Be prepared, be connected, be flexible, and be tenacious—these are some key points of advice from executive MBA students who have secured financial assistance for their program from employers.
For Liz Lowry, MBA 16, being prepared was particularly important as she was the first person at her firm to request financial help for an advanced degree. “I’m setting the precedent for this at my company,” she says.
After doing some research and participating in a Haas webinar on employer sponsorship, Lowry, the senior director of business development for INgrooves Music Group, created a formal Request for Sponsorship document. Her request addressed her background and qualifications, how she and the organization would both benefit from key aspects of the program, the required schedule, and her commitment to her employer.
One advantage of the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program she highlighted was the diversity of her classmates. “I looked at business schools in Southern California where I knew there would be more people from the entertainment industry, but I wanted to get away from that. At Berkeley-Haas there is a diverse array of backgrounds that my cohort brings to classroom discussions—I can learn from that and bring that back to the music industry.”
Lowry also was prepared to be flexible in her negotiations with her employer. Rather than receiving full sponsorship, she and her company agreed to payment for one class, negotiated each semester.
While Lowry’s negotiations are ongoing, she is tenacious about continuing her requests. She is also already applying what she is learning, and shares that with her boss during weekly meetings. “I’m using these skills to lead and manage my team, and also in my job function negotiating with partners.”
Savannah Thompson is another Berkeley EMBA student who secured several forms of financial support from her employer, a small private financial services firm.
While Thompson benefited from another employee who previously negotiated financial sponsorship for an MBA, she still did her homework before making her request. One of her first steps was to speak with key decision makers. “I work as an operations manager at a small company, and I first had conversations with the owners and other members of the executive team. I wanted to make certain everyone had buy-in.”
Another key to success was asking early. “I approached my employer four months before the final round of (MBA) applications were due. Asking early allows your employer to ask questions. They may also need to speak with accountants if they provide tuition reimbursement (to explore possible tax deductions), or involve different legal parties if contracts need to be drawn up.”
Thompson also made sure to have a plan in place with her team for the times she would be out of the office. “I tried to approach it from a collaborative standpoint—how do we make this work together? I am fortunate to have a great team of three people who work with me. They have really stepped up and taken on more responsibility.”
You may also want to check out our 7 tips for securing employer sponsorship, as well as finding out about more ways to finance your MBA studies.