Using an EMBA for Career Management, Susan Dearing, UCLA Anderson

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The career service needs of EMBA students are traditionally different to those of full-time MBA students, with most focused on using their degrees to manage their careers with their current employers.

However, this is beginning to change, with more and more EMBA students paying their own way, rather than being company funded. The demand for career services has  increased accordingly. In this interview, Susan Dearing, executive director of UCLA Anderson’s Professional MBA Career Management Center, discusses the career needs of EMBA students and the career services that are required to meet those needs.

How do the career needs of EMBA students differ from those of full-time MBA students?

Historically, EMBA students were executives in their late-30s or early-to mid-40s  at companies that were going to pay them to get their MBAs because they were going to put  these executives on track for advancement.. We still have those types of students in every class.

The typical EMBA student profile is someone with 10 to 12 years of experience, and at least six to eight in management. Our average age is 37-38 years old.

But, we also have students who are in their early 30s, including our military students Because UCLA Anderson is located in close proximity to the military bases in San Diego and Ventura County, about 18 % to 20% of our current students are in the military or are veterans transferring out of the military and eager to take advantage of the GI Bill.  And we have EMBA students from a variety of industries and job functions.

The biggest difference between the executive MBAs and the full-time students is that the EMBA students are farther along in their careers and they are working while they're getting the MBA.

The full-time MBAs need jobs – because they've given up employment for two years to be full-time students. As you know, the rankings of full-time MBA programs include metrics that largely have to do with percent of employment of full-time students at graduation as well as employment rates three months later, so employment resources are essential for the full-time MBA students.

The nature of our EMBA career services program is definitely more career-management oriented, which includes some employment resources, but it doesn’t have  the major focus on placement as the full-time MBA career centers do. UCLA Anderson does give executive MBAs access to the on-campus recruiting resources run by the full-time MBA career center. We have two career centers here at UCLA Anderson, making us one of a handful of business schools that actually have two dedicated career centers.

The Parker Career Management Center is the larger of the two, and is dedicated to providing career resources that are tailored and targeted to full-time MBA students. Then, our Professional MBA Career Center, which I oversee, provides tailored and targeted resources for our part-time and our executive MBAs.  In addition, I also serve as the dedicated career coach for the executive MBAs.

Part-time and EMBA students are also invited to utilize the on-campus recruiting resources run by our full-time MBA career center. It doesn't end up being an appropriate resource for the majority of EMBA students, but there are some every year – maybe 12  or so out of 72 – that opt into it. But, very few actually get offers.

What they find out is that most of the jobs that companies come to recruit for are entry-level MBA jobs. A small number of our executive MBAs may fit some of those roles, but most are farther along in their careers.

I spend about half my time meeting individually with our EMBAs about any number of career-related issues. It could be, "I want a career shift, how do I make that happen?" It could be, "I want to leave my job. How do I look for another job?"

But, it could also be workplace issues such as, "I don't get along with my boss. I want to shift into another part of the company," or "I want to get a promotion. I want to move ahead." So, it's not just employment and job search; it’s workplace issues as well.

What are the most popular career goals for EMBA students?

EMBA students want more satisfying work, they want advancement, and they want the compensation that goes along with that.

What does UCLA Anderson do to help EMBA students who want to use their degree to get a higher level position? What classes and counselling do you provide?

We do a couple of things. There's a whole career management workshop series in the first year that helps students take a look at the self-marketing skills that are involved in really effective career management.

Students need to go through the self-assessment process   that’s necessary to know what it is they want to do, which hopefully is connected with work that they know how to do. It's about finding work that they're really good at, but also that they enjoy doing. That's what constitutes job satisfaction.

Students need to understand the process of finding work, which is all about getting out there and knowing how to research the job market. This allows students to target and identify job opportunities that are going to be the right fit for them. The networking process is particularly important -- being able to create relationships which put students in a position where they can hear about opportunities when they come up. They won't just be relying on the advertised job market  or the job openings  that are posted in various places. A commonly quoted statistic is that 80% of all executive-level jobs are never advertised, they are filled through word of mouth. So, there's a big emphasis here on what the process is for finding those kinds of unadvertised jobs.

We offer career workshops during their class weekend, usually on Saturdays at lunch. We'll bring career experts in to lead workshops, and I also lead a few of them. We want to make sure students know how to write an effective résumé. More importantly, in my ,opinion, we want to make sure that they have a really well put together LinkedIn profile, because more people will be viewing their LinkedIn profile than their résumés.

Then, there's individual one-on-one coaching. I’ll meet with students to really look at their own individual situations and figure out what their strategy needs to be to get them from where they are now to wherever it is they want to go next in their careers.

If they're  career shifters, that process is a little trickier. I do a whole workshop with them and I lay out a process where they do a feasibility analysis of that career shifting goal. This feasibility analysis will help them determine whether they have realistic and obtainable post-EMBA career-shifting goals.

If you're an engineer and you want to become an investment banker or work for McKinsey, you need to really do a feasibility analysis of that goal. You do that analysis by researching, talking to many people who are doing the kind of work you're interested in, gathering a lot of information, as well as doing some soul searching about what it's actually going to take to execute that career shift.

Then, you look at all the data and size it up and see what it's saying to you – if it's going to be feasible and realistic for you. If so, there's a whole additional process for enacting the actual career shift.

Do you prepare students for post-EMBA salary negotiation?

Yes, because we know that there is a lot of employment activity that occurs with EMBAs during their two-year program. In fact we have an entrance survey when students first arrive that asks them various questions about where they are right now and how they found the admissions process etc.

At the end of the program we also have an exit survey. We actually use the Executive MBA Council survey, which is the standard used by a number of EMBA programs. We actually use the Executive MBA Council’s entrance and exit surveys, which are used by a number of EMBA programs.  The entrance survey has a lot of questions about various aspects of the EMBA program. One of the questions on the entrance survey is, "Do you plan to make a job change during the program?" The same question is asked at the end in the exit survey– "Did you make a job change during your program?" The question doesn’t drill down to say, "Was it a promotion? Did you leave your company?" It just says "job change" – 60% say,, "Yes, I plan to" at the beginning, and 60% report that they did make a career change during the program. We don't know if it's the same 60%. We don't know whether that was an internal promotion, a transfer, or they left the company. But it does say that a significant number of EMBAs are changing jobs during the EMBA program. .So, I will work with some of them on salary negotiation. I'll coach them. Even during the program, they get offers and if they want to make a counteroffer, we'll talk and we'll strategize on how to put that counteroffer together.

There's a workshop that I give in the first year on negotiating the job offer. We have a recorded webinar of the same workshop that's viewable on demand, so if they've gotten an offer and they've got to get back to the employer the next day  and it's 11pm at night, they can view the webinar right away.

We've had one of our negotiation professors run a salary negotiation simulation which is really instructive for the students. The professor also does the simulations during his negotiations course , so students get a little taste of actually doing a salary negotiation.

I am also available to work with students individually when they do get offers during the program and I'm able to continue to work with students when they become alums, as well. So, I respond to calls from past students asking for help with negotiating an offer and putting together a counteroffer.

We also will do mock interviews with the students, if they want some coaching and some preparatory help before they have job interviews.

Are the mock interviews for students who are looking for new jobs or is it also for students who want to advance their position at their current company?

It's for any student who has any kind of job interview. I've worked with students who are going to talk to their bosses and have performance reviews where they ask for a raise. And I’ve worked with students preparing to go out and start a job search and start interviewing for their next position because they decided they want to leave their current company, so it's both.

What do EMBA students need to be doing during their program in order to fulfil their career goals?

We have become a lot more assertive in recent years with the students that we refer to as career ‘explorers’. They're the ones who want to get the MBA, but they haven't quite figured out what they want to do with the MBA. Yet, they know they want to get the degree.

Explorers need to get as far along with that  exploration as they can before they apply because the EMBA program is only two years. Our part-time MBA program is three years, so, part-time students, by comparison, have an additional year to do their exploration and get grounded, and still have two full years to access all the resources here.

EMBA students need to have a clear sense of their career goals so they can make the most of all the career resources that are available on campus. We have so many resources here at the business school – so many things going on. Our student associations are fantastic, especially the ones that are career-related, such as our consulting association, our marketing association, our entrepreneurial association. Those are phenomenal career resources. There are so many other things that are happening here on campus so that if you're not quite focused yet, you're losing ground. The clock is ticking while you're getting your EMBA. You need to really take advantage of resources while you're here as a student.

So, my biggest piece of advice to the EMBAs while they're here is: once they have an idea of what it is they want to do next, they should be willing to do all the information gathering necessary to make sure that their choice is going to be the right fit. EMBA students also need to recognize that it's through this networking process that they’re most likely to find that next opportunity.

They step into this business school community that's a very warm network of alums, as well as current students. Our EMBA  students have had amazing experiences tapping into our alumni network and reaching out to people whom they don't even know, but because they both share this Anderson connection, people are very responsive and helpful.

That's probably why what I encourage them to do the most is to really research and gather information through talking to people, because at the same time, they're going to be networking and creating those relationships which are going to be invaluable and probably ultimately lead them to that next opportunity.

Is there anything I didn't ask about post-EMBA careers that you would like to address?

I can just say on a personal note that I've been doing this with executive MBAs for  more than 10 years now, and when I came in 2004, there were no career services, because historically, the majority of EMBAs were being company-sponsored. So, it wasn't appropriate to have a career coach here helping them look for opportunities elsewhere.

But now, only 12% of our EMBA students are fully company-sponsored. So, 13, 14 years ago, the students were rightfully saying to the school, "Look, we're paying our own way and the full-time students have career services and we don't." So, we created career resources for the executive MBA students here..

I have continued to stay in the EMBA program at Anderson because I think the EMBA students are so fantastic! They're all doing very interesting things with their careers and the ones  who want to shift or make job changes and the ones who do it successfully are accomplished, self-directed people. They're very coachable and it's really gratifying to work with them, because they follow your recommendations. They're really quick to follow good advice.

It's really fun to see what the outcomes are because they're just really high-end, cream of the crop professionals. This was substantiated to me over the downturn from 2008-2010. Twice as many EMBAs were getting laid off during that time period, but I saw most of them get reemployed quickly. That told me that the graduates from our program are stand-out, accomplished, peak performers. I think most EMBA programs attract that type of individual.

Written by Nicole Willson

Nicole is the SEO manager of TopMBA.com, as well as a contributing author. She holds a BA in history and sociology, and a master's in library science. Aside from her work for QS, Nicole is a long-time contributing editor and administrator for WikiHow.

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