Lisa Umenyiora, Executive Director of Business School Careers, talks about how she implemented a New Careers International Strategy..............
A year after taking on the role of Exec Director of Careers at Imperial College Business School was an opportune time to review our service. I was in a fortunate position: I had a fantastic team, our new sector-aligned delivery was working well, student feedback was positive overall and our employment rates were above 90% on almost all our programmes. However, Imperial is one of the most international universities in the world and I was concerned that we weren’t providing sufficient support to our international students or those looking to have an international career.
At Imperial College Business School we welcome 1,500+ MSc students annually across 14 programmes in addition to 600 students studying on our MBA suite. The majority of our students are on 1-year full time programmes starting in September so they are quickly immersed in the early recruitment process of the milk round.
Following a review of our students’ employment outcomes, I established that a proportion of our students were gaining work outside of the UK after their programme. It was clear we needed to establish an International Careers strategy to support our students seeking employment globally, whether that be back in their home country or elsewhere.
Two of the key initiatives I identified included the introduction of a China-based Careers Consultant and recruitment of a London-based Mandarin-speaking Careers Consultant.
China-based Careers Consultant
When looking at students’ backgrounds and location of employment and aligning this with regions with our largest alumni bases, it became obvious that, outside of Europe, China should be a top priority. We needed to increase our employer interaction in the region and better understand the Chinese recruitment market and processes. I also wanted to reach out to alumni in the region to support their career progression and involve them in our plans, something which aligned with the School’s wider strategic goal of increasing engagement with our international alumni. I decided the best way to push forward and achieve early results was to recruit someone based in China who would be able to focus on this for us and following approval of a business case to implement an International Careers Strategy, I gained budget to trial the recruitment of a part-time China-based Careers Consultant.
London-based Mandarin-speaking Careers Consultant
Meanwhile I recognized we had a gap in delivery for our students on campus. Many of our Chinese students aim to work in the UK as it is an international capital of finance and startups, only moving to plan B (returning home) at the end of their programme if their UK job-hunt has not been successful. This meant that, because of the recruitment timeline in APAC, students were often having to wait 6-12 months to find and start a new role after their programme finished.
At the same time I learnt, from numerous student and alumni focus-groups, that students from APAC were often paying huge sums of money to use services from external Mandarin-speaking providers to support them in their job hunt and recruitment preparations. I felt uncomfortable about this and so, when natural turnover in the team occurred, it provided an opportunity to re-focus the position we recruited to.
I created the role of an APAC Careers Consultant, focusing on current students wanting to work in the region. A requirement of the role was to speak fluent Mandarin to review Chinese CVs and hold mock-interviews. Other responsibilities would include holding workshops to explain the APAC recruitment process and timeline, and to encourage students to apply early for APAC-based roles.
We successfully appointed to the role just in time for them to attend Imperial’s China Careers Fairs before the start of our new academic year.
While this strategy has been implemented for a little over a year, it’s still too early to assess the full impact of the introduction of these two roles but we’ve already seen early benefits. We were able to post a multitude of APAC job opportunities in a 6-month period, compared to a small amount previously. This was done via WeChat as we’d quickly identified the importance of this form of interaction not only with students but also with alumni and employers.
We have had interaction with a myriad of APAC companies in a 6-month period both through the China-based CC and via a couple of visits I made to the region. Meanwhile we increased our on-campus engagement with APAC offices of international companies thanks to the work of our Employer Relations team.
We held our first alumni careers workshops and networking events in China, which were very well-received and attended. These supported alumni career progression and increased awareness of and support for our international careers strategy.