by Alvaro Escudero, Executive MBA 2020
It’s just another foggy Monday. You’ve got off to a good start in the week but don’t feel like going to the gym. You have some time to spare now and the MBA idea randomly pops up. You have thought about an Executive MBA in the past but never too seriously. You go to the LBS website (which you have done 100 times in the past) and quickly flick through the programme material. In the next 60 seconds, you figure it takes 20 months, classes on alternate Fridays and Saturdays, 20 hours of recommended study a week, £84,500 in fees and a bunch of documents, tests and write-ups that you need for your application.
If this feels overwhelming, you are definitely not alone. An Executive MBA is a massive investment in terms of money, time, and effort. To be sure, you need a good reason to do it.
Figuring out what you want to get out of a programme like this is what you need to do over the next few months.
At this point, the application may feel as an overhead. But I would recommend you use the application as a catalyst to progress your thinking. Indeed, that is what the application was designed for. For example, essays will help you get to know yourself better, and referral letters will ignite conversations with your managers. So if you think an Executive MBA might be for you, waste no more time. Craft a quick plan and get started.
Here’s a word of encouragement. At the beginning of the process, your brain will be bombarded by a mess of ideas, preconceptions, and common wisdom. But don’t panic. The thoughts will crystallise over time. Trust the process.
As I have just gone through this process, I thought I would bring together some practical ideas that turned out to be really helpful for me.
First, start with the aspirations essay. For my intake, the question was: How will the Executive MBA help you achieve your career objectives? This is a small write-up where you describe what your career in the short and long-term looks like, and how the programme will help you get there. This essay will not only help you get deeper into your ideas; it will also guide your research, helping you consider whom you should talk to and what about. Tons of questions will start flowing as you throw some ideas into your paper. That’s great, now you know what to ask as you connect with people.
Second, connect, connect, connect. Talk to as many people as you can. There are many ways to do this. Start by attending a recruitment event; LBS organise many coffee chats, students and alumni panels, webinars and campus experience days. There’s no harm in attending more than one. Next, look up current students and alumni. You’ll find people with a profile similar to yours who will be happy to chat. Follow by attending a lecture. This is not only a chance to get a feeling for the teaching environment, but also a great time to connect with current students face to face. Talk to them and see how they are getting on. Don’t forget the recruitment and admissions team. They are uniquely placed to guide you through the application process. And, of course, talk to the people that know you well. Family, friends, colleagues, your boss, your boss’ boss, and your partner will have something of value to say and, ultimately, are the ones from whom you will need support. Connecting with people is the best way to get hold of real insight. I found people are really honest and open if you take it seriously. Take advantage.
Thirdly, have a career plan. It sounds topical, but you really need one. There are a lot of ways in which an Executive MBA will up your game, but if you don’t know where you are going, it will be tough to explain how the programme will help you. If you don’t have a career plan, use the application to think about it.
Four, leave money to a side for a minute. By now, you will have seen some business school rankings. It’s definitely compelling to see some of the eye-watering figures in those. I recommend you think about money as a by-product of the benefits an Executive MBA will give you: knowledge, perspective, confidence, leadership skills, an entrepreneurial platform, a formal business degree, the LBS brand, the experience, the challenge, fulfilment, you name it. A combination all these has to help your career aspirations. Think deeper about your drivers and make sure the programme can give you that.
Lastly, don’t let others make the decision for you. You will get all sorts of feedback. Some people will say you are mad. Others will say you should jump into it blindly. My advice is that you only listen to the people that first ask you “why” and then give you ideas that feed your thought process. Ultimately, you know yourself better than anybody else. You are best placed to make the decision.
Early conversations will give you food for thought, which will prompt you to connect with yet more people. Let it flow. Trust the process and you will get far.