Learning as a habit

I have signed up for an MBA. After a three year break, I am ready to get back to formal study. An executive MBA seemed to be the logical option at 37 and for the current stage in my career. Since graduating, I have enjoyed unstructured learning, reading around my interests and focusing my intellectual energy on work. I have made significant progress on my journey to expertise, and I am building something at work to create disruptive change. To take my output to the next level, I need to learn more.

A part-time Masters degree is a big commitment, and making the most of the opportunity can take up to fifteen hours per week. Formal courses are designing to help students find this time with the accountability of regular deadlines, the curated path through content, and a community of peers for support. However, Fifteen hours is a significant addition on top of working forty to fifty-hour per week, training for at least 10, and spending an hour publishing 500 words per day. Finding those fifteen hours is going to require a conscious effort to make learning a daily habit. 

I read an article today from John Coleman on the Harvard Business Review website that suggested five ways in which you can cultivate a learning habit

  1. Have a clear outcome
  2. Set goals to achieve your outcome
  3. Build a community around your learning
  4. Develop your ability to focus
  5. Use technology to support your learning

I have a clear outcome of improving my performance at work by completing an MBA and applying what I learn to my career. I have a realistic goal of committing fifteen hours per week or around two hours per day to study, writing, and apply what I learn to work. The time commitment is made more accessible while I am not commuting to and from work, and I have built up a habit of writing each day. 

The MBA as a format is unique because it is built around community learning, making my role contributing to the pre-made community rather than having to create my own. The skill to focus for two hours per day over eighteen months will be the biggest challenge, but it is something that I have been working on for a while with daily blogging and in elements of my work. Finally, working in EdTech, the use of technology to support my learning should be easy.

I will dedicate a future post to each of these habits but is a formal course something you are interested in doing? Are you able to cultivate your learning habit using Coleman’s five suggestions? 

Contact me on Twitter if you want to discuss building a learning habit or starting a new course of formal study.

The MBA Intervew

Most Executive MBA programmes are highly selective and use various tools, including an application form and interview, to pick the course’s best candidates. Admissions officers are generally interested in three things; are you going to complete the course, are you going to do well, and what do you add to the cohort. 

Attrition rates can be as high as 23% for UK Masters degrees in some subject areas, and on average, 10% of MBA students will drop out before the end of the course. Many senior roles require an MBA as evidence that the applicant has well-rounded business knowledge that will allow them to lead large teams with significant budgets. If you are in a role where progression requires an MBA, then that is a good marker that you will complete. If not, you will need to provide evidence that you can commit to a long term commitment alongside your work. 

Masters degrees are graded into three categories, Pass, Merit, and Distinction, with students required to get a minimum of 50% in assessments to get a Pass, 60-69% to get a Merit, and over 70% for a Distinction. A part of the national and global ranking of a course is determined by the percentage of students who graduate and what grade they achieve, so admissions offices can be highly selective to keep these statistics high. You need to show that you can work at a high level and produce academic writing.

What you add to the cohort is particularly important for an MBA, where discussion, peer work, and networking form a large part of the course and a significant selling point for applicants. The Admissions Officers need to know that you fit with the course’s ethos and that you have unique perspectives on topics that will be covered to add to academic conversations. Finally, it is important that after graduation, you will raise the prestige of the course and institution by achieving things of note. For an Executive MBA, you should have a clear idea of what you want to achieve professionally and what sets you apart from other applicants.

The interview

Your application form’s success is largely down to your experiences and achievements so far and is not something that you can quickly improve. However, the interview is a chance for you to provide context to your application, so it is essential to prepare. An Executive MBA is a significant commitment of time and money, so the interview is also an opportunity for you to ask questions to help you make your decision if the course is right for you. 

The Admissions Officer will want to ask you questions about elements of your application, including details of your experience, your career goals, and how the course will help get you there. It is an excellent idea to do some reading about the course, and advisor you are meeting, past graduates, and come prepared to discuss personal and professional achievements. University cohorts and graduate opportunities are increasingly international, so it is essential to note your international experiences. 

QS HE insights and rating organisation suggest some questions that you should prepare some answers for before the interview:

  • Why the EMBA and what led you to make the decision about attending business school at this time?
  • How will the EMBA assist you in achieving your short and long term goals?
  • What are you looking to get out of the program?
  • Tell us about your work experience and how an MBA will fit with plans for the future?

Final notes

  • Treat it like an important meeting and dress appropriately.
  • Know what makes you stand out from other applicants.
  • Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve in your professional career and why an MBA is necessary.
  • Do some brief research on the admissions officer you will meet to show your interest and commitment
  • Have some notes around:
    • Your background
    • Education
    • Career history
    • Goals and aspirations for the future
    • Why this specific course is of interest to you
    • Why a business degree