New employee - need to broach tuition reimbursement with supervisor for MBA
December 2, 2010 2:59 PM   Subscribe

I started my new job in July. Want to go back to school for an MBA, but not sure how to broach the subject with my manager who has to approve tuition reimbursement.

I recently decided that, for several reasons including starting my own consulting company, I'd like to get an MBA. My company provides tuition reimbursement after a year of service, which for me would be July 2011. However, I'd like to apply for B-school by February, so that if I am accepted to the MBA program, I'd be able to start in the fall of 2011 and not have to wait a whole year.

Some facts:

1. I only started at my company in July, and am still learning the ropes here - albeit (in my boss's own words) "quickly and efficiently". I do make some absent-minded mistakes, but I think that overall she is satisfied with my performance.

2. This job is a career transition for me, from academic post-doctoral research to regulatory affairs in the biotech industry. This means I have only four months of corporate experience - the only thing that puts me at a serious disadvantage in applying to an executive MBA program. I recently met over breakfast with a director of the MBA program where I intend to apply and asked him if I should wait a year to apply. His response was that I should find out if my company would indeed be willing to reimburse me to start in 2011. If so...

3. ...he was willing to intercede with the MBA admissions committee with regard to my lack of corporate experience and get me secondary interviews, etc, based on the fact that my company had agreed to reimburse me despite not yet having a full year of service at the time of requesting reimbursement approval. As an aside, he seemed genuinely impressed by my goals and career path. This is a highly-ranked MBA program at a great school with a superior alumni network, at which I received both my bachelors and doctorate degrees. I cannot afford to go to school - here or anywhere - without reimbursement.

My question is, how/ when do I broach this subject with my supervisor (she has an MBA)? I have a PhD, so she may not even think an MBA would do me any good, even though my doctorate is not a huge career advantage now that I am following a completely different career path. I am not up for a performance review until March 2011. I'd like to tell her about my meeting with the MBA director and his willingness to help me, but it somehow feels like a tricky situation. Reimbursement is not part of the budget that has been set out for my department - ALL employees are eligible after a year of service. My immediate supervisor, who is also Director of my department, has to directly approve tuition reimbursement; her approval means everything else is just paperwork. She is also very close to the HR director, so there should be no snags thereafter. I am in a bit of a time crunch, because the applications are due February 1st, and I would have to rush to take the GMAT (not an issue) and write essays (would take a while).

Factors that may or may not have an impact: we are a subsidiary of large multinational company, and two weeks ago suddenly acquired a new CEO who was selected by our parent company to make sure we fell more in line with the parent company's wishes. No bad repercussions/ layoffs/ nervousness so far, except for the occasional email from the new CEO wanting certain things to be made a high priority, and requesting records and logs of activities that the previous CEO wasn't interested in. He's also planning meetings with all departments - but this seems like something any new CEO would do.

Please help me navigate this situation, Mefi. As always, thank you for your input.
posted by Everydayville to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Any boss worth the title should be happy that somebody under them is looking to improve themselves, get smarter, and make themselves more valuable to the company. I can't see any downside to asking if she can approve it now, with the understanding that you won't actually be starting until after your 1 year anniversary.

Also, I have an MBA. I'm not sure an MBA is going to be much of a career advantage no matter what you do, especially when you already have a doctorate. If you are starting your own consulting company down the road, clients are going to care about results. They aren't going to give a damn about your degrees. If you can show that you can help them save X million dollars, or make X million dollars, they'll hire you if you only degree is from a community college.
posted by COD at 4:49 PM on December 2, 2010

I don't understand why you need to approve the application with your manager at all.
You said everyone gets reimbursement after a year. A year for you will be in July 2011. You want to start school after July 2011. This means that saying "yes" to the MBA director about getting reimbursed would be the truth. Your company has basically already pre-approved it.

With that said, I agree with everything COD said.
posted by zephyr_words at 4:58 PM on December 2, 2010

So wait is this an EMBA? or a full MBA? Because the two tend to be very different beasts.
posted by bitdamaged at 5:21 PM on December 2, 2010

More of a heads up than an answer, but I suspect you'll have to be careful with this one; the loyalty of those seeking to take an MBA, due to the (sometimes much) higher employment mobility these degrees provide, is sometimes suspect in management's eyes.

I already had an Masters (MSc Quantitative Finance) when in 2005 I approached my manager for approval to take an MBA. Even though the firm had a clearly defined tuition reimbursement policy, I later learned from that point on my loyalty was suspect and, essentially, my future at that particular organisation (one of the major ratings agencies) was capped.

When I asked for tuition reimbursement I'd already been with the firm several years, had lead a team generating tens of millions in consulting revenue and put the companies needs ahead of my personal life, flying about 200K miles annually on business. No matter that my manager didn't for a second doubt my loyalty to the firm, her manager and others higher up in the hierarchy, individuals who didn't know me but knew I was taking an MBA felt necessary to "plan for the inevitable"; namely, the day I finished that degree and got a better job offer.

Unfortunately, at that particular financial institution such planning meant moving the suspect into less critical roles where their absence wouldn't impact revenue.

You're sending a message on multiple levels by asking for tuition reimbursement. Its not clear how this message will be interpreted by your particular firm, especially after such a short tenure. I'm in banking and have known colleagues who'd rather not pursue tuition reimbursement simply because of this ambiguity.
posted by Mutant at 11:38 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

If this response is not too late - it is an EMBA program with an emphasis on entrepreneurship that I am fairly sure will be useful to me not only long-term as a process consultant, but short-term at my company, which is a small, new (10 years old) biotech company with strong financial backing.

Thank you for your responses.
posted by Everydayville at 10:33 AM on December 3, 2010

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