Is doing an MBA during a recession still a smart move?

Is doing an MBA during a recession still a smart move?


Finding a job as an expat can be daunting at the best of times, and the current health crisis and imminent economic woes are doing nothing to alleviate that stress. So is this the right time to move abroad to start an MBA, with the ambition of starting a career? Diana Diniz, Career Coach at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), says, “Definitely.”

“Just be realistic and make sure to leverage those MBA-specific skills better than ever.” First of all, she says, nobody is spared the effects of an economic recession, and so competition for jobs will get fiercer: diana diniz rsm

“Unless you are job-hunting in some specific markets (technology, healthcare or online retail), you will find that some companies are holding their breath somewhat and limiting their hires to business-essential positions for now. At the same time, job placement numbers for our recently-graduated MBA class of 2020 are not radically different, so companies are still hiring.”

Historically, RSM sees around 88 - 90% of its full-time MBA students employed within three months of graduation.

What definitely has changed is the interview process: “If you manage to land an interview, don’t be surprised to find a stern C-suite executive in the conversation, who all of a sudden is struggling with shrinking budgets, trying to avoid expensive recruitment mismatches and onboarding procedures.”

Dealing with ambiguity

But, as Diniz points out, the ambiguity and uncertainty these executives face are exactly what MBAs have been trained to address:

“The strategic insights gained through an MBA become even more valuable during recessions”

“Dissecting complex business problems under high pressure and designing long-term strategic solutions are embedded in our case-based MBA programmes. MBA students learn that organisations under stress cannot just maximise short-term revenue to get out of trouble and forget about building great teams, sustainable products or finding new customers with digital marketing.

 “These strategic insights become even more valuable during recessions, when companies are forced to refine business models and innovate.”

Personal leadership

The MBA programme’s focus on personal leadership development can also prove useful during economic downturns, Diniz emphasises:

“As an MBA student, you are constantly challenged to critically assess yourself and others: how do my qualities contribute to our team goals and where can I learn from others? How do I bridge cultural and language barriers with team members in high-pressure projects?

“Being short on time really builds decision-making skills, creativity and resilience. Again, no guarantees are given on the current job market, but if anything, resilience is a quality both jobseekers and employers can benefit from these days, and creativity will help you in your job search.”


In a crowded job market, it might take more than a fine array of skills to stand out. In her coaching sessions Diniz advises her students and graduates to increase their chances by improving their storytelling skills and expanding their network:

“We have coached them intensively throughout their MBA year, both in their professional and personal challenges. By the time they enter the job market, they have gained all the insights to create a powerful narrative about themselves. Now is the time to turn that into an effective professional story that is easily read and understood by recruiters.

“Show hiring companies how you coped with the COVID-19 situation and adapted to stay productive and positive. With all these cats and kids crashing in on Zoom calls broadcast from living rooms, there has never been a better time to start a more personal, insightful network conversation, or interviews with recruiters, than now.”

Alumni network

The active RSM alumni community can be another boon for job-seeking internationals:

“In general, our alums are usually very approachable and willing to share practical insights with fresh graduates. The great thing about such a network is that you can tailor it to your current needs. Looking to change industries? Find somebody in one of your target companies and ask them what it’s really like to work there.

“Now, you even have the added opportunity to ask classes that graduated right after the 2008 financial crisis to learn how they dealt with the crunch. You are never powerless, however bad things may look at the moment.”

Are you rethinking your future? Learn how doing an MBA can help you achieve your professional and personal goals.



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