Overview.
Career advancement is a sales job.
Due diligence & planning.
Step 1. Define your short-term goal & pinpoint your next role.
Step 2. Verify that you need an MBA to secure your next role.
Step 3. Leverage your EMBA or Part-time MBA.
Step 4. Target EMBA programs.


Overview.

Is an EMBA or Part-time MBA worth my while? How can I leverage an MBA into tangible advancement in my career? In this article, I’m going to cover both of those questions in this article. Know that, while general advice applies to the ‘average’ situation, no individual case is ‘average’. Each is unique. Reach out for a free consultation if you’d like to chat.

Before we get into my take on things, let’s look at some advice that’s typical of what you’ll find online:

EMBA degrees can position you for a promotion, especially for careers in finance, marketing and accounting. And although a well-regarded and rigorous EMBA program will sharpen your skills and look good on your resume, it’s not a guarantee that new doors will open for you.  That’s a critically important factor to consider, because an EMBA isn’t cheap and employers reimburse for less than they once did.

If your goal is to switch careers—not just advance in your current career—you might be better off in a full-time MBA program rather than an EMBA program.  But if you’ve got several years experience in one career and want to move your career to the next level, an EMBA program is a better choice.
Forbes

The first paragraph offers solid advice, although I would add that knowing that an EMBA can position you for a promotion doesn’t really help you figure out if it will in your case. The second paragraph is misinformed. Forbes suggests that that people who are in their 30’s or 40’s should consider a traditional 2-year MBA – which makes no sense at all, as they’ll have already aged out of such programs. Read my article Am I too old for a full-time, 2-year MBA?


Career advancement is a sales job.

Oftentimes when people begin seriously considering a part-time MBA or EMBA, it’s because they’ve come to a crossroad in their career. While an MBA can help you move your career forward or make a reasonable career pivot, it won’t magically transform your career on its own. An MBA can help your career when  you combine the degree with a) due diligence, b) planning and c) proactive career management.

While a two-year MBA offers people with 2-6 years of work experience the opportunity to completely pivot their career thanks to on-campus recruiting, part-time and EMBAs programs don’t offer on-campus recruiting. That is the big difference and it’s a difference that impacts job outcomes.

An MBA isn’t going to compensate for the fact that advancing professionally is a sales job. Many people enroll in EMBA/Part-time MBA programs thinking that the school will provide the career guidance, coaching, resume rewriting and mock interview support necessary to effectuate change in their careers.

I am back to work full-time in largely the same role as pre-EMBA – but I am not the same. The program’s biggest fault was that it didn’t totally prepare me for this awkward transition with my employer. I think the degree is a catalyst for professional change, whether originally intended or not. I wish I’d known that earlier.

Wharton EMBA Alumnus

The problem here isn’t with the EMBA program, it’s with the candidate’s expectations of the program and his failure to take an active role in managing his career. Just as your current career progression is entirely down to your ability to identify the right roles and successfully sell yourself into those positions – your post-MBA career progression post-MBA will still require the same effort.


Due diligence & planning.

While most people are interested in the MBA experience (both academic and social) their goal is usually to leverage the degree to translate their career goals into reality. For these people, an EMBA/Part-time MBA is an investment. Because it’s an investment, a preliminary due diligence process is advised.

Unfortunately, many people gloss over the due diligence process. To me that’s strange, because if those same people were to invest $100k+ in real estate they’d take an evidence-based approach – visiting the property, paying to have it inspected etc.

So let’s walk through some steps you can take to ensure that your decision making is well-informed and clear-sighted.


Step 1. Define your short-term goal & pinpoint your next role.

Take some time to reflect on where would you like to see yourself one year, three years and six+ years from now? Are you looking for a career change or career advancement?

Advancement: I’d like to continue advancing on my current career path (typically that would mean staying with your current company or industry).

It will be a fairly easy to research advancement options by speaking with people (from your network, superiors/colleagues, HR) or by researching the career paths of other professionals in a similar role/industry using LinkedIn.

Change: I’d like to transition to a new functional role or I’d like to continue on in my functional role but transition to a new industry or I’d like to do both.

If your  transition is from one industry to another, I’d suggest looking for a similar functional role to the one you have now. If you’d like to transition from one functional area to another, I’d suggest staying in the same industry while looking for roles that meet the 60/40 criteria. 60% of the role should leverage on skills or strengths you have either demonstrated or can convince others you posses. The other 40% of the role can center on an area that interests you/that may be new to you. By pinpointing roles that meet the 60/40 criteria, you’re effectively with the employer by bringing something to the bargaining table (the 60%) while gaining something in return.

Change is always possible, but, as we transition from being a novice in our early 20’s to a more seasoned professional in our 30’s and 40’s, career change becomes a little tricky. It’s often at the mid-career mark that professionals look to rekindle the enthusiasm they had for their work early on in their career. 

If you’d like to do some self-exploration, you should look into the CareerLeader Assessment. CareerLeader is an assessment that delivers personalized suggestions about roles and working environments that would best suit your interests and personality. It’s used by all the major MBA programs and many fortune-500 companies.

Pinpoint Roles: Whichever category you fall in (Advancement or Change), you’ll need to pinpoint specific roles. Simply saying, ‘I’m a senior manager and I’d like to be a V.P.’, is too vague. Instead, look for specific opportunities – current job postings online (LinkedIn and Indeed.com), within your company’s intranet or through your network/the grapevine. More than once I’ve spoken with clients who formed a mental model of their ideal role and set about applying to grad school without first verifying that such a role actually existed.

Pay particular attention to what is written in the job description. Usually responsibilities towards the beginning of the job description indicate what you’ll spend the majority of your time focused on. If online job description are available, I’d suggest saving postings into a Word document for reference. These will come in handy in the future – either for self-reflection purposes or as a point of reference if you decide to work with a career consultant or resume writer.

When pinpointing roles, be sure to focus on positions you’d be thrilled to have rather than limiting yourself to only those jobs you think you can get. 

Broaden Your Search: Casting a wide net is a good idea. So often, people limit the scope of their job search to job titles they’re familiar with. If performing an online job search, using search terms other than the job title will help you find results that get you thinking outside the box.

Recently I spoke with someone in private wealth management who said he’d either like to find a new career path. He thought he could either leverage his knowledge of investment vehicles OR go into management consulting. Why? Because, as it turned out, he’d had a positive experience collaborating with outside consultants at his current employer. While those were two reasonable options, I suggested he widen his search to include some of the experiences and intrinsic qualities he had (but hadn’t given much thought to).

He had extensive experience in private wealth management which translated into more general skills like: sales and good interpersonal communication. In addition he’d worked as a special assistant to a high-ranking person in his organization. In that role he had managed teams, managed special projects, overseen internal issue management and been in charge of hiring and evaluating employees. In addition he was bilingual in English and Japanese.

I’d suggest creating a table similar to the one you see below.

  • Skills & Strengths: skills (e.g. sales) and intrinsic strengths (e.g. strong communication skills)
  • Keywords: terms that describe the type of environment you’d like to find yourself in (entrepreneurial, collaborative, fast-paced, international, close-knit etc.) or what you’d like to do in that environment (strategy, customer relationship management, outreach etc.)
  • Limiting Factors: criteria that will help you narrow your results – for example, the role must be in the L.A. area and pay more than $100k

Search examples: ‘sales + strategic’ or ‘project management + collaborative’ or ‘investment vehicle + Japanese + international’

LinkedIn: Once you’ve pinpointed some roles, use LinkedIn to find people in similar roles to the one you’d like to transition to. Every LinkedIn profile tells a career trajectory story. You can glean insights by examining what others have done. You might even consider reaching out to someone whose profile is of particular interest. Ask for 15 minutes of their time to learn more about what they do and how they they’ve managed their career. Not everyone will agree to chat with you, but some people will. LinkedIn’s search filters are quite useful – allowing you to refine results by a number of variables (industry, current/past company, schools, location etc.).

Shortlist: Consider the roles you’ve found and shortlist those that most appeal to you. 

Step 2. Verify that you need an MBA to secure your next role.

Now that you’ve got a shortlist of roles in hand you’ll want to verify whether or not you need an MBA to secure your next role. You can do this by a) making a genuine effort to land a role on your shortlist now (without an MBA) and/or b) speaking with people to understand whether an MBA would make you a much more desirable candidate for the roles on your shortlist.

I applied for the role at a few places and didn’t hear back. I need an MBA.‘ Generally speaking, when a candidate doesn’t hear back from a recruiter it’s not because their profile is fundamentally lacking in something (like an MBA). Rather, it’s because their resume is not conveying the right stories. These people have a marketing problem that they think an MBA will solve. That’s just not true. When this person graduates from an EMBA program he’ll have two things: a new MBA AND his old marketing problem.

If you’ll be applying for roles as part of your due diligence process, you may want have your current resume reviewed, updated or rewritten. This will allow you to put your best foot forward and obtain accurate results from the job market. If you decide to move forward with EMBA/Part-time MBA applications – a fresh resume will be an asset for the application process.

Apply: Apply for the role(s) you shortlisted in Step 2. There are a couple of ways to go about this.

  • Apply to roles you’d genuinely consider accepting
  • Using the A/B Testing Method to send out A) resumes with an MBA and B) resumes without one. If you only get responses to the MBA resume – that supports the hypothesis that an MBA may be a critical next step. If neither resume generates interest you either need a better resume or you need to question whether the roles you’re applying to are too much of a reach at this juncture.

Recruiters: Reach out to executive recruiters and headhunters. Share your resume with them as well as your short-term goals. These professionals will be able to provide you with industry-specific feedback. In addition, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. When recruiters reach out to you, be sure to follow up. Put forward the fact that you’re considering an EMBA/Part-time MBA to get their perspective.

HR: Reach out to HR and decision makers within your current organization. Ask them about the possibility of transitioning to a new role now or in the future. Mention that you’re considering an MBA and find out whether the degree would bolster your candidacy.

Resume Builders: Work isn’t just what you get paid to do. You can diversify the professional experience section of your resume by offering to lend a hand (pro bono) to nonprofits and startups. Additionally you can network within your current company and volunteer to work on special projects that you wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to be involved in.


Step 3. Leverage your EMBA or part-time MBA.

If the results of the due diligence process point to the fact that a part-time MBA or EMBA is a good option for you, you’ll want to have a 5-year career plan in place before you begin applying to programs. I recommend that you not wait until you complete your MBA degree before beginning to leverage it. The moment you’re accepted into a program, you can add the MBA to your resume. Rather than making one big career leap after you finish an MBA, look to make two smaller leaps: one at the beginning of your MBA program and another 2-3 years later.

Your 5-year career plan should detail the next two roles you plan to go after (one in the next year and another 2-3 years from now). This plan will help you better direct your networking efforts while at school. In addition, it will help you convey a broad vision for your career to HR people and line managers during interviews. This is extremely important because line managers often form an idea of whether or not a candidate has potential for advancement during preliminary meetings. Voicing your interest/intention to advance along a specific path sets expectations early on.


Step 4. Target EMBA programs.

In my experience, people don’t differentiate between EMBA and part-time MBA programs – both appear as ‘MBA’ on your resume and both formats will provide the same amount of professional leverage. Choosing the right format boils down to a) how much exposure a candidate has had to management/high level decision making and b) personal preferences (part-time programs require you to attend class on a weekly basis; EMBA programs usually meet twice monthly).

People in different industries tend to have different ideas about which business schools are ‘best’. For example, an EMBA from Michigan Ross, MIT Sloan or Cornell Johnson might be a better fit for someone from the IT industry because of the strong engineering departments at these three schools. For someone in banking, schools like Wharton, Kellogg or Booth might be preferable. Ask around (in your industry or target industry) or use the A/B testing method to experiment with different business schools on your resume can be useful.

I offer MBA and EMBA admissions consulting services with fxMBAconsulting as well as career consulting services at resumeSTORY.builders Feel free to reach out for a free consultation to discuss your case and career needs.

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