Full-time work and grad school: It’s possible!

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

If you’re fortunate enough to work for an employer that genuinely encourages your professional and academic growth – take advantage of it! The business world is constantly evolving as new technologies and industries disrupt the workforce. In order to survive and thrive professionally, it’s vital to continue learning and expanding your capabilities. Taking classes to learn a new skill, obtain a certificate, or even earn a higher degree will make you more valuable to your employer and clients. According to a research study by the U.S. Department of Education, two-thirds of job openings will require postsecondary education or training by 2020.

With encouragement and support from the entire Paragon team, I recently began a 24-month MBA program at Montclair State University. As the new semester begins, I would like to share some tips to successfully balance graduate school and working full-time.

Be transparent

Before you start graduate school, meet with your manager to set expectations and discuss the program details. Ideally, your academic schedule should not overlap with your work schedule. Most universities offer a variety of programs to ensure a conflict-free option. You can choose between evening classes, weekend classes or online classes. Regardless of the option you choose, your supervisor should be aware of all the key dates that may affect your normal work hours (e.g. leaving early for an exam). Clear communication and transparency will eliminate any confusion and make the process smoother for both parties.

Create a schedule

When beginning your academic journey, it may seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Your coveted “free-time” after work will be taken over by class, homework and study sessions. Fortunately, the anticipation is often worse than the reality. The key to success is to manage a healthy balance between your work life, school life and personal life. You can achieve this by creating a schedule and sticking to it. The class syllabus provides advance notice of all assignments, exams and key dates. This is a great resource for planning ahead – you’ll be able to prepare for your future study sessions and work blocks. This schedule will keep you on track and save time that is usually wasted on figuring out next steps.

Use project management tools

Keep yourself organized by using project management tools. When dealing with multiple workloads, you shouldn’t rely solely on your memory. This will most likely lead to frivolous mistakes and missed deadlines. It’s easy for important tasks to “slip through the cracks” when you’re not efficiently tracking your deliverables. My favorite management tool at the moment is Wunderlist. Wunderlist is a collaborative task management tool that keeps all of your assignments and projects organized in one place. It is accessible through a web browser or as an application. Wunderlist allows users to set project reminders and assign tasks to other users. This is the perfect tool for multitasking professionals.

Apply your experience

While your program may be tough and demanding, it’s important to remember why you made the decision to invest in furthering your education. Your goal is to grow professionally and put your degree into action in the “real world”. Take advantage of this experience by networking with your peers. The professionals in your class could be potential leads or viable vendor partners. During class, think proactively about how you can implement your new capabilities into your current position. You can become a more valuable asset to your company by sharing relevant information with your team.

Don’t forget to collect the interest accumulated from your investment in knowledge.
For more guidance regarding project management or business development, please contact us.

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