• SMIB Career Day was introduced to help students from the ESSEC Asia-Pacific campus understand the different career pathways available.
  • Students inspired to overcome career challenges by stories shared.
  • The fact that speakers are SMIB alumni makes the experience all the more special.

When Anne-Flore Maman Larraufie, Academic Director of the ESSEC Master in Strategy & Management of International Business (SMIB) program, started as an SMIB student, she had “zero knowledge of the business environment.”

“After a few months of courses, I had to apply to jobs, and I didn’t understand anything—there were so many titles, but I didn’t know what the job was actually about,” she shares.

Recalling this experience when she joined the school as a faculty member, Larraufie thought: “Why not have people come on campus and speak to students about what they actually do?” So, SMIB Career Day was launched at the ESSEC Asia-Pacific campus to help students understand the local market and available opportunities.

The ESSEC Asia-Pacific SMIB Career Day in A Nutshell

Held once a year, SMIB Career Day involves a full day of talks where professionals—usually SMIB alumni at different stages of their careers—return to share about their journeys, day-to-day working life, and the skills they have found essential for success.

While opportunities to network abound, at the crux of the event is for students to “get a realistic picture of what happens at work and what it means when someone says they are a junior consultant, a project manager, business analyst and more,” Larraufie says.

This objective resonated with many alumni, and in 2023, Career Day saw alumni from sectors ranging from tech to finance and luxury fashion all return to share.

Alumni Keen to Support ESSEC Asia-Pacific Students

“I feel the school has given me a lot, and it is important to give back,” Laetitia Stempfer, Regional Customer Success Head at Total Energies—who led the students through an interactive discussion on sustainability in business—explains. “It was a good opportunity to connect with the next batches and understand their thoughts and feelings about today’s environment. It is valuable for students as well as for speakers.”

“I believe it is important that students know all the options they have at work,” Megha Malagatti, Head of Marketing at L’Oreal, says.

Antoine De Vos, CFO for Singapore and Brunei at Bollore Logistics, agrees. “Although you have been working for a few years, you still don’t always know exactly what roles entail. So it’s important to be able to discuss with people already in the position to understand what goes on,” he says.

While Malagatti strove to give the students “a snapshot of the kinds of roles available in the luxury industry and the competencies required to become successful,” De Vos—an engineering-trained graduate who has found success in consulting and finance—was keen to help students see how the generalist training offered at the ESSEC Asia-Pacific SMIB program can be an advantage for their career goals.

Personal Stories of Triumph Resonate

Significantly, alumni at Career Day didn’t just share about what they do but also how they got there.

“I wanted students to see that their profession is only one part of their life path. It is a constant process of discovery, and what they see, want, and imagine today will be different in the future,” Christophe Bornet-Morienne, who heads business and sales development for WERZALIT Deutschland GmbH, says.

Factors like ethics, income, freedom, ambition, and family can all change one’s trajectory, he adds, noting that as students are at an early stage of their adult lives, they can benefit from the life lessons from more experienced professionals.

Agathe Colom, EY’s Global Consulting Talent Supervising Associate, concurs. “When I was a SMIB student myself, I found it so impactful to hear different alumni share about their journeys—to find out why they chose to stay in Singapore, how easy or difficult it was from a professional and personal perspective, and the process they took to find a job they enjoyed,” she says.

Having returned as a SMIB Career Day speaker at the ESSEC Asia-Pacific campus three times to date, her narrative has evolved with her experience, but the goal remains the same: “share about my journey as a working professional in Singapore but also to tell them all those things I would have wanted someone to say to me back then: don’t worry too much.

Work hard, but remember that nothing is career-defining at this stage of your life. Learn as much as possible, and most importantly, invest in your network and nurture relationships. Modules and grades may seem important to you now, but people and relationships are what matters in the long run”.

Julie Ing, VP of Strategy & Operations of Swiss Re, who spoke at Career Day 2023, had a similar message: “I wanted students to understand that a career is not always linear and things don’t always go the way we want them to,” she shares, recalling how after graduation, she was unsure about the exact sector and role she wanted to take.

What worked for her was to focus her job hunt with a few criteria in mind: “I knew I wanted to work for an international company that ideally had an office in Singapore they could send me to; I knew I wanted to learn in an organization with structure, and that I wanted a more general role to start,” she shares.

This eventually led her to AXA in France and then to Singapore to climb the corporate ladder before she took a year off for “soul-searching” and finally returned to the insurance sector with renewed passion.

“It was a very endearing speech and a great life lesson on grit, perseverance, and following your heart,” ESSEC Asia-Pacific SMIB student Emilie Henon recalls.

Definitely Not Just “Another Career Fair”

Indeed, the authenticity of the experiences shared is perhaps why, just as Larraufie had hoped, the 2023 students at the ESSEC Asia-Pacific campus were quick to see how Career Day is vastly different from any career fair or guest talk they have experienced in the past.

“It made a big difference that speakers were all alumni from SMIB, came from different batches, worked in different industries, and were at different career stages,” SMIB student Faith Melgar says.

Therefore, every question posed by the students and answers provided by the speakers became more relatable simply because of their common ground; she reflects: “As my time in the SMIB program nears its end, I naturally have some anxiety about finding a job. But Colom’s story encouraged me to embrace the process and have faith that I’ll eventually find the kind of work that I enjoy and can have an impact in.”

Emilie concurs. “The fact that we were hearing from individuals who have gone through the same experiences and have succeeded in their careers or personal lives was very inspiring for us all,” she says.

“Whether these connections lead to new job opportunities, collaborations, mentorship, or more, I believe the relationships made are valuable for our future personal and professional growth,” she concludes.