UL MBA Insider

Making the Case for Employer Support

Catriona Burke
Business men looking at tablet

Securing the support of your employer is a crucial step towards successfully undertaking any MBA programme. While the MBA programme from UL is part-time, with a defined schedule and structured assignments, it does require a significant commitment from you to complete the course. This commitment can only be reached if your employer understands how best to support your goals.

The good news is that supporting you is what most employers will naturally want do—because your newfound knowledge and skills will directly benefit them. For them, it’s a clear business decision. So when crafting your proposal for support, think like a business—show your employer why you’re a smart investment for the company by creating a plan that clearly contributes to their business goals.

Do Your Research

Preparation is key. First, research company policy to see if there are existing programmes for continuing education. Many companies prioritise further education and will already be set up to support employees.

Next, ask around. Ask colleagues who have completed MBA programmes while employed at your company to share their experiences. Ask trusted colleagues and superiors for their support in recommending company support for your MBA. Internal support for your goals may mean the difference between “yes” and “no” from your employer. These steps will also help you to clarify your reasons for pursuing an Executive MBA as well as your company’s potential reasons for supporting you.

Writing an Effective Proposal

If you have to submit a written proposal you need to remember that the most effective proposals will answer questions before they’re asked. This is your chance to demonstrate to your employer that you have not only considered how you will succeed, but also fully understand what the stakes are for the company too.

There are some important guidelines to follow to create your most effective proposal:

  • Keep it short, including only what is necessary.
  • Be as specific as possible, especially with numbers.
  • Answer any questions your company may ask.
  • Do the research and look prepared.
  • Communicate in a professional manner.

If you can answer key questions in a way that is polished and professional—positioning you as the kind of employee that is a strong investment for the company—then you are likely to receive the support you seek. Let’s take a closer look at a few of those key questions, which will help you structure your proposal.

Why do you want to get an MBA?

Share with your employer how getting an MBA will help you accomplish both personal and professional goals, as well as sharpen your business skillset.

Outline a professional goal
For example, your company is expanding into a new market, and you believe you are the right person to lead that team.

Share a personal goal
For example, you’re excited to expand your network of entrepreneurial and inspiring professionals.

How will our company benefit?

The company’s decision to support you in your MBA programme hinges on how successfully you outline the ways in which the course will contribute to company growth. Make sure to detail—using specific examples—how your new skills and knowledge will move the company’s agenda forward.

New insights into persistent issues
From day one, you will be able to apply classroom and project learnings to solve real work problems.

Greater management capabilities
As you learn best practices in all areas of management (particularly business strategy and global leadership), you’ll bring a fresh perspective to management.

International focus and exposure
You will gain practical experience and valuable insights into doing business internationally, which will support your company’s international goals.

Direct development of leadership skills
Students develop many important management skills that directly benefit employers, including honing judgement and interpersonal skills.

“From a company perspective, students of the UL MBA get great “outside insights” by studying best practice in other organisations and through their peer network. The greatest benefit we gained was from our employee’s mindset shifting from operational delivery to a more strategic approach and from tangible recommendations made to the company through assignments and projects.”

- Una McDermott, Human Resources Manager, Dell

Why choose the UL MBA?

Introduce your employer to the UL MBA, including how it is structured and why it works so well for so many companies.

  • Part-time: You can maintain your work commitments, while you attend UL.
  • 2 years: In just 24 months, you will earn your MBA.
  • Practical, applicable learning: Take what you learn in class and immediately apply it in real-world situations
  • 3-day blocks for focused learning: Enables you to plan work schedules in advance around classroom time.
  • International workshop: Gives you practical, hands-on experience within a successful global business.

“The quality of my peers was above and beyond my expectations—there were people from different industries, people representing different functions, and we would hash all these topics out. Also the programme didn’t just focus on the academic, but really made the content of each programme relevant to business. Instead of keeping it at an academic discussion, we took projects with real companies.”

- Siobhan Ryan, MBA Student, Sales Director, EtQ

Why should we invest in you?

This is the part where you should pitch yourself to your employer. Highlight your successes during your time with the company, which in turn will reinforce your value as an employee.

  • List key accomplishments: Explain your role in developing solutions or share impressive statistics.
  • Call out immediate strategic opportunities: For example, will your company be expanding into a new vertical or in an international capacity in the near future?
  • Recap demonstrated leadership wins - Detail times you have applied new responsibilities or leadership skills to affect a successful outcome, for this company or another.

What are the time and financial requirements?

Detail the time required to attend sessions and workshops, and complete coursework. If you’re looking for financial assistance, include the programme’s tuition costs.

The UL MBA programme requires physical attendance approximately 40–50 days each year, which include:

  • Seven 3-day blocks during the year (Wed, Thu, Fri)
  • Foundation Workshop (4 days in the first year)
  • Winter School (4 days)
  • International Workshop (5 days in the first year)
  • Additional: exam days etc.

Programme fees for the UL MBA are €15,064* per annum (€30,128 in total). Annual fees can be paid in full at the start of the academic year, or in two instalments at the start of the autumn and spring semesters.

How does the coursework relate to our company and your role?

Make the connection between the subjects you’ll be focusing on, the skills you’ll acquire and how they will strengthen company goals. Be as specific as possible, including examples of coursework that directly relate to your role in the company.

Include case studies from other employers that demonstrate the benefits gained through their support of a UL MBA student:

“UL MBA students gain a much greater understanding of the mechanics of business through a better understanding of key financial and economic indicators, and are able to apply this at a micro and macro level. The course also makes the student think about the role of leadership and people management in the context of global and cultural nuances, which has added benefits for those without international experience. In addition, the focus on continuous learning helps keep employees current with business trends and really helps to broaden their business and personal network.”

- Una McDermott, Human Resources Manager, Dell

How will you manage this and your other responsibilities?

Explain how you plan to manage work, study and personal commitments, demonstrating that you’ve given all requirements thoughtful consideration.
Include stories from successful MBA students who balanced their studies with work and other commitments:

“The way the structure of the UL MBA works, you’re on campus Wednesday through Friday once a month. You can plan your calendar out six months in advance—that’s something I could work with. Being able to step away from work for three full days once a month and be on the campus at UL was something I found liberating as we went through the two years of the course.”

- John Slattery, MBA Graduate, Chief Commercial Officer, Embraer

What if you leave the company after finishing the course?

Alleviate any fears that you’ll move on after the course by reinforcing your commitment to the company. Discuss the future and how you see yourself evolving with your current employer.

  • Revisit key goals and/or new roles that were successful.
  • Connect your new knowledge with real-world ways to apply what you’ve learned at your company.
  • Remind your employer how their business and your role in it furthers your personal and professional goals.

Prepare Your Pitch

Now that you have a thoughtful proposal, spend some time getting comfortable with your pitch. Keep in mind, this is the kind of decision that may take more than one conversation. Also be prepared for your employer to counter with their own proposal—for example, they may offer to split the cost of the course with you instead of paying for it in its entirety.

If your employer decides to contribute financially, they may also elect to include a clause to guarantee their investment. You may be wholly responsible for repaying your tuition if you fail to complete your MBA or leave the company before an agreed upon timeframe. Just remember, you can always negotiate—and should. However, the truth is that the timing could just not be right for your employer. Earning your company’s support is not a guarantee, but if you present a strong case, it’s very likely they will find some way to help.

Have questions about the UL MBA or want to discuss your suitability for the programme? Contact our course director, Michele O’Dwyer by e-mail (michele.odwyer@ul.ie) for more information.

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