How should you approach your employer?
(SB) Samantha Bown, London Business School: Plan a support case that lays out the business need and shows your commitment to your organisation. It’s also a good idea to work with your manager to agree your learning objectives and post-programme action plan.
(LP) Dr Lydia Price, CEIBS: Many employers encourage MBA education for managerial staff, so it makes sense to have open communication about your plans and goals. Remember that they might wish to leverage the opportunity to build deep links with a key business school and its professional networks. CEIBS students commonly bring their previous employers to campus to sponsor student projects, participate in professional club events and expand recruiting opportunities - explore these possibilities with your employer as you announce your education plans.
(KD) Koen Dewettinck, Vlerick Leuven Management School: Make sure you have a strong story to share about why taking an MBA would fit your broader career plan. Also think about the opportunities the MBA will offer to help the organisation improve. There might be internal project and benchmarking opportunities, auditing and other activities that you will be involved in as a student, which could be very relevant for your company – as well as a personal boost in your motivation, dedication and loyalty to them as an employee.
(SC) Steven Cousins, Cass Business School: If you want to study full-time, be careful not to burn bridges with your employer, especially as you will need a reference from them. There is nothing they can do to stop you leaving, but you might be able to return in a more senior role or a different area of the business. Also, your employer can be a source of advice or mentoring on how you can best use an MBA for your future career.
If you’re considering an Executive MBA, find out if any of your colleagues have done this during their time with the company. Ask them how the organisation views an MBA and how supportive it is likely to be. You might also find there is an official process you can go through, usually via your line manager and the HR department. If not, speak with your line manager directly, either formally or informally, depending on the culture of the organisation.
(KS) Dr Kerry Sullivan, Surrey Business School, University of Surrey: There is no golden rule. Some employers will be incredibly helpful, giving study leave and financial assistance, others less so. You can raise this during the formal appraisal process or informally in the first instance – make your own judgement.
(VH) Professor Vivien Hodgson, Lancaster University Management School: Sell the benefits to your employer. They will get a more motivated, energised, learned ‘new’ employee who can inject a rapid dose of creativity into the business. This could create potential business growth and increased financial performance, while also minimising risk. Include specific deliverables that can be achieved. Demonstrate how an MBA will be manageable for you. For example, will study leave be required and how will this be accommodated?
(AS) Professor Amir Sharif, Brunel Business School, Brunel University: Organisations routinely fail to look beyond the cost implications of training and development. Engage your employer directly with a valid and well-crafted business case, relating how your training needs fit with the company’s as well as your own development objectives. Approach them with a clear message, objectives, benefits and the expected outcomes for both you and the organisation.
(KP) Keith Porter, Westminster Business School: The more sceptical the employer, the better the business case has to be. You need to show how you will be able to add more value once professionally qualified.
(SW) Stuart Woollard, King's College London: To get an employer to fund or subsidise your MBA, show them how you can share your learning with your colleagues, which will help build the capability and performance of the wider team. Also, explain how your attendance on the course will create good opportunities to network and bring innovation back to the employer, while making you more committed and motivated.
(JG) Jennifer George, Melbourne Business School: You need to emphasise that, if harnessed, the benefits have the potential to go far beyond just enhancing your own career.
(CS) Christie St-John, Tuck School of Business: Many employers already understand the benefits of an MBA, but for those who don’t, look around your office – or at your competitors – and find people who already have an MBA. Talk to them about their experience. Where are they now, how do they contribute to the business to make it more efficient, more profitable, more in tune with employees' needs? How have their leadership skills impacted the organisation? With an MBA, you will be able to do that too, and even more.
(DVG) Professor Dr Désirée van Gorp, Nyenrode Business Universiteit: You should be well aware of your personal development needs, and make clear how these are relevant for the organisation.
(CP) Chantal Poty, EML Executive Education: Be aware that your employer may fear that an MBA will enhance your employability and your network, which might result in you leaving them. Be clear about the future you want to build with the business, and insist this training is an opportunity for you to grow within the organisation, not outside of it.