MBA Faculty Ask Employers: What Are You Looking For?

What do employers look for in a new hire with a MBA in sustainability? Near the top of their list: sharp communication skills and a knack for seeing the big picture.

These are just some of the things the Department of Management faculty found when they interviewed managers at businesses and nonprofits around New England last winter. They asked what competencies the employers expect in new hires, especially in the area of sustainability. “The goal is to become more familiar with employers’ needs and expectations so we can better prepare students through the curriculum,” said Robbie Hertneky, associate professor of management. “It will also enable us to better advise students with regard to the current marketplace.”

A Call for People Skills
Donna Mellen, professor of management, said some may consider a MBA primarily a technical education. “But in a world of constant change, effective human interaction and decision making are critical. For sustainability efforts to be effective, the people part of skills is essential. At Antioch we develop those skills.” Students begin working together in teams early in their academic career, and are frequently called on to make presentations to their peers and to clients.

Today’s employers also look for a systems-thinking perspective. AUNE’s MBA in Sustainability program, focused on how the triple bottom line of economy, environment and society interconnect, gives graduates a jump start on that set of skills. The notion of systems is introduced early and carried through all courses.

“In a complex and changing environment, for people to be effective they have to see the big picture,” Hertneky said. “We’re creating competencies for our graduates to be able to work in a world of ambiguity.”

Practical Experience Wanted
Hertneky and Mellen said employers told them they are hiring younger students who have less work experience, so gaining practice in the real world becomes more important. That’s another area where AUNE has an edge. “Through our internships, learning journeys, and practica, they can gain concrete experience outside of the classroom,” Hertneky said.

The project has had other benefits. The faculty reconnected with some AUNE alumni now in the workforce.

This ongoing research project is a continuation of the department’s effort to tune in to the needs of the changing regional workplace. The Stay in New Hampshire strategy session, hosted by the Department of Management at AUNE last October, is another example.

“We want to keep the conversation going,” Mellen said.