The Online MBA Job Outlook is Rebounding in the Post-Covid World

Technology, consulting, healthcare and financial services should see the most job opportunities for graduating MBAs

In developed economies across the globe, labor markets are turning a corner as lockdown restrictions are eased. After months of coronavirus-related restrictions, hiring is accelerating and the redundancy rate is falling.

Many professionals had made the decision to pursue an Online MBA at the depths of the COVID-19 crisis, as they sought to upgrade their credentials while hiring and promotions were frozen in many sectors. In a locked-down world, the shift to remote work was especially beneficial for Online MBA programs, which received a bumper crop of applications.

And, now that the jobs market is staging a strong recovery, the employment outlook for the Class of 2021 is looking bright, say careers directors at the top business schools.

“At the start of the pandemic last year, many companies paused, slowed down or reduced their full-time hiring,” says Tammy Samuels, executive director of career and leadership for MBA programs at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. “As COVID’s impact has begun to shrink due to vaccination efforts, and companies are becoming more adept at virtual recruiting, full-time and just-in-time hiring has started to rebound.”

She expects this rebound will continue into the fall 2021 recruiting season, where robust full-time recruiting is expected to make up for the lack of young talent due to previous hiring restrictions. In addition, there is a workforce deficit caused by seasoned professionals not returning to work, or changing jobs as the pandemic winds down.

What sectors are hiring Online MBA graduates?

While hiring is expected to increase across most if not all sectors, Samuels, like her peers at other schools, says technology, consulting, healthcare and financial services should see the most opportunities for graduating MBAs. Careers teams are also seeing more postings in marketing and corporate finance, along with the supply chain function.

On the other hand, the economic sectors that could continue to see weaker hiring could be transportation, manufacturing and retail including luxury goods, given they are still suffering from coronavirus restrictions.

But Samuels cautions that some industries like consulting tend to recruit much more heavily from full-time MBA programs as they like to convert their summer interns. Online MBA students, on the other hand, will typically continue working full-time at their employer.

The fact that most online students are holding down jobs means the employment market is expected to be less competitive for them than for students graduating from full-time MBAs this summer, who are competing with their unlucky predecessors from 2020 who entered a battered economy.

“We have not seen students unemployed for large amounts of time; the nature of an Online MBA allows them to work while they are in school,” says Stephanie Gray, associate director of graduate career services at Indiana University Kelley School of Business. “Some may have waited to make a move until after the pandemic, but it might be because they wanted to wait until the hiring landscape was better, and they were not the lowest person on the totem pole.”

As an Online MBA grad, how can you land a job in the post-Covid world?

Gray’s number-one piece of advice for students is to network, even in an online world. “Networking is the primary means many students use to find jobs,” says Gray. “Job postings only go so far, it’s the network the student builds that is going to help them move towards a new position.”

Business schools also observe new trends in online hiring, specifically the use of pre-recorded responses and online assessments. This has prompted many careers departments and course administrators to switch up their offering for students, adding guidance on online workshops and virtual networking.

“Virtual recruiting, in one form or another, is here to stay,” says UNC’s Samuels. “Only some companies in select industries such as consulting and investment banking will most likely return to a mainly in-person recruiting process post-pandemic.”

There are clear benefits to virtual recruiting including increased access to students across multiple schools. “More than ever, perhaps emboldened by a sense of community and driven by the pandemic, employees are willing to connect and interact with students over mediums such as LinkedIn and other channels,” says Samuels. “It is easier than ever to identify fellow alumni, relevant workers at desired companies, and professional connections that one never knew they had.”

Navigating the virtual world of recruitment takes initiative and effort. “Without the added assistance of body language and other communication clues, you must work diligently to ensure that your intended attitude and message are being broadcast accurately across video,” she says. “Some recruiters shared that it was harder for students to show enthusiasm (a key variable to job hunting) via video call than it would have been in person.”

Online MBA students have had to display a great deal of resilience, adaptability, flexibility and leadership. And careers department heads say such skills have potentially made them more competitive this year than ever before.

“Today more than ever, MBA students are requested to demonstrate strategic thinking and the ability to solve complex problems because it is what employers need to navigate the complexity and manage unpredictable business changes,” says Valentina Di Nenno, senior MBA career consultant at MIP Politecnico di Milano Business School in Milan.

“All over the world, a bright new sensitivity for sustainability and social impact issues are becoming essential for the new generations, representing a trend that organizations will have to take into consideration if they want to keep their competitive advantage alive.”

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