Going Back to School for Your MBA? How to Tell Your Boss

Mar 24, 2014 - Joe Matar

Are you a current or prospective MBA student? Our MBA Corner is just for you.

Heading back to school to earn your MBA? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to quit your job.

In fact, you’ll find many advantages to remaining employed, whether part time or full time, while also pursuing an education. Continuing to work while earning a graduate degree can help offset the financial burden of your studies and help you gain real-world experience that will benefit your career. Working while in school also offers powerful opportunities for professional growth.

First, though, you'll need to let your boss know that you're going back to school, and that’s a conversation that makes many people uncomfortable. While this may not be an easy task, it's important to keep your employer in the loop about your goals to ensure they're on board and supportive.

If you break the news in the right way, your honesty could help your boss to see you as a more valuable employee. But you'll need to eliminate any concerns on your employer's part that your work performance might be affected by your studies, and shed a positive light on how your education will prove beneficial for the company. With the right strategies, you can convince your boss that business school will expand your abilities as an employee.

Want some talking points to make this sometimes-difficult conversation successful? Here’s how earning your MBA will make you a better employee.

You’ll better understand the company as a whole

Depending on your role within your company, it might be difficult to truly comprehend how different components of the business work. Particularly if you're in an entry-level position, you may not have the chance to see the inner-workings of various departments, which could be holding you back from understanding the business as a whole.

Pursuing an MBA in entrepreneurship or supply chain management, for example, can offer you a deeper glimpse into how a business operates. Armed with in-depth knowledge about the role that other departments play in the overall functionality of a corporation, you'll be prepared to make better choices in the workplace that align with the company's strategy and goals.

You’ll sharpen your leadership skills

The ability to manage others and delegate responsibilities is a highly valuable trait in an employee. And guess what’s often a focus in business school? Learning how to lead! Even if this isn’t addressed directly in your program, you’ll likely have opportunities to lead during group projects and practical applications of what you’ve learned.

Let your boss know that you plan on applying what you learn about being an effective leader to your current position, so you can continue to grow within the company and contribute to their bottom line.

Your efficiency will skyrocket

While balancing your studies as well as a job, you will inevitably acquire immense self-discipline. As you juggle work and school deadlines, you will learn to effectively prioritize tasks. Time-management skills will simultaneously improve your school performance as well as your efficiency at work.

Give your employer added reassurance that you will keep your education and job separate by letting them know that you plan to outline a specific study schedule so that your schoolwork doesn't compromise company time.

You’ll bring valuable knowledge and skills to your own department

Whether you're going for an MBA in marketing or a Master's in finance, higher education will provide you with a deeper understanding of your specific department. Some of your coursework will analyze how you can utilize a firm's resources to achieve a competitive advantage.

This is something you should bring up to your employer — with a stronger grasp on what your department does, you're in a better position to support the overall business' success. In learning about opportunity recognition, you may be able to fuel innovation within your department.

You’ll become even better at working in teams

Regardless of what kind of program you're enrolling in, you will be required to participate in a number of group assignments. The successes and challenges you experience while working with others in the classroom can inform your approach to team projects in the workplace.

Emphasize to your boss that you plan to hone your collaborative capabilities, and encourage your boss to point out any areas that you could improve upon while working on group projects. Inviting feedback shows that you are eager to grow and that you plan to leverage opportunities in your coursework to fine-tune your role as a team player.

Rebecca Lindegren is the Digital Strategist for MBA@UNC, the online MBA program at UNC Kenan-Flagler. In addition to higher education, Rebecca is passionate about leadership, online marketing and skiing. Follow her on Twitter.