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Friday, November 21, 2014

The Truth About International MBAs and the Tough Time Finding Jobs In UK

International MBA students in London

When I initially decided to come over to the UK to study for my MBA, I had no intention of staying longer than the year. But as I approached the middle and end of the program, I realized that I desired more time in the UK. Time to work and really plant my feet into the culture. Time to live and socialize with true Brits, as opposed to the various international students that occupied many of the seats on my course. 

I wanted to leave England with a truer understanding of what it was to live, work and play in Europe, as opposed to leaving with a majorly academic perspective on European life.

If I was going to extend my stay, I would have to find full-time employment to finance my adventure. I wasn't naive enough to think that it would be a breeze. I knew I was a bit out of my element, being in a new country and all. However, I did think that several years of industry-specific professional experience, stellar networking and interviewing skills, an early start on the hunt, confidence and a decent MBA would ease the process a bit. 

The truth: International MBA students who want to work in the UK will have a hard time finding an employer to sponsor their work visa -- a mandatory requirement to remain in the country. The 2012 changes to the UK’s immigration laws mean that obtaining the right to stay and work long-term is a much more difficult process -- and from my personal experience, a near impossibility. 

Prior to April 2013, non-EEA graduates who had studied in the UK had the opportunity to stay in the country and seek work for two additional years after completing their studies. Now, most grads only have four months. 

This article explains the arduous plight of the International MBA student: Why International MBAs May Have A Tough Time Finding Jobs In UK

International MBA students in Egham

The Good: I am currently working in the UK and loving every minute of it. I was fortunate enough to be assigned an amazingly helpful and supportive mentor and professional coach who worked hard to ensure that I could gain international work experience with his firm in Ascot. He also helped me to refine my dissertation topic to better position myself as a marketing and branding risk management expert. I ended up with an excellent mark for my final piece of coursework as an MBA, more marketing management experience at a global firm, and an international professional network. 

The Bad: I almost lost the opportunity to work with my mentor because the academic process at my university is not tailored to support international students who are at a professional level in their career. The slow process of delivering final marks to support a working visa application comes at a detrimental opportunity cost for those looking to submit for jobs in the UK immediately after finishing the course (imperative since you only have four months to intern/ work and beat the pavement for a job).

Additionally, while on campus career advisors may talk a good game with the best of intentions, they often lack the resources to help during the initial stages of the job hunt. They can only do so much, particularly when dealing with students who have several years of work experience and are not seeking entry-level positions, but seeking the strong relationships with employers who are open to hiring non-EEA international talent.   

The Ugly: Here's what I mean when I say the academic process is not tailored to support international students -- my particular uni would not ratify final marks and confirm successful completion of the MBA course until mid-November, two and a half months after we turned in our final piece of coursework (submitted in September). Since international students only have four months to work after completing the course (most student visas expire in January), this is a huge hurdle, as most employers will not employ you unless you can confirm that you have passed your course, even if you are still eligible to work in the country until January on a valid student visa. 

If your grades are not released until mid-November and you must leave the country in mid-January, that leaves you with a negligible amount of time to work and get your foot in the door to source a firm that may sponsor your working visa to stay long-term. There is a HUGE disconnect between what the academic community choices to do and what is beneficial to the careers and livelihood of international students studying and wishing to go on and contribute to society in the UK. Note, this is just one instance where there is a world of disconnect. 

In my personal circumstance, my mentor did backflips to work things out for me. I am blessed to have someone like him on my team. 

Final thoughts: I do not regret the decision to study in the UK. I have made some amazing connections and equally amazing memories. My life has been forever changed and I am fulfilled and at peace with this experience. My CV receives an amazing employer response in my industry and my international appeal is evident, though hindered in the UK by this visa hurdle.

It is important, however, for anyone considering a decision of this magnitude to fully understand the implications and repercussions. I wouldn't over think it. I would still make the decision to study abroad, if so inclined. To me, life is not about over analyzing. It's about sensing what your intuition is leading you toward and acting on that feeling, though you will be blind to the full repercussions of the decision. For me, in this situation, 80% turned out the way I wanted it; the way I worked for it to turn out. Here, I share the hardships of that remaining 20%. Pareto principle. 

While I understand the importance of border control and immigration laws and I respect the laws of the land, I'll close this post with the comment below, left on the article linked above, which mirrors my sentiment on the issue:

 "While agreeing with most of the comments made in the article about how difficult it is for international students to get a job offer in the UK, the fact also remains that MBA schools haven't done their bit. All the promises of cv specialists and career guidance come to a nought when there are simply no employers willing to recruit if you dont have a valid visa. Sad to see that even after huge drops in international students coming into UK to study, the education industry is not able to rustle up its might and represent to the government the need to end the repressive visa regime." -Jaygopal Raghavan

Now those are some strong words from Jaygopal, but I've never been one to shy away from the truth.

[What's next after Tier 4 Student Visa?]

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