With several years of managerial experience behind you, the next step in your career is an Executive MBA. You are looking to strengthen your analytical skills, develop your leadership potential, add an international dimension to your experience and strengthen your skill set to deepen your understanding of the broader business environment. It is obvious to you that the company will reap benefits from the company project and the tools and ideas that you can put to work right away. But how do you convince your boss, the HR Director and the CEO that the time spent away from the office, in addition to the considerable tuition fees, are a good investment for the company?
Put together a business (school) plan
If you haven't already negotiated an Executive MBA as part of a sign-on package when you joined the company, it is unlikely that your current proposal will be signed off over an informal lunch. More often there are several supervisors who will have to sign off on the project, perhaps even the company chairman, so a document which outlines your proposal, explaining your motivation and underlining the corporate benefits, will be invaluable.
Candidates are advised to prepare the ground during performance reviews on a regular basis. Opportunities and available options within the firm should be regularly discussed both formally during reviews, and informally with mentors. You might be a step ahead if the company already sponsors Executive MBAs and can judge their value, but otherwise you need to convince them that a given school and the commitment of your time will ultimately be to their advantage. If there are other employees who were supported by the company to do an Executive MBA, you should try to talk to them to discuss their experience and learn about internal attitudes to such training.
If the Executive MBA to which you are applying has a company assignment or electives that the company can influence, then this is a strong argument for their support. Assignments linked with your own company provide an excellent opportunity for hands on practice, and create immediate value and leverage for your company. Here are a few questions to help your thought process and a few suggestions to get you started:
What will an Executive MBA program bring you?
- New managements skills and techniques to move towards increased responsibilities.
- Strategic thinking, critical analysis, and a 'bigger picture' understanding.
- Better communication and team building skills.
• Networking opportunities with candidates from other functional areas, companies, industries, regions and countries, enabling you to acquire a sharpened global vision.
What are the reasons for having chosen a specific Executive MBA program from a particular school?
- Examples of alumni experiences either from your own company or the school
- Geographical distance
• Format (modular, weekend, etc)-this is particularly important as you will be able to show your employer that you will be away from the office for only a limited number of days/weekends
- Cost. What will your participation in an Executive MBA course bring the company?
• The opportunity to carry out an in-company project is beneficial to both the participant and the company. Don't forget that you will be able to discuss issues with your classmates, thereby obtaining new perspectives on the problem at hand.
- Your ability and commitment to share your knowledge with your managers and colleagues.
• With your developed analytical and strategic skills, you will be able to contribute more efficiently and effectively to the future development of your company.
Don't scare your company! Show your managers the way:
- Support needn't be all financial. Companies can show their support by being flexible and allowing you to take leave for you to be able to attend classes and complete modules.
A lighter workload can also be part of the deal enabling you to study and work on your projects during specific office timings.
If the company finds the fees daunting, you can offer to pay the 'extras' such as travel and accomodation costs while the company pays for tuition. Show your company that you can be trusted
Talk about your commitment to share the knowledge and skills you acquire. You can suggest workshops or brainstorming sessions that you can organize once you have completed the course.
- Suggest signing an agreement specifying the time you promise to stay after the successful completion of your course.
- Show your company that you can project yourself within the company in the next 2, 3-5 years. Draw up a suggested career plan.
Stay ahead of the game
Don't forget that the business schools themselves have application deadlines to respect, so laying the groundwork several months ahead should give you time for final negotiations and conditions. It could also be that you are competing with other candidates for a limited number of sponsorships, so a formal request should ensure you will be considered when the time comes. During that time you may also need to network with the people signing off on the sponsorship - political landscapes can be tricky.
Loyalty is a two-way street
Business schools encourage companies to support candidates who are eager to gain personal and professional growth, while contributing to the success of the organization. Companies that sponsor managers show their commitment to helping employees reach their personal career goals. Encouraging learning and development builds loyalty and encourages personnel to stay with the firm. This can work both ways. By showing your company that you are keen to remain with them and share the value of your learning experience, they will quickly offset your absence from the office every other Friday, or a week away to attend a seminar. The fact that an Executive MBA student maintains his or her professional commitments is another argument in favour of the program. The Full-time MBA in comparison often signals your imminent departure, so be ready to leverage the continuity of the Executive MBA. Employers can be gently reminded that it is better to keep you by supporting your studies than lose you altogether.
Staying in touch
Once your company has signed off on your studies, it is important to keep them informed of your progress. You are about to juggle professional, personal and academic responsibilities, and will greatly appreciate the support of your colleagues, both emotionally and practically during the length of the program. Giving updates to the company also helps the employer to recognize how you have changed, and the new skills that you have developed. This will be felt in terms of new challenges and responsibilities in line with your career ambitions.