There's a Chinese saying that goes: "Walk 10,000 miles; read 10,000 books." It refers to life as an endless journey of learning, and Wendy Chang has spent her entire adult life living by it. Ambitious and strategic, Ms. Chang always knew she'd build her career blending two cultures separated by the Pacific Ocean.
After completing an MBA at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business in Vancouver in 2006, Ms. Chang now splits her time between Taipei, Taiwan, and Shanghai, China, as a senior manager with consultancy Deloitte & Touche. Before landing that job, Ms. Chang, who emigrated to Canada from China when she was a teenager, had worked in Deloitte's Vancouver office.
Armed with four languages (English, Mandarin, Taiwanese and Cantonese), previous work experience in Vancouver and Taipei, as well as an MBA from Sauder, Ms. Chang, 35, knew she had an edge. "I thought I'd bring more value to the firm if I went back to Asia. I know the language, I'm from here and I have all the Western education and work experience as well," Ms. Chang says.
These days, that kind of knowledge and experience, along with an MBA, can be the difference between a job and a really good job.
Globalization has always played a big factor in how MBA programs are crafted, but in recent years business schools have ramped up international recruiting efforts even more to lure companies to hire their students. They've done this by strengthening career centres, relying more on alumni networks or enhancing career treks to give students more exposure to different cities.
The extra focus has largely been driven by the global economic climate and the rise of the middle class in countries such as China, as well as changing in-demand sectors and students' tastes, school officials say. The job market has been a little softer in most locales over the past few years, and in some cases students need to travel further to find good jobs, says Fiona Walsh, assistant dean of Sauder's business career centre. "Schools themselves are realizing the workplace has been changing," she says. "Less boundaries, less borders."
Job No. 1 is to help graduates score jobs. One key way is to pitch B-schools in places that are growing faster than North America such as China, where gross domestic product is expected to be at roughly 7.5 per cent this year. "Part of it is you simply follow GDP," says Rob Hines, executive director of the career development centre at York University's Schulich School of Business in Toronto.
Trained as a lawyer with extensive investment banking experience in domestic and international markets, Mr. Hines says he's used to getting plunked anywhere in the world and getting things done. "I've probably worked in 25 or 30 countries around the world before I came to Schulich," says Mr. Hines, just before embarking on a recruitment trip to Mumbai and Delhi in India. This month, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing have been on his itinerary.
Mr. Hines entices overseas companies to recruit at the school and persuades them to broaden their global recruiting pool.
On any given trip, Mr. Hines will meet with representatives from as many as five companies a day. Some of the companies are from sectors such as health, real estate and mining, which might not normally pick MBA graduates.
Leigh Gauthier, director of careers for full-time MBAs at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, says her school has deliberately increased the number of its MBA graduates over the past several years. That way, prospective employers know if they come to Rotman, a diverse talent pool awaits, with students coming from roughly 30 countries. "It's sort of – if you build it they will come," she says.
Students abroad, such as Ms. Chang, play a role in the recruiting process, too. She belongs to Sauder's alumni club and is active in helping students network and ultimately find jobs.
Sharon Irwin-Foulon, executive director of career management at the University of Western Ontario's Ivey Business School in London, Ont., says trips like her recent one to Singapore and Hong Kong combine alumni relations, corporate recruiting and some admissions work on the ground.
"Back in the day it was: Get a good résumé, get a good cover letter, do a good interview. You're golden. That's what job searching was," she says. "[Now] we want more exposure points."
That is partly why international student Sophia Zhao, 32, chose Ivey. Already armed with a master of science in technical economics and management from China's Harbin Institute of Technology and experience working in customer business development with Procter & Gamble there, Ms. Zhao felt getting her MBA in Canada would expose her to more life and work experiences, a belief guided by the "10,000 miles" proverb.
"Life is always about experiences. This one year at Ivey, it's really been a transformational journey for me," she says. Ms. Zhao completed her MBA in March and landed a job as district sales manager of Johnson & Johnson in its medical devices business unit. She is planning to return to China in the fall, reuniting with her family that is living in Guiyang in southwestern China.
Ms. Chang of Deloitte has grown used to the Taipei-Shanghai commute, travelling once or twice a month between the two cities for work. It's too early to tell whether she'll ever return to Vancouver, but if she does decide to make that move again – or anywhere else in the world with West-East ties – it'll be an easy transition.
"I know more than just the languages. I know how the two different worlds work," Ms. Chang says.