Forbes: Don’t Wait For A Harvard MBA If You Want To Explore Your Career Options

V P Blog

Source: Forbes

by Matt Symonds,
Jul 8, 2016

Close to 10,000 applicants for 380 places on the program, the HEC Paris MiM attracts more applicants every year to its graduate program than the Harvard MBA (Image copyright HEC Paris)

Close to 10,000 applicants for 380 places on the program, the HEC Paris MiM attracts more applicants every year to its graduate program than the Harvard MBA (Image copyright HEC Paris)

How do you measure the desirability of a business school? One of the best metrics is admission yield, the percent of applicants who choose to enroll in a particular program after having been offered admission. The Harvard Business School does particularly well by this measure, reporting a 91% yield for the MBA program this year. Stanford GSB runs a close second, with a yield around 80%, with the rest of the M7 schools typically enjoying an admissions yield between 60 and 70%.

But in the world of business education, and beyond the IIMs of India, there is a school whose admissions success puts even Harvard’s figures in the shade.

With close to 10,000 applicants for 380 places on the program, the HEC Paris MiM attracts more applicants every year to its graduate program than Harvard, and is even more selective than Stanford GSB, which admits 1 in every 18 applicants to the MBA. Such is the appeal of the Grande Ecole programme that Associate Dean Eloïc Peyrache confirms a 100% yield among domestic applicants. Perhaps not surprising when you realise that in the THE Alma Mater Index: Global Executives 2013, which ranks institutions by the number of degrees they have awarded to CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies, HEC Paris ranked No. 5. Graduates of the school are not only running the country – current French President François Hollande is an alumnus – but also heads of multinationals that include the cosmetics group L’Oréal, insurance giant Axa, the luxury conglomerate Kering that owns Gucci, and food- products corporation Danone.

So what lies behind the growing appeal of the Masters in Management (MiM) degree? Global demand for the pre-experience degree has flourished in the last five years, with GMAC reporting that the biggest growth in GMAT test takers is for the MiM. Pioneered by European business schools that include St Gallen in Switzerland, LSE in the UK, Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, Esade in Spain, and HEC Paris and ESCP Europe in France, demand is flourishing. And now US business schools such as Northwestern Kellogg, Duke Fuqua and Michigan Ross are getting in on the act.

For Peyrache, the MiM is an attractive solution for young graduates who want to complement their undergraduate studies, whether in engineering or liberal arts with a management degree that will accelerate their career progression.

“At the age of 22 or 23 many young people are still exploring their career options. They might be hesitating between a career in consulting or finance, looking to develop their international experience, or follow their passion for sustainable development and the environment. Some are thinking about starting their own business, or pursuing a path in creative industries such as fashion or media. At this stage in their personal and professional development they can try different things over the two years of the program without taking a significant risk.”

“At the age of 22 or 23 many young people are still exploring their career options. Finding your true calling is essential to a happy and successful career.” Eloic Peyrache, Associate Dean at HEC Paris

“At the age of 22 or 23 many young people are still exploring their career options. Finding your true calling is essential to a happy and successful career.” Eloic Peyrache, Associate Dean at HEC Paris

Peyrache argues that the ultimate benefit is personal fulfillment and professional growth. “Finding your true calling is essential to a happy and successful career. Whether you want to secure a job at McKinsey, or start your own theatre company, all options are open.”

For Lindsay MacDonald, an English major from the College of William and Mary, the MiM was the ideal springboard to discover the world of business. “As an American, a two-year business degree for less than $40,000 already represented great value for money, but I was also able to include one year of internships to experiment with different industries.” MacDonald began with consulting, working on turnaround strategies and restructuring for troubled businesses, before spending four months working on M&A deals for France’s second largest banking group, Natixis. She then completed the year with a product development role at cosmetics giant L’Oréal.

“Across the course of the twelve months I was able to see how strategy provides you with a big picture of a business, while the technical skills I learned in finance gave me a grounded picture of accounts, and how they impact on a business model. Product development is then the intersection of strategy and implementation, where you get to develop a concept and see its deployment.”

Lindsay was then able to bring all of this hands-on learning back to school for her final year, and share her experience with fellow classmates to get their feedback. She also began work on case cracking as part of the curriculum, which has prepared her for her first position upon graduation as a business analyst at McKinsey & Co. “The internships were invaluable not only to gain exposure to a myriad of business perspectives, but also to see more of the world and have a better sense of the direction you want to take.”

Seeing more of the world was also part of the agenda for Julien Escher, whose long-term goal was to work in business but with a fascination for Chinese culture. After a year of foundation courses in general management, that included cost analysis, supply chain management and enough Excel modeling skills to now describe himself as an ‘Excel geek’, he interned at Procter & Gamble in Germany, helping to re-launch a perfume brand and creating pricing and revenue models. He appreciated the experience of a strong corporate culture in a big corporation, but felt he might be better suited to a smaller more entrepreneurial setting.

“I was surrounded by lots of very smart and dedicated people at P&G, but wanted to contrast the experience with a smaller more flexible structure where you can have more impact on the business.” He became an entrepreneur in residence at Holidog, a digital brand for pet care services before working at Rocket Internet, a company that builds and invests in Internet companies. These experiences acted as a natural stepping stone for his passion for China.

“One of my reasons for choosing to do a Masters in Management was the ability to go abroad during my studies. HEC Paris is a member of the CEMS alliance of 29 schools from around the world, and also has an incredible list of Double Degree partnerships, including schools in Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing. I had already learned about Chinese culture and language on previous visits, so this was my opportunity to learn about doing business in China.”

Julien has spent the last five months working at a startup to develop a business plan for a fast growing Chinese start-up in the sensor industry. “It is invaluable to experience a very different cultural behavior in a professional context. Chinese managers will never admit to not understanding the question, and you never hear a direct ‘no’. So you learn how to frame problems differently in order to come up with a solution.”

Business school can be a perfect laboratory to try out your entrepreneurial ideas. HEC Paris e-Lab (Image Copyright HEC Paris)

Business school can be a perfect laboratory to try out your entrepreneurial ideas.
HEC Paris e-Lab (Image Copyright HEC Paris)

Starting Out With A Startup

While startup fever is gripping the MBA world (a recent FT survey shows that 34% of the Stanford GSB graduates of 2012 launched a business within three years of graduation), more and more of the pre-experience MiM students are eager to test their entrepreneurial skills, and business school can be a perfect laboratory to try out their ideas.

During his time at HEC Paris, Mohit Chawla worked on his startup, EdlogIQ in the edtech space. Having successfully raised over $800,000 through multiple rounds of funding with VCs, he then went on to create BUILD, an entrepreneurship platform to connect students, entrepreneurs, VCs and corporations across the world. Guided by Professor Michel Safars and the HEC Entrepreneurship Club, his would spend up to 12 hours a day in the Entrepreneurship Lab, juggling studies and clubs with his passion for business creation.

Mohit was so impatient to study business and finance that after he graduated form IIT Roorkee with a bachelor’s degree in architecture, he turned away from the Harvard Business School 2+2 program to study in Europe. “I wanted to explore the European markets, and also expand my global view and the dynamics of a different cultural and living experience. If you are doing a good job you will end up in the same place, whether you went to HBS, the GSB or HEC.”

In his case Chawla has ultimately ended up with a prized investment banking position at Goldman Sachs. “I loved the entrepreneurial adventure – informal brainstorming, writing ideas on the wall – but I also wanted to get a sense of the corporate environment. Working on M&A and IPOs has given me a high-line sense of many different industries. It is a good time to take risks at this early stage of my career, and the MiM offered me the luxury of exploring different options. The HEC alumni network will continue to be of immense value in the years ahead, and you realize where you have been based on the people you are connected to.”

So is the Masters in Management right for you? The selectivity at HEC Paris may mean that you have your work cut out to secure your place. But once accepted, you can look forward to several intensive years to find the right career for you. And that, by any measure of desirability makes the MiM a compelling choice for today’s young graduates.