Learn from alumni experiences and get tips to balance work, study and family.
One of the best features of the Executive MBA is that it is designed to help participants achieve work-life balance. Despite this in-built flexibility, juggling studies, work, and family is still a challenge, and professionals who consider returning to school need to be ready for it.
In this article, we will take a look at the experience of EMBA alumni, the available resources available to students, and tips for balancing work, study, and family.
Know what you’re signing up for
Thandi Luzuka enrolled in the EMBA programme at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School (UK) while six months pregnant with twins. She also started a new job in a different industry and country while on the course. “There are so many competing demands,” she told the Financial Times. “I’ve tried to achieve a sense of balance [but] that is elusive and stress-inducing. You feel like you never get to stop and there’s a lot at stake. It’s a lot of pressure and very little sleep. That takes a toll.”
Katja Fritz, alumna of the IE Brown EMBA, had to balance studies with tending to her young children. “On countless occasions throughout the program, while I was writing forum posts, attending virtual classes or writing academic papers, at least one of my kids was sitting on my lap... This was true of many of the mothers in the programme, but watching other women leaders do the same thing I was doing was also a source of support and motivation,” Katja said in an IE blog article.
Wanted: professionals with planning skills
An EMBA can help experienced managers and executives climb the hierarchy at their current companies, change tracks within their career fields, or switch careers entirely. The programme offers many benefits, but requires discipline, dedication, and organization.
Exactly because it can be challenging, programmes are consciously looking for candidates who don’t buckle under pressure. This quality (or a set of qualities) is something that HEC Paris (France) specifically requires in candidates. “This is an important element of the admissions decision,” Andrea Masini, the business school’s associate dean, told the Financial Times. “We check whether the candidate understands the challenges of an EMBA and that they have the support of their employer, which is critical to success in the programme.”
Fortunately, programme participants can rely on various resources. For instance, students at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business (US), can talk to a mental health professional. Meanwhile, students at Oxford Saïd Another have access to executive coaches, who help participants prioritize their personal and professional goals.
The community can also be of great help. It is often said of networking that it is of crucial importance for career success. However, socializing with classmates and others can also help EMBA students unwind and recharge their batteries. Katja Fritz, the IE Brown alumna, highlights the camaraderie she experienced with fellow mothers during the program. The encouragement and inspiration she received from her classmates encouraged her to put in more effort, and she appreciated the opportunity to demonstrate to her kids the value of commitment and diligence in achieving one's goals.
Tips for balancing work and studies
What advice about work-life balance would EMBA alumni give to professionals who consider enrolling? Below you can find a compilation of insights from alumni from IE Business School and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (US):
- Get support from your inner circle.
It’s worth trying to expand your professional network, but in tough times you need a pillar of support provided by your inner circle, which includes family, friends, and potentially colleagues. They can be a valuable source of support and encouragement throughout the programme by offering emotional support during times of stress, helping you manage your workload, and providing feedback on your work.
- Get support from your family.
Make sure that your partner and children support you. This can make a big difference in helping you to manage your workload, balance priorities, and stay motivated throughout the programme.
- Get support from your employer.
Ensure that your employer supports you in your decision and knows what to expect from you during the EMBA programme. This will help in managing expectations and ensuring that work responsibilities are balanced with academic demands. Employers can provide various forms of support, such as adjusting work schedules, offering time off for exams, and even providing financial assistance for tuition and fees.
- Know what you are getting into and commit to it.
You need to know the benefits of the EMBA, but also the challenges that may arise while pursuing it. Before enrolling, it's crucial to research and understand what the programme entails. This includes the course structure, the workload, the time commitment, and the expected outcomes. Once you have a clear idea of that, it's important to commit to it fully. This means making time for classes, assignments, and group work, and being willing to make sacrifices in other areas of your life.
- Be ready to make some sacrifices.
Speaking of sacrifices, you need to be mentally prepared and willing to make some lifestyle changes. You may need to give up your hobbies for a while. The good news is that this is only temporary and you can return to a less demanding schedule after graduation.
- Take care of yourself.
EMBA students have limited spare time, so it is essential to prioritize self-care. This includes getting enough sleep, eating healthily, and exercising regularly. It's also important to take breaks and do things that you enjoy, whether it's spending time with loved ones, reading a book, or watching a movie. Remember, self-care is not selfish; it's necessary for your well-being and ability to perform well in all areas of your life.
- Find a programme that fits your life.
Pick an EMBA whose format suits you. It is vital to confirm if classes are offered online or in-person, whether they are scheduled during the day or night, and whether you need to stay on campus or commute home for classes.
- Just go for it!
Don't let the timing stop you from pursuing an EMBA. There will never be a convenient time to go back to school, but the benefits of earning an EMBA can be significant. Remember that with the right mindset and commitment, you can balance the demands of work, study, and family.