I have a friend who, in recent years, has mastered the art of personal re-invention, but she wasn’t always like that. She was bright at school, but her father was a military man and the family moved constantly. She dropped out of school in Year Ten, after failing to adjust to yet another new school.
Before she got married, she did administration jobs. Then, she spent years at home looking after children. When her children were in primary school she studied aged care and got a job in a nursing home. After a few years of that she began studying social work, and before she’d even completed her degree, secured a job working with people who are terminally ill. My friend loves this job. She gets to support and help individuals and their families at a truly daunting time. Now my friend is working full-time, caring for a family and doing a part-time course on helping people who are hearing impaired. She is truly inspirational. But how viable is it to work full-time and study part-time? Is it possible to be all things to all people? My friend says yes, and here is some advice from her on how to do it. However I need to mention that she has a wonderful husband, who backs her all the way. A spouse like that is worth his or her weight in gold!
How to work and study
1. Be realistic
My friend says you need to sit down and count how many hours of work and study you will need to do, and whether this will fit around your home and life duties. Be realistic when making this calculation and talk to your nearest and dearest about how they feel. If your spouse or children feel marginalised and resentful, then it clearly will be challenging. Are you sure it’s the right time in your life to work and study? If yes, forge ahead. Otherwise consider delaying your plans for a year or two.
2. Plan ahead
You don’t want to find yourself over committed and blow both your job and your study. To succeed at this, you will need to carefully plan out your work and study hours. My friend also recommends finding a library close to home that is quiet and comfortable. If you live with people, they may not respect the fact that you are studying and interrupt you. A library is a good place to go.
3. Tell your boss … if possible
If you are doing a course relevant to your occupation then you should definitely tell your boss. Often workplaces have a training budget. If you work for the public service you may even find you are eligible for some paid study leave. Your employers might also be open to offering you flexible working hours, extra leave and working from home when you have assessments due.
If your study has nothing to do with your current career, be more cautious about talking to your boss. You don’t want to signal your disinterest in your current job, or indicate that you are planning to leave as soon as you finish your degree or diploma.
Once you know where you stand with your workplace you will be able to draw up a study-work-life timetable.
4. Don’t forget to schedule in time for fun
Remember all of us need time to work, rest and play. You will burn yourself out if you don’t make time for friends, family and leisure time (like walks on the beach and trips to the movies). However my friend tells me that you need to come up with a schedule to balance work, study and family and deliver on all fronts! But if your timetable is not working for you, be prepared to re-work it and shift items around. You might consider leaving home an hour earlier a couple of times a week, and doing some of your course reading in a coffee shop. Just make it work for you, your employer and your family.
5. Ask for support when you need it
Don’t try to be superman or superwoman. If you are finding the workload hard, ask friends or family for help. If you have a teenager as I do, you may find they are not forthcoming with help! I’m afraid many youngsters can be self-focused but they do improve with age. Friends may be your best form of support. Could anyone get some groceries or buy some frozen meals for you when your assessments are due? Will your boss let you take unpaid leave or cut down your hours when you are writing essays? Can you drop subjects if you are overloaded?
6. The advantages of combining work and study
Clearly the biggest advantage to combining work and study is that you still have an income coming in. Also you are not stepping out of the workforce and damaging your career, and if your studies relate to your work, then you are effectively getting real-world experience. You can apply what you are learning to your job.
Working and studying can be a win-win situation, however it can also be a lose-lose situation if you become exhausted and underperform at both work and in your studies.
Balancing work, study, family and leisure time is awfully tricky. Some people will be able to manage it, others won’t. You need to ask yourself how much you want it, what you are willing to sacrifice and what sort of support you have around you. Also you need to be sure the timing is right. I say if this means the world to you, start exploring how you can make it happen – start the process of re-inventing yourself through further learning. Good luck!
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