The Best Advice For Executive MBAs

Catharine Smith, MIT (Sloan)

6) Reflect and Improve. “Most people in my executive MBA class are looking for some sort of change – a new job, a new career, a shift in their lives. I always think of studying at MIT as a springboard, an opportunity to jump, take a leap of faith, and be the person that I want to be: more confident, more quant, a better leader, and a better teammate. I took it as an opportunity to break myself wide open and rebuild myself – professionally and personally. It was a huge opportunity for a re-birth. It was HARD, but so worth it.  So, my advice would be to be uncomfortable, to seek out opportunities to crack wide open and be vulnerable, and to really reflect on deep change beyond the job or MBA skills.”
Catharine Smith, MIT (Sloan)

“Be excited! The executive MBA is a place for someone who probably does not need an advanced degree to continue doing well. Yet, the cohort is full of very successful people seeking the education, seeking to improve upon themselves. Consider how you can contribute to an environment in which people are there, not because they need to be, but because they want to be.  I found that positive energy was always welcome.”
Lewis Emery, UCLA (Anderson)

7) Start With Small Steps: “Don’t think about entering an MBA program. Think about what you want out of a program, which programs fit your goals, and then outline the individual steps you need to consider to make a decision and just focus on each one at a time. I ultimately realized that I’d been my own barrier to success when I looked at it as “getting an MBA” instead of “What will an MBA give back to me and what will I give back to my MBA classmates?”
Natasha Rankin, New York University (Stern)

Ruy Lozano, Rice University (Jones)

8) Immerse Yourself In The Experience: “I would give the advice to completely immerse yourself in the program. It would be a waste to simply go in trying to check off a box. This program is transformational! If you give it your all, you will leave a different person for the better! Secondly, don’t limit your mindset to trying to pursue a specific career or industry going into the program. You will find that you will learn about possibilities you did not even know existed prior to joining.”
Jesse Breidinger, Georgia Tech (Scheller)

“I used their tutoring sessions, professor’s office ours, private tutors, the study rooms after class and on weekends, networking events, and went to every “partio” as possible to decompress.”
Ruy Lozano, Rice University (Jones)

9) Assume You Have A Lot To Learn: “While it’s important to have a plan and objective for what you want out of your studies, also be prepared to accept that you don’t know what you don’t know. Go in with a beginner’s mind. Be open to learning and experiences. Be prepared to shift. Be prepared to get uncomfortable, and revel in the discomfort – it’s one of the few times in your professional life that you have the opportunity to do so. A program like the EMBA changes you as a person, it expands and enhanced your perspective and outlook on the world, and life in general. It leaves you wanting for more, but also knowing that you are the key to your own growth.”
Hema Vallabh, University of Oxford (Saïd)

10) Make Sure You’re Ready: “The executive MBA is a valuable opportunity, but it isn’t for everyone. You need to make sure you are at the right stage in your life where the executive MBA will help propel you to your next opportunity. This means someone who has enough experience as an individual contributor and has mastered the technical aspects of a job, but also wants to break through to general management and leadership – whether that is in a company or striking it out on your own as a founder. Really take some time to reflect on your career, where you are and where you want to go, and see if an executive MBA will add value to that journey or serve as an accelerant or catalyst in that process.”
Alexander Ding, Wharton School (San Francisco)

“An executive MBA is more work than you anticipate: make sure you have purpose in why you are there. Take electives that challenge you but are applicable to what you want to do professionally. It is very easy to check out when things get hard if you do not have a clear reason for focus.”
Jeremiah Christopher Clark, Brigham Young University (Marriott)

Shawn McQueen, University of Oxford (Said)

“A year into the program, I found myself buying a new office chair for my home. I was ecstatic to have found an attractive and comfortable chair. My delight was an indication of how much time I had spent seeking a comfortable, quiet space to study. What no one could have adequately described is the amount of time you will spend alone needing, removing yourself from your normal activities – including family and friends. Perhaps there is no way to prepare yourself or those around you. Family needs, work priorities, and educational commitments all need to be met – but you may feel you are falling short on every front. This is temporary. A candidate should be comfortable with the idea that it will be a 20-month hiatus from life as you know it. Put your friends and family on notice, ask work to be flexible (because you are worth it), buy noise canceling headphones and a great office chair, and begin practicing some of the skills your MBA will help you learn like strategy and flexibility!”
Shawn McQueen-Ruggeiro, University of Oxford (Saïd)

11) Develop A Support Network: “I cannot stress enough the importance of my wife’s support from the beginning. We mutually committed to making it through the program together. My time dedicated to class and studying meant that my wife had to pick up a much heavier load with regards to the family logistics and everyday tasks. The stress on everyone in the house did reach unanticipated peaks, but the support and understanding of my wife and family are how we made it through. It is also important to keep perspective throughout the coursework. While juggling a family and a career, there will be times that you cannot be as prepared as you want for class. Everyone seeking an EMBA wants top grades, but absorbing the principles and frameworks of each course are far more important than your grade point ratio.”
Jeremy Hall, Texas A&M (Mays)

“Ensure you manage your expectations as things will likely occur – whether in the program, work, family, etc. – that are out of your control. That said, control what you can and adapt as needed.
Niki Allen, Georgetown University (McDonough)

12) Don’t Overthink It: “There will never be an ideal time when your life is “open” enough. If you’ve got a good support network in place, the rest will just happen. Jump in and start swimming.”
Elaina Ware, Northwestern University (Kellogg)



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