Real story by a MIT SCMb candidate

The pathway to MIT. MIT building 10, Killian Court

Company sponsorship is an elegant way to finance the program, and I am sure it is attractive to many applicants. It can be a great opportunity if it is properly managed and negotiated. In this post I would like to share my view and my experience on negotiating a sponsorship from one’s company.

Getting support from a company has the advantage of securing funds without borrowing or using savings; it also has the underestimated advantage of removing the job search and the interviews while being at MIT. Saying that MIT students are busy is an understatement, and we quickly realize that spare time is very valuable around here.

You need to keep in mind that the company will demand that you to return work with them for a certain period of time. It means that you need to be willing to stay at your company, and that the future job content must be negotiated along with the sponsorship. I would say that it is probably best to turn down the sponsorship if the future missions are not attractive. The hardest part here, for both you and the employer, is to estimate what you will learn at MIT. I had high expectations about the learning, but I still underestimated the impact of the program! The program challenges you at all levels and opens doors you may not have suspected initially. Realizing that the job waiting for you is not as exciting as other proposals available to you is not a very pleasant place to be. It will be up to you to value what it means to you to break an agreement and let down an employer that is helping you.

I cannot stress enough that you need to negotiate future challenges and opportunities in the company and not the future salary. That was my approach, and I am still convinced it is the best way to go.

Now the question is how to negotiate the sponsorship. It is not enough to just walk in and ask your boss to pay for your master’s: you need to create a compelling win-win situation. I looked for areas of improvement in the company and put together a long-term vision of possible improvements. I then shared the vision with the manager in charge and convinced her that this was a great opportunity. That was the basis for the negotiation of my future job content. The improvement has to be big enough to require a high-level supply chain professional. If you can make that case, the sponsorship becomes an easy win, because who’s a better fit than a graduate from the ranked #1 program in supply chain management who knows the company already and who came up with the proposal?

One piece of advice: Do not underestimate the time and effort it will take. The high-level case needs to be compelling to get the conversation started, but you will then need to break it down into an actionable action list, and maybe come up with a complete business case.

From a timing perspective, I started the negotiations after I received my acceptance letter. It is an easier discussion if the admission is not an unknown in the equation. Even if I truly hoped to be accepted, I was also considering the scenario in which I were not. I did not want to be in the middle of this negotiation, because I wanted to present my idea in a way where the degree was an important value-adding step in the success of the proposed initiative. If I had not been accepted, turning the discussion around would have been be very challenging. So bide your time and wait for the admission result before making your move. In the unfortunate case of a rejection, you can still present your idea to the manager and seek an internal promotion. It will be easier if you never correlated the initiative to a MIT degree.

You will need to prepare your case while waiting for the admission decision and start discussing once you know whether you’ll join the MIT family. It will keep you busy while waiting!

Editor’s note: The candidate and the company involved do not want to disclose the sponsorship arrangement. It is fairly common company show some support for candidate’s study. From Capstone project partner, (paid) study leave to tuition fee.

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