Sep 19, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

A recent Financial Times survey asked readers to weigh in on the skills employers are looking for in today’s workers. Here’s a closer look at the most sought-after qualities along with whether MBA programs are supporting these needs.

Sought After Skills

According to the survey, employers prize the ability to work as part of a team; the ability to work with diverse people; complex problem-solving; network-building; and time management.

Meanwhile, more traditional skills, such as accountancy, were viewed as less important in today’s world.

However, one respondent cautioned, “Try selling yourself in the market as a 28- to 30-year-old ‘strategic thinker’, ‘skilled leader’ or as ‘driven and resilient’, and good luck landing a job in a large corporate -- you will wait a long time. Nowadays (and as the market is evolving) a young graduate needs to be able to sell at least one tangible skill, such as accounting, programming, solid understanding of a product or industry.”

Where MBAs Fit In

People were mixed on the subject of MBAs, pointing to the value of real-world experience above all else.

Another respondent said, “You can’t teach soft skills in an MBA. They stem from emotional intelligence and most are honed in the office, even for the most astute in the field.”

Not all agreed with this take, however.  “My MBA equipped me with the soft skills I needed to kick-start my career,” countered an MBA grad.

Others called for MBA programs to adapt to 21st-century workplace needs -- particularly in terms of technology. “There should be more of a focus on data wrangling, analysis, and basic coding at business schools. I felt that I was in a good place for critical thinking, operations, and finance, but the industry is shifting more towards a data-centric world and this was not a focus in my MBA program,” echoed another.

The value of specialized skills was also highlighted by the survey.  “I can’t for a minute see why someone would expect Python to be taught in a business qualification. That is like saying we are having trouble finding MBA people who can do particle physics. It is a specialist subject and one of the areas universities are only starting to get to grips with. Those skills will come when you get recruited by a company whose job it is to do big data,” said another respondent.

The MBA is now at an interesting crossroads, caught between balancing these demands from current business professionals, and the demands of the emerging demographic, Generation Z.

What will happen with MBAs? Time will tell...


Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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