HEC Paris MBA Head Optimistic As More Grads Head For Energy Sector

Schools face increased challenges in post-crisis economy, not b-school grads, insists new MBA head

HEC Paris’ Professor Bernard Garrette is firmly optimistic about MBA graduates’ chances in 2011.

"In an uncertain and fast-moving global environment, being immersed in the exceptional blend of nationalities, academic and professional backgrounds of participants and faculty is a unique experience," he says.

Professor Garrette has been teaching and researching at HEC Paris for over 20 years. Previously a visiting professor at Cambridge and London Business School, Garrette took over the HEC Paris MBA program on 10 January. He graduated with an MSc in Management in 1985 and also gained his PhD in 1991, both from HEC. So clearly he has no worries about finding a job.

But surely there's plenty for business students to worry about. For a start, consider the risk - given total yearly costs of well over $40,000 USD at the average school, aren't many applicants making a potentially unwise choice?

Prof Garrette replies that HEC Paris isn't "Just the average Business School", and so students concerned with securing good starting salaries and quality teaching for their fees would do well to apply. The rank and reputation of the school, along with the track record of its previous students clearly say something to the 2,500 yearly applicants.

And this is all very well for the 15% who actually get into the HEC Paris MBA programme. But what about those who have to settle for a school that isn't top-ranked?

Well, that's where a look at the job market can be encouraging, claims Garrette. Despite dips in '08 and '09, both the consultancy and finance sectors are now on the mend, with hiring figures for the latter nearing pre-recession levels.

Furthermore, new sectors are growing where others have shrunk. Ten per cent of the HEC Paris 2010 MBA class went on to jobs in energy, "largely in positions which focussed on renewables". While Garrette puts this down to "a growth in student interest", he also admits that it could partly be down to France being home to companies like GDF Suez, Areva and Veolia.

However many sources suggest the overall market is still weak. In 2009, only one in four recruiters hired an MBA grad. Graduate hiring was still down overall by 50% in 2010, and many general predictions for 2011 remain grim.

But Professor Garrette points to the recent GMAT Recruiter Survey in which almost 50% of companies who responded expect to hire more MBAs in 2011. Everything considered, "the job market for MBAs has remained consistent over the past years," he insists.

In fact, Professor Garrette claims the real pressure is on individual b-schools. If they are to continue to attract good candidates, they have to make their programmes stand out from the range of rival options.

Increasing the quality of career management and introducing new courses and electives to meet the latest business trends are two ways his own school will move to meet this challenge, he says.

But even if things really are as positive as Professor Garrette claims, students can always improve their chances. The one tip he did give is that many students could use help in getting the most out of new media when job hunting.

"It's not that students overlook these tools, more that they need to be educated in how to use them." He's quick to point out that HEC provides training in getting the most (professionally!) out of websites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

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