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Among the initiatives, business schools are helping students create better social media profiles and get more practice for job interviews.

Richard Cote/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

The MBA degree is a passport to the world of business, but comes with no guarantee of reaching the desired destination – a satisfying job.

Global hiring prospects are holding steady for 2014, but sluggish economic growth, increasingly-selective employers and a rising worldwide volume of MBA graduates have raised the stakes for young job hunters.

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"They [students] have to put time, energy, passion and enthusiasm into this thing called a job search," says Brian Marchant, director of the Business Career Centre at Queen's School of Business in Kingston. "Students need to be on their A game absolutely as they go through this."

To help students map a path to their dream job, business schools are revamping their programs, adding career support services and working even more closely with employers.

Queen's, for example, has added more career development as part of its redesigned one-year program. Relative to two-year programs at other schools, Queen's sees its shorter duration MBA as a selling point, with 84 per cent of graduates landing jobs within three months after their degree. But the one-year program offers no time for internships. "Our students have to be able to articulate the value proposition [to an employer] more effectively because they don't get to show it [through an in-program internship]," Mr. Marchant says.

Last year, the school changed the start date of its MBA program to January from May to create postprogram opportunities for work experience. After completing the one-year program, students have five months to gain paid internship work experience before officially graduating in May.

"We have never had the opportunity to offer that before and employers are saying that is interesting," Mr. Marchant says.

For their part, blue-chip employers are escalating efforts to tap top prospects well before graduation day.

"Many years ago, an employer would go to campus, conduct a career fair, post jobs and cross fingers and hope for the best for applicants to come," says Lisa Kramer, director of campus recruitment for the Royal Bank of Canada. "Now there is a much stronger focus on building a strong brand on campus as an employer and interacting with candidates."

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She adds, "There is more networking and proactive meeting with candidates well before the formal interview process."

Last fall, RBC introduced a workshop to teach students how to develop and communicate their personal brand, including how to use social media to position them in the job market. The bank also holds on-campus sessions for business students to talk about any topic, including how to redo their résumé and social media profile.

"Social media has changed the game," says Ms. Kramer, who has 17 years of experience in campus recruitment. The bank uses LinkedIn as an entry point to talk about the bank's programs, allowing students to make contact and ask questions well before bank recruiters show up on campus.

"Students also understand the need to start the process much earlier," she says. "It is not enough any more to walk in to your MBA program on the very first day and think, 'I am here and doing my MBA and I will land a fantastic job at the end of the program.' There is a lot more that goes in to it from Day 1."

At the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business in Vancouver, students in the 16-month MBA program prepare for two recruitment seasons – one for a mandatory summer internship and the other for full-time employment after graduation.

Like Queen's, Sauder has revamped its program to intensify professional development as part of the academic experience.

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"You have to own the journey," says Ian Christie, director of the Robert H. Lee Graduate Career Programs at Sauder, with students expected to make the most of in-class learning and extracurricular activities. "From Day 1 of orientation, I stand up there with the associate dean to say that no one is handing this [degree] to you on a silver platter."

Last fall, the school rejigged some of its professional development activities so that students could participate in five mock interviews (instead of two previously) in the first three months of the MBA, before they meet later with prospective employers recruiting for paid summer interns.

"It's a live-fire opportunity for them [students] to get a sense of what it is like," Mr. Christie says.

This month, Sauder plans to roll out a new "e-portfolio" program for its 110 MBA students to market themselves using social media. As part of a for-credit course, students will be expected to build a blog and create video and other links to their work for viewing by prospective employers. "It gives them a tool that will allow them to better differentiate themselves and showcase themselves in the marketplace," Mr. Christie says.

The new initiative underscores the increasingly competitive job recruitment picture, he adds. "It is not a cake-walk for anybody."

Gustavson appoints executive in residence

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An entrepreneur, corporate executive and international trade specialist has been appointed as executive in residence working with students and faculty at the University of Victoria's Gustavson School of Business.

Blair Hagkull returned to Canada in 2011 after more than a decade of working for himself and others in real estate-related projects in the Middle East. He is a corporate adviser with Jones Lang LaSalle, a global real estate services company.

In a press release, Gustavson dean Saul Klein described Mr. Hagkull's background as a "perfect fit with what we teach."

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