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? 

The new age leader – a coach and a mentor

We live in a world of flux – a world where change is the only thing constant.  

I remember when I was a kid, my father would tell me about his job and the management style at his office. He worked in a semi-government organization where hierarchy and command-and-control leadership dominated. A more technically qualified and experienced leader would lead a team or a department and evaluate each team members’ performance against a pre-set benchmark. Little or no importance was laid on developing the skill-sets of employees or encouraging innovation.  

Fast forward 20 years, the leadership styles shifted dramatically. The existing (ancient, in my opinion…) management styles were not sustainable and organizations begged for a radical transformation; transformations that would inculcate new energy, ideas, motivation, commitment, and innovation. 

Leaders are expected to step up and assume the role of a coach and a mentor

Types of coaching styles 

Coaches come from a variety of backgrounds. Having a consultant coach from outside the organization could be helpful for developing specific skills or as a one-off motivational camp. A modern learning organization would invest in a coaching style appropriate to the needs of the company. Keeping in view the long-term goals, the leaders within the company are expected to step up and fulfil the need of the hour – the need to assume the role of a coach and a mentor.  

The leader may adopt one of the many leadership styles, with some of the most popular being: 

  1. Democratic: This style as the name suggests, encourages the general principles of democracy and takes into consideration the opinions, ideas, and interests of the people involved.  
  1. Laissez-Faire: This style is the minimum leadership style when the team members operate at their maximum efficiency and vigor and do not require any supervision or direction.  This is generally seen as inefficient, and depends largely on the ability of the teams to self-manage and self-regulate. Not recommended.
  1. Directive: Quite contrary to the Laissez-Faire coaching style, directive leadership requires the leader to ‘tell’ people what is expected of them, assign necessary resources for successful completion of their job, and convey the expected results as well.  
  1. Holistic: No organization today operates in isolation. Businesses are global and companies all over the world are taking wholesome decisions for the greater good. This leadership style recognizes the connection between leader, follower, and organisation, and focuses on a people-in-environment and developmental approach. 

Mentor or a Coach 

People usually use the term coaching and mentorship interchangeably. This is not correct. Mentoring is offering advice based on knowledge, expertise, and experience. Coaching, on the other hand, is inquiry-based. A little push with insightful questioning can spark a person to see themselves and the world differently and solve their own challenges. 

Mentoring is more formal and structured, where a mentor helps his mentee gain a broader and deeper perspective and understanding of the business (and life). A mentor, based on his own experiences, guides and channels mentees by illuminating the right path for them. It is, therefore, more directive in nature and could be related to a directive leadership style. Mentors offer exposure and connections to other functions and levels of the organization.

A coach supports, challenges, and encourages. A coach approach for leaders, on the other hand, uses very different techniques for developing people. The role involves asking and listening rather than knowing and telling. The coach empowers the employees, by making them fully capable of finding their own answers to their problems. Employees have more self-awareness and experience an increased performance.  

Now, this is easier said than done. While leaders may recognize the need to embrace the idea of coaching and mentoring their employees and subordinates, the flair does not come naturally to every leader. However, using right set of tools and resources, anyone can become a seasoned coach. 

Using right set of tools and resources, anyone can become a seasoned coach. 

Our MBA in Coaching, Mentoring, & Leadership programme creates opportunities for you to develop through practice a range of coaching and mentoring skills and techniques and enables the development of a critical understanding of issues related to the design and implementation of coaching and mentoring schemes. The programme is delivered in such a way that you are encouraged to utilise your professional and work-based context as a resource in which to practice and develop your skills in coaching and mentoring. Feel like you could benefit from this? You are not alone! Apply now to join our more than 150 students currently taking the programme!

#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.  

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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).  
  

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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.  

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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. 

Attribution, to avoid retribution: referencing and citations for academic writing

In my previous blog, I wrote a step-by-step guide on how to write an effective abstract for academic papers. Continuing further in the same direction, this week I would like to discuss referencing and citations. As I mentioned earlier, writing an abstract is not rocket science, and neither are referencing and citating.  

Now, referencing is an important academic practice. But it becomes even more important when you are studying at University level. It is thus imperative to understand the correct way to reference and cite your sources in your master’s degree assignments, academic papers, or dissertation. This blog is your one-stop shop about what, how and where, style guides, and examples of referencing and citations.  

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Let’s begin! 

So, first things first, what is the difference between referencing and citations? 

While undertaking your masters’ studies, you will constantly hear from your professors to reference your work and cite the sources of your research and ideas.  

Referencing 

As the name suggests, referencing refers to the source of work that you used in your paper. The readers should be able to find and read for themselves the original source of information that one has read or considered in their academic piece.  

Citations 

Citations, on the other hand, are brief mentions of the author or the external source used in writing the paper. A citation is, in other words, an abbreviated reference. While both inform the reader of the sources of information used, there is a fine difference between a reference and a citation.  Here are some key differences between references and citations: 

Scope  

A reference is a complete record of the source that has been sought or cited in the paper.  

A citation is disclosing the source within the main body and thus is also referred to as an ‘in-text’ citation. It provides just basic information such as the authors’ names, year of publication, and perhaps the page number if a sizeable quote is provided.  

Placement  

References are listed at the end of the document, on a page having its own title (“List of references”, “References”, “Works cited”). 

Citations are presented within the body of the document where we speak of the ideas or results of the source we are citing..  

Format  

References provide the reader with information such as the authors’ names, the publication date, the title (of the book or article), page numbers, publisher and place of publishing, etc. 

A citation provides less information, such as the last names of the authors and the publication year, such that it does not disrupt the reading flow. 

Both references and citations give credit to the authors whose ideas have been discussed in your work, in addition to supporting or criticizing an argument. This is additionally critical to avoid plagiarism in academic writing (topic for another blog!). 

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Different styles of referencing and citating 

Different academic disciplines prefer specific referencing styles. In business programmes (such as the MBAs, MSc’s), you will often be asked to use Harvard or APA styles, whereas in Law programmes (LLM, LLB) you will most often be asked to use Oxford or OSCOLA. You should always check the programme handbooks and assignment briefs, and in doubt, with your instructor what referencing style they expect for the assignment or academic paper you are writing.   

The references should be regrouped on a new page at the end of the paper. This list gives the complete information to identify and locate all sources used in the paper. There should be a corresponding entry in the list of references for all in-text citations that were used. References typically follow an alphabetical order of authors’ last names but under certain styles the order of appearance will rather be used. 

Among the different styles used by different disciplines, here are the 6 most frequently used styles in writing academic papers, each with a very specific purpose they fulfil: 

  1. APA (6th or 7th Edition) 
  1. Harvard 
  1. Oxford (OSCOLA) 
  1. Chicago 
  1. Vancouver  
  1. MHRA  

The style guides specify the kind of information and how it should be displayed for different types of sources (books, articles, websites, images, ebooks, etc.) – ensuring consistency across not only your work, but across the entire field of study that uses that style. 

At first look, these may all seem complicated, and daunting, but there are tools that can help you manage your sources, references, and citations. 

Graphical user interface, application, Word

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For example, Word has a tool called “Citations & Bibliography” which allows you to enter your sources in a database (“Manage Sources”), to insert in-text citations that are automatically updated if needed (“Insert citation”), and to generate your list of references (“Bibliography”) according to the specific style you need (“Style”). 

External tools also exist, such as Zotero, Mendeley, EndNote, or CiteThemRight – which have pretty much the same functionalities – managing your references with one of these tools will save you a gigantic among of time and effort, so by all means, pick the one that works best for you and run with it. 

Examples 

I promised you some examples, so here goes: 

Harvard / APA styles 

In-text citation 

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2019), or Saunders et al. (2019), when the author’s names are part of the sentence, or (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2019) or (Saunders et al., 2019) when they are not. 

Reference list entry 

Saunders, M. N. K., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2019) Research methods for business students. Eighth Edition. New York: Pearson. 

Oxford style (OSCOLA) 

In-text citation 

OSCOLA uses numeric references, with the full reference given in a correspondingly numbered footnote. So, in your text, you would simply put a superscript number by inserting a footnote1 and then the footnote would contain the reference as: 

Mark NK Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students (Eighth Edition, Pearson 2019). 

Reference list entry 

Saunders MNK, Lewis P and Thornhill A, Research Methods for Business Students (Eighth Edition, Pearson 2019) 

Note the difference between the footnote reference and reference list entry – in the footnote, you give the author names in “firstname, lastname” format, whereas in the reference list you give it in “lastname, f.” format. 

If this looks complicated, it is! 😊 Which is why I reiterate my advice to use a reference management tool – whichever one works for you. 

Hope this prepares you well for writing your academic paper or 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 for referencing and citations.  

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!

Women in RKC – Jelly Offereins – One who found a perfect Master’s programme that seemed “too good to be true”

Allow me to introduce you to an RKC graduate of our MA Leading Innovation and Change programme, now working as the Director of International Affairs for a Business school in the Netherlands.  

Who is Jelly Offereins? A short profile: 

Vidhi Kapoor (VK): Who are you, really? 

Jelly Offereins (JO): I am an energetic, task-driven, positive personality with a passion for international interactions and collaboration. I studied, lived and work(ed) across borders and as the Director of International Affairs for a Business School in the Netherlands. I support students, staff and faculty in increasing their international exposure and competence.  

Husband Paul, dog Flynn and I live in an empty nest, which is luckily not really empty as the girls (21, 23) find their way ‘home’ well. 

Jelly Offereins

Getting back into education 

Your story of getting back to do a Master’s degree 

VK: What was the driving force behind your enrolling for an online degree? Who inspired you? What motivated you? 

JO: After having decided that I wanted to do an international master’s, with a broad focus, I specifically looked for a master (mainly) that was delivered online, for several reasons. As I travel for work quite regularly, I was afraid to miss class – and consequently dedication – required in a traditional master. Also, because being away from home regularly, I would not have liked to leave home on Friday evenings and Saturdays for school; remote learning gave me more flexibility in combining private life and studies /work. Last but not least: I was somewhat skeptical about an online master’s; could it be as good as a traditional one with regard to interaction, peer-learning, broad and deep investigation and reflection? 

VK: What were the thoughts/situations/people/challenges holding you back from starting (if any)? How did you overcome them? 

JO: For quite a while, I kept on postponing doing a master’s since work was demanding all my time and attention and I felt it would not fit in my professional and private schedule. The online master’s enabled me to plan/block bigger chunks of time (rather than scattered moments) that I could dedicate to the master’s, which worked better for me.  

VK: What surprised you the most when you started your studies? 

JO:  That I loved it right from the start!  

I loved that I could watch the videos and rewind them endlessly when I did not fully understand; 

I loved the diversity in the classroom;  

I loved that the group operated like a traditional class: there were people with lots of opinions and a strong voice, and people who brought in great sources and very well considered views, there where people like me – listening/reading carefully and posting moderately-, teachers mirrored, posed critical questions, etc. 

VK: Do you feel there are unique challenges women face when deciding to get back into education? 

JO: Yes, and that these challenges may vary in different parts of the world and in different (sub-)cultures, financial issues, access to (earlier) education, jobs and career path, self-confidence 

Getting the degree 

The work to get the degree – what did you learn, how did you balance, what would you do differently 

VK: Which programme did you do? Why? 

JO: MA Leading Innovation & Change 

My earlier degrees focused on resp. Hotel Management and International Marketing; I decided I wanted to do something broader and more strategic 

VK: What is the single most important thing you learned during the programme? 

JO: Self-confidence, self-knowledge, critical reflection 

I had never written academic papers in English, I had never interacted online-only, most of the content was new to me, and I discovered that I liked it and that I was good at it. 

VK: How did you balance work and studies? 

JO: What helped the most is that I really liked the programme and the way it was delivered (the videos, the sources) – asynchronously. 

I work full time, and was lucky to have 0.1 FTE from my employer to work on the master’s. My kids were happy and healthy teenagers.  

For the videos I blocked 2-3 hours. Every 4-5 weeks, I tried to take the Friday or Monday off. I used weekends and holidays and I told my family that I’d rather work on the master’s than watch TV or read a book (and they let me). 

VK: Any particular challenges to being a woman and studying online, or do you think all students face the same ones? 
JO: It works better if you are in the position that you can work on your study for some hours (or even a day, or even 2) more or less continuously. If other tasks at home/in the family also require attention throughout the day, the study work may be jeopardized.  

 Life post degree 

What changed, if anything? 

VK: What’s new in your life since graduating / starting your studies? Any visible impact already? 

JoI have more self-confidence and I feel proud 

The most important thing that Jelly learnt during the Master’s are – Self-confidence, self-knowledge, critical reflection

VK: Anything you are doing differently now because of the things you learned? 

JO: I am better in critical reading, critical questioning, reflecting 

VK: Do you feel that getting a Master’s degree or doing other online programmes can reduce gender discrimination in the workplace? 

JO: I would say getting a master’s may have a positive effect on the career chances for a woman; an online master’s programme maybe easier to fit in than a traditional master’s, however depending on the home situation and support. 

Advice for other women 

Or other students, really. 

VK: Imagine you could send a message back in time to your pre-degree self: what would it be? 

JO: Dear Jelly, I know that you want to have your master’s degree and I also know that you spend a lot of time on your demanding full-time job and that you also want to be a good and nice mother and that you do not want to spend evenings and Fridays/Saturdays away from home to go to school. I think I found the perfect the master programme for you: it is International, it is a UK degree, its is about Leading Innovation and Change and ….it is online, with one week in York, and it is not expensive! It is almost too good to be true. I have been looking for ‘the adder under the grass’ but cannot find it. Have a look at this link https://rkc.swiss/catalogue Kind regards, Jelly MA 

VK: Imagine you could send an object back in time to your pre-degree self: what would it be? 

JO: pair of headphones 

Closing thoughts 

VK: Anything else you would like to add that could help with the goal of increasing women’s participation/access to a Master’s degree? 

JO: Member gets member programme*; 

Mentors and mentees;  

Increase awareness of online: combine job with study, combine home-task with study 

[*Editor’s note: RKC does in fact have a referral programme in place, allowing current students to refer friends and relatives. Talk to our advisor to know about the benefits and discount offers of the referral programme].

I hope this blog brings much inspiration and encouragement to all our readers and motivate you to start the masters that you have always dreamt of.

Women in RKC – Manal Al-Khaled – MA Leading Innovation and Change graduate

This week in our Women Day series, we have another special lady with us with her unique story through her Masters with Robert Kennedy College.  

Manal Al-Khaled is a graduate of the MA in Leading Innovation and Change (MALIC) programme, York St John University, UK. This programme was revamped and is now offered 100% online as MBA programme in Leading Innovation and Change.  

Manal Al-Khaled

Who is …

A short profile: 

Vidhi Kapoor (VK): Who are you, really? 

Manal Al-Khaled (MA): A mother, wife, daughter, a traveller, a reader and above all a woman !  

I grew up in a multicultural and multi-religious family; an Arab father and a Russian mother is a combination that gave me a wider cultural exposure at an early age. Growing up in the Middle East has enriched my knowledge of how great my desire was to not only be successful but “a successful woman”. I didn’t have much choice but to be educated and successful. I studied in Switzerland to obtain a Higher Swiss Diploma and a BA from the United Kingdom.  

With experience in the hospitality field, training and education, and international development in different parts of the world from Cyprus, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Jordan and Bahrain, it wasn’t long before I realized I needed to do further self-development. I decided to do a Masters degree which I successfully completed at York St John University, MA in Leading Innovation and Change.  

I currently live and work in Canada, where I work as a project manager in a non-profit organization in the Toronto area.  

Getting back into education 

Your story of getting back to do a Master’s degree 

VK: What was the driving force behind your enrolling for an online degree? Who inspired you? What motivated you?

MA: 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 other financial priorities always and with 2 little kids and a full-time job, time was a luxury, that I didn’t have much of it or under my control. I kept postponing it for all the reasons in the world. Then it hit me, it’s now, no matter what. My father was my supporter all the way who believes education is the best time and money investment. No matter what life brings, with the proper education, not only people but nations rise. That was my turning point, I started my first module in January 2014.  

Today, I truly believe it was the best time investment I have made in a very long time. It was a rocky road indeed with some bumps. But in addition to family support, the instructors within the program were not only great academics but wonderful people that offered support where they could.  

VK: What were the thoughts/situations/people/challenges holding you back from starting (if any)? How did you overcome them? 

MA: There were many challenges, in my decision, and during the program. It was the time when my husband lost his job, so certainly, financially it was way far down the list as a priority. With two tiny kids, having sleepless nights and being needed as a mom at all times was also a struggle. Being a full-time employee working 9:00 am-5:00 pm added to this struggle. 

I learned to spend quality time with my children, and my evenings that went into reading a book or watching my favourite shows and movies, switched to reading the module related material, participating in class discussions and working on my assignments.  

I thought waking up every day at 6:00 am was early enough, but I have developed a habit of waking up at 4:00 am to catch up on my work and it eventually became the most productive time of my day.  

I believe the less options we have, the more determined we are to succeed. I didn’t allow myself to think of failure, I kept thinking of ways to succeed. We sometimes forget down the road the main reason why we did things. We don’t just join a Master’s degree programme for nothing. There’s always a reason. We just need to remind ourselves why we wanted it.  

VK: What surprised you the most when you started your studies? 

MA: A couple of things truly fascinated me when I first started. First, the high level of program delivery that is actually possible online; the whole concept was very new to me then. Access to libraries, articles, books and journals was amazing. Also, contacting classmates for any module helped share ideas and thoughts. Wonderful platform to have access to.  

The academic profiles of the instructors were jaw-dropping. Successful people with good knowledge of various industries made theory and practical gap way smaller than many might assume.  

 VK: Do you feel there are unique challenges women face when deciding to get back into education? 

Absolutely. No matter where you come from, women are still fighting to get equal rights in hiring, in wages and many others. Women, in many parts of the world, are still struggling in balancing between what they want to achieve and what is expected from them by society. Going back into education is challenging after starting a career path or starting a family and/or having kids. After living in many parts of the world, I came to realize that women are challenged everywhere not only in certain parts of the world. In the most progressed countries, women are still fighting for equality on different levels.  

Put all that together, going back to education is not always an easy path to choose, but in my opinion, it is certainly the right path.   

Manal works as a
project manager in a
non-profit organization in the Toronto area.

Getting the degree 

The work to get the degree – what did you learn, how did you balance, what would you do differently 

VK: Which programme did you do? Why? 

MA: I did MA in Leading Innovation and Change. I could not resist the program’s title and description. Being a woman who thrived to lead, to find new ways and to change, that was a dream come true. We all need change, we all ask for change, and yet, many are scared of change. The program gave me answers professionally and personally.  

VK: What is the single most important thing you learned during the programme? 

MA: The more you learn, the more you realize you want to learn more!  

VK: How did you balance work and studies? 

MA: In fact, it was work, studies, and family balance. Only through time management. I wish there was a magical method, but there isn’t. Time management and being efficient in using that time. As silly as it sounds, we get dragged sometimes in doing things for a long time that aren’t necessarily productive. I am old fashioned until today with my tasks, I always have a notebook with my tasks to complete for the day and they need to be ticked by the end of the day.  

VK: Any particular challenges to being a woman and studying online, or do you think all students face the same ones? 

MA: I believe that studying online has similar challenges for everyone but being a woman sometimes may add to those challenges with extra challenges to face in daily life.  

Life post degree 

What changed, if anything? 

VK: What’s new in your life since graduating / starting your studies? Any visible impact already? 

MA: Absolutely! Having a master’s degree has placed me on a more senior and managerial level in my career path.  

VK: Anything you are doing differently now because of the things you learned? 

MA: This question is being answered during the COVID-19 shutdowns worldwide and organizations shifting to working from home. I had to be part of a major organizational change from delivering service to clients face to face without having the option of working from home, to an organization that shifted all services delivered to clients to online and everyone is working from home. Being part of the management team and leading my team through that change successfully and smoothly was mainly about my knowledge gained in the program on how to lead and implement change in an organization and its impact on both the organization and individuals.  

VK: Do you feel that getting a Master’s degree or doing other online programmes can reduce gender discrimination in the workplace? 

MA: Yes. Professional development is essential in any career growth. Doing it online at your own time and pace allows a wider range of individuals to be part of this development. This will allow more females to enrol in various programs to develop their skills and advance in their careers and they will compete professionally with other colleagues based on their knowledge rather than gender.  

Advice for other women 

Or other students, really. 

VK: Imagine you could send a message back in time to your pre-degree self: what would it be? 

MA: Use time efficiently, do not get distracted. Focus on what you want and make it happen. Always remember, success feels good and make this your motivation 

VK: Imagine you could send an object back in time to your pre-degree self: what would it be? 

MA: A good lumbar support office chair. 

Closing thoughts 

VK: Anything else you would like to add that could help with the goal of increasing women’s participation/access to a Master’s degree? 

MA: Women in history have succeeded in everything from raising families to leading armies. There’s still a large gender gap in women’s roles in decision making and leadership. Women sometimes need to work harder to reach those positions. Education is a great tool for success. Follow your dreams and make them happen.  

How about that! A good lumbar support office chair – that sure is one original suggestion, Manal! Manal’s advice to buckle up and be prepared for the challenges of the Master’s programme should be taken to heart.  

Do you see yourself going through this wonderful journey? Share your thoughts with us, what motivated you or what stops you from enrolling in your dream Masters programme in the comments below. 

Women in RKC – Marie-Theres Moser, MA Leading Innovation and Change, York St John University, UK

Continuing with our blog series featuring our female students, we asked our students to share their experiences with us – the challenges of getting back to school, of managing work and study along with family, and the unique challenges they faced being female students.

Ms. Marie-Theres Moser

Ms. Marie-Theres Moser is a graduate of our MA programme in Leading Innovation and Change (MALIC) through our exclusive partnership with York St John University, UK. This programme has been discontinued and has been reincarnated as a 100% online MBA programme in Leading Innovation and Change

Now, let us see what she has to say!

Who is … 

A short profile

Sahil Devasia (SD): Who are you, really?

Marie-Theres Moser (MTM): I was always interested in acquiring versatile knowledge. I never get bored. I enjoy dealing with many areas of business, socio-cultural issues and looking for ways to improve and apply them in my life. Personal development, education and the interest in current topics are part of my daily life. Therefore, I am always very happy to meet people with a history, a different cultural background and way of thinking. People and the way they shape their lives inspire me. This attitude is reflected in my private life, where I love to travel, share my time with friends, but also professionally when I meet clients. I enjoy this and it gives me meaning.

Getting back into education

Your story of getting back to do a Master’s degree

SD: What was the driving force behind your enrolling for an online degree? Who inspired you? What motivated you?

MTM: The Master’s degree was important for me to be able to meet all the demands of my new job. I had the feeling that I was still missing something, that I still wanted to learn something in order to be up to my job. Then it was clear that I would start looking for a suitable course of studies. It was important for me to be able to study regardless of location, to remain flexible and to be able to manage my full-time job in parallel.

SD: What were the thoughts/situations/people/challenges holding you back from starting (if any)? How did you overcome them?

MTM: During my Master’s I had a very time-consuming job, I travelled several days a week and therefore had to give up a lot of free time. To do a Master’s degree in addition to this was actually near-utopian. In conversations with my friends and family, however, I realized that I had enough ambition and stamina, and that my curiosity was taking me further and further. Therefore, I had confidence in myself and could overcome the fear of not making it.

SD: What surprised you the most when you started your studies?

MTM: It was amazing how well people from all over the world can learn, educate and support each other. Each in his own rhythm, each with his strengths and weaknesses.

SD: Do you feel there are unique challenges women face when deciding to get back into education?

MTM: Basically, I always had the feeling that I had to assert myself even more strongly than a male colleague. If a woman continues to educate herself and gets everything sorted out parallel to her job and family, then that deserves recognition. I think that is something very special.

Ms. Marie-Theres Moser

Getting the degree

The work to get the degree – what did you learn, how did you balance, what would you do differently

SD: Which programme did you do? Why?

MTM: I was enrolled in the MA Leading Innovation and Change, because I am interested in the connection between leadership, organizational culture and the impact on the innovative strength of companies. In my opinion, changing strategic orientations, reacting quickly in a changing economy is only possible if a company is not too rigidly positioned.

SD: What is the single most important thing you learned during the programme?

MTM: It is incredibly important to have fun with everything you do and spend your precious time on, then you can accomplish anything.

SD: How did you balance work and studies?

MTM: That was very difficult because I was very challenged professionally. You should not see studying as a burden, but as an enrichment. It is part of your free time, it creates parallels between your job and your studies – the one should benefit from the other.

SD: Any particular challenges to being a woman and studying online, or do you think all students face the same ones?

MTM: It gives you a high degree of flexibility and self-organisation which may be more important for women with family and children.

Life post degree

What changed, if anything?

SD: What’s new in your life since graduating / starting your studies? Any visible impact already?

MTM: I have the feeling of working more systematically, questioning circumstances and finding solutions.

SD: Anything you are doing differently now because of the things you learned?

MTM: My self-organisation and the prioritisation of tasks works much better since then.

SD: Do you feel that getting a Master’s degree or doing other online programmes can reduce gender discrimination in the work place?

MTM: In any case, it gives women the opportunity to educate themselves, to organize themselves without being bound by time and place. This is certainly important for women who work full-time, have a family and want to continue their education. I think most men do not have this double burden.

Advice for other women

Or other students, really.

SD: Imagine you could send a message back in time to your pre-degree self: what would it be?

MTM: Have more self-confidence, enjoy the time and don’t be so strict with yourself!

SD: Imagine you could send an object back in time to your pre-degree self: what would it be?

MTM: I recently bought a new coffee machine, this would have been good for the time during the Master. When I think of all those evenings, when I looked at my books tired and sometimes frustrated…

Closing thoughts

SD: Anything else you would like to add that could help with the goal of increasing women’s participation/access to a Master’s degree?

MTM: I enjoyed the Master very much and the possibility to organize everything online took away additional stress. It is a great way to gain additional knowledge and build a good network. Anyone can do it who wants to!


If you have been thinking about getting your master’s degree, proving to yourself and others that you CAN do it, now would be a good time to take the plunge. Have a look at our list of programmes and see if we have anything that could help.

You can also chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on the programmes offered, application process, and for more information on any discounts we might be running in this rather strange period of our lives.

The difference between a College and a University – is there even one?

Before we get into the rest of the article and try to go past the surface differences between a college and a university, let me talk about the difference as it relates to us (Robert Kennedy College) and our partner universities (University of Cumbria, University of Salford, and York St John University). 

The relationship between Robert Kennedy College and our partner universities

As a college, Robert Kennedy College (RKC), like our university partners, is a higher education institution offering a number of master’s degree programmes. However, we are not the ones who award the degree to a student who successfully completes a programme with us. The degrees are awarded by our university partners, who are recognised and accredited by the government (in our case, as our partners are British, by the government of the United Kingdom). 

As the degree is awarded by the university, we are required to maintain education standards as prescribed by the university. They are also the ones who determine which programmes we can deliver on their behalf and generally also the syllabus of the programmes we deliver.  

Now you might be asking – What exactly is RKC’s role in all this? 

We are the ones who deliver the programmes to our students. We determine the most effective methodology of teaching the syllabus to the students, evaluating and guiding them, and providing teaching support. Not only that, we market the programmes, filter and guide students through the admission process, and provide student support. We are responsible for developing and maintaining the entire OnlineCampus and for record keeping, and are the ones who ultimately deliver the programme to the students. 

We also share responsibility with our partners on delivering residencies – the one week face-to-face components of our programmes. With this year’s residencies affected by COVID-19, we have moved to an online delivery of this component, with great success even if we say so ourselves (well, our students agree too!)

RKC’s OnlineResidency™

So far, we have focused on the relationship between RKC and our partner universities. But, in today’s world, is there really a difference between a college and a university? I will argue there is, especially in the UK, however, more and more this difference diminishes, especially globally.  

The British perspective  

Now, as we are talking about British universities, let’s talk a little about the education system in the United Kingdom and get a basic understanding of it.

There are 5 stages to the education system in the UK: 

  • Early Years 
  • Primary Years 
  • Secondary School 
  • Further Education 
  • Higher Education 

The first 3 stages are mandatory and on completing secondary school, students have to sit for GCSE or A-Levels exams. After secondary education (high school), getting a better understanding of the differences between college and university becomes important in making an informed decision about the future. 

College

A college in the UK is an educational institution that offers higher education courses that can either be vocational courses or lead to specific degree programmes. A student attending college will be equipped with the skills and knowledge required to enter into a specific job or a university programme. 

College programmes in the UK tend to focus on practical and hands-on experiential learning, whereas university programmes tend to be a mix of both practical and theoretical knowledge. Colleges also offer more part-time study options, and are usually cheaper than a university programme. 

Some of the certifications colleges in the UK offer are: 

  • Diploma 
  • Foundation Degree
  • General Certificate of Secondary Education GCSE 
  • Higher National Certificate HNC 
  • Higher National Diploma HND 

 University 

In the UK, a university is a higher education institution which has the legal authority to issue degrees. The title of “university” is obtained by ensuring a certain quality of education that is specified and monitored by a duly appointed government authority. The degrees that are awarded are: 

University of Salford
  • Undergraduate degrees 
  • Postgraduate degrees 
  • Doctorate (Ph.D.) 

However, some British universities might have branch colleges under them that run different programmes like foundation degrees, helping prepare students for university.  


Now that you have a better understanding of the British educational system, and more importantly, the relationship between RKC and our partner universities, please go through the list of programmes we offer and make your choice! Which programme is right for you?  

Celebrating our Graduates – University of Salford

Get in touch with our team of admission advisers who can have a look at your profile and give you some advice on the programmes that best meet your requirements.  Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with our Education Advisor today! Or, if you have already made up your mind, click here to apply 

Meg Plooy, RKC&YSJ graduate

Women in RKC – Meg Plooy, MA Leading Innovation & Change, York St John University, UK

In our effort to spread some positivity amidst the global pandemic, we turn to another success story of a proud RKC graduate – Meg Plooy. Meg graduated from the Online MA Leading Innovation & Change (the programme is now offered at York Business School as a 100% Online MBA Leading Innovation and Change). Let’s hear Meg’s inspirational story.

Who is..

A short profile

Vidhi Kapoor (VK): Who are you, really?

Meg Plooy (MP): Relentlessly helpful mother, wife, and friend. Innovative business solutions aficionado, Starbucks addict, camping nerd, and (foster) mother of Pitbulls.

Getting back into education

Your story of getting back to do a Master’s degree

VK: What was the driving force behind your enrolling for an online degree? Who inspired you? What motivated you?

MP: I was inspired to enroll for an online degree for a few different reasons. Firstly, to be an inspiration for my young children and show them that truly anything is possible if you work hard. Secondly, to advance my professional opportunities. Taking inspiration from my two sons, who work tremendously hard in everything they do and my sister, who enrolled in her graduate studies just a few weeks earlier.

VK: What were the thoughts/situations/people/challenges holding you back from starting (if any)? How did you overcome them?

MP: There were two significant barriers impacting my decision to apply and enroll. The primary barrier was time: finding adequate time while raising children and working full time. The other significant barrier was cost: as a mature student, enrolling in an international institution there were very few grants or bursaries I qualified for, meaning all the funding was out of pocket.

VK: What surprised you the most when you started your studies?

MP: I was most surprised by how determined I was to succeed.

VK: Do you feel there are unique challenges women face when deciding to get back into education?

MP: Absolutely. I feel there are still substantial gaps in gender parity. Although I have a supportive marital partner, I still feel that a larger portion of the parenting and household responsibilities fall on the female if both parents are working. I also feel that there is a larger need for females to have higher education for a lesser role in order to be seen competitively in the workforce and to reduce wage gaps.

Getting the degree

The work to get the degree – what did you learn, how did you balance, what would you do differently

Meg with her degree certificate, as happy as can be!

VK: Which programme did you do? Why?

MP: Master of Arts, Leading Innovation and Change. I had been researching online Master’s degree programs for quite a while and immediately was drawn to this program because it outlined everything I identified in myself both personally and professionally.

VK: What is the single most important thing you learned during the programme?

MP: That I am capable of accomplishing anything I am determined to complete.

VK: How did you balance work and studies?

MP: A good routine and sticking to a schedule. The best time for me to complete my studies was after the kids were in bed, which gave me anywhere from 2 to 2.5 hours each night. 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.

VK: Any particular challenges to being a woman and studying online, or do you think all students face the same ones?

MP: I feel all mature students, especially ones with family responsibilities, would face the same challenges.

Life post-degree

What changed, if anything?

VK: What’s new in your life since graduating/starting your studies? Any visible impact already?

MP: I feel that since graduating, I have more credibility within the organization I work for.

VK: Anything you are doing differently now because of the things you learned?

MP: Completing my Master’s degree has helped me develop strong skills in critical analysis, which helps me assess a situation more critically, also identifying themes and patterns in certain situations. It has certainly helped me strengthen my professional writing and report-delivery skills.

VK: Do you feel that getting a Master’s degree or doing other online programmes can reduce gender discrimination in the workplace?

MP: I do not believe getting a Master’s degree will reduce gender discrimination in the workplace. I currently work in a male-dominated industry and was recently appointed to our central business unit’s Women’s Council as our organization is looking to achieve gender equity in the workplace. In the council, we discuss many elements that contribute to gender discrimination in the workplace. I believe the best way to mitigate gender discrimination in the workplace is through leadership and inclusive corporate culture.

Advice for other women

Or other students, really.

VK: Imagine you could send a message back in time to your pre-degree self: what would it be?

MP: It will all be worth it in the end, you CAN do this!

VK: Imagine you could send an object back in time to your pre-degree self: what would it be?

MP: A financial grant or bursary that could have helped with tuition payments.

Closing thoughts

VK: Anything else you would like to add that could help with the goal of increasing women’s participation/access to a Master’s degree?

MP: I believe addressing the financial barrier would assist in women accessing higher education. I also feel that developing a platform for online support would be beneficial that may include blog posts, online resources, and motivational content.

If you are truly inspired by Meg’s story today and are ready to take the plunge, do not think twice. It’s the right time to do something positive for your career (no matter the global crisis) and get a Master’s degree you had always dreamt of achieving! Have a look at our list of programmes and see if we have anything that interests you.