Valerie FordA lot of people come to INSEAD because for one reason or another, they want to change careers from what they were doing before the programme to something different. I remember very vividly our first presentation from Sandra Schwarzer, the head of careers services, where she asked how many people wanted to go into consulting after INSEAD. About half of the lecture theatre (or “amphi”, as we call it here) put their hand up. Sandra’s next question was how many people had been in consulting before INSEAD. This time, about a third of the amphi put their hand up. And when Sandra asked how many of those people wanted to stay in consulting, all but a few hands went down. There are bankers here who want to go into marketing; marketers who want to become consultants; and consultants who want to set up their own business.

But how easy is it to use INSEAD as a springboard to change careers? The standard answer from careers services is “it’s possible, but it’s very, very hard” and you have to “network, network, network”. The consulting companies are actually amongst the most open minded, recruiting a diverse bunch of people from various industries (as long as they can “crack the case”). On the other hand, many of the industry companies are really looking for people who have 3-5 years experience of both the industry AND the sector that they are recruiting for. One of the big pharmaceutical companies that came on campus a few months ago stressed that they were immensely keen on career changers because they loved the intellectual curiosity and ambition that came along with wanting to further your horizons and doing something different. But when it came to interview time, the only chosen ones were the students who had experience in marketing or pharma.

So is it all change for me? I really used this year to think about different career options, and I’m really grateful to all the alumni who took time out of their busy days to chat to me about what they loved and hated about their jobs. Maybe that is what I paid my tuition fees for, and I hope I’ll be able to do the same for future INSEAD students at some point. Life is a journey and I have a couple of tempting offers, so watch this space!