Yale School of Management

How to Pitch the Yale EMBA Program to Employers

Prospective candidates often reach out to staff and students for advice on how to approach their employers to make the case for the Yale MBA for Executives program. We summarized some of the best advice from our current students.

December 9, 2016

From a member of the Class of 2017 (focus: asset management):

When I applied for the program, I had only spoken to my immediate boss, who did not have much authority in the organization. Overall, he and his superiors were supportive of my intent to pursue professional development but they weren’t enthusiastic.

The turning point for me came during Professor Wrzesniewski’s Leadership Fundamentals course. In the Xerox case, John Clendenin took some bold decisions, challenged his supervisors, and eventually became their leader. Inspired by the case, I skipped a few levels and sent an email directly to the president of my business unit, told him about the Yale EMBA program, and offered to help him run the organization.

I told him that rather than looking for better opportunities outside the organization, I wanted to apply my learnings to my current organization and help him with leading the organization. Just as full-time MBA students pursue internships for real-world experience and connections, I wanted to pursue an on-the-job internship by assisting the head of the business unit, and in the process make a case for elevating myself to a leadership role.

I think it went well, as the business unit head met with me at length and agreed to mentor me and sponsor my EMBA. For about 8 months, I worked closely with him and was promoted to a management role in July.

My advice to anyone would be to be bold—skip levels if required, and approach those who are in a position of authority and influence. And throughout the process, build a positive image for yourself, build relationships, do some self-promoting, identify those who can be hurdles to success, and figure out ways to deal with them. In the end I think it’s all about people and relationships and one must be able to—as David Swensen says—"not just play the cards but also the people.”

From a member of the Class of 2017 (focus: asset management):

When I discussed my desire to pursue the program, I approached my employer as I would have with any strategic initiative. Recognizing the cultural nuances of my specific organization, I developed a formal proposal outlining what committing to the program entailed. Critical to obtaining buy-in from my employer was outlining how joining the program was a fundamental component of my professional development plan and the benefits that would accrue to my employer. By asking my employers to financially commit, I also proposed a clear financial structure that ensured both parties in this partnership had “skin in the game.”

Key Yale EMBA Benefits to Highlight to Employer
  • The Yale EMBA enables me to immediately integrate the program’s curriculum into my current role as an investment director who provides investment advice to clients
  • Supporting me demonstrates my firm’s organizational commitment to supporting and encouraging employee professional development
  • There are strong philosophical ties (nexus of business and society) between Yale SOM and my organization
  • There will be tangible financial returns in the form of a more productive and capable executive

From a member of the Class of 2018 (focus: healthcare):

How would you describe the Yale EMBA ROI for your employer?

For my employer, I was able to sell the ROI of EMBA sponsorship in two ways:

  • I presented a plan to my department leadership where I could temporarily shift some of my specific Friday tasks/workflow and create other processes with my offshore-team direct reports to minimize the impact of my time off on Fridays. This allowed me to give some of my offshore team expanded opportunities and responsibilities that they were interested in taking on for the two-year period. I also offered to still be available for work Friday and/or Saturday evenings and/or to work on Sundays to make up for lost time off on the alternate Fridays.
  • Rather than try to quantify an exact ROI figure, I was able to sell the prospect of coming to learn at a well-respected university from respected professors, established classmates, and the Yale community at large. I felt the two-year duration of the program would allow me to develop my knowledge and capabilities to the point that I would qualify for future department leadership opportunities, and that it would help me to more successfully manage our department operations. Also, whom I would meet and what I would learn at Yale was of interest to my employer.

The biggest challenges I had to mitigate were concerns over flight risk (i.e. would I leave during the program or at some point shortly after completing the degree), and no amount of ROI quantification would convince an employer of that if your employer cares more about retaining your services than helping to further your MBA education. Having been employed with the same large corporation for 10 years, growing my career along the way, and mainly being in the same department with a vision/plan helped ease the concerns here, but many other applicants will be in different situations from mine.

Do you have any tips for Yale EMBA candidates on approaching their employer about this program?

My first steps were to spend a lot of time preparing for the GMAT, researching business school programs, reading a book on business schools (what do you learn there? what do you do to apply?), figuring out what options existed in my metro area, and talking to colleagues at work about what business school would be like.

When I first approached my company for sponsorship, I was able to present a specific plan that was well thought out and had a lot of specific details. I feel like other Yale EMBA candidates should think through the following types of questions, along with making serious progress on the GMAT, before approaching their employers for support. I found that the two senior-level people who wrote my recommendations were more willing to put time into them once they felt that I had all these questions nailed down and I had something of an acceptable GMAT score that was in the target range for these executive programs.

  • Why do I want to do this?
  • Which schools am I looking at?
  • What qualifications do I have that make my admission feasible?
  • Where am I in the GMAT process (Have I taken the test? Are my quant/verbal scores in a target range to apply?)?
  • Whom would I ask for recommendation letters?
  • Why should the company support it?
  • How will I minimize the impact of needing alternating Fridays off?

From a member of the Class of 2017 (focus: healthcare):

When approaching your employer, be as honest as you can when setting expectations and what you expect in return. This will avoid any conflicts in the future, and will make your journey through the program a little smoother.

Just remember that you might not get the opportunity to use all of what you learn at Yale SOM at your current job, but you will be able to do so at your next job. Many students enter the program anticipating that they will be changing jobs in the future. Acknowledging this fact will prevent you from getting discouraged if you are not able to immediately apply your learnings. Having said that, however, everyone will be able to apply learning from the leadership courses to grow on a personal level and prepare for the next career move.

If you suspect your employer might not be very receptive to the idea of the EMBA program and might even oppose it, remember that one solution would be to reduce your hours at work, if you are financially able to do so. In my case my employer was not going to cover the tuition, even if I continued working full-time, and therefore I did not have to worry about this aspect. If that is also your case, then modifying your schedule might be a good option.

In my case, I felt that my employer was not interested in letting me use what I learned at Yale SOM to help the organization, even when I approached my boss with a project I thought would be beneficial. I knew, however, that I would apply what I learned at my next job and this kept me motivated and determined.

From a member of the Class of 2018 (focus: sustainability)

Do you have any tips for Yale EMBA candidates on approaching their employer about this program? 

My best advice would be to have the conversation early on to ensure there are no surprises down the road because, ultimately, any decision to attend the program while you’re working has to be a decision you both make together. Up front, it’s important to explain what your studies can bring to the table, to understand your employer’s level of support, and to discuss how you plan to find balance. 

How would you describe the Yale EMBA ROI for your employer? 

Your company’s investment in you is ultimately an investment back into the firm, because you bring back all of your classroom learning, access to a network of executives across industries, a global educational experience, and access to Yale’s unprecedented academic resources. 

I think one thing all of our employers have in common is a class of employees who feel extremely grateful for this opportunity.