Young And Restless


By Yekaterina Dranitsyna

Staff Writer

Young specialists are often welcomed into a company by their more experienced colleagues with the saying: “Forget everything that you were taught at university.” The reason is that graduates often fail to apply even a very sound theoretical knowledge to practical tasks. We ask: Is the young and ambitious MBA graduate any different?

The answer depends on a person’s personality as much as on their age. And the first problem for a young manager is to convince a business school that age is no barrier to getting an MBA degree.

“Top and middle managers form the majority of students. However the type of student will vary according to the business school and particular programs on offer,” said Alla Zhavoronkova, head of the project “BEGIN. Business education” at the Begin Group consulting company.

“An executive MBA is for older people with a lot of management experience. Students of ordinary, modular MBA programs are usually younger. Younger managers often choose English language programs either from Russia or abroad,” Zhavoronkova said.

According to a poll conducted by Begin Group last year, the majority of MBA students in Russia are 26 to 30 years old (31 percent). People aged between 31 to 35 years old account for 25 percent of students. Younger students (under 26 years) account for 24 percent with older people (over 36 years old) making up 20 percent.

To find appropriate students, business schools usually set limits not on age but on work experience.

According to Begin Group, most students (36 percent) have been working for seven to ten years and 34 percent over ten years.

Inexperienced students make up a distinct minority. Three to six years of professional experience was reported by 31 percent of MBA students. Only nine percent said they had been working for less than two years.

19 percent of students reported two years’ management experience, 37 percent — three to five years, 35 percent — six to ten years, nine percent — over ten years.

Young managers are actively prevented from enrolling in EMBA programs.

“The average age of students on EMBA programs is 32 to 33 years old. In two groups starting this year it decreased slightly to 31.5 years old. However it’s too early to say if this is a trend or an anomaly,” said Svetlana Rakutina, head of the degree unit at the Stockholm School of Economics in Russia.

Although Rakutina denied that the SSE discriminated by age, certain other requirements make it clear that prospective students should not be too young.

“We enlist students with management experience of over five years. Consequently, the youngest person in the group is rarely younger than 28,” she said.

“It’s not an accident that leading schools set strict limits on age and management experience. Lectures are 90 percent to 100 percent comprehensible, if the person is prepared, if he can compare theory with personal experience. For a young person without experience it’s much harder to use what they learn in practice,” said Alexei Zelentsov, regional director for the Northwest at Kelly Services.

Another recruitment specialist added that some employers are actually mistrustful of MBA graduates aged around the 26 to 30 year-old mark, thinking them too young and immature.

“Young people should cut their teeth, gain practical experience in making decisions, take responsibility and learn how to manage a wide range of different people. All this means a lot of work. But high-quality education is very time-consuming. The employer thinks, either this person has worked badly or else studied badly,” said Olga Samarina, deputy director of Arbat-Nevsky.

“Sometimes, after studying a CV ringing out with prestigious business programs, the employer says: ‘Mmm, this guy would better off going for the presidency. Let’s postpone meeting him for another time’,” Samarina said.

For top positions employers usually hire men between 30 and 45 years old and women between 33 and 43 years old, she indicated. But there are exceptions.

“I know a young man of 20 who, though a student by day, had already managed to create a successful restaurant and worked as the director of a hotel complex. When I sent his resume to an employer, he described him as a “young Khodorkovsky.” He did not hire him thinking that someone so “brilliant” would soon get bored. A month later this candidate became the head of marketing in a large construction corporation,” Samarina said.

Samarina did not directly relate career advancement with age or business education. “Usually it’s not a candidate’s education or qualifications that make a difference. It’s his charisma, his personality and ability to convince older people to believe in him,” she said.

That is true for candidates of any age, she indicated.

“Managers both young and old should be very creative in the promotion of their career, perhaps using a mediator, such as a recruiter, who can convince an employer to believe in the candidate’s professional qualities, irrespective of age,” Samarina said.

“Common sense suggests that the energy of youth is an advantage, while lack of experience is a serious minus. However, in each case experience

and energy depend on personality,” Rakutina agreed.

“Success comes to mature people who know what they want. It’s hard to say how it correlates with age. For us, a student of 30 is a young manager, because we often enlist people over 40 and 50 years old,” Rakutina said.

Some employers decide in favor of young candidates because of their professional “innocence.”

“The advantage of a young candidate is that they still have a straightforward career path without frequent switching between companies. Some people change jobs every six months. Work experience at a famous brand is great but collectors of logos are not welcome,” Samarina said.

For better self-promotion Samarina advised young people to stick to one company, gain experience and try to deliver results that they could be proud of.

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