Obtaining your employer's support and sponsorship is an important part of the decision to pursue an MBA. While a company support letter from your employer is required for an application to be considered complete, there is a broad range of additional ways in which companies support employees through the Darden EMBA program.
At a minimum, your company support letter should show that your organization acknowledges your interest in participating in the program, its applicability to your career advancement, and support for the required time commitment. The letter is also an opportunity for your employer to address your accomplishments and potential as a manager and leader. If financial support is being provided, your letter should include that information as well. View a sample letter.
Below you will find tips and advice to help you as you plan your strategy to obtain sponsorship.
Video: How to Obtain Support From Your Company
In the following video, Sarah Henneberry, EMBA Class of 2013, gives advice on how to approach your employer to obtain company support in pursuing an executive MBA. She also describes the ways that Darden's MBA for Executives provided an immediate return on investment for her and her company.
Planning Your Strategy for EMBA Sponsorship
Each organization is different and will have unique processes by which to seek sponsorship; some organizations have sponsored executive MBAs in the past, others have not. It is important to first know why you want your MBA. This is critical to your being able to make a compelling case for why the organization should support you. It is important to start this planning phase early because inevitably this process takes longer than one expects.
Throughout your application, in the essays and in the interview, we are looking to get to know you as an individual and as a professional; to understand what you will bring to the Darden learning community; and what you are looking to gain from your MBA. The better you know your story, the better able you will be to articulate your goals. It is important that you present a clear vision not only to the admissions committee, but also to your employer.
Know Your Organization
Understand your company's policies and processes for this type of request and what the expectations and timeline are for submitting a proposal. Beyond these important “nuts and bolts” concerns, consider your company’s short- and long-term business goals. Ask yourself how the skills and knowledge you’ll attain while earning your MBA can help you help your employer reach these goals. Understanding your employer’s perspective and their goals can help you shape your proposal.
Ask colleagues from within your organization if they have completed the Darden EMBA program (or a similar program). You should also seek out alumni from Darden’s full-time MBA program within your company. As a Darden EMBA student, you will earn the same diploma as our full-time alumni and study with the same faculty. The Darden community is exceptionally strong and close-knit, and you’ll find these alumni to be helpful resources. If possible, talk to these individuals about their experiences and ask their advice on making your request for sponsorship. You may also want to propose the idea of attending Darden to your work colleagues or mentors you are closest with and get buy-in, before presenting the idea to more senior managers.
Some companies may be concerned that after getting your MBA, you will find a new job. Showing commitment to returning to the organization for a minimum amount of time can help make your case.
Know the Value of Darden’s MBA for Executives
In Darden’s EMBA program students and employers alike expand their capabilities and achieve a greater level of success. Being able to articulate the value of Darden’s MBA for Executives for both you and your employer will be central as you make your case. When you are learning in real time, you are taking new ideas and theories back to your organization with great speed. While this is true of any top-tier executive MBA program, Darden’s EMBA program offers several distinct advantages:
- Darden teaches via the case method, and that means that as a student you are being trained to have a bias toward action and the practical application of every technique and concept you learn.
- Darden’s EMBA format is optimized for transmitting knowledge to busy managers. Blending monthly visits to the Darden Grounds with distance learning, the program allows students to immerse themselves in a challenging course of study while staying on top of their professional responsibilities.
Create a Strong Proposal
After researching your company’s policies and goals as well as Darden’s program, in addition to reflecting on why you want to get an MBA degree, it is time to draft your proposal. Your proposal should:
Educate the reader on the value of an MBA and specifically the value of the Darden MBA for Executives program
Keep your company’s perspective in mind. How do you plan to pass along knowledge, concepts and new ideas learned in the program so that your company receives a return on investment from your participation? How will the experience prepare you to be more effective in your current role? What makes the Darden EMBA program a better fit for you and your firm than other programs that might be less expensive?
Provide ideas on how to minimize the impact of your being away from the office
Participating in any EMBA program requires you to miss time away from work, and your colleagues will have to make some adjustments for you and your company to take advantage of this opportunity. What can you do in advance and during the residencies to mitigate potential conflicts, demonstrate your appreciation to your co-workers, and bring back some of the program's benefits to your colleagues?
Be upfront about the time commitment
The program takes 21 months to complete and includes monthly weekend (Thursday through Saturday) residencies in Charlottesville, Virginia; four one-week leadership residencies spread throughout the program (one of which is international); and distance learning. Students generally report that during non-residency weeks, they spend about 15-20 hours on coursework and online classes.
Get Started Early
As previously mentioned, the process of planning for and gaining company support often takes longer than one might think. Allow enough time to plan your proposal and get the needed approvals and company support letter ready. This process may also entail negotiating, so be prepared to negotiate an outcome that matches your goals and your employer’s.