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emba diary

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Dan Lamothe and Steve Bhatti both work in Toronto for major Canadian banks. They are also executive MBA students at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. This is their first blog for EMBA Diary.

When people tell you that time is the scarcest resource an individual has, it's hard to truly appreciate that until you actually get a little older and (hopefully) a little wiser. Making time for everything that life sends your way becomes that much more difficult when you decide to pursue an executive MBA.

Working while completing a graduate degree is as demanding as it is rewarding. Then if you add to the chaos by changing jobs, time truly becomes a resource that is quickly depleted.

We both started Rotman's EMBA program in September of 2015. Within six months, we had also both switched jobs.

We discovered there is an uncanny similarity between the first few days we spent in class and the first few days on a new job. You're in a new setting, surrounded by a number of people you've just met for the first time. The same thoughts race through your mind: Who do I speak with first? What type of impression do I want to make? How do I learn to navigate my new surroundings?

While many might find that switching jobs causes anxiety, for us it was comfortable. We had been in this same exact situation just a few months prior as we launched our EMBAs. We had navigated the questions above successfully. And lastly, we could draw from the lessons learned between teachers and classmates on how to best answer these questions.

The first week of our EMBA class was spent exactly in the same way that our first week in our new roles were – meeting new people, learning about their backgrounds, and trying to figure out what was the defining culture of this environment and how we would best adapt and contribute to it positively.

In one of our cases, changing companies was a difficult decision to make. It was tough to leave behind a strong network of supporters, a comfortable work environment with a high-performing team and the city that his family had called home for the past six years. In the other case, the choice was still difficult but instead represented an exciting new opportunity within the same organization, an opportunity that would be challenging, help develop new skills and apply concepts learned in the classroom almost immediately.

In both of our cases, 10 to 12 months into our new respective jobs and at the end of the EMBA program, we wanted to share a few takeaways that could apply in both the workplace and in graduate school.

1. Go out and meet new people. There isn't enough that can be said about the power of networking. Between classmates and colleagues, your career networking holds its own weight against anything else you can do. You can build genuine relationships, learn from experiences and potentially find new opportunities.

2. Take on things that you wouldn't have otherwise tried. The EMBA program allowed us to experience parts of the business world that we had never approached before, often with the security in classmates that had worked in that field or business line. Applying that to our work life has allowed us to look into projects and opportunities from different perspectives and a broader organizational approach.

3. Make decisions with the best information you have, which often won't be complete information. This is true whether deciding to change jobs or take an EMBA.

4. Communicate with those around you. The stress of work and school is challenging for everyone, and as long as you are open and honest, most will look to help you where they can. Your classmates at school, your colleagues at work and your family at home all want you to succeed. They are there for you to lean on when you need help and you will have plenty of opportunities to make up to them when you're done the program.

We both decided on doing the EMBA program to challenge and stretch ourselves. While it's been more difficult and time-consuming than we first imagined, it's also been more rewarding that what we envisaged.

That sense of pushing yourself outside the comfort zone is in large part what motivated both of us and gave us the confidence to take chances in our careers. The growth, both personal and professional, is the reason we originally decided to embark on the EMBA journey. Time certainly is still a scarce resource but you quickly learn to appreciate every moment through the journey that much more.

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