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Even in the depths of a recession, an executive MBA raises salaries by an average of almost 10 per cent, according to a survey by the Executive MBA Council. The poll of 3,348 students from 112 programmes calculated students’ average salary at the start of their EMBA as $125,029 – which rose to $136,722 on its completion, a healthy 9 per cent increase, given the economic climate.
Likewise, many employers reward EMBA graduates with more management responsibility; almost a third (32 per cent) of students surveyed were promoted.
So the statistics are encouraging, but how can you ensure that you convert your new-found critical thinking skills, boosted confidence and better grasp of global business into a promotion? We asked EMBA graduates and careers advisers for their thoughts.
1. Set realistic goals
“A realistic aspiration is to find opportunities inside or outside your organisation that will leverage the skills and knowledge acquired during the programme – in consideration of the experience you have accumulated so far,” says Laura Renoldi, associate director of skills development at London Business School. “The EMBA experience is most likely to be used as a springboard to accelerate careers, rather than a passport to radical career change.”
Laurence Rigolini is now chief executive of Eurocopter Vostok, the Moscow-based helicopter manufacturer. Before her EMBA at HEC Paris, which she finished in May, she was head of corporate communications for the group.
“To optimise your efforts, you should take time at the beginning to reflect on yourself, what you really want in life, where you stand, what you want to become and where you wish to reach,” she advises. “Indeed, this degree should help you make a new step in your career ... but also in your private life.”
2. Increase your networking
“Before coming on board, inform your network inside and outside your organisation that you’re starting an EMBA programme,” says Renoldi. “During the entire programme and afterwards, you should leverage the network of alumni.”
Before term starts, identify others in your firm who have completed an MBA, particularly those who may have attended the same school as you, recommends Monica Piercy, career management director for the European campus of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “Build this internal network as a way of raising your visibility.”
3. Don’t wait until the programme has finished
“As you get closer to the end of your course, talk with your line manager, talent manager or senior sponsor about the role that you would like to play in your organisation, and spend time identifying or creating that opportunity,” says Piercy.
Rachel Cervantes, a business development director for Merck’s vaccines division in Pennsylvania, is still a couple of terms away from graduating but reckons she has already started to reap the benefits of her EMBA.
“I’ve leveraged [it] to move from the R&D to the commercial side of Merck,” she says. “I now apply both my R&D and business expertise in vaccine business development, where I help explore inorganic growth opportunities for the company. Through the EMBA I acquired the marketing, finance and negotiation skills I needed to help me win this position.”
4. Sell the brand
“Market the brand of your school and of the programme,” says Renoldi. Eze Vidra graduated from the EMBA at LBS this year and was promoted at Google as a result. “I wanted to make a move to the business side of technology, either as an investor or as a business development executive within a [leading company] in the technology industry,” he says.
“The LBS brand, the skills I gained in the programme and my professional experience presented me with a positive dilemma, as I was able to choose between two great options. It also didn’t hurt that my manager at Google had completed the same programme in 2004, which made him appreciate the quality of the degree.”
5. Demonstrate loyalty
“It’s not for nothing that the EMBA graduation is also called the ‘commencement’ ceremony,” notes Maurizio Poli, director of the global EMBA programme at SDA Bocconi. “It’s a beginning of a new approach to the business environment in which EMBA graduates should do their best to practise new, open-minded and imaginative methods of managerial activities and decisions. Be ready to take any opportunity, but also ready to return to the company the loyalty you received if the employer supported you through the EMBA.”
6. But be open to possibilities in other directions
“For me, the best experience was the global perspective you get out of an EMBA – not only from the breadth and scope of the topics covered, but also from your colleagues,” says Carmen Rey, former head of management information services at Barclays in Madrid but now corporate projects director at Banco Santander.
“At Chicago Booth, my classmates came from a huge variety of companies, industries and countries. My advice would be: always be ready to share experience and offer advice to classmates, and be open to learning from others. You’ll expand your network and find new opportunities, perhaps in roles and industries you hadn’t considered before.”