In 2008, I made the decision to get my MBA while I juggled a full-time consulting job and starting my business. Even though those two years of my MBA program were a major whirlwind, I am very happy I made the choice to continue my education. Through my education, this blog was born and I determined that I wanted to become an entrepreneur. Going back to school was crucial in helping me determine my direction and my potential. This article will share some tips with you about how I juggled it all and how you can make it through too.
I realized that since I chose to attend school while still working a full-time job, I immediately started performing better at work and I also quickly found new opportunities that better matched my interests and skills at work. I was really glad I could keep my income from my day job, still pursue my education and then not have to worry about finding a new job immediately when I graduated.
Before starting school at The Rady School of Management at University of California, San Diego, I tried to mentally prepare myself for this juggling act. But, the truth was I really had no idea what to expect and I just had to figure it all out as I juggled.
Here is what I wish someone would have told me before I juggled work, school and growing this business all at the same time:
1. Learn to say no.
You do not have to attend every personal and business networking event. Just go to as many as possible. Pick your favorites and go to the ones that sound the most interesting. You don’t have to go where all your friends are going. Make a point to go to the ones that will allow you to meet the people who have the jobs you want when you graduate.
2. Make time for your close family and friends.
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.
3. Prepare to juggle new opportunities in your day job.
Your management and team 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 few weeks in business school.
4. Technology makes the juggling act easier.
Having access to my school email on my phone while I worked allowed 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 was almost impossible to get us all together in one location. Fortunately, Skype allowed us to hold group meetings virtually even though we were all in the same city. Also, don’t worry if you have to travel frequently for your job. Professors are very understanding of work travel and my school even videotaped classes for us so we could watch them online when we returned.
5. Schedule break times and fun vacations. You will need this!
Schedule time out for a break because your 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 so focus on just doing 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. Understand that not everyone is like you.
Grad school consists of way too many group projects. I learned that other people juggled their responsibilities differently than I do. I tried to get work done as early as possible but other people in my group waited until an hour before a paper was due to finish. I finally learned to respect other people’s juggling habits which allowed me to be a better manager.
7. Make networking a top priority always.
If your goal after school is to find another job, you will have a hard time fitting job searching and networking into your already 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. Just don’t wait until the very end….
8. Organize like your life depends on it.
Before you go to bed at night, figure out your 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 making sure I had all my school books and a change of clothes with me when I left for work in the morning. I also scheduled some time each Sunday night to review my plan for the week. This helped me prioritize and be prepared when other tasks popped 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 and working full-time. You might be surprised to know that it was actually the most productive quarter of my life because I was so organized and energized!
10. Keep calm. You will make it through.
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 working and going to school at the same time, you really can succeed in anything. Everything is possible for me now that I juggled grad school and a full-time job. I know that I can build a million dollar business, be an awesome mom and travel the world all at the same time. There’s nothing stopping me and there is nothing stopping you either!
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.
Have you thought about heading back to school to further your career development?
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