Last week TSR was proud to present to the MBA students at the UCT Graduate School of Business. Bonisile and I were excited to share with the current full-time and part-time MBA students. The two-hour session Insights into the World of Work (post MBA) was highly interactive, and we began by challenging the students to ask themselves if their MBA programme is supporting their personal and professional development journeys and employment outcomes and if they were taking their new learnings outside the classroom to gain meaningful exposure?

Is an MBA a silver bullet?

Whilst an MBA remains an asset on a resume, it certainly doesn’t provide an automatic entry into a new career. The MBA programme tends to be broad, rather than deep and those exiting are more likely to be perceived as good General Managers rather than Functional Experts, making a shift into an entirely different industry unrealistic.

Traditionally, MBAs looking to move industry are best served to join a Management Consulting firm where they will gain knowledge, experience and exposure to a variety of business and sectors. Management Consulting firms take specialists and turn them into generalists and, once a generalist you can move more easily into a different environment.

The market is shifting as business becomes more uncertain and driven by the need for innovation.

Forward-thinking and agile organisations, are scouting the market for good recent MBA hires for roles across their business. These roles are difficult to define, have no clear title, and are quantified as being varied, ever-changing and demanding high levels of agility. Organisations employing individuals into this role expect the following from their new hires, MBA or not: hard work, grit, lots of thinking (critical and strategic), challenging, and reworking/design of new way of doing things.

Having an MBA does not make you a legitimate disruptor in a business so arrive with your new ideas and a healthy dose of humility. Remember corporates change slowly – this requires patience, hard work and support to push change.

Navigating the New World of Work

Talent acquisition has become more sophisticated with a combination of AI and personal interventions. And whilst technology would imply faster turnaround, we’re seeing a slowdown in the time to hire. Hiring processes are more rigorous and prospective employees can expect to attend a range of interviews, and undertake psychometric and technical assessments, most often case studies.

In today’s world, employment security rather than job security should be the goal. Individuals should focus on building Portfolio Careers, documenting their tangible successes and achievements. Online branding and success journals (LinkedIn) are essential tools for professionals in the 21st century, as most employers and recruiters use social media to source talent.

What Employers Want

We shared with those present the desirable traits, skills and characteristics employers are looking for today. The 21st century success equation IQ + EQ + AQ remains a key principle for those seeking individuals with the ability to succeed in the uncertain world most businesses operate in. Adversity Quotient (AQ), grit as its commonly referred to, is essential for success in an ever-changing marketplace.

T-shaped employees, those with a broad general knowledge (as learned within the MBA programme) coupled with a deep level of insight in a specialist field, are in high demand. Most critically, employers are looking for individuals with a high degree of learning ability and the desire and discipline to continue learning indefinitely.

To stand out in the sea of candidates, individuals should focus on building professional brands and online portfolios that clearly illustrate their expertise, experience and characteristics.

Salaries hold despite economy

MBA salaries hold firm despite challenging economic times. According to PayScale.com the average salary of an MBA Graduate in SA is anything between R720k – R3m per annum. This correlates with information shared by Said Business School (University of Oxford) for their 2017/18 MBA class. According to the report MBA salaries in Sub-Saharan Africa fall within this range, with quotes of £52 000 – £66 000 per annum.

The key message from market though is that value is measured differently form organisation to organisation, and the MBA doesn’t automatically add zeroes to the salary on offer.

We thoroughly enjoyed sharing with the wonderful MBA students at UCT Graduate School of Business and look forward to an ongoing relationship with the school. We were delighted to receive the following from Azvir Rampursad, Manager Corporate Partnerships UCT GSB, “thank you so much for the presentation and sharing so generously… feedback from students was that it was the best session so far… so thank you again…”