by Elizabeth Bailey, Executive Career Lead for EMBA London and Global
A typical Executive MBA class has an average of around 12 years’ experience, with individual students ranging from as little as 6 years to as many as 29 years’ experience. Undertaking an Executive MBA at LBS is life-changing, but often the ROI really only becomes evident a few years down the track.
Many students make the mistake of thinking that they are gaining experience from an EMBA programme. They are actually only gaining knowledge and some enhanced academic skills. A really good analogy is joining a gym. You want to get fit, so you join a gym for the specialist equipment and expertise it offers. You won’t, however, get fit without putting the work in on the machines, and no-one will know you are fitter than you were before unless you demonstrate that you are by changing body shape, improving in your chosen sport.
So how does this translate? Enrolling on an EMBA programme does not in itself automatically lead anywhere. It’s what you do with your learning that makes the difference. You need to find ways to go out there and apply your new-found knowledge in order to gain the experience of using it. Only then can you prove your ‘fitness’ for a change of direction or a move upwards. It is easier to do this in your current job – that’s one of the major advantages of an EMBA programme: you can apply your learning immediately.
You then need to reflect on what you learned from the experience of doing something new. What went well? What not so well? What would you do differently if given another opportunity? Where else can you apply this new way of doing things? When you have considered what you learned from your experience you need to document it. Develop a portfolio of solid examples of work you have carried out and of your quantifiable achievements.
This is helpful in a number of ways.
Firstly, people who do this find that they come to understand their own story much better, which often helps crystallise their thinking on their achievements on their career to date and how to describe them.
Secondly, the act of doing this can highlight a thread, even where the path has seemed unplanned or serendipitous. This could lead to more ideas on possible career paths.
Thirdly, where your career to date has been on a single track, writing it down, along with job titles and experiences can help you realise how narrow your career path has been, highlighting the need to expand your actual experience (not just interests) if you want to switch onto another path.
Finally, by building up a bank of written examples you are not starting from scratch when the job of your dreams materializes and you want to get an application in, or a potential opportunity pops up and you want to send some details across. A few well-chosen paragraphs that summarise your skills and experience are a few clicks away.
The best place to apply your EMBA learning immediately is in your own, current workplace. Craft your job where you can – delegate core tasks to others where possible to free you up to add duties and projects to your own role; ask to be involved in cross-functional projects to gain exposure and experience; volunteer for additional responsibility; offer up solutions to problems outside your normal jurisdiction. Your current employers are more likely to allow you to do new things and will take more risks with you because they know you. A potential new employer will want to see evidence of your experience before taking any risks. Acquire the experience now so that you can take it with you.
Returning to the gym analogy; at this point perhaps you can describe yourself as ‘fit’. You have what’s needed to succeed. You have used all the tools and the equipment. You have acquired new strengths; you have improved yourself. Now all you need to do is identify the best race to enter to show-case your new-found self. Knowing yourself well and understanding your own capabilities and limitations can help you target the right organisation. Your dream job may not be the first one that comes along, but you are more likely to be on the path to your dream job if you have followed the advice above.