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Balancing your job and degree

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 5 Apr 2023

Balancing a job and learning

Working full-time can have its own challenges but throw a degree or apprenticeship into the mix and it can get a lot more confusing. Working and studying at the same time can be challenging but it is possible. It’s all about prioritisation and being able to balance your two different workloads. There will be times that this may seem impossible and other times when you feel you have all the time in the world. It doesn’t always come easy but being able to balance is key. This article is all about how you can find the right balance between work and education and why it might be the right direction for you to take. 

What are the benefits?

Whether you’re working a full-time or part-time job, there are many advantages to working alongside study. The first one is fairly obvious:

Income - You are able to earn a wage to help support your education. Depending on the time in your life, this could be very important. Full-time students may find it useful to get a job to earn extra money whereas full-time professionals need to work, in order to support their everyday life as well as their education. Whichever situation you find yourself in, salary is important. So, this is a major benefit. 

Learning time management - It can be a hard skill to grasp but time management can help you in a number of ways and this is a great way to learn it, even if you’re almost forced to adapt. If you get another job after your degree or apprenticeship, it’s a great thing to talk about in interviews. Many people struggle with this skill, and it is highly sought after by employers. 

You have the experience - A lot of time, education is the base that prepares you for working life. However, if you’re doing it at the same time, you have both work and education to discuss in any interviews. Experience can be something that holds a lot of new professionals back and doing it this way is a good way to get the experience that many employers are after. 

Your employer may fund it - Depending on your employer and if your degree has a close connection to the job you’re currently in, your company may offer to pay for your further education. This is something you would have to look into before making any plans, but a lot of companies choose to up-skill and invest in their current workforce. It helps them retain good talent and if you’re someone they see value in, it could be an option for you. 

They are only a few of the benefits and as always, balancing a job and education does come with its disadvantages. 

What could go wrong?

You may feel a lack of time - There are only so many hours in a day and when you’re balancing two big priorities at once, it can feel impossible. There is likely to come a point where it gets stressful and can feel overwhelming. It’s bound to happen; it’s just about how you handle the situation. 

Stress - This may seem like a small problem to begin with, but stress can have a big toll on your emotional and physical wellbeing. When everything starts piling up, you may feel stress start to kick in. Especially if you feel overwhelmed and feel like you have no time to yourself. It’s important to let all parties know of this, if and when it comes to it. 

There may be sacrifices - There are pros and cons to both elements. Working can get in the way of studying and vice versa. There may be times when you have to say no to events or turn down work opportunities. Success doesn’t come without sacrifice and in the moment, this may feel incredibly disheartening. 

How do you find the right balance?

There is no right or wrong way. You need to find your own way to do things to ensure that you are keeping yourself happy and healthy throughout both your work and study. It can be a challenge and whether you are swaying towards the positives or the negatives, if you choose to go for it, there are some tips to ensure you make the most of it. 

Set expectations - What came first, your job or study? It’s important to let all parties involved know of your commitments and what you need to do. This sets expectations from the very beginning. They’ll know your availability, the time you have and when you need to have a bit of time. For example, if you fully disclose your study timetable with your employer, they’re less likely to expect you to do certain tasks or help out with overtime. If they know your boundaries, it can really help take some of the stress away. 

Have a plan - Planning everything perfectly is never going to happen. There is going to eventually be a time when priorities overlap, and you need to make a choice. however, if you know what you should be doing and when, it makes the chances of this happening, smaller. Timetables can be very important when time is squeezed. Make sure you are scheduling important meetings, deadlines and making time for yourself. This doesn’t have to be set in stone and make sure you are giving yourself flexibility just in case plans change. 

When works best for you? - We all have preferred ways of working and times in the day when we are most productive. If you can, make the most of these times. If you employer is flexible, ask if you can do an 8-4 shift instead of 9-5. That hour may really help you. The same goes for studying, if you’re a night-owl, ensure that there are resources available at the times you want. It may take some time to get used to, but it’s possible. 

Reminders can be a lifesaver - You may have a schedule but like most others, when you start a task, it can be easy to get lost in it. Ensure you are setting alarms or reminders on your devices to make sure you are finishing work on time or leaving school, to ensure you aren’t late to anything as a result. 

Make time for yourself - You may forget about yourself during this time but self-care is important. Give yourself time to rest and relax when needed and ensure you are sticking to a healthy regime. Even if it’s just a healthy lunch and a walk, make sure you’re doing something for you. Something that you find relaxing. 

Seek support from the people around you - Likelihood is, you have a support network of people around you, that are there to help and support when you ask. whether that be your work network, colleagues that can help you out, support when you are feeling work out or even just there for a word of wisdom. You have built this network for a reason, and they will be there to help. Make sure you’re also reaching out to friends and family. When you need a break, a chat or when you’re taking some time for yourself. They’re not just there for when you have a problem. Go out and see them, make memories. 

Why work and study?

You are doing this for you. For your personal development and to be able to expand your skills and knowledge in an industry you enjoy working in. It can be overwhelming and overstimulating for sure, but there is a reason you’re doing it. If you find your reason, that can be the motivation you need to push for success. 

There may be times where you don’t get the results you want. it doesn’t always go to plan and it’s important to remember not to compare yourself to anyone else around you. We’re all trying to do our own thing and even if it looks as if they’re striving, it can be a different story to them. 

Do it for your career and if not, do it because you want to. It won’t always be easy and it may prove to be more difficult than you imagined, it may be easier than you thought. Either way, be proud of yourself for getting this far. You’ll get there and it will all be worth it in the end.