The Subtle Art of Saying No

Ever wondered why we tend to say “yes” to people when we really don’t want to? Blame it on human psychology or human beings being social animals. We find it extremely difficult to say no to anyone.  

We adore attention and feel gratified when others admire us, trust and look up to us. But when this takes the form of constant requests and more work for yourself, you detest being the go-to person. People want to say yes because they are afraid, afraid to disappoint others. We feel personally responsible for letting others down if we decline their proposition or their request for help. During these troubled times, with businesses being in jeopardy, everyone is overwhelmed, constantly working, and juggling work and relationships. Everyone is over-extended, and it is not the best soil to grow ideas or make sound business decisions.  

Are you saying a “good yes” or a “bad yes”?

What begins as an intent to help becomes a bad “yes” – simply because you do not have the productive capacity or knowledge to complete the task. Such a “yes” is bound for failure. When there is so much asking around in an organisation and collaborative overload, one should focus on moving to good yesses and good nos to avoid failures.  

How to say No?  

You have decided that you are going to turn down someone’s request to undertake a task. Now comes the even more difficult part: actually saying “no”! How do you effectively communicate your decision?  

Begin with a positive statement by appreciating the opportunity extended your way, that you were considered worthy enough to do justice to the job. But present your “but” in a way that shows you have carefully considered the proposition and convey the “why” of your decision. Let them realise that you did not decide to say no lightly, that the “no” was not because you are lazy, un-zealous to learn, or simply being difficult.  

Saying no can be an onerous process but trust me, it will prove to be more productive for yourself and the business. Base your decision on this checklist:  

1.    Do not let fear decide  

If you fear that saying “no” will stress your work relationship, remember that saying “yes” when you cannot deliver the results will stress you and the relationship even more. If the working relationship turns sour just because you said “no”, then it was never meant to be. Let it go.  

A decision taken under duress leads to stress on oneself and on work relationships

2.    Evaluate the proposition  

I know from personal experience when we are new to an organisation or a job, we are eager to learn because knowledge is power. Gain that power but keeping in view the quality you are gaining. Ask yourself what ‘value addition’ can you get from this task. Ask questions such as why, when, and what is needed for the task. Doing due diligence on someone’s request is respecting them and yourself.  

3.   Remember what you want to be known for  

What may seem like an opportunity to learn for you could become an opportunity for others to learn a thing or two about you. When you say “no”, back it up with legitimate and fair reasons, tell them why the proposition is not worth your time or effort or simply that you do not have that kind of time to invest in this project. You already have enough on your plate. When the other person: your boss, your client, your colleague, hears your side of the story, they will understand your situation, and you will become known for your work ethics and values. You will be known for authenticity and for being a good decision-maker. Everyone will respect your decision when you say “no” the next time because they will know there is a genuine reason behind it, and it’s just not a lack of interest or laziness involved. They will even bring better propositions to you that you will find difficult to turn down. They will try to please you and not the other way round.  

When you say “yes” to someone’s request, you commit to executing and delivering results.

4.    Deliver results  

The only consideration that should drive your professional decisions should be results. When you say “yes” to someone’s request, you commit to executing and delivering results. You do not want to be in a position where you realise later that either you cannot, are not allowed to, or should not do so. Do not bite more than you can chew. Do not be hard on yourself thinking that you are being difficult. Convey that you are making a good business decision.  

5.    Provide options  

While it is not easy to say “no” to someone who had high hopes on your saying “yes” and was relying on you for completing the task, remember that people come to you because you are a problem-solver and are resourceful. If you cannot do the job yourself, give them other options on how to complete the job or provide solutions to resolve the issue. It will save your time and help build trust with team members that learnt something valuable when they approached you.   

You can also choose to defer the project instead of completely shutting it down. Offer them a plan where you can join the team at a later stage and be more valuable once the project’s gone past its conception stage.   

6.    Don’t be afraid to say the ‘C’ word  

The majority of the time, bosses try to use influence to get things done. Little do they realise that when they use power, they lose influence.  

Photo credit: Canva.com

Every employer has a budget, and the more he can get done without expending his budget, the better (the lesser the merrier, in this case). This is one of the most frustrating and de-motivating situations when you are asked to deliver more results and but are not “C”ompensated for that extra work. You might say “yes” to the extra load now and then, just to be nice or on the pretext of learning something new, or simply because the boss asked you to do so, but this will eventually burn you out. Be firm to tell the work is simply beyond your pay scale and justifies an extra dollar or two.  

It is a misconception that you must be a “Yes Man” or a “Yes Woman” to be successful and boost your career. Remember Jim Carrey’s movie – Yes Man? The film is a classic story where the protagonist is encouraged and made to promise to answer “Yes!” to every opportunity, request, or invitation that presents itself. After a series of interesting events in his life, he realises that the covenant was merely a starting point to open his mind to other possibilities, not to permanently take away his ability to say no if he needed to.  

So, are you the go-to person at your workplace? Do you always end up saying yes? How do you strategically say no? 

6 tips to help you study better at home

It is so easy to get distracted when studying or working from home. There are so many things to distract you – from your better half asking (some might say nagging) you not to eat unnecessarily to children wanting to play, from your neighbours knocking on your door asking for some sugar (again) to someone unexpected ringing the doorbell.

Studying from home. Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Now that you have decided to do an online master’s degree programme, you must be prepared for the challenges that studying at home entails. Most people don’t take these challenges seriously, and by the time they realise they have fallen behind in their programme, it may be too late to recover. So, tackle these challenges from the start.

In addition to all the “normal” challenges of studying at home, COVID-19 has forced some of us to isolate and work from home and forced children to stay home all day too.

How do you stay on top of your schoolwork? What can you do to help yourself study better at home?

Here are 6 tips to help you get started:

1. Location, Location, Location

Have a dedicated area at home for your study. Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

The first thing you need to do is have an area at home dedicated to your study. Make the space comfortable; add a few personal items to this area that give you ownership. And finally, make sure all the study materials you require are with you in the study, so you have no excuses to get distracted. Remember, when you work in silence, success does all the talking! Set up the study in a place where the external distractions will be minimal.

2. Organise like a pro

Use organisers to increase efficiency. Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

People who use a calendar know how useful it can be to increase efficiency. The organiser/calendar is a tool that can be far more useful than to remind you of your next meeting. Create a calendar that contains every minutia of your daily activities for the week/month/quarter (however long you can go), from household chores to study/work deadlines. Then populate the calendar with the schedule of your family. This will give you a good idea of your schedule, inform you when to expect distractions from your family, and help you plan for it.

3. Chewing Gum

Photo by Pete Alexopoulos on Unsplash

According to an article published by the National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI), chewing gum can enhance attention and promote well-being and work performance. The impact of chewing gum is said to be more than that of coffee, the catch being that the effects of chewing gum will last for only about thirty minutes. So, make sure you use the thirty minutes of heightened focus wisely and stock up on sugarless, flavourless gum.

4. Cutting the noise and setting boundaries

Having your family and friends around can get a little noisy. Getting your family, especially kids and pets, to understand that you are studying and not just sitting back and relaxing while reading your favourite LITRPG novel (Gnomes Rule!) might be difficult and, at times, heart-breaking (I know it is hard to say no to kids). But once they understand your schedule and that you are not to be disturbed when you are at your study, they will learn to give you your space.

Another way to reduce the noise is music. Put on an over-the-ear headset and, in low volume, listen to some classical music. It will also have the added advantage of keeping you calm.

5. Engage all your senses

Photo by Solstice Hannan on Unsplash

You are already listening to online lectures and reading articles, so why not make notes and ask questions? One of the best ways to learn is by being engaged in your studies, so try to increase the number of ways you can be involved with what you are studying.

Another good way to learn and retain more information is to teach, so once you have a handle on a subject, start by pretending to teach it to someone. Prepare for questions you might get asked by students, maybe join a study group with your fellow students and have a go at teaching them.

If you are not the teaching kind, then doodle. According to an article by Harvard Health Publishing, during an experiment on memory and retention, it was found that people who doodled were better at paying attention to the message and recalling the details. They recalled 29% more information!

6. Celebrate the accomplishments

Celebrate your success with a couple of squares from that bar of chocolate. Photo by Keriliwi on Unsplash

When you have successfully completed a task, realise that you have, and acknowledge this fact! Stand up and dance like nobody’s watching! Have a couple of squares from that bar of chocolate. You will find that celebrating your success will lift a weight from your shoulders that you did not even know you carried, which will help you focus better and remain motivated.


If you have been thinking about doing a master’s degree, and are ready to challenge yourself, look at our list of programmes and see if we have anything you are interested in earning your master’s degree.

You can also chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on the programme that is right for you, the application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time.

All you wanted to know about Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

As promised in the blog about referencing and citation, this week, we bring you information and facts about academic integrity and how to avoid plagiarism.   

As a master’s student, expect yourself to be surrounded by deadlines to submit assignments, academic papers, and dissertations for most of your academic life (follow our #DILO – A Day in the life of an RKC student series to know more). Academic integrity is a crucial aspect of academic studies, and strict protocols must be followed to abide by the rules of academic writing.   

So, what is plagiarism? 

When one submits another person’s ideas, writings, words, images, or data as their own, it is termed plagiarism.   

Text

Description automatically generated with low confidence
Source: https://mimiandeunice.com/2010/07/30/thief/ Author: Nina Paley, 1968 

Plagiarism is among the four most common forms of academic dishonesty, the other three being cheating, academic misconduct, and fabrication. While looking for ideas and information is good research, not giving proper credit for the work cited becomes plagiarism. It is easy not to recognise potential plagiarism in one’s writing. Here are some examples:  

  1. Using information from the internet is commonly considered public information. However, it is still required to be cited.   
  1. When one paraphrases (i.e. puts someone else’s ideas in their own words) and does not provide credit to the original idea.   
  1. When one sources information from reading material provided by the professor, it still needs to be cited.  This is considered poor academic practice though, as you need to demonstrate independent research, and go directly to the sources mentioned by the professors in their lectures, rather than cite the lectures themselves. 
  1. When one copies their own ideas, used in previously marked work, and submits the same material for a new paper. This is commonly known as self-plagiarism.   

How to avoid plagiarism?  

As complex as it may seem, plagiarism can be avoided by simply citing and referencing your work wherever necessary and giving due credit to the original ideas, theories, words, quotations, images, or graphs.   

It is essential to make sure an appropriate style of citing and referencing must also be applied. Commonly used styles include Harvard, APA, MLA, and Chicago. You can check out detailed information on the blog: Attribution, to avoid retribution: referencing and citations for academic writing.  

Don’t panic. We’ve got help!  

Studying for a masters, working full-time, juggling work-life-study balance itself seems daunting. Do not get lost in trying to find the correct way to present assignments and avoid plagiarism. There are various sources that you can use to ensure effective writing every time.  

  1. Access the electronic library through your University account – there is always a guide to academic writing, referencing, and tutorial support directly from librarians  
  1. Ask for help from the tutors and student support services, who can help you get unstuck and direct you towards the resources that can help 

I hope this prepares you well for authoring your academic papers and assignments.  If you are stuck or have any questions, our highly qualified, world-class faculty will guide you through using the correct methods and techniques to follow academic integrity. 

#DILO – A day in the life of an RKC student – Antonio  

We continue with our blog series bringing you answers to some of the questions we at Robert Kennedy College (RKC) frequently get from students looking to join one of our online programmes. We asked some of our past and current students to share their thoughts and opinions, to give their feedback on how they handled online learning challenges. Hopefully, this will, in turn, help you make an informed decision.  

I believe learning is a life-long process. You never know when an opportunity to learn is thrown your way. Would you grab the opportunity, or would you think it’s too late to learn and study when you reach a certain age? But is age just a number?  

Antonio, an RKC student from Mozambique, is a shining example of how age is just a number when it comes to studying for your Masters. Let’s hear his story!  

Who you are, really?   

Antonio M, from Mozambique. A senior citizen still willing to learn and upgrade my skills in new areas associated with my country development.  

Which Uni are you studying at?   

University of Salford  

Which programme did you choose and why?  

Online MSc in Procurement, Logistics and Supply Chain Management  

How did you plan to study each module, and what was the reality? How many hours did/do you have to put in each day/or in a week?  

Initially, I thought 2h a day would suffice, but I learned that I needed to spend at least an additional hour every day. Let me say, for someone with my slow thinking speed, you need an average 3h a day to be comfortable and do all the homework (forum discussions, contributions). Do this for 6 days a week, 1 day to rest if you can afford it.  

PC: Unsplash.com

What part of the day did/do you find most suitable to study? (e.g., early mornings, lunch break, evenings, weekends?)   

In my case, evenings due to silence and more available bandwidth for Internet data.  

How did travelling impact your ability to study?    

Being an online course, travelling did not impact too much. When travelling, the main issue was Wi-Fi availability.  

How were you able to interact with peers and/or professors given the time differences?   

Most of my peers were around the same or close time. Having a platform and forums eased the interaction. It was not immediate, but I would get the reaction soon enough. With those closer peer friends or people with closer affinity, we shared our mobile numbers, and if required, we would use the mobile phone and interact.  

How much time did you devote to each assignment?    

A lot of time. As soon as you get the assignment brief, start immediately and dedicate at least 3h a day for the assignment. Make sure you state an initial outline as soon as you understand the problem to be solved. Having the outline, Google Scholar all the required stuff, minimum of 15 peer-reviewed references per assignment (my opinion).  
  

PC: Unsplash.com

What does a typical day as an Online Masters’ student look like for you?  

6-7h sleeping, 6-8h working and 3-4h studying, 3h solving family issues, 2h socialising with other people. My community, Rotary, and family would require more of my time and reschedule this time outline.  

Any advice you have for students to better plan their studies?    

Please make sure you do participate in the weekly activities since usually they prepare you for your assignments. If you do it right, you may have a considerable part of your assignment done, at least in terms of the referencing. Going straight to the assignments is the wrong strategy. I did learn with some pain later that if I had done the week activities it would have made my life easier and would have saved time for my assignments. Otherwise, while busy with the assignment, you understand that you still need to do the work you avoided.  

PC: Canva.com

If you have been dreaming of joining a master’s programme or have had this personal goal to gain a higher degree, now is the time! Take valuable advice from our current students, gain from their experience, add your unique study strategies, and make your own success stories! I would love to feature you one day on our college blog.    

Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time. 

#DILO – A day in the life an RKC Master’s student – David

As a former Education advisor, if I had to pick one of the most frequently asked questions by prospective students, it would be “How many hours do I need to study?”  

The vast majority (if not all) of our students are working and leading hectic professional lives. Some are motivated and have already decided to undertake a master’s, while others contemplate the unknowns of an online programme. In my experience, two things affect their decision the most.   

First – finances, and second, being able to strike the perfect work, study, and life balance. While I cannot completely help you with the finances (partially yes – check out the discount offers currently being offered on our online MBA, MSc, and LL.M programmes), I thought what I could do to help was to bring some facts to light about the other unknowns – what does a typical day in the life of an online master’s student look like?  

I asked a few of our students from different walks of life, occupations, and personal situations to answer a few questions on their study tactics and strategies, plans and reality, and so on.  So, through our ‘#DILO ‘a typical day in the life of a master’s student’ blog series every month, we bring to you one of our actual students or alumni sharing the insights.   

Today, we’re looking at David’s typical study days. David, an RKC & University of Cumbria soon-to-be graduate, offered us these answers:  

An Introduction  

Vidhi Kapoor (VK): Which programme did you choose and why?  

David Andaclio (DA):  MBA – International Business. I chose this topic based on my experience and the UoC partnership with Robert Kennedy College in Switzerland and the global diversification of international students.  

Stayed focused and consistent

The Study Plan   

VK : How did you plan to study each module, and what was the reality? How many hours did/do you have to put in each day/or in a week?  

DA: I dedicated time during the week and each day, stayed focused and consistent, and it took approximately 4 hours a day.  

VK: What part of the day did/do you find most suitable to study? (e.g. early mornings, lunch break, evenings, weekends?)  

DA: Early mornings were more suitable for me.  

David allocates approximately 4 hours a day for study

VK: How much time did you devote for each assignment?  

DA: I devoted about 8-12 hours.  

Travelling and Communication  

VK: Did you travel for work? How did travelling impact your ability to study?  

DA: Not at all  

VK: How were you able to interact with peers and/or professors given the time differences?  

DA: Not an issue. [Editor’s note: Interaction is mostly asynchronous through discussion forums] 

A typical day as a master’s student  

VK: What does a typical day as an Online Masters’ student look like for you?  

 DA:I had to learn to balance everyday work and family matters and dedicate time out of each day to the online master’s program. Being consistent and focused was key to managing the process.  

Any advice?  

VK:Any advice you have for students to better plan their studies.  

DA: Yes. Map out a study plan, identify the hours you will spend, develop a framework to stay ahead and once again, be consistent with the task. No procrastination.  

Develop a framework to stay ahead and no procrastination!

Alright friends, this was a sneak peek of a typical day in David’s life as a master’s student. I hope you find it insightful and informative and that it gives you an idea of what to expect when you enrol for our master’s programmes. Watch this space as we have many more interesting insights coming up! 

Celebrating Motherhood: Is it possible to be a working mom and be a master’s student at the same time? The answer will (hopefully) NOT surprise you!

Motherhood is unique for every woman. It’s full of joy, love, challenges, despair, anguish, fun, responsibility, selflessness, and sacrifice.  As it is rightfully said,  

A Mother is an epitome of love, strength, and sacrifice.

A mother makes many sacrifices while raising her family and children. The instinctive selflessness and dedication of a mother make her go to extraordinary lengths to care, protect, and provide for her children. Yet, while tending to the needs of her family, a mother commonly puts her career and further education on the back burner. According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn and Censuswide, nearly half of the working mothers consider a career pivot and prefer not returning to work after maternity leave in the US. And 63% of working mothers who opt to take a career break do so to spend more time with their children.    

Now, if being a career woman, juggling between the roles of a wife and a mother is hard already, then deciding to enhance your career with a master’s education will make life much more challenging. But does it mean a mother cannot pursue her dream of having a job and family together? Should she not be allowed to advance her career?  

The answer lies in what my mother always tells me:  

I can do anything; I am a mother!

That’s right. You can do anything! Being a mother does not mean that you have to sacrifice your career and education goals. On the contrary, achieving that perfect work-life-study balance is very much possible (check out our blog and a short video about work-life balance) and realise your long-awaited dream. All it requires is a mix of planning, dedication, and clear focus on your ultimate goal.  

Here are five tips that can help you better in the transition to a master’s students’ life:  

Find your motivation 

There could be several reasons for continuing education, such as updating your skills, gaining advanced qualifications, adding new knowledge or specialities, career pivot, financial enhancement, or the personal challenge of finally getting that university degree! First, find your motivation, as this motivation will keep you fueled and focused all through your journey of master’s for the next 1 to 2 years. Should you deviate, or lose focus, your motivation will always get you back on track and remind you of your ultimate goal.  

An RKC alumni, Meg Plooy, a mother, a wife, a friend and a (foster) mother of Pitbulls, found her motivation in two things: First, to be an inspiration for her young children and be able to show them that if you work hard, anything is possible. The second was to advance her career opportunities.  

Another master’s alumni, Manal Al-Khaled, shares her motivation, “In 2013, my daughters were only 4 and 5 years old when my husband lost his job due to political unrest in the region (Middle East). There was never a right time to do my Master’s degree. There were always other financial priorities, and with two little kids and a full-time job, time was a luxury I didn’t have much under my control. So I kept postponing it for all the reasons in the world. Then it hit me – it’s now no matter what”.  

Develop and maintain a support network  

One of our students, who is also a mother, suggests reducing personal commitment, waking up early, and staying up till late at night. While this arrangement may not always be possible for everyone, it is necessary to have a cushion, a support system to help you cope with any stressful situation you might face, or in case of emergencies. Do not hesitate to ask for help from your husband, siblings, parents, employer, or even neighbour!  

Don’t be shy and ask for help when needed

Make a plan and work on a schedule  

90% PLAN + 10% EXECUTION = 100% SUCCESS  

Before you even enrol for a master’s, the first focus should be on how you will manage work, home, and studies. Plan a schedule and follow it religiously.  Formulate a 30-60-90 plan according to the number of modules you register yourself for in a given quarter. A 30–60–90-day plan details the targets you plan to accomplish in the first 30, 60, and 90 days of your studies. Set concrete goals and a vision for your abilities at each stage of the plan, that will act as a guiding rope and will constantly move you towards the goal.

Planning your study space at home or work, away from distractions, is also essential. Again, self-organisation is critical to be able to plan efficiently and to be able to execute it successfully.  

Most of RKC’s working mothers planned their days and weeks to strike an optimum balance; they would usually be working during the day on weekdays and allocate study hours to night-time and weekends.  

Meg again: “A good routine and sticking to a schedule [are a must]. The best time to complete my studies was after the kids were in bed, which gave me anywhere from 2 to 2.5 hours each night. In addition, I used Monday through Thursday as “school nights”, which ensured I was still getting downtime over the weekends. This helped me to stay focused and manage time effectively”.  

Find a study buddy  

Trust that you are not alone in this situation. Getting back to being a student and coping with an online learning environment can be pretty daunting. Having a study buddy will help to relieve your stress and keep tabs on the OnlineCampus class discussions and assignments. For online education students, if you can look for a study partner in the same time zone, it will be more convenient for your interaction.  

Having a study partner can help relieve the study stress and help in class discussions and assignments

Believe in yourself!  

As one of our students suggests, have the confidence to believe in yourself and not procrastinate. Obtaining a master’s degree is a life-changing experience for most, and you must believe in yourself that you can achieve this goal.  

Naomi, an MA Leading Innovation and Change (now MBA LIC) graduate, gave herself this pep talk: “Yes, women face issues with their husbands, childcare, and the fact that society doesn’t expect too high an education from women. My friends think having a bachelor’s degree should be enough for me, especially because I own my own business. To the society around me: “what else are you looking for in life”? Also, challenges with workplace issues, especially when women are working for other employers. Lack of funds to sponsor oneself to school, tight work schedules, and traffic to get back home are all challenges. Eiiii!! Naomi, everything is possible. Don’t think of your tight schedule at your office, the needs of your staff, or the number of employees under you. Don’t even think your husband or your three children would be hindrances. Remember, Naomi, that with determination and hard work, you can make it”.  

I agree the journey may not be a walk in the park, but taking one step at a time will bring you closer to your ultimate goal – attaining the Masters’ qualification. So many working mothers have successfully achieved their educational goals, and so can you.  

Happy mother’s day to all of you out there, and if you have a story about being a working mother and a master’s student you would like to share, the floor is yours!

Step-by-step: how to write an effective abstract for academic papers

As a Master-level student you will be asked to write abstracts for your papers, or for your dissertation. Writing an abstract is not rocket science, but it is somewhat different from “regular” writing. I have summed up here advice from professors and librarians on how to write an effective abstract for academia. A step-by-step approach to writing abstracts is proposed, and this should enable you to write effective abstracts.

If you are still reading, my first paragraph is a good abstract. Yay!

Why are abstracts important?

In academic writing the use of “abstracts” is particularly important, for practical reasons. With the amount of reading one needs to do when studying/researching, being able to quickly tell what a given paper is about (before the paywall) gives abstracts a crucial value.

Writing is an integral part of our professional and personal lives. Every day we write texts, emails, letters, applications, comments on social media, blogs, etc. Professionally, we may be required to communicate via email, reports, blog posts and articles, or team chat (more so since the pandemic started).

There may be a few commonalities within each type of writing, but each writing type brings its own format, tone, formalities (formal or informal), and target audiences.

You are probably well versed with the personal and professional writing styles. Still, as a student, you will encounter an entirely different type of writing – academic writing. Academic writing is a more formal style of writing, used in universities and scholarly publications, typically involving literature reviews, case studies, and application of theory in “practice”. A subject for another blog post, so stay tuned.

For the typical master’s level student at Robert Kennedy College, academic writing is a new form of writing. From the module assignments to the dissertation at the end of the programme, the students are expected to excel in this writing style.

What are abstracts?

The abstract is typically a single 200 to 300 words paragraph, “selling” the rest of the paper/article they describe to the interested reader. The abstract is not, formally speaking, part of the paper it describes, which is why it normally appears before the table of contents and is not listed in it.

The abstract must provide information on why the paper should be read in the first place – so why the research is important. For assignments, where students are encouraged to practice abstract writing in view of the dissertation, the abstracts typically try to convince the markers that the brief was addressed in its entirety. If you can imagine Jack Nicholson, do it: “the brief, the whole brief, and nothing but the brief”.

The abstract must also provide information on what was done, and how. For a dissertation, the student will concisely describe the research methodology. For an assignment paper, the same (“I have critically reviewed literature on X, Y, and Z. I have then analysed a case study on A using B and C models/frameworks, etc.”).

The abstract must also give a glimpse into what was found. Not full details, but enough to entice an interested reader to click-through to the full article. For dissertations and assignments (where the reader does not have a choice, but must read the full paper anyway), you want to reassure them (they are typically marking your work) that you have not only addressed the brief, but also found some interesting things.

The final function of the abstract is to provide a take-home message. A concise and factual conclusion that the reader can use as justification for their reading the paper in full.

What abstracts are not

In our work with mature students like yourself, the most common confusions arise between abstracts and executive summaries, and between abstracts and introductions.

Abstracts are not executive summaries

Executive summaries are a business-environment construct, whose purpose is to give the reader (executives, hence the name) enough information to make an informed decision, without having to read the full report/paper. Unlike abstracts, executive summaries are much longer (one to two pages), are much more structured (with internal headings much like this post, allowing executives to orient themselves within the summary), and must provide clear action points/decisions to be made after the supporting arguments have been presented.

Abstracts are not introductions

Although there are similarities between the two constructs, abstracts are not introductions either.

An introduction goes deeper into the WHAT (what your topic is, or what you are addressing in the paper) and the WHY (why is this important? Background context) of your work.

It will also lay out your own stance or focus given the context and the topic, and provide a “map” to your paper, describing what each section of it discusses. The introduction is typically written in the future (“will discuss X in section 1, etc.”) whereas the abstract is typically written in the past tense, or present, but never future.

How to write an effective introduction – a topic for another blog post!

Conclusion

Now that we know what an abstract is, and what it is not, here are the five steps to writing a compelling abstract that I promised in the … abstract 😊

1. Define what your work is about: provide a precise statement of the problem

2. Give some background information: provide enough background information for your study or research that describes both the main topic and the problem.

3. What and how you did what you did: summarize the research method & designs you employed, stating the key techniques used.

4. Findings: describe your findings. This part attracts the most attention as the reader is intrigued to know about the results.

5. Conclusion: Provide a brief and precise conclusion. An overstated conclusion can mislead the readers, so do not overkill.

Not everyone is born with a flair for academic writing, but, like many things in life, this can be learnt and, with experience, can also be improved over time. All you require is some guidance and practice.

Our highly qualified, world-class faculty provide you with in-depth knowledge of the course while guiding you on how to best write your assignments and prepare for the dissertation. Talk to our education advisors and enrol today for the online master’s programme that is closest to your interests.

Are you stressed? Here are 5 ways how to cope with stress

I cannot stress enough (pun intended) that stress is part of everyone’s life, in one way or another: it is the proportion that differs.

We all are different and handle stress in different ways.

I recently moved from one province to another. Trust me, it was more stressful than moving countries as I did almost four years back.  I stopped to think, why? I was venturing out onto an unknown territory in both cases, I knew one or a few friends and family there, and it was a new challenge in my life. Then what was different, I wondered. Upon analysing the situation, I came to an interesting conclusion. There were a few things that were different in the first case: 1. I was more willing/open to change 2. I was mentally better prepared 3. I was young(er). (But does that matter? Check out our blog: Age is just a number) 4. I had greater acceptability for risks 5. The fear of the outcome was significantly less/or none at all. 

By definition, stress is a feeling of physical, psychological, or emotional tension. It can originate from stress-causing factors or stressors; that makes you feel nervous, angry, or frustrated. The feeling of stress that continues even after the stressor (the event or the thought) is gone becomes anxiety. The body, as a result, requires immediate attention. And like I said before, it’s one’s response to stress, and it is stress management that makes a big difference to their well-being. 

Types of stress

There are two types of stress: 

  1. Acute stress: acute stress refers to situational events relating to the present or near future. These can be small everyday situations like meeting a deadline, getting late to work or missing an appointment. Better time management can help you become more resilient towards acute stress. 
  2. Chronic stress: when you are exposed to high-pressure situations for prolonged intervals, it leads to chronic stress. This may lead to other symptoms of stress such as depression and anxiety. 

The stressors can be of three types:

  1. Routine stress such as work-related stress, studies, financial stress, etc.
  2. Unexpected stress like change in location, job 
  3. Traumatic stress that results from an accident, social, economic, or environmental disaster, etc.
Financial stress is a kind of routine stress

And I think that some stresses just fall under all the above three categories. For instance, Covid-19 that started as traumatic stress, has seeped into our lives as routine stress. 

We live in a very dynamic, ever-changing, highly competitive world with an information overload through various media including social-media. In the concrete jungle we live and work in, living in stress has become a new normal, and it’s down to ‘survival of the fittest. Because more than what stress you have, how you manage it is more important. Here are five ways how one can manage stress.

5 strategies to cope with stress

Time Management

Time management is key for successful and efficient life

I believe the key to a successful and efficient life is better time management. Most of our stresses that lead to more tensions can be warded off simply by managing your time more effectively. This is true in any part of our lives. If you are following our #DILO series – A day in the life of an RKC Student, you have noticed that all the RKC students and alumni trust that better time management is essential for work-life balance and successful completion of the master’s programme. Also, check out our blog on time management.

Yoga & Exercise

Set a routine that allows some exercise, a physical activity, going outdoors, or follow a sport. There are several forms of yoga such as hot yoga, power yoga, Iyengar yoga, Bikram yoga, and many more. Exercise and/or yoga relieve your mind and body from mental and muscular stress. It balances hormones and reduces stress. 

Meditate

Quiet your mind from unnecessary thoughts

As I mentioned before, stress is caused by an event or thought – the stressor. It is, therefore, necessary to quiet your mind and free it from unnecessary thoughts. Meditation has proven to be an effective tool in managing stress and leading a stress-free life. 

Eat healthily

Prepare a meal plan and avoid processed foods

Eating healthy should be a lifestyle you choose to live. In today’s world, everyone is rushed and mindlessly following the rat race from morning till night, meeting deadlines, jobs, handling personal responsibilities, relationships. There is no time to eat, let alone eat a healthy meal. Just a quick grab fast food has become a lifestyle for many. Eating a healthy balanced diet helps to develop a strong immune system that helps in dealing with stress. Prepare a meal plan for the week and buy the ingredients. While healthy eating planning can be daunting, it can be easily managed by prepping for a week or few days in advance. Prepare home cooked meals with fresh vegetables and fruits and avoid the processed foods. You may also want to cut down on sugar and artificially flavoured drinks and watch out fo the portion sizes.

Talk and share

Vent off some steam every now and then

If you feel stress symptoms, don’t be wary about sharing your feelings with friends, family, or colleagues. Often we realise that we are not the only ones dealing with stress, Vent off some steam now and then and that helps too.

While it may seem like stress management can be stressful, the above five ways prove to be simple yet effective means to cope with stress. It is essential to take care of your well-being. 

Stressed about which masters programme you should pursue, how online education works, or what the application process is? Don’t worry, we got you. Talk to our advisors today on WhatsApp to get answers to these questions.

Is your company competitive? Here are 4 strategies to make it one! 

“No competition, no progress”

Bela Karolyi 

I could not agree more with the world-renowned Hungarian-born Romanian American gymnastics coach, who transformed gymnastics coaching in the US and was responsible for bringing home numerous international laurels. His words are not only applicable in sports but are equally fitting in the business world as well.  

Businesses do not operate in isolation. Gone are the days of monopoly where companies could dominate a market or industry. Today, in the fast-moving-digital-world, every business, big or small, faces stiff competition to hold a fair share of the market.  

Carefully analyze company’s competitive environment when formulating a business plan

When formulating a business plan, it is essential to analyse the company’s competitive environment. The competitive environment is the intricate external system in which the business operates and comprises of several factors or elements that affect and shape the industry. These elements include, and are not limited to:  

1. Competitors – Direct and Indirect  

2. Government regulations and laws  

3. Suppliers  

4.  Substitutes  

5. Technological trends  

6. Demographic Composition  

7. Network of Distribution  

8. Corporate culture  

Industrialists, innovators, and entrepreneurs need to think critically about these factors that affect the company’s profitability and success. (Also, check out our blog on 7 ways to improve critical thinking). It is imperative to understand the competition landscape and scope. This is necessary to prepare the kind of resources, investment, and technology required to build a sustainable and profitable business. In the good ol’ days, companies could thrive with little or no competition. In comparison, companies now must adopt new and innovative means to compete with other firms in the business environment and to have a competitive advantage over them. Strategic forecasting, planning, and implementation can lead to success in competition. Various strategies can help businesses build undefeatable and sustainable products and services.  

Caption – PESTEL model (reference)

Here are 4 strategies that can help build competitive advantages for your business:  

1. Cost Leadership  

Businesses run for profit. By definition, profit is a financial gain realised due to the difference between the amount earned and the amount spent on buying, operating, or producing a product or a service. It is one of the oldest tricks in the (business) book to be a cost-leader. When a business decides to pursue the cost-leadership strategy, it vows to provide the goods or services at a competitively lower price than any of its rivals can ever offer.

Such firms operate on the lowest cost structure, have reasonable control over the entire supply chain, suppliers, and raw materials, and have tight controls on the whole value chain activities. Walmart, IKEA, McDonald’s, Primark, and RyanAir are a few examples of firms that attribute their business success to a cost-leadership strategy.  

2.  Differentiation  

“You can’t look at the competition and say you’re going to do it better. You have to look at the competition and say you’re going to do it  differently”.

Steve Jobs  
Why HERMES?

Offering a low-cost product is not always an option in a competitive environment. Different consumers have different demands. Companies, by providing high-end quality products, also influence many customers’ buying decisions, who would otherwise choose the cheaper alternative. Even though companies always intend to keep their costs low, they are willing to spend on research and development costs, marketing, customer service, or innovation to develop a niche product or service, for which consumers are willing to pay a premium price. Apple, Starbucks, Tesla, Tiffany & Co., Emirates, and Hermes are examples of companies whose thoughtful approach to differentiation and compelling storytelling strategy makes millions of consumers spend premium prices for their products and services.  

3. Focus  

This strategy is quite different from the above two strategies. Business here focuses its primary strategy, i.e., operating at a lower cost or adding value but on a limited market, much narrower in scope than the broader cost leader or differentiator. The company intends to make concentrated efforts based on either a particular buyer group, geographic uniqueness, a unique product line, or a special attribute appealing to a niche customer class to cater to the specific demand of a limited number of customers. Gucci, Rolls Royce, Diet Coke, NetJets, and DC Design are a few examples of companies that have successfully adopted the focus strategy.  

4. Strategic group  

“Anytime you find someone more successful than you, especially when you’re both in the same business, you know they are doing something that you aren’t”. 

Malcom X  
The Cosmetics Industry has close knit competition and companies follow similar strategies to build competitive advantage

Groups of businesses of comparable size and range that operate in the same industry and follow the same strategies to build competitive advantages are termed strategic groups. The competition is so closely knit in such environments that even a small movement by the competitor affects the others’ market position. It helps build a strategic group map to identify businesses’ closest competitors and evaluate how your company is positioned in the industry. Common examples of strategic groups are the restaurants, retailers, cosmetic brands, and the aviation industry.  

These are four strategies, more commonly known as Michael Porter’s ‘generic’ business-level strategies as these can be applied to any business, by any firm in any industry.  

Which strategy do you think is the most powerful in building a competitive business advantage in your own context? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.  

Top 5 differences between an MBA and an Executive MBA. Which one is better for you?

Pursuing the master’s degree is a big decision in many people’s lives. Choosing which programme will be most beneficial for one’s career development can be nerve wrecking too. Because there are choices – too many choices! For example, one might decide to go for an MBA programme, however, there is a choice to pursue an Executive MBA (EMBA) too! As an aspiring student, which one should you choose? Let us explore the differences, pros and cons of both so that you can make an informed decision. 

1. Admission criteria 

One of the foremost differences between an MBA and the EMBA programme is the admission criteria. For most of the MBA programmes minimum experience required varies between 1-3 years. Sometimes, even fresh under-graduates can also apply for MBA programmes given a good academic record.  

On the other hand, an EMBA typically requires candidates to have on average 3 to 6 years’ work experience with at least 2 to 5 years of managerial work experience. Our current MBA students and alumni for example, possess on average 5 to 10 years of work experience, holding leadership and management titles in companies such as risk and quality managers, heads of sales, senior corporate trainers, marketing directors, lawyers, consultants, politicians and diplomats, company presidents and CMOs. 

2. Pace of study 

The MBA programmes are typically pursued on full-time or on-campus basis, and have very demanding schedules. They have more traditional and rigid course structures. An EMBA on the other hand, offers a more flexible study schedule, and are typically delivered in blocks (weekends, once a month, etc.) or online. The majority of the EMBA students are working professionals with busy work schedules. Thus, to optimize their time, EMBAs offer lecture sessions at rarer, but more intense intervals than their MBA counterparts. When done online, these really put flexibility at the forefront. 
 

3. Intensity of the programme 

While both programmes focus on the same core modules, the degree of intensiveness in both varies. For the EMBAs, I will use an analogy of a multi-vitamin supplement – a power packed mix of various vitamins all together in one. Similary, EMBAs are intensive, and one should be ready to absorb a lot of knowledge in a short period of time.  

A regular MBA programme however, spreads the modules over a period of time. The course material is widely distributed and thus is comparatively less intensive than EMBAs. 

Group of students at the Residency in Zurich (At the moment we are conducting Online Residency in light of Covid-19 restrictions).

4. Curriculum and focus 

In an MBA programme, since it accepts candidates with fewer years of experience, the focus is on teaching and developing management knowledge from the basics. It has a broader choice available in terms of the electives that a student can choose from. An EMBA programme, however, has a higher bar set in terms of experience from its candidates. While some of the core modules are same as an MBA programme, an EMBA programme has a more focused approach.  
 

Celebrating our Graduates – University of Cumbria

5. Financial implications 

An EMBA wins over an MBA programme any day when we talk about financial implications of both. Firstly, an EMBA candidate can continue their day jobs and get paid to support their education. MBA programmes with full-time study schedules make it more difficult for students to continue with their jobs. Secondly, since a large portion (or in our case, all of the programme) is studied online, one saves a huge amount of money in travel and living expenses. Thus, the return on investment on an EMBA is typically much higher than a regular MBA programme.  

Money matters..

There is of course the issue of programme cost – these vary wildly though, and you can find really expensive programmes in both EMBA and MBA settings. 

I hope the above provides a few points to help you make the distinction between an MBA and an EMBA programme. 

Robert Kennedy College offers online MBA programmes – which are much closer to EMBAs than they are to MBAs because of their flexibility and incredible value for money. We do that in exclusive partnerships with the University of Cumbria and York St John University. Check out the list of various MBA progammes that we offer and choose the one that best suits your interests and career.