NEWS | How to make the most of business school employment ‘milkrounds’

Published On: Tuesday, 21st Mar 2023


While studying for your MBA you will want to start exploring all the potential career opportunities open to you once you graduate. Business schools have slick systems that help students discover what is available and to give you a flavour of what it’s like to work in some of the worlds’ most prestigious companies. In this article, we’ll cover the types of recruitment events you are likely to attend (including the ‘milkround’) and suggest how to make to make them work best for you.

Firstly, what is the ‘milkround?’

You may have already come across the term in an online context as a handy resource to find graduate and post-graduate jobs. It’s a great way to quickly access job boards and agencies online and fulfils many functions in the graduate recruitment process. However, the traditional ‘milkround’ where large organisations tour business schools in order to meet graduates face-to-face is still very much in existence and is as popular as ever. The term also has an interesting history…

The ‘milkround’ name originally comes from a scheme first promoted by Unigate Dairies when they used to visit colleges annually to directly recruit graduates to work for the company. As the idea became popular, other companies started doing the same thing and a one-company idea soon turned into what we now recognise as the graduate recruitment event.

These days, and especially at MBA level, the recruitment event has evolved into something much more sophisticated and interactive. Nowadays, with the wealth of talent available, it has become as important for companies to impress the students as it is for the students to impress the companies.

MBA students will be familiar with recruitment fairs and the milkround from their university days. The concept is still the same in that they allow potential employees to meet some of the people working for the company and hear about the opportunities available. At business school, it’s not uncommon for a careers department to organise over a hundred lectures, activities, and forums every year, inviting global CEOs and professionals to share their stories of success and to network with students.

Recruitment fairs, where companies present themselves on stands much as they would at an exhibition, can also be incredibly valuable as they allow students to find out about dozens of opportunities in a very short time and ask questions directly to recruiters and current employees.

At business school, the recruitment events can be delivered in several different ways to allow graduates to pick and choose and to immerse themselves into the process as little or as much as they want.

For example, the IESE Career Forum is one of Europe’s leading recruiting events with editions in October and February. At the event, organisations are given the opportunity to engage with students and this is achieved in various ways including interactive presentations, break-out sessions, individual or group coffee chats.

Leading companies attend this event to network with the latest crop of MBA talent and this type of event is also common at other business schools in Europe and the US.

During the course of their MBA, students will be given the unique opportunity to hear expert presentations from high-level employees on specific industry and business issues. The idea is that you will connect with one or several company presentations and have access to one-to-one networking opportunities with employers.

It is important to make the most of any career events that will be held at your school as it will give you the opportunity, if you have not already decided, to explore different strands of employment you may not have already considered.

At the beginning of your MBA, it may be that you have very clear goals and ideas of what you want to achieve, or it could be the case that you may need a little more guidance before focusing on a specific role or industry. We all have ideas of where we might want to end up working but it is wise to keep an open mind when it comes to career information gathering. It is quite possible that a strong presentation from a potential employer will interest you enough to research them further.

Career opportunities and jobs exist for MBA graduates in every industry. You’ll find MBA graduates in; big companies, startups, and small and mid-size enterprises all over the world.

Some industries such as consulting, finance and technology, are very popular with business school students. All three areas are likely to be represented during career presentations, so it is worth attending one from each as a point of reference and for your own personal research. It is value experience to see top-level presentations from some of the largest organisations in the world and you might pick up a few tips for later life.

You will have plenty of time to prepare for upcoming company presentations so it is a good idea to schedule them in early to make sure you are available and to try to attend as many of them as you can. It is important too to keep your ears to the ground and talk to fellow students about presentations they have seen and are excited about but that you have missed for one reason or another. You can always research the company online, in your own time.

If your school organises a recruitment fair, you will have less time to visit everything you might want to so think ahead and be extra organised so you can get around to everyone you want to see. It is useful to prepare any questions you have in advance and note the answers you receive so you can use them for research purposes later on.

Always treat your first experience with a company you may be interested in as a starting point you can build on. So much company information can be gathered online but events give you a unique opportunity to meet people face-to-face and to delve deeper. Once you become ‘tuned into’ the format of the presentations you can learn more about the culture of a company just by observing their staff, what they say and how they say it.

Your business school will also offer you lots of advice and assistance through dedicated MBA careers teams whose role it is to facilitate connections with employers and strengthen your chances in job applications. They may also bring in alumni in certain industries to give you advice about targeting a specific job or company and to help you understand what you can do with an MBA.

Recruiting events will give you the chance to meet real people from companies you may have already heard of and to start building relationships which could have an impact on your short and long-term future. As mentioned earlier, companies will be as interested in you as you are in them so events are excellent places to make a first impression.

Potential employers value certain qualities in future big hitters and at the MBA level they will be looking for students who show strategic thinking, have good communication skills, promise versatility and have the makings of good business leaders.

Different times call for different skills and post-pandemic the ability to work around technological disruption has become a particularly sought-after skill. You do not need to impress with all of these qualities on first meeting, but it is good to leave an impression that can be followed up at a later date.

Recruitment events can also be useful for finding a mentor. Someone who will help you locate the careers you are interested in and guide you when you begin work. A more experienced person can help you manoeuvre around the different aspects of your career. Try to search for potential mentors who also have an MBA and possess several years of experience working in the field.

As well as meeting company personnel, it is also a good idea to start networking with executive recruiters from different firms. Strong connections with top recruiters can make it easier to receive preference over other candidates when applying for available positions.

It goes without saying that you should always be working on building your professional network as an MBA graduate. Some of this should come easily to you such as staying in touch with your old classmates and other alumni. It might be more difficult to put yourself forward to some of the professionals you will meet at recruiting events, but it can pay dividends if you are able to do so. A first conversation will often lead to more interest and a good business connection who might know of, or indeed have, an exciting career idea for you.

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