I’m an executive director in an industrial equipment distributor and, as our business is facing a downturn, it seems a good time to invest in my education and apply for a two-month advanced management programme at Harvard Business School. But my chairman has been extremely negative, refusing to pay for the course and making clear he does not think it a good use of my time. I really want to do this and can afford to pay for it, but I wonder if it is madness to make an investment in myself that may amount to damaging my prospects with my current employer.
Director, male, 42
Yes, you are mad. I’ve just checked the Harvard website and see you are proposing to spend $60,000 on something that promises flatulently to turn “senior executives into indispensable leaders”. I have hardly ever come across people who were indispensable leaders and the idea that anyone could become one by dint of an eight-week course is fantasy. The website goes on to promise that “participants [will] leave equipped to make the tough decisions required to manage through the downturn”.
The first tough decision on how to manage in a downturn has already been made by your boss: ban all management training courses that serve to make employees more attractive to rival employers.
You say you see this course as an investment in yourself. In that case, you need to think of the likely returns. If you intend to stay with your present employer, these returns will be negative. You will irritate your chairman by going away and irritate him even more when you come back spouting the stuff that you have picked up in your short time there.
If, however, you see this course as a way out, there might be some point to it. Harvard is a badge, and some employers are still impressed by it. You might make contacts that could be worth something, too.
If this is what you have in mind, then I’d put it on hold. You claim that this is a good time for such an investment as business is slow; I think it’s a rotten time as no one is hiring. I suggest you try to forget about it for a year. If you are then still wedded to the idea and if the economy is picking up a bit, perhaps you should think again.
But I can think of other things I’d rather do with $60,000.