Three years ago, I made the decision to get my MBA while continuing to work a full time job. Although these past three years have been a whirlwind, I am very happy I made the choice to continue my education. I found that although I currently have a job I love, I am now performing better and also finding new opportunities that better match my interests and skills. I have been fortunate enough to be able to keep my income and not have to worry about finding a job when I graduate.
Before starting school I tried to mentally prepare for how to juggle work and school. But, the truth is I really had no idea what to expect. Here is the career advice I wish someone would have given me before I made the leap:
Career Advice: How to Juggle Work and School
1. Learn to Say No. You do not have to attend every networking event and social activity on the calendar. Just go to as many as possible.
2. You will have to work extra hard to maintain your social life and previous friendships. The important relationships are worth making the extra effort to maintain even if you only have an hour of free time every week.
3. Your management will take notice of how hard you are working and the knowledge that you are bringing to your job. I was promoted in my current company after only a year in school!
4. Technology makes the juggling act easier. Having access to my school email on my phone while I work allowed me to stay connected during group projects. With technology, we could easily make last minute to papers that were due in a few hours. With all of my classmates juggling multiple responsibilities, it was almost impossible to get us all together in one location. Fortunately, Skype allowed us to hold group meetings virtually. Also, don’t worry if you have to travel frequently for your job. Most of the time, professors are understanding of work travel. My school even videotaped classes for us so we could watch them online when we returned.
5. Schedule time on your calendar for a break because the to-do list will never end. Don’t be afraid to take a day off from work or skip a class if you have to. It is impossible to get an A+ at both work and school, just do the best you can. Schedule a vacation, a day with no work or even a night to just enjoy a movie with your family.
6. Be prepared to learn a lot about yourself. I quickly learned that other people juggle their responsibilities differently than I do. I tried to get all my work done as early as possible but others in my group waited until an hour before a paper was due to finish it. I learned to respect others juggling habits and this has made me a better manager in my current job.
7. If your goal after school is to find another job, you will have a hard time fitting job searching into your busy schedule. It takes a lot of time to do informational interviews, meet with career advisors, apply for jobs and make your resume look great. But, if you make these things a top priority and plan them into your schedule, you should be able to find a great job once graduation rolls around.
8. Organization is key! Before you go to bed, figure out the plan for the next day. Look at your schedule and figure out what meetings you have, what is due and where you need to be when. For me, this meant putting together all of my books and a change of clothes together for the morning. I also scheduled time each Sunday night to review my plan for the week. This helped me prioritize when other tasks came up at the last minute.
9. Keep your workout schedule. Don’t let your responsibilities knock working out off your schedule. Working out will ease your stress and help you stay focused when you study. I trained for a marathon while going to school, which was actually the most productive quarter of school because my schedule was so organized and I had so much energy!
10. As crazy as life gets and when you have no idea how you will make it through the quarter, you will survive. It may be one of the hardest things you will ever do in your life but it will be over before you know it. If you can succeed in working and going to school, you can succeed in anything.
I hope this information helped you see the benefits and struggles of going back to school while keeping your day job. It may be tough but I encourage you to take the leap because it can make a huge difference for your professional success.