While demand for MBA graduates continues to increase, a recent QS Top MBA report has revealed they are falling short of employers’ expectations.
According to Mansoor Iqbal, author of the report and editor of TopMBA.com:
‘One area in which we find that MBAs fall short of employer expectations is those which we would call soft skills – namely leadership, communication and interpersonal skills. Could schools be doing more to engender these? Or are employers’ expectations over the extent to which such skills can be taught unrealistic? Or it might be a third option – that MBAs are more inclined towards developing more quantifiable technical skills rather than harder-to-judge soft skills?
Whichever it is, there is clearly an issue here which needs to be addressed, particularly when it is a set of skills on which employers place such a high premium.’
Why do employers place such a high premium on these ‘soft’ skills?
If you’ve been earning solid grades all the way through your studies, and can produce good results in your work, then why do these ‘soft’ skills matter so much?
Let’s break it down.
- Leadership: Even if you’ve never managed a team before, employers want to know that the people they hire have the potential to step up into a role like this in the future. They want people who are positive, self-motivated, and self-aware – people who can lead by example, and who have the ability to know when to ask questions versus when to use their own initiative.
- Communication: No matter which role you’re hired for, whether it’s client-facing or purely technical, you will be working with people in some capacity, and you need to be able to interact effectively with them. It’s not enough to just produce the report, for instance – you need to be able to clearly ‘sell’ the value of what you have produced, and what you do. Doing this not only helps you prove your value to the wider team, it also allows you to demonstrate passion for your work – it’s not hard to see why employers love both of these.
- Interpersonal skills: Don’t underestimate the importance of likeability. In an age when more and more of our work functions are becoming automated, it’s the human qualities that matter more than ever. Having the ability to build positive relationships with colleagues and contacts strengthens your internal and external networks, and allows for greater collaboration between teams, both of which have obvious appeal to employers.
Those who don’t learn these skills and practice them can increasingly find themselves pushed into niche roles, their career progression limited, which can eventually lead to redundancy.
MBAs have broad appeal
It’s important to note that this study found MBA graduates are being hired across a range of areas, so this lack of professional skills is not limited to one group or type of graduate. On the flip side, however, this is good news for current MBA students, graduates and those considering enrolling in the course.
‘Employers are looking to hire MBAs over a fairly even spread of traditional job roles with no function showing any clear signs of being in, or falling out of, fashion. Opportunities exist for specialists across a healthy range of job roles.’ Mansoor Iqbal
La Trobe’s MBA
In highlighting the value employers place on ‘soft’ skills for MBA graduates, this study presents a case for universities to start referring to them as ‘professional’ skills, and incorporating them into their courses. And we have done exactly that.
La Trobe’s MBA focuses on personal and professional skills development, building graduate capabilities as well as management and leadership competencies.
It’s also structured to suit the lifestyle of the working professional, with flexible delivery modes including evening and weekend classes, full or part-time study, even the option of completing it online. And it’s available for mid-year entry.