One of the most common questions students ask when they apply to the MIM program is “What can I do with this degree?” I sat down with Jodi Nelson, the Career Advisor for the MIM and other graduate business students, and asked her a few questions about the unique skills that the MIM degree offers students, and how students can best prepare for the job application process.
Josh: Hi Jodi. My first question is very basic. What kind of careers can people get after finishing the MIM program?
Jodi: It partly depends on a person’s background. The MIM program is a great program, but it is not an equalizer. A person with little or no work experience and a person with 20 years work experience in a given field will not get the same job after graduating.
For many students, their first job after graduating from the MIM program will be similar to they type of work they could get after completing a bachelor’s degree in business. However, students with a MIM degree will have skills and experience that will allow them to progress faster along their career paths. Features of the MIM program like leadership training, the capstone project, and the Asia trip in the spring are all things that will help position students for faster and higher level career paths.
Josh: What about the MIM specializations (Global Marketing, Supply Chain, Finance)? Can students expect to really be “specialists” in these areas after completing the program? Will students be limited in their career options based on which specialization they choose?
Jodi: The short answer to the first question is that, yes, the MIM specializations do give students an extra level of expertise in whichever field they choose. Generally, marketing and supply chain are the specializations that most students gravitate towards, and a smaller number choose finance. The supply chain program here is actually quite good.
As for whether a student’s career options are limited by the specialization they choose, I wouldn’t say this is the case. The core curriculum of the MIM program is broad enough that students should be qualified to work in a variety of careers. For example, even if a person chooses the Supply Chain specialization in the MIM program, but later sees a job opening in marketing at a company they are really interested in, they should still go ahead and apply.
Josh: Does the international focus of the MIM program give students an edge in the job market, compared to a traditional MBA?
Jodi: Certain companies are increasingly looking for applicants who have foreign language skills and intercultural competency. They want people who have the ability to communicate, to lead, and to step out of their comfort zone. Chinese and Japanese language classes are key elements of the MIM curriculum, and this will be attractive to many employers. Even if you’re not fluent in a second language after finishing the MIM program, companies will at least like seeing that you have some familiarity with another language, and a conversational ability in that language.
Besides that though, the Asia trip and even the international nature of the classroom environment in the MIM program are things that allow students to get used to working with a diverse group of people, and these are experiences that will help you stand out from other applicants when you begin applying for jobs.
Josh: In terms of landing a job soon after graduating, what do you think are the key things students can do to position themselves for being hired soon after completing their degree?
Jodi: For students who aren’t yet sure what type of career they would like, Career Panels are valuable resources for learning about a variety of career fields. We invite professionals to come in and speak about their jobs, and students can ask questions to get a feel for what that particular type of work is like. Beyond that, getting involved with student groups, conducting informational interviews, and networking are all important.
The important thing to understand about networking is that people knowing you doesn’t get you a job, but it can get you an interview. You still have to sell yourself. Internships are also great opportunities. Summer term is a good time for internships since the MIM course load is a little lighter.
Josh: Speaking of the job application process, when do you recommend that students start doing this?
Jodi: The earlier the better. Generally, I recommend applying 3 months or so before you hope to have a job, and since MIM students graduate in December, this means they should start applying for jobs in July or August. What’s important though is not just the number of resumes that you put out there, but taking the time to tailor your resume or cover letter to the key positions that you really think you want. Some large companies will notice if the same person is just applying for every single job opening in the company, and this does not reflect well on the applicant.
International students who want to work in the U.S. after graduating have a few options. One is CPT (Curricular Practical Training), which is good for students who want to do internships in the summer. This is a good option because it helps international students get their foot in the door and establish a relationship with a company, which has the potential of leading to more permanent work later. The second is OPT (Optional Practical Training), which allows students to work for 12 months in the U.S. after graduating. To work in the U.S. permanently, international students would need an H1B visa, but this is usually very difficult to get. It requires a lot of legal work on the part of the company that is sponsoring you, and therefore smaller companies are not likely to go through with it. Some large companies with the resources to handle this extra work will sometimes hire international employees for technical positions, but this is much less common for general business positions.
The most important thing is to try and narrow down your career interests as early as possible, and to take advantage of career resources available to you during the program. Students shouldn’t worry if they don’t know specifically what kind of career they would like at the time they start the MIM program, but if a student can find their focus sooner rather later, it will help them make effective use of their time and resources when they begin looking for jobs.
For more information on the career resources available to MIM and other graduate business students, please see the PSU School of Business Administration website here.
Josh is a full-time student in the Master of International Management program. After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in Japanese, he taught English in Tokyo for 3 years, before moving to China and teaching at a university in the city of Zhengzhou. Inspired by his experiences in Japan and China, he was drawn to the MIM program because of its regional focus on Asia, as well as for Portland State University’s reputation as a leader in the field of sustainable business. He is studying Chinese in the MIM program, but tries to keep up his Japanese whenever he can.