Should I Stay or Should I Go? Career Progression after Your EMBA |

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Career Progression after Your EMBA

By Ann Graham

Updated June 2, 2015 Updated June 2, 2015

It is well known that an Executive MBA degree offers unparalleled career progression opportunities to ambitious professionals who make the commitment to step into the business school classroom. But like many EMBA graduates you may be faced with an important decision upon graduation: what is your next move? Equipped with your new knowledge and EMBA skillset, should you continue working with your current employer or is quitting your job or even your industry the better option?

Assessing your career progression

Cana Witt, an MBA careers advisor at Lancaster University Management School (LUMS), says there are several key elements that, as an Executive MBA candidate, you should weigh up when deciding between quitting your job or staying with you current employer.

“A candidate should look at the extent – and reasons – the employer is supporting their EMBA study,” Witt says. “Will opportunities to test and implement learning be offered during study? Will the employer value the employee’s enhanced skills and have an open-minded view about career advancement, or was study leave offered as an appeasement or retention tactic of some kind with no real option of career progress?”

Witt also suggests candidates consider their reason for studying. “Is it to achieve promotion or a change of direction within an organization, or to increase skills with a view to leaving in the future?

Even if quitting your job was not initially your plan, it may become so, Witt says:  “The effect of newly-gained knowledge is also a factor. To study an [E]MBA can be transformative and students return to work invigorated with new and different perspectives. What they may have considered satisfactory career outcomes at the outset may later seem not to be making best use of the experience.”

Finally, Witt believes the shelf-life of study should be considered. “The [E]MBA is one stage in a career or personal progress. Within a couple of years the student will want to capitalize on it. If they cannot do so within their organization they will most likely begin to look elsewhere.”

Pros and cons of quitting your job

The financial benefits might sway a graduate’s decision. It seems the majority of EMBA graduates who switch employers after graduating tend to report the highest post-graduation salary increase. But aside from financial considerations, what are the benefits for staying with an employer or moving on?

Three benefits of leaving

1.    Salary increase: The probability of a salary increase upon graduation from an EMBA degree is higher for those who switch companies. The Executive MBA gives a candidate greater salary negotiating power and that is most easily achieved for new roles in new companies.

2.    Greater advancement: EMBA candidates all have one thing in common: ambition. They’re not just satisfied with a promotion – they want it to happen quickly and to be challenged in their roles. Actively seeking out new job opportunities will allow for more targeted career progression. Staying in the same company could stifle creativity and may not offer the same exciting and dynamic opportunities a new company – or industry – would.

3.    Fresh start: “Instigating a move is a positive career step and gives you the opportunity to find the role that fits your new aspirations and knowledge, maintain upward trajectory and take control,” says Witt. “That said, it’s the devil you don’t know so due diligence is crucial.”

Three benefits of staying

1.    Familiarity: “The organization knows you, supports you, has invested in you, and may invest in you further,” says Witt. “You are working in a familiar situation in which you can immediately grow and apply your new knowledge and skills. The company will want to see return on its investment, so you should be offered more complex and demanding assignments.”

2.    Loyalty pays off: Staying with a company can offer career advancement opportunities in the long-term. Career progression is often reliant on networks and relationships. Staying on in a company means people you have worked with know what you are capable of. Building strong relationships with colleagues and managers can have a real impact on your ascent up the career ladder.

3.    Increases value: The more you know about the culture, workings, processes and products of a company, the more capable you become in managing these business aspects. This makes you an extremely valuable asset in your overall company environment which can also lead to more than one future salary increase.

However, on the flip slide Witt says one of the cons of staying is the risk of stagnation versus career progression if the organization cannot move on with you. “It may not have the capacity or internal agreement to advance or change, which can lead to frustration and the desire to look elsewhere for a new role. A lot can happen in the two years it usually takes to complete an EMBA, so the candidate should mentally prepare to be flexible.”

All of these benefits need to be considered in the context of a candidate’s career plan, but whether you opt for quitting your job and pursuing a new challenge, or growing with your company, you are likely to face a win-win situation on completing your EMBA.

This article was originally published in September 2014 . It was last updated in June 2015

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