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Secure Your Future: Take A Break To Earn Your MBA

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It's often said that the best companies do more than just survive a downturn; they also position themselves to thrive during the subsequent upturn by making investments that enable them to grow when the economy rebounds. The same strategy can be applied to your career.

That's why MBA admissions at Ivey tend to be countercyclical and we see an increase in applications during economic down periods. Many thoughtful candidates understand that applying to take a year out of work to invest in themselves and build new skills for their future careers, is the best personal insurance they can have when the economy is uncertain.

That said, it can be difficult to leave the workforce, especially when you have no assurance you can get back in. Knowing if the time is right for you takes some deeper thinking to ensure you feel confident in the investment you are making.

Here are some things to consider:

Are you sure you won't be welcomed back?
It is often surprising to me when high achieving MBA applicants, who are clearly doing well in the firms they are a part of, are reluctant or uneasy to speak with their managers and HR teams about the possibility of taking a break to do an MBA, with a plan to return to the same company. No firm wants to lose great talent. If you are thoughtful about planning the conversation, conducting it in a professional way, with a clear case on why this is a good time to step out for only a year, the conversations most often go well. Once at school, the MBA students work with career coaches at Ivey to manage the relationship at the company they were a part of, negotiate new roles and/or the terms for a return. It might actually be easier than you think!

Is your professional development on track?
In uncertain economies, some firms decide to wait out the storm and hold off investing in training and development. In some cases they might suspend planned promotions or movement of their people. If the company you work for is not investing in you, it might be time to invest in yourself. Taking the time to do an MBA ensures that you are still learning and growing, at a time in your career that has the potential to be transformative. Coming back to the market a year later also ensures that the skills you bring are even more developed. You will present as a stronger, more mature candidate than you were just one short year ago.

Your new skills are what makes the economy grow
One year may not be enough time for the economy to recover. But, your new MBA will give you a refined skill set that may be exactly what businesses need to solve the complex people, operations, marketing, and finance problems they'll experience if the market constricts for a longer period of time. The world's best MBA programs prepare you to be part of the teams that will move companies forward, whether in cautious or growth periods. Applicants choose to do an MBA because they have clear goals of what they want to achieve and what they will bring to the market following the program. Doing a program like this, at the right time in your career can help you take control of what comes next. It may be a better time to seize the opportunity than you first thought.

Do you have the experience to make it work?
Who should consider the MBA right now? People who believe they are ready for change and growth should consider the MBA during these economic times. But remember, stepping out for a year and investing in an MBA is a big commitment. Don't rush it. Meaningful work experience will help you get the most out of your time, and ensure the investment pays off for you. Talking with the admissions team will help you define when the right time is. They are here to help!

Sharon Irwin-Foulon
Executive Director, Career Management and Corporate Recruiting

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