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Old-fashioned brown suitcase with international labels stuck to it. (Photodisc)
Old-fashioned brown suitcase with international labels stuck to it. (Photodisc)

What does a Canadian do with an International MBA? Add to ...

With eight weeks of a one-year INSEAD MBA program under our belts, the most regularly discussed topic among my classmates is what everyone plans to do after graduation. Many of us are already attending recruiting sessions and preparing for interviews, even though there are still about 10 months left in the program. But with so many possibilities, we're all trying to decide which opportunity to pursue and, more importantly, where to pursue it.

While many MBA students turn to careers different from the ones they left, the most common change among INSEAD grads is geographical. One reason is likely that, after just 50 years, INSEAD has an alumni network with grads working in more than 160 countries, many of whom are eager to recruit fellow alumni to work with them.

But students from different countries pursue different strategies, partly depending on their home countries' economies. Graduate employment data for 2010 is not available yet, however INSEAD's career services staff expect 2009 trends to continue. One of the trends they see is that, compared with previous years, many Brazilians and the vast majority of Korean and European students returned home post-INSEAD, while more Indian, Chinese, Russian, Israeli and Canadian participants decided to take up opportunities outside of their home countries.

In 2009, out of the 26 Canadians who studied at INSEAD, only five of them chose to return to Canada. Compare this to the University of Western Ontario's Richard Ivey School of Business, where 92 per cent of the grads remained in Canada, or to Harvard, where 80 per cent of the students graduate and remain in the United States. In fact, on average, over the past three years, Canadian graduates from INSEAD have tended to go to Britain (17 per cent), the United Arab Emirates (9 per cent) and Hong Kong (7 per cent).

These numbers may be influenced by the fact that students, including Canadians, choose INSEAD because they are drawn to its international environment and focus. The career services department understands this and structures its recruiting around international employers. This year, for the first time, a Canadian bank recruited on-campus, but not for its head office on Bay Street; rather for its London, Paris and Zurich offices. Similarly, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Rothschild were on campus within two weeks of students starting classes and were all actively recruiting for their international offices, most notably London.

All of the major consulting firms are due to start their recruiting drive in a few weeks. Consulting firms such as McKinsey, BCG and Bain come to INSEAD with a slate of enticing job opportunities located in offices throughout the world. They do this at all major MBA schools, but at INSEAD, they often walk away with many of those roles filled, as the students here are willing and eager to take on careers in foreign locations.

Although the banks and consulting firms are regularly some of the larger employers of INSEAD MBAs, not far behind are the multinational corporations, such as Johnson & Johnson, Schlumberger, SAP and Google. Should a student choose to apply with a company that does not recruit on campus, career services facilitates off-campus interviews and recruitment. As a result, the tools required to land a job wherever we want in the world are at our fingertips.

Despite the wealth of employment opportunities, the ability to actually receive an offer is a common worry, especially in a weaker economy. However, Canadian students do not seem to be as worried as others. In general, Canadians are highly sought after by companies recruiting at INSEAD and tend to have their choice of which location to work in. International companies recognize the high standards of a Canadian undergraduate degree; that English, the international language of business is typically our mother tongue; and that we tend to have less difficulty attaining work visas in foreign countries than many other nationalities. These factors, as well as the allure of working abroad, may help explain the reluctance of Canadian students to return home after their year of studying abroad.

Canadian Adam Janikowski left his job as a vice-president of investment banking at BMO Capital Markets in Britain to pursue an MBA at INSEAD in France.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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