One of the few certainties emerging from COVID-19 is that it will have a lasting impact on the way people work. Employees are adjusting to a new set of realities in the workplace, with research showing 48 per cent are likely to work remotely at least some of the time – compared to 30 per cent before the pandemic (Gartner, 2020).
The pandemic has merely fast-tracked a longer-term trend that is radically transforming the way organisations conduct business.
As new technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence reshape industries, those leaders will need new skills, frameworks and abilities to be effective in the future of work.
“If you’re looking to get ahead of the digital transformation curve and make a career change, now is the time to upskill,” explains Agnès Cosnier-Loigerot, Global Director of the INSEAD Career Development Centre (CDC).
“You need high adaptability to move quickly and stay ahead of the pack today because that’s the way the world is going to continue to progress. At INSEAD, we train our MBA students to manage and thrive in a fast-moving and changing environment, and all the work we do at the CDC is designed to support that."
But what does the CDC do, exactly, and how best can INSEAD MBA students who want to transition to a new career take advantage of what it offers?
How the CDC can help
Spread across three campuses (Fontainebleau, Singapore and Abu Dhabi), the CDC’s global team of more than 40 dedicated career professionals work closely with students throughout their MBA journey.
“As soon as you start the MBA programme, we recommend you also start considering your career development plan. The CDC team will be on hand to offer personalised support every step of the way, from self-assessment to employer relationship-building,” Agnès explains.
Early on, the team focuses on identifying what constitutes a great fit, career-wise, for each MBA student – or as Agnès puts it, “What kind of work environment do you wish to thrive in? Can you home in on the sector, function and even the geography?”
Introductory webinars lay the foundation so students can hit the ground running. Each student is also assigned their own career coach, who remains on hand to motivate and offer support, especially when students start actively interviewing for jobs and engaging with employers.
A hands-on approach to honing career skills
Another core component of the CDC’s work is to help students develop a pitch they can present to prospective employers – one that showcases their values, strengths and backstories.
“We strongly encourage people to practice adapting this so they can get used to marketing themselves to different workplace environments,” comments Agnès.
At the same time, the team delivers a wide range of events to help students fine-tune their career skills, from individual training sessions to workshops and panel discussions on topics such as cover letter writing and preparing for interviews.
This is especially valuable when it comes to the activities that the CDC’s employer engagement specialists support each year – namely, hundreds of on-campus recruitment initiatives and thousands of interviews aiming to connect students with the right opportunities.
Achieving a multi-dimensional career shift
The results speak for themselves. “We measure career change across three dimensions – industry, function and country. Our research shows that about 79 per cent of INSEAD MBA participants succeed in making a change across one of these dimensions, and about 26 per cent make a change across all three,” says Agnès.
One participant who made just such a three-dimensional change signed up for INSEAD’s MBA programme with an ambition to seek work in Europe’s technology sector. “This was someone with an accountancy background. She’d been working in the Middle East with one of the Big Four professional services firms,” explains Agnès. “While she hadn’t worked in technology before, she drew on the resources of her coach, sector advisers and employer engagement specialists to come up with a structured job search plan that could help her transition.”
The student set about identifying transferable skills and getting to grips with the additional skill sets she would need to acquire to find a job in her chosen area. “She worked out a pitch that drew on her previous experience and strengths that she could use to convince recruiters that she would be a good fit in her new field. She also worked to develop her social intelligence via the connections she made during the programme, staying in touch once she graduated and seeking opportunities for referral,” says Agnès.
“All that hard work paid off when she finally joined a FinTech organisation in Berlin in a business development role, where she’s doing really well.”
In the second part of this article, Agnès shares some tips for those who are looking to do a career switch.