The EMBA platform to cultivate new mentor relationships

When Priyanka Narasimhan decided it was time to take her career down a different path, she knew that she needed to draw on the experience of others.

The EMBA platform to cultivate new mentor relationships
Mentors can provide valuable feedback and impart new skills. Photo: HEC Paris

“I was working in pharmaceuticals, in research and development,” says Priyanka, a 36-year-old biologist who lives and works near Cambridge, England.

“What I wanted to do was move away from research and towards the commercialisation of products. While preparing for the career change I quickly realised that I had several gaps in my skills – business skills was one of them.”

While studying an Executive MBA at HEC Paris as part of her plan to change career path, Priyanka realised she needed mentors – people who could help her develop.

“I remember trying to prepare an important presentation. Because I am a scientist, I was immersed in data, that’s all I could see. I was wondering how to make my point in a way that stuck. Those around me, who worked in the luxury sector, looked at the data and could see a story.”

Priyanka’s colleagues, who would become her mentors as her EMBA studies progressed, helped her to create presentations that engaged others and brought them around to her point of view.

“I think the mentoring I received from my more experienced colleagues at HEC Paris helped me more effectively make my case when presenting to different departments and stakeholders.”

An EMBA from HEC Paris not only gives you the cutting-edge skillset to transform your career, but can help develop mentors that will guide you in life

Priyanka Narasimhan drew on the experience of her mentors and colleagues to shift careers. Photo: Supplied

Priyanka is not alone in seeing these benefits. Studies show that career professionals, regardless of their career level, benefit extraordinarily from having mentors – people whom they can consult with and seek advice from regularly.

Research conducted in 2006 for Sun Microsystems found that career professionals within their organisation who had a mentor were five times more likely to be promoted than their peers without one. Furthermore, both mentees and mentors were 20 percent more likely to have received a raise than their peers.

It’s not just mid-level career professionals who benefit: According to a survey by the Harvard Business Review in 2015, 84 percent of CEOs questioned felt that their mentors had helped them avoid costly mistakes and that they had become proficient in their roles faster. Another 69 percent stated that their mentors helped them make better decisions.

The classmates who would become her mentors would provide concrete support not only during her Executive MBA, but as she began a new role as a program manager for Novartis.

“When I was preparing for interviews, for example, I practised with more senior and experienced colleagues. They were there to give input. The skills that they passed on will be valuable throughout my life.”

“Whenever I have doubts, even now I can ping an email and tell them that I have a problem that I need help with.

“When I started the new role I reached out to (a mentor) and told them I was preparing to map all my stakeholders as part of a 90-day plan. I asked them how they would go about it, and they gave me some very valuable ideas.

“I think mentors can really help guide you through undertaking new and challenging roles. They help me understand the functions and priorities of different departments.

“Another perspective is, I’m a first-generation immigrant. I’m a female. I need to see people like me in leadership roles, and I need to connect with them and understand how they navigate through the corporate world.”

Many of the mentors that Privanka still draws upon are part of the HEC Paris EMBA alumni networks; she sees a wealth of industries and levels of experience represented both within the alumni cohort and faculty.

“My EMBA was such a great platform to cultivate mentor relationships. You’re thrown into a world that is so different from your own industry. You are constantly presented with fresh perspectives and a wealth of prior experience.

“I have a few degrees and I’ve been to several universities, but HEC Paris was different because I was constantly learning, not only from my teachers but those around me.

“I continue to access my network, with mentors that come in different shapes and forms. They are my teachers and classmates. I have an established rapport with them. I’m comfortable discussing where my career is at with them.”

“I think an EMBA is essential for anyone interested in going beyond their sector in terms of learning. HEC Paris is utterly brilliant for that.”

Priyanka’s future not only involves an exciting new career at Novartis, but exciting possibilities developed during her EMBA project. One innovative project involves the creation of artificial devices to test chemicals and cosmetics ethically. As she does, she will be offering advice to those in her footsteps.

“I will be making myself available to those seeking a mentor, looking for advice. You don’t want to surround yourself only with people like you. You need a good balance.

“You want to have people who challenge you in terms of skillset and culture, as well as those you can already relate to.

“I look forward to being a part of that.”

Discover how HEC Paris can connect you with the mentors you need for a successful career move.

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Reader Question: Can I find an American-style real estate agent in France?

Buying - and even finding - property in France can be a challenge for those accustomed to the system in the United States. Here's how the French system works and some tips for American buyers.

Reader Question: Can I find an American-style real estate agent in France?

For many Americans looking to buy a place in France, the French property buying system comes as a shock.

In contrast to the US system of having a realtor who guides you through the entire process, in France – as in most of Europe – buyers are expected to do much work of the house-hunting work themselves. 

Finding a property

The first step of simply finding property you might be interested in buying is inherently different, as France does not have a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) as exists in the United States.

This means that you need to look in several different places to make sure that you’re seeing all the properties on the market, and you would usually need to do this research yourself – rather than a realtor providing you with information about what’s up for sale.

In France property is usually advertised by real estate agencies (agences immobiliers), listed on websites or sometimes sold through personal connections.

Where can I find property listed in France?

Real estate agencies – Before moving to an area in France, you can check online, or by walking through the main street of the village (if you are looking for a rural location), to see which real estate agencies are popular.

Once you have a good idea of which agencies operate in the area, you can begin by searching their websites or by going in person to look at the listings. Oftentimes, real estate agencies will place adverts in their windows which gives you a good idea of the type of property prices in an area.

Most real estate agencies will be happy to take your details and send you information when new property that meets your specifications comes on the market, and some agencies cater specifically for foreign buyers (more on them below).

Websites – There are several property websites – similar to Zillow in the United States – that sellers use to list their homes.

The first commonly used website is LeBonCoin, which operates similarly to Craigslist. Another is Particulier à Particulier (PAP), this website is for sellers and renters looking to place their property online without using an agency. You can also try the website Bien’Ici or Seloger, or Logic-Immo. Most offer a search function where you can specify what you are looking for (location, size, price etc) and sign up for alerts when new properties meeting those requirements are listed.

Personal connections – If you are looking to move to France (particularly rural France) and do not know anyone in the area you are looking to move to, you might consider visiting the local town hall.

This is a useful location for many parts of life in France, and can be an essential starting place to get to know the village you are looking to move into. Employees with the town hall may be able to point you in the right direction if they know of any property being sold as well.   

READ MORE: Préfecture v Mairie: French admin offices explained

Newspapers – Many newspapers in France continue to list property for sale as well, including in the final pages of local and regional papers. For example, if you are interested in moving to western France and Brittany, you could look at the properties listed with Ouest France Immobilier. Keep in mind that the listings are often put in place by a real estate agency.

The role of the real estate agent

While it is possible to have a dual real estate agent representing both the buyer and the seller in the United States, it is more common that one real estate agent represents the seller and another represents the seller.

In France, a key difference is that there is typically only one agent immobilier, and in most cases the real estate agency has been hired by the seller.

Their role is to advertise the property for sale and then facilitate and act as an intermediary between the buyer and the seller. For American prospective buyers who might assume that a real estate agent ought to negotiate on their behalf, search existing listings for them, and take them to open houses or visits, such actions should not be expected from a French real estate agent. 

The level of assistance offered from the French real estate agent depends greatly by each individual agency. Prior to working with an agent immobilier, you should check to ensure that they carry a carte professional (professional card, or proof that they are accredited).

For an insight into how French real estate agents work (and for a fun TV show) check out The Parisian Agency (l’Agènce) on Netflix, a reality TV show which follows the family-owned Kretz agency in Paris – although they deal with very high-end property, don’t expect it all to be like that.

The role of the notaire

Another key difference is that in the United States, many people use their real estate agent to write up the purchase agreement.

In France, the contract process is typically handled by the notaire (notary). 

The notaire‘s role, however, is not to give you legal or other advice about the contract or the sale process.

The notaire is a representative of the state and their usual role is simply to register the change of ownership on the land registry – for this reason a sale cannot be legally completed without a notaire. If you want someone to give you advice, guide you through the process or flag up potential problems then you will need to hire a notaire specifically for this purpose, otherwise they will simply draw up the paperwork and register the sale.

The other thing that frequently confuses foreigners is the notaire fee – despite its name, the notaire only keep a small portion of the fee, with the rest going to the state. So really it’s a property tax. And it can run into thousands of euro, so it’s worth factoring into your budget in advance.

READ MORE: The reasons why you’ll need a notaire in France

What about fees?

Typically, the seller is responsible for paying the fees for the real estate agent in France. The fees might be included in the selling price, however. If this is the case, then the property price would be listed as “F.A.I” or “Frais d’Agence Inclus”.

It is possible that the property might be advertised as ‘agency fees paid at the buyer’s expense’, and in this case the real estate agent would be required to specify the amount.

Agency fees might range from three to 10 percent of the price of the property, according to French property website SeLoger. The law does not offer a specific amount, in the same way notaire’s fees are regulated.

READ MORE: Revealed: The ‘hidden’ extra costs when buying property in France

Be aware that no deposit should be paid to the agency before the sale has been completed, as per the Hoguet Law which regulates the real estate agency profession.

What are the next steps?

Once you have located the property you are interested in, then there are several steps left before you can get the keys. You will need to make a formal offer and find a notaire. The actual process of the sale comes in two stages in France, with an obligatory cooling-off period.

You can read more about the timeline, and how long it might take HERE.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Time-frame for buying and selling property in France

US-style realtors

So is there anyone who offers the US-style service of a realtor who holds your hand throughout the entire process?

While there isn’t a direct equivalent in France, the closest thing may be an expat-oriented real estate agency or a relocation agency.

France is a popular destination for foreign buyers especially second-home owners, and there are some real estate agencies that cater specifically for foreign buyers. They are more likely to offer extra services such as accompanying you on viewings, translating documents into English, making phone calls in French if needed, guiding you through the sale process and recommending local English-speaking professionals. 

Similar services are offered by some relocation agencies – these work with people moving to France or buying property here and basically act as a guide and translator, helping you through the process, translating into English as required and accompanying you on viewing.

Naturally, both of these business types charge a fairly hefty fee for their services.

Listen to our Talking France podcast for more tips on buying a property in France