Five things you should know before starting an MBA

Doing an MBA had always been a life time goal! “Why?” would you ask. Does it really make you a better professional? Does it change you as an individual? And actually, what is it really to do a Master’s in Business Administration?

After more than 2 years of studying, dreams come true. In September, I will graduate with an Executive Henley MBA from Henley Business School. At a time when I enjoy looking back and reflecting on it, here are 5 things you should consider before starting your own MBA…

1. Why do you want to do an MBA?

Doing an MBA is always an intriguing thing. Indeed, lots of people start to ask you questions to demystify it… Many of them will be linked to money and how much you might earn after it. Others will ask about your capacity to handle the volume of study and how it will definitely challenge your resilience. All well considered, the major question you should ask yourself is what do you want to achieve from your MBA?

An MBA is a generalist degree that offers a strong level of knowledge to develop, manage and scale a business or a team at a large and sustainable level.

Think in terms of career progression, what do you need to develop the most? Is this a generalist approach to business to grow your capacity to be part of larger projects and lead them to completion? Or do you need to get more specific knowledge in an area where a Master’s of Science (MSc) would be more appropriate? Do you even need a degree, or a certification is enough? Think well about this before committing to it.

A good way to discuss that is to talk to your colleagues, friends and family about how you see your career and what you need to move to a next stage. Your manager should definitely be part as well of the conversation and your career planning strategy. Feeling lost or unsure? A coach or a mentor can also help you in this direction.

2. What will you study during your MBA?

During your MBA, you will study practical business cases covering all company areas and impact on the wider society. In some Business Schools, like Henley, you also have a very good in-depth personal development module on top of the fundamental topics below.

The first year will be focused at looking inside of your organisation. Management of Systems and Processes, Finance and People is covered in depth with a particular application made on how to implement your suggestions.

The second year will be more strategic and will ask you to look outside of your organisation. Company strategy, international business, leadership and change and finally strategic marketing will be the core of your studies. You should also be able to pick an elective module and make a study trip somewhere in the world to develop your consulting skills.

Exams and assignments per modules will sanction your progress or will offer you another try to make it to the next stage.

Finally, the last six months of your studies will be focused on aligning your knowledge to an industry level challenge with a Thesis. I chose to focus on Leadership and Employee Retention in partnership with some Irish Associations like the Institute of Directors. Topics are free as much as you deep dive into one of the modules.

This is the best part of it as you can really undertake a full project, launch interviews and draw conclusions with the support of your supervisor. Be prepared all over the course to read a lot of books and take notes along the way in a development journal to be able to see your progress overtime!

3. How committed are you?

Doing an MBA is a long marathon with a few sprints at the middle with some yearly exams and some assignments to deliver every quarter or so. There is no right or wrong amount of work to do to get them right but you should forecast more or less 80-100 hours of study per module to get a pass grade.

As an example, from October 2016 to March 2019 I spent a total of 1,200 hours of study in total, and around 300 hours for the last piece of work, a thesis of 15,000 words.

I would advise to spend a minimum of 10 hours of study a week including a session of 4 to 5 hours non-stop (usually on the week-end) to deep dive into the materials and get the most of it.

Every module included for me an assignment based on my company and I spend around 25% of my time on gathering the right information, populating the models and writing my conclusions.

4. Which Business School should you pick?

Choosing the right Business School is very important to make sure you get the right quality level of teaching. My preference is to go mainly for triple accredited MBAs (AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS). You can find a list of them on the different websites like Find-MBA.com.

You will be often asked to do a GMAT Test to check your analytical writing and your verbal, quantitative and integrated reasoning. You can find more information on the mba.com website.

Your professional experience and your English proficiency can also be checked so make sure to contact the different schools you are interested in and check all their requirements before making a decision.

Finally, Business Schools price MBAs very differently based on their reputation, their location and the prestige of their alumni. Cheapest ones start around €20,000 and can go up to €100,000 for the Top MBA schools.

Be aware that companies are more and more willing to participate in the education fees to contribute to employees’ professional development. They may also be interested in benefiting from your future assignments to review their whole strategy. You can start to be involved in more projects internally and grow your career quicker this way.

Always check as well incentives from Governments to understand what will be your real net financial investment in the programme. Ireland has put in place a tax relief for third-level fees that is worth studying on Citizens Information for anybody thinking in starting a new degree.

5. What is the real value of an MBA?

I often get this question. Is it really worth the price? It’s so expensive to do an MBA, isn’t just too much money for something you could gather yourself along the way…

There is definitely not a standard answer to this question but I do believe it has been greatly beneficial to me for different reasons.

  • The alumni network everywhere in the world is huge and with more than 28,000 members Henley Business School has allowed me to connect with leaders all over the globe.
  • The knowledge proposed by the school has been challenging and fascinating in many aspects to force me to think out of the box and manage successfully every component of a business or a division.
  • The international character of the school grants a diversified programme with study cases from all over the globe. It also offers another level of impact to different businesses and leadership styles globally.
  • The Executive aspect of the MBA, allowing me to apply my different modules to my company challenges, has allowed me to grow my business acumen and take better and more factual decisions over the course of the programme.

Final thoughts

Doing an MBA is not easy, it is a commitment to work hard with yourself, to get constant support from your family and understanding of your business during the 30 months of studies. Having the correct level of work / study / life balance is important and people we love are key to our success.

The support of your study team will be key as well, and taking the time to rest without guilt is capital to go through this transformation process.

Tracking my time studying was capital to me to make sure I was keeping myself stimulated to deliver results while allowing some breaks and exercises outdoors. Free tools like Myhours are great for that and super easy to use.

I would encourage you to think carefully about what motivates you to do an MBA and write exactly what you want to get from it.

It will help you celebrate better your successes and ease difficult times you may have along the way. If you need any help or have any question, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to share my experience and help you make the right choice for you!

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