So what if you make it? You get into your dream MBA program. Next you’re expecting to land your dream job upon graduation—in the US. It might not be that simple if you’re an Indian national.
According to a recent Bloomberg article, only two out of the top MBA programs responded to a survey about international student job placement rates: Chicago Booth—95.2 percent, and Stanford—91 percent. Those are pretty good stats, but they do not differentiate between placement inside the U.S., or whether those jobs were elsewhere.
Across the board, new MBAs hit a rough patch in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, especially foreign nationals. Some US investment banks and other companies stopped hiring foreigners and even rescinded offers.
Hiring practices have recovered since those dark days, but stats are still hard to find. Some sectors, though, didn’t change their recruiting – like tech firms who value strong analytical and engineering skills, say admissions officials. They offer jobs to many Indian nationals and have been consistently hiring.
But there are key issues that Indian nationals should be aware of as they contemplate the end game in their MBA experience – the job offer.
One obstacle that can stand in the way of international MBA students seeking placement in the US is obtaining a work visa, according to Bloomberg:
International students have F-1 visa status, which means they are non- immigrant students in the eyes of the law. They can all stay in the U.S. to work for 12 months after graduation without an additional visa; those with pre-MBA backgrounds in science, technology, or engineering can stay for 24 months. After that, international grads must get an H-1B visa, which requires employer sponsorship.
Most top MBA programs have already thoroughly vetted the companies that recruit on their campuses. They know which firms are willing to hire foreign nationals and sponsor their visas, or not. For each position you consider, be prepared to show how your specific skill set is vital to that job description—an essential part of the visa process. Do that research now so that you know in advance if your goal career is attainable.
Take at close look at your chosen industry. Careers in tech, consulting and supply-chain management are globally oriented and employers are seeking international candidates to expand their reach. Marketing, however, is increasingly hyper-local. With your cultural knowledge, you may be better served to look for placement, even an MBA, domestically in India. Several MBA programs are sending out summer reading packets about US business upon acceptance. Delve into these materials so you have a clear picture of what’s ahead.
Associate Dean of Admissions at Emory Goizueta Julie Barefoot says she would give the same advice to Indian nationals as she would to any student on the job hunt: “Be flexible. There’s more than one desired path, and you might have to take an interim step.”
That could mean working for your choice employer back in India, or elsewhere outside the United States. Some companies now offer a training year in the US before sending MBAs back to their home country. They’re aware of the US salary differential, and may offer a bonus or commensurate salary to make it worth your while, according to Bloomberg.
To properly prepare for your job search, Kellogg’s Director of International Coaching and Global Relations Carla Edelston says the first step is to be self-aware – of your strengths, your preferences, and weaknesses you need to improve.
She advises foreign nationals to take advantage of the resources they are already paying for as part of their MBA experience to successfully land a post-MBA position. Kellogg offers access to the Career Leader, a psychological assessment tool designed by two Harvard faculty members, to help students identify a career match. Job hunters are then advised to conduct a market-assessment, and network with fellow students who are some of the best resources for leads and connections.
Finally, job seekers need to prepare themselves for interviews – how to convey what Edelston calls, “an executive presence,” the ability “to speak with a firm tone, with confidence.” Career offices offer many opportunities to work on your interview skills and MBA officials strongly recommend that you internalize their feedback, and willingly adjust your style.
Here are some common issues Indian nationals can run into during the interview process for US companies:
- Fixation on touting credentials over answering the question. Interviewers want to know they are being heard. Avoid weaving in your academic record or list of awards in responses. They can gather this information from your resume. Recruiters want direct answers.
- Identify pronunciation problems. Candidates from many English-speaking countries, not just India, can be difficult to understand to a foreign recruiter. Get some honest feedback from a US-based friend or coach and work on your phrasing or vocabulary. This is important across the board, but especially important for communications-heavy positions like consulting.
- Overly long resumes. One page. Just one page. That is the only format acceptable in US business practice.
Again, take the time now to research how best to target your industry, and start working on your “executive presence.”
An MBA is just a piece of paper – you need to embody the title.
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Michelle Stockman is a professional journalist, former Columbia Business School admissions insider, and experienced MBA admissions consultant.