I am interested in applying to St. Gallen. I see a number of St. Gallen alumni in this forum. Can you share your overall experience with the program? How is the job market in Switzerland these days? I speak some German but definitely not enough to use it in a business environment. Do you need to speak German fluently in order to get the really cushy jobs in Switzerland? I am interested in working in finance post graduation (not I-banking) and I know St. Gallen has a solid reputation in that field.
I'll provide you with the same feedback - slightly modified to protect the guilty
- I gave our administration and other prospective students:
DISCLAIMER: What I present is only one perspective out of 41 very different students with varying backgrounds, circumstances, expectations, and aspirations.
I had some good times with my classmates and will always look back on this experience many years down the road. I have friends for life, wherever we may find ourselves in the world. I made the decision to come to St. Gallen based on my ambitions during 2006-2007 (work in financial services in Switzerland) and on my personal circumstances (my wife’s German who planned to stay working in Germany while I attended b-school, so I wanted to go to the best school in the region that was closest to her and our small child). Ultimately, I didn't go into financial services, partially due to the environment and my disillusionment with the industry. But, I did achieve my goal of landing a job in Switzerland. (I speak advanced, but non-fluent German. And, I'm a former US Army officer.)
At the moment, I would recommend St. Gallen primarily if you want to try to work in Switzerland/Germany/Austria post-MBA. This is not to say that you will get a job here post-MBA, but it will automatically give you credibility by being associated with St. Gallen. However, for European b-schools, St. Gallen is not as marketable as say an INSEAD, IMD, or LBS globally. I would go with those bigger names if you want to be immediately marketable worldwide. It will take some time (maybe 5 more years) before St. Gallen will become a globally recognized brand. As far as career prospects go, I think this issue depends mainly on the state of the economy (companies are less willing now to take a risk now on MBAs w/o some specific and desired experience) rather than where you go to school. Furthermore, if you don't have strong prior work experience, no MBA program will help you get you that dream career.
Part of the St. Gallen MBA is to do a summer project or internship. Some even go immediately for a full-time job (if they are successful in landing one). Either way you go, you ultimately will write a 20-40 page paper documenting what you learned/did. For my summer MBA project, I decided to do more of a practical research project (focusing on organizational energy and leadership under the current economic crisis) with two other classmates. Essentially, the main product was a result of interviews with a partner company that comprised a research thesis paper. Part of what prompted this type of project was my lack of success in obtaining a summer internship or full-time offer by the beginning of May. However, the experience was good, and I even leveraged what I learned during some interviews I had with a MC firm (from which I got an offer, but turned down).
It's been a tough year for nearly all of us searching for jobs, but some or our classmates actually landed nice gigs with some top companies like Swiss Re in Zurich, Novartis in Basel, Deloitte in Zurich, and Goldman Sachs in NYC. However, no one has really made a traditional career switch (changing both function/industry). In my opinion, employers are now heavily valuing past experience more than the MBA. It only makes sense given the current economic situation, but hopefully by 2010 this economy is recovering. As of graduation, I believe only 25-30% of the class had a NEW job offer; some are returning to their old companies, and I have not included them in that percentage.
For simplicity's sake, I'm listing below some key points or lessons learned from my experience at St. Gallen. I won't give detailed explanations for each unless you need me to further elaborate.
1) If you want to make a traditional career change (industry/function), consider the 2-year program format at one of the top 10 FT-ranked, global MBA programs.
2) The University of St. Gallen, as a business school, has a very strong brand/reputation (like Harvard/Wharton back in the States) over here in Germany/Switzerland.
3) But, the St. Gallen MBA (and MBAs in general) is not perceived highly amongst employers as compared to INSEAD or IMD. Time will change that. (Consider the MBA program was just started in 2005 and that an MBA degree in Germany/Switzerland is not a norm like in the States.)
4) The 1-year intensive program is challenging, but manageable. Prepare for some late nights.
5) The majority of our MBA professors are first-rate. The quality and content of our academics are on par with any top MBA program.
6) If you want to work in Switzerland/Germany following the MBA, then St. Gallen is definitely the place to be.
7) If you speak any German, that's good. If you are fluent, then that's awesome and opens a ton more doors over here. But, if you speak any relevant language that can be used to target HNWIs AND if you have any finance-related experience, then private banking is a strong possibility.
8) Career services has been fine, but don't count on them to find you a job. Have a solid career plan/objectives in place, and they will be able to help you.
9) The MBA alumni network, overall, is not as strong (compared to a top MBA program), but the administration is working on improving that. Time will also allow the network to grow, which is most important.
10) St. Gallen, the town, is set in a beautiful area. If you like riding a bike, hiking, and being close to ski slopes, this is the place. But, the town locals are "interesting."
11) Everything is expensive in Switzerland, including provincial St. Gallen. Prepare for sticker shock.
12) The class is quite diverse, except I thought there were too many people with Engineering or IT backgrounds (like myself). As far as quality of classmates, I was overall pleased, but wondered how some people got in. A couple students' English-speaking abilities were quite challenged. I hear this as true at even the top MBA programs, so go figure.
UPDATE: From what was briefed to my graduating class, the administration has instituted an even more rigorous interview process to weed out those with weak English-speaking abilities. Ultimately, the focus is on the ability to communicate efficiently and effectively, and if you are unable to do that, then you are not ready to be a leader.
13) Some general lessons I learned over the last year:
a) Strategy is easy. It is execution that counts.
b) Anything is possible.
c) Increase your contacts with others. Be genuine.
d) There are both negative and positive Black Swans.
e) Always have a Plan Z.
f) Maintain a positive attitude at all times, even in the face of adversity and despair.
g) Set a long-term goal(s). It doesn't matter if you do not ultimately attain it. What matters is that you set
yourself a path. When you know where you are going, you know what you need to do in order to get there. But,
plans can always change along the way. And, that is perfectly fine.
Best of luck!
-MBA-HSG Graduate, Class of 2009
True and honest feedback. Tks!