Two years ago, I made the decision to get my MBA while continuing to work a full time job. Although the past two years have been a whirlwind, I am very happy I made the choice to continue my education. I have found that although I currently have a job I love, I am now performing even better and also finding new opportunities that better match my interests and skills. I have also been fortunate enough to be able to keep my income and not have to worry about finding a job when I graduate.
Before starting grad school I tried to mentally prepare myself for this juggling act. But, the truth is I really had no idea what to expect. Here is what I wish someone would have told me before I made the leap:
- Learn to Say No. You do not have to attend every networking event. Just go to as many as possible.
- You will have to work extra hard to maintain your social life and previous friendships. But, the important friendships are worth it to maintain even if you only have an hour of free time every week.
- 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.
- Technology makes the juggling act easier. Having access to my school email on my phone while I work allows me to stay connected with my group and make changes to projects at the last minute. With all of my classmates juggling so many responsibilities, it is almost impossible to get us all together in one location. Fortunately, Skype allows us to hold group meetings virtually. Also, don’t worry if you have to travel frequently for your job. Professors are very understanding of work travel and my school even videotapes classes for us so we can watch them online when we return.
- Schedule time out 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.
- Grad school consists of way too many group projects. I have learned that other people juggle their responsibilities differently than I do. I try to get work done as early as possible but others in my group wait until an hour before a paper is due to finish. I have learned to respect others juggling habits which has allowed me to be a better manager.
- If your goal after grad school is to find another job, you will have a hard time fitting this 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.
- 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 means making sure I have all my school books and a change of clothes with me when I leave for work in the morning. I schedule some time each Sunday night to review my plan for the week. This helps me prioritize and be prepared when other tasks pop up at the last minute.
- 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 and it was actually the most productive quarter of my life because my work, running and school schedule was so organized and I felt great.
- 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 has 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.
Classy Career Girl, a blog written by Anna Runyan, provides advice to young professionals on how to be classy as they climb the corporate ladder. Her blog covers topics such as business chic fashion, career motivation, personal development, networking, and office etiquette. Connect with her at http://www.classycareergirl.com. If you would like to learn more about how to find a career that you love to go to everyday, check out her free video training series at http://www.getmycareerunstuck.com.