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Saturday, 11 February 2006

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Joseph Haslam

There nothing more cherished by a consumer than choice. As a pre MBA, I did my initial screening by location, duration and of course price. Take away the one year MBA and the list of places to go can start to look much the same.

But for me there is more to this than just the choice. I believe that a one year programme is appropriate for the European business culture but that mirable dictu, a two year programme is right for the environment in North America.

Go to Yahoo Finance and look at the ages of the key executives in the big four internet companies. Amazon (42, 45, 48, 45, 37), Yahoo (62, 43, 44, 44, 37), Google (51, 33, 32, 51, 43) and eBay (49, 50, 41, 49, 47). So for this industry at least, the years of your bloom are during your 40s.

Now search using the words buscamos una persona joven and allow yourself a smile as the words “de 30 a 35 años” or even “entre 24 y 40 años” appear. In Spain at least, it seems that young can mean 40.

So what is a good age to do an MBA? Sir Martin Sorrell, head of WPP believes that students should consider studying for an MBA in their early twenties instead of working for four or five years before returning to study for a management degree.

Certainly in North America an MBA track to the C Club exists. This begins with an MBA sometime between the ages of 24 to 28. Follow this with ten hard dedicated years (often in the same company) and the keys to the executive wash room can be yours.

This is just not how it works in Europe. You may require a stopover in politics. Pablo Isla, the Inditex CEO spent time at the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Finances. Jean-Bernard Lévy, Chief Executive Officer of Vivendi Universal was formerly Chief of Staff to the French Minister for Industry, Postal Services, Telecommunications and Foreign Trade.

Maybe I’m wrong, but my perception of North American MBAs programmes is of very similar people wanting very similar things. They need to be young enough to study hard, develop hard skills and to join an MBA graduate programme afterwards. This works best as a two year program with an internship.

My own experience of a European MBA is something more esoteric. Sure there are hard skills to be learned, but a lot less people are looking to join an FT500 company afterwards. Some are returning to family businesses, others to positions in the public sector of their emerging country. They get what they need in a year.

For many North Americans, particularly those over 30, you may be much better off to come over to Europe that to endure the tedious competitiveness of eight hundred 24 to 28 year olds. But to get in you will first have to pass the adaptability interview. If you are asked “where do you stand on the one versus two debate?” Best to answer "I take an hour for lunch myself, but there is nothing wrong with taking two."

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