The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a degree that boasts students and alumni from a broad variety of backgrounds, from those in the early stages of their career, all the way through to entrepreneurs, senior executives and CEOs. Regardless of seniority, the thought of returning to formal study after a certain period of time can be daunting.
The truth is, the majority of AIB students pursue the MBA after many years in the workforce. Some haven't studied in over 20 or 30 years, and others have never formally studied at all. So if you're nervous about returning to study, don't worry, you're not alone.
We discuss the key considerations for those who embark on the MBA journey after an extended break from study and how to set yourself up for success.
Be confident in your knowledge and experience
Many MBA students have already achieved great success in business but look to the MBA to help take their careers further. For these people, confidence comes relatively easy in the workplace, but they still may find themselves approaching the MBA with some hesitation. After all, it is still a big step outside of their comfort zone. However, these professionals do so with a wealth of practical experience to apply to their leanings – the great value of which they will understand once they begin their MBA.
After nearly eight years in formal management roles, AIB MBA graduate Kerry Kingham decided to take the plunge and commit to an MBA. She explained,
“It wasn’t an easy decision as I had not studied at a tertiary level for over 30 years and wasn’t sure if I had what it took.”
Kerry quickly realised that her work experience would play a vital role in the MBA, with the MBA validating her existing knowledge, filling the skill gaps, and tying it all together.
The MBA content is designed to challenge each individual, allowing them to grow both personally and professionally. However, for this growth, students must be willing to be challenged – something many of our graduates say they miss after completing their studies.
Use feedback to your advantage
Those returning to study after an extended break should actively seek feedback on their work, particularly in the early stages of the MBA programme. In any case, whether we’re at work or in a learning environment, constructive feedback is how we learn and grow. When feedback is provided throughout your MBA, you should take it as a learning opportunity, rather than a criticism. If you don’t agree with or understand the feedback, it’s important to seek clarity from an AIB Academic. While it is a simple process, feedback is integral for personal growth, assisting new students to settle into the programme, understand what is expected of them, and get the most from their MBA experience.
Plan your timetable to suit you
It’s important to recognise that every student’s MBA journey will be different. Some will strive to complete the programme in the shortest possible time frame, whereas others will choose to take their time and pace their learning. Your MBA will be what you make it, but it’s important to recognise what is and is not possible in your personal circumstances. The MBA is a significant commitment, so trying to rush the work or cram it into existing obligations is not advised.
Get familiar with key resources and communities
When approaching the MBA, one of the first things you should do is familiarise yourself with the student resources, support networks and online student communities available to you. Your business school will provide you with access to all the resources and learning materials you'll need, but your fellow students will also play an important role in your MBA journey. AIB has a range of online communities where students can connect and collaborate, discuss their subjects and support each other throughout the MBA and beyond.
AIB graduate Katie Ashford noted that the support from her peers played an important part in successfully returning to study.
"I often reached out on social media to other students who supported me and I, in turn, supported them. I felt like I almost had an extended family by being part of this AIB study group, and hopefully there will be people I stay in touch with."
Visit the AIB Community Hub to explore the communities and study groups students can join.
Don't let yourself fall behind
One of the biggest mistakes someone returning to study after an extended period can make, or any student for that matter, is to fall behind in their studies. Once they do, it can be difficult to get back on track and regain control of the process, especially for those who are juggling the MBA with a full time job and family commitments.
At AIB, each subject is divided into weekly blocks, with readings, tasks and assessments to complete each week. While this structure helps to maintain pace, students remain accountable of their own time and deliverables. Therefore, a weekly study plan will be vital to study success. At the beginning of each subject, create a calendar with all your work and personal non-negotiable commitments. Then, slot in all your study sessions and key due dates, allowing yourself contingencies for when something throws you off your schedule.
Do you have any advice for those approaching the MBA after a break? For new students, do you have any particular questions that you’d like answered ahead of your MBA journey? Leave a comment below to share your experience and advice.
Need more study inspiration? Browse through our library of study content on the AIB Blog for useful tips.
This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB.