Most students at Schulich agree that going on an exchange is an exciting opportunity that would add value to their experience in the program. At the same time, we all have the same concerns about missing recruitment events, and managing the 601/602 while being away. (Wallace)

As an IMBA student, I had a consulting internship in Argentina at a top global firm, as well as a semester on exchange at one of the best universities in Latin America. Though I absolutely believe an experience abroad is beneficial, the concerns raised most often by Schulich students are valid, and I hope to address those here. And for those who may still be a little skeptical, there are a number of other alumni who have taken the chance, and lived to tell the tale. Take Judyta for another example.

“I’m going to miss the recruiting events”

Missing the recruiting events is probably the most common concern and the degree to which missing these events matters depends on a few of different factors. First, certain industries or companies simply do not recruit heavily on-campus. If you’re targeting one of these “off-campus” companies, then committing yourself to being here during recruiting season is not as important. If you do however want to work for a company that recruits on campus, or if your off-campus company still does their hiring during the time you are away, there are still ways to tip the scale back in your favour, while doing an exchange.

Before Leaving:

Networking via industry events, or coffee dates (my personal favorite) will be important to make up for not being there during the semester. When meeting with these professionals, let them know that you’ll be going on exchange/internship, what you think it will add to your skill set, and ask them for ways to stay in the loop about recruitment while you are away. Ideally, if you can get a contact beforehand and start building that connection, then upon return from your exchange, you will have someone who is already familiar with you and aware of your unique experience. This alone should set you apart from other students crowding them at the events.

While on Exchange:

Most of my international internship offers came from setting up informational interviews via Skype. Find someone in your industry or a company you would like to work for (ideally a Schulich alumnus in a senior position) and ask them for a few minutes of their time to ask about their career path and what their current position is like. If it works calling from Toronto, then it should work from wherever you go abroad as well. During your conversation, give them a bit of background on why you went on exchange and what you think it will add to your profile, but also mention that you did not want to miss out on the recruitment process here, so you took the initiative to reach out.

Once you get back:

Once back in Toronto, you should have a list of warm contacts you can now meet in person, and share your experiences with. For any recruiting events still to come, you will now have a unique background to help differentiate you from many of your peers. Additionally, you may already be familiar with some of the recruiters because of your prior networking. For finding fresh contacts, dropping a line like this in your emails — “Sorry, I missed the recruiting event on-campus as I was on a consulting engagement in Argentina”— sounds pretty good!

During my internship, I was also offered the opportunity to stay or potentially transfer to another office if I was interested. This is a great opportunity that can be leveraged especially with global firms that may be more competitive to get into from markets like Toronto.

“How am I going to fit in 601/602?”

Managing the 601/602 doesn’t go out the window for group members on exchange. The process of networking is almost identical to the steps outlined in the previous section, and by picking firms in the industries you would like to enter after graduation, you may be able to narrow down your site search AND recruitment efforts, to the same person in some cases. You should also find that fellow MBA/IMBA graduates who have completed a 601/602 are usually more willing to help you out as well.

Letting the site know that you may living somewhere they do business, can be a huge help in making your group more attractive for a potential firm, as they will have someone “on the ground”, familiar with the environment, and able to do more hands-on research or connect with people of interest. The 601/602 and exchange options have also been recently redesigned in order to give both MBA and IMBA students more flexibility in deciding what works for them. All the more reason to take advantage.

Final takeaways:

Students going on exchange should never feel like they are jepordizing their future job opportunities by taking a semester abroad. By networking intelligently and proactively, it is absolutely possible to generate and maintain ties with companies of interest, and manage all the phases of the 601/602— all while having the time of your life somewhere new.

Colin Wallace Junior – Buenos Aires, Argentina. IAE Business School

Apply for exchange by 4pm on Friday, March 11, 2016.