A Word from the Associate Dean: To find a multinational post-MBA job at a foreign location, learn the language there

By Ashok Som, Associate Dean of the Global MBA

Originally published on Pagalguy.com 

When considering an MBA, one needs to first ask themselves what their post-degree career goals are. Do they want to change their location? Their function? Their sector? Or some combination of the three?

For students from emerging markets such as India, there is intrinsic value to pursuing an MBA in Europe as it exposes them to a Western way of thinking and the best practices from another country and culture. In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, business requires managers to be more agile and culturally fluent than ever before. And for students who wish to stay on and work in Europe following their MBA, having a degree from a reputed and renowned European institution can certainly help.

Also at play in determining a graduate’s success in finding a job in a country such as France, is their willingness and ability to become proficient in the local language. Even if the de facto language of international business is English, many French people still only speak French. This means that your customers, your clients, your associates, and your higher-ups risk being separated from you by a very real language barrier.

Overcoming this barrier, and demonstrating a willingness to learn the language of the country you are in, is a major facilitator in becoming employed today. For example, theCAC40 global leaders have French roots and use dual language in their daily business. They are in constant search for talent who can bridge the gap between France and the emerging markets they are operating in.

At a programme such as the Global MBA of ESSEC Business School, courses are taught one hundred percent in English, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of opportunities for students to learn French at such schools. Apart from beginner and intermediary French classes, conferences and presentations in the French language are a great opportunity to listen and learn to become comfortable with the language. Students often stay in the homes of French families or meet up with French students for language exchanges, and make every effort to practice their French in daily life.

Being proficient in the language of the country in which you work is key for successful communication, competent collaboration with other colleagues and companies in B2B settings, and also an important indicator of your respect for the people that you work with and for. Even if your French isn’t perfect, simply being able to exchange basic pleasantries such as “hello,” “how are you,” “thank you,” and “have a nice day” go a long way toward making a favourable impression, essential when face-to-face in networking, recruitment, or work situations.

Many students from emerging markets look at the difficult economic situation in Europe and become discouraged from studying here, thinking that jobs and work-permits in limited supply would mean a sure trip back home post-MBA. At the same time, graduates who do find employment within a multinational organisation early on are likely to experience higher career mobility than those from previous generations.

As multinationals search for growth and profitability, they are attracted to emerging countries. They require an efficient and competent workforce, adept and fluent in common business practices but also conscious of and conversant in local practices, language, and culture. This means that employers are often eager to hire locally, but from among a pool of local candidates who possess the skills obtained through a world-class MBA program. MBA holders with diverse backgrounds offer more competitiveness on the global playing field for companies that have a multinational presence. These businesses are growing in complexity and scope and have to adapt to local environments, meaning they need skilled and competent leaders more than ever before.

Last year, for example, one of our graduates was employed by an international consulting firm. While he returned to India for six months at the beginning of his contract, he is now being relocated to Belgium in a more permanent move. Another student made a move from managing a family run construction business in Greece to becoming a wealth consultant in Russia. Companies today want managers that are comfortable in their home economies but can also bring their local expertise to the global stage. Learning the right foreign language is akin to building the bridge that will take you there.

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