Monday, November 7, 2011

Study in Spain, Work Elsewhere

Spain is a great country. It gave this world Velazquez, corrida and Serrano ham. It is the birthplace of flamenco and really loud people, and anyone who comes to Spain cannot fail to get infatuated with the contagious easiness of being and enjoying this life to the brink of our capacity.

Apart from the mundane pleasures, Spain carries the heritage of a strong scholastic tradition: its universities are well-ranked and many streets bear such grand names as
José Ortega y Gasset or Diego de Zúñiga. In fact, according to many international agencies of good repute and my personal experience, Spain is a great place to study: the cost of living is lower than in many rivaling countries, the climate is amazing and party life is rampant. You study hard too. (see Spain - the Country to Do an MBA!)

The hard truth hits afterwards. What are you going to do with this splendorous education that you have obtained so arduously? Considering the fact that Spain continues to fight its own economic development, getting a job there for a young MBA graduate may be tricky. Where I say "tricky", read "problematic", and when I say "problematic", read "hardly possible". I am looking at my MBA class trying to remember who wanted to stay in Spain after they had graduated from IE Business School. Virtually everyone. Well, most of them, unless they had hard-set family business plans back home already in gear. How many are there now? A meager bunch, and some still looking for a job. One day they too will despair and go looking in other countries.

Why is it that MBAs are not wanted in Spain. I see there are a number of reasons. First, the economic crisis has had its toll: the unemployment rates are low and the companies are not that eager to hire. This is easy to understand with a little caveat that hiring high-potential employees delivers high value to the company and the results that they are able to produce result in growth and creation of more workplaces.

But, these sentiments aside, there is another reason: the sovereign debt issues and the austerity measures to follow call for a specific type of managers - those who revel in cost cutting and who are at their best managing rather than leading. MBA schools are trying hard to create leaders, visionaries, reformers… Nobody teaches at business schools how to be penny-pickers and cost-cutters. Well, they do, but these matters end up being swept under the rug, and the MBA students rush on making presentations of spectacular projects costing millions of euros, all about expansion and sustainable growth. I guess what I am trying to say is that MBAs are best suited in booming economies or consulting companies (that will survive no matter what - someone has to do SOx audits, after all).

So it's not about Spain per se. Although MBA hiring soars, the world is still trying hard to recover from the recent economic blow and the new wave of rapid growth is not here yet. So it's time to get philosophical and take it as it comes. If you want to have a challenging  and interesting project in Spain, maybe it's better to wait a year or two and in the meantime have a spell in a BRIC country. Or (yet better) go down to Madrid Centro and have a sangria or two, you are in Spain, after all!

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