From coaching sessions to practical workshops, current Executive MBA participant Richard Waumsley discusses how his experience has been much more than just an academic exercise.
Before considering an Executive MBA, candidates tend to find themselves asking some key questions, namely “What’s next? What do I have to do to develop and get to the next level?”.
That’s where I was, after going along the well-trodden path of graduate scheme, professional qualification, a move into “industry” and moving through the ranks in the finance department, leading to the opportunity of being interim CFO for six months following a management reshuffle whilst the business looked for a new permanent CFO.
This latter opportunity confirmed what I wanted to do and highlighted areas of development I needed to focus on to be ready when the next opportunity came along. Fortunately, I was given the support and encouragement to go down the path of the Executive MBA, not only to widen my knowledge but also to build connections and develop the softer skill set required to further my career. To paraphrase the CEO, “you’ll enter the room with all these high-flyers and realise that they really aren’t any different from you!” In that case, the MBA would help to build my confidence and combat the effects of imposter syndrome.
Along with the academic side, Warwick Business School (WBS) offers the services of the CareersPlus team. My own experience of the CareersPlus team has largely been with Sarah Jackson, who leads with enthusiasm, giving a much needed boost to candidates who, in pre-pandemic times, had been in lectures all day, before going through an evening seminar or workshop to go through the more practical side or guest speakers (the offer of free pizza also helps to keep people's mind on it!)
For me, the workshops and the coaching elements have helped bring the careers aspect to life and provide as much benefit as the teaching and assignments. Having the opportunity to have three sessions with a coach gives you the chance to discuss any issues you have, and also provides a fresh take on situations that you might find yourself in. Being able to arrange these at your convenience means that you can take advantage when there is something specific happening in your career or something that you have noticed about yourself whilst working.
The workshop that sticks with me more than most was one of the first we attended as a cohort. It certainly broke down barriers and helped you forget the risk of embarrassment, as well as covering one of the key skills required in any job, the ability to have the difficult conversations or as the workshop named them “Courageous Conversations”. Being interactive, with actors brought in for the role-playing exercises, there was a sense of realism to the scenario and it even resulted in acting out an issue that is relatable to our own careers. It certainly was intense, but I have retained the lessons and tips and I think about those sessions each time I have a need to have that difficult conversation or have an issue that needs to be resolved.
The difficulties of the pandemic haven’t dampened the offering or spirits of the CareersPlus team. They have, as have the rest of WBS, reacted extremely well, and where workshops or seminars had been held previously, these have been replaced by regular webinars with high profile guest speakers. The online offering has also allowed a wider range of people to join and get the benefits of listening and speaking to those who have been in our position or moved across industries and have invaluable advice. I mean, just how often do you get to hear directly from the CEO of the Pakistani Cricket Board and just how he got to that position?
For any current or prospective candidate, I would advise you to get stuck in, take the opportunities to go through the seminars and workshops, and use the facilities and people around you to help find things out and develop your skill sets, knowledge and also you as a person. After all, the Executive MBA is more than just an academic exercise – it’s about having the chance to grow your network, abilities, confidence and make some great friends on the way!
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