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The Effect of the Brexit on Career Services

By Lara Berkowitz, Executive Director – Career Centre, London Business School

I thought 2007/2008 might be the defining moment in my career services career, but now I am helming a career services ship through the Brexit storm. Although the word uncertainty can send a frisson of nervous energy through any Director, what is happening in the UK at the moment is also a strangely exhilarating front row seat to history.

At the moment, the situation here is really a moving feast with just one week elapsing since the epic vote. Uncertainty creates short-term shocks, but it is much too early to know what the real impact will be. There is this odd period at the moment where absolutely nothing has changed in reality yet behavioural economics have taken over and there is complete uncertainty.

Next come the negotiations. Still no certain change. It is only at the point negotiations end and decisions are made – which could be more than 2 years from now – that certainty will return. As career services professionals, that is daunting but exciting, and forces us to practice what we preach to students trying to navigate a VUCA world.

The 2-year countdown may not even start until we get some political stability – as I write this Boris Johnson has just pulled out of the Prime Minister race! Feels like House of Cards come to life. So for now, we are focused on keeping students engaged and resilient while trying to get as much accurate market intelligence as we can.

From the employer side there is very little, if any, formal statement at the moment. Thankfully there are no reports of rescinded offers, although some late ad hoc recruitment processes (on top of an already robust year) have been put on hold. It is possible we won’t have any further concrete information until September as we start to see how the Autumn recruitment calendar is building and what is happening with offers for summer interns.

Frankly, I think most employers were genuinely shocked. As of June 30, a rolling poll of organisations conducted by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Professional Development) showed that 56.38% of 1,880 respondents answered “Not at all – it took us by surprise” to the question: “How prepared was your organisation for the “leave” decision in the UK’s EU Referendum”. Only 10.11% were “very prepared with a contingency plan in place” while 33.51% had just “discussed possible implications.”

On the student side, we are proud to have a truly multi-cultural community with 92% international students on the MBA. There are no immediate changes to the immigration status of current and prospective EU students, and while this issue will take some time to resolve, I am hopeful that the ability to maintain the rich diversity of the UK’s higher ed institutions and workforce will be at the top of the list of negotiations. As for those students still seeking employment, we are focused on standard advice regarding career transitions during times of uncertainty – stay in the moment, be proactive, be flexible.

So it truly is too early to tell and thankfully there have been no knee-jerk reactions yet from employers or students. As a School, we just celebrated our 50th anniversary and are feeling especially agile, having adapted to and thrived on many political, social and economic changes over these last 50 years.

By Lara Berkowitz, Executive Director – Career Centre, London Business School and Member, MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance

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