Getting ready: What to wear? How to speak?

Author Juho Toivola

Published 16.9.2021

Executive MBA

This blog post is part of a commercial collaboration between Henley Business School and Juho Toivola.

I just received the invitation for the first workshop of my Henley EMBA studies. It felt good to finally get some information regarding the practicalities. I was also happy to learn that despite the challenging COVID situation we will be after all traveling to the campus in Henley, UK in early October.

Making travel plans and booking flights after a long period of working from home felt exciting. I can still remember the days when I was traveling abroad on a monthly basis. Can’t wait to travel abroad! But the invitation for a face-to-face workshop also raised some concerns regarding proper attire and my spoken English.

Will I have to go online shopping for new shirts?

What’s considered respectful varies from country to country. Post-COVID, the dress codes have become more relaxed but considering that nowadays I mostly wear wellingtons and gym shorts to work, there is a definite need to fix up my business look.

The instructed dress code for the workshops is ”smart casual”. According to relevant fashion sources, the smart casual wardrobe for men consists of the following items:

  1. Denim jeans
  2. Chinos
  3. Shirts
  4. Blazers
  5. Shoes
  6. Accessories and accents

After a short inventory at home, I was relieved to notice that I actually have suitable clothing items available and I probably won’t have to go shopping for new campus attire. I will have to wait and see though: if other students have considerably better clothing, I might need to invest in some new apparel.

For those like me who are struggling with business wear and men’s fashion, I can highly recommend the services of Tuukka Mård at Herrainpukimo. He has helped me to overcome difficulties in finding well-fitting, tailor-made and good-looking clothes that reflect my personality.

Will I need to tune my accent?

I’ve been using English professionally for my whole career. But I have to admit most of my vocabulary and influences come from American English. I never really took the time to learn British English and I sometimes struggle to make myself understood when traveling in the UK.

This is something I expect to pass once the studies get started and you realise that everything goes smoothly after all. My experience is that, language-wise, it’s easier to establish common ground with other non-native speakers.

I hope that during the studies I will gain new confidence and also new routines for confidently interacting and working in an English-speaking environment. Maybe I can even find a new love for British idioms and pronunciation.

When it comes to written assignments, one thing that has to be taken into consideration is the extra time and effort it takes to write in English. Based on my experience, I need to reserve 50 to 70 percent more time for academic writing when writing in English, compared to doing the same amount of work in Finnish.

Will I be accepted? Will I belong?

Psychological safety is one of the key components of successful teamwork and effective organisational climate. Obviously everyone wants to be accepted as themselves and be part of the group. I can notice myself worrying about whether my leadership responsibilities or current work challenges are relevant enough for other participants.

As a person I’m also not the most active networker or empathic listener. This is something where I will need to focus and actively engage in becoming familiar with other students. But faking excitement and interest can be very consuming. As an introvert I hope that I will get to know people with similar interests and insightful thinking. I find it easier to bond around subject matter discussions, rather than more superficial topics.

Starting studies and joining new groups of people raises ambivalent feelings. On the one hand, I’m afraid that the new activities will make me more busy and leave less time for recovery and relaxing. On the other hand, I’m excited about the possibility to grow and develop as an individual and as a professional.

Expect video and pictures in #JuhoGoesEMBA

During the workshops, I will share my thoughts and feelings on LinkedIn with pictures and videos of the different study sessions and personal reflections. Make sure to follow and feel free to make questions or comments about things that you’re curious about. I will do my best to show what it’s like to pursue the Henley EMBA.

You can follow my EMBA journey through weekly updates with the hashtag #JuhoGoesEMBA on LinkedIn.

If you would like to learn more about the Henley EMBA:


Juho Toivola

Juho Toivola is Henley's Executive MBA graduate and brand ambassador. He's an organisational psychologist leading two Finnish companies, Asselmointi and Digital Minds. As a proud father of three small children, Juho lives an active life in the happy town of Lempäälä, Finland. He has shared his MBA journey from 2021 to 2023. #JuhoGoesEMBA