanyang apart from INSEAD’s Singapore campus. This means you can still get a top-notch, global MBA degree in Asia and reduce your overall cost.
Besides, Singapore is only a few hours from India and you can easily get by with English, making it an even more tempting choice among Indians.
Overcoming Cultural Challenges
Candidates who work abroad after their MBA studies face many more challenges than those who work in their home countries.
Many feel homesick, at least initially, and most others wrestle with adjusting to a new culture. We have some advice to help you avoid taking cultural missteps that could derail your plan to work overseas.
Hop, Skip or Leap?
There are two ways to pursue an international profile with your new-found MBA status – you either change both your industry and geography in one go (leap) or one of the two (hop and skip), and take baby steps.
For many, opting for a new industry as well as an overseas posting could be overwhelming, what with all the adjusting it entails. It might be more prudent to choose a posting abroad but stay the course in a familiar career domain.
That way, you can use all your work experience to succeed at your new job and impress your new employer. Another option would be to work with a global company in your home country and then seek a foreign assignment in time.
Watch Out For The ‘U’ Curve
Typically, when you start living and working in a new country, you are feeding off a euphoric high as you are enamoured of your new environment, people and workplace.
But soon enough, feelings of homesickness filter in and the challenges of living in a completely alien environment and culture begin to overwhelm you. For many, this levels off and they begin to climb out of the ‘U’ curve.
To get you through this tough time, develop a strong sense of self-awareness and a keen cultural awareness. Be aware of your feelings and remain sensitive to the people around you. Also, just wait it out.
Individuals who have studied and/or worked overseas more than once are especially adept at making these adjustments.
If you are still finding it hard to adjust to a new culture, give it at least six months before you decide to make a move or else you can hurt your long-term career prospects.
How to select the right career after MBA