To put it simply, you are on cloud nine. You just got hired for your dream job in higher education and were accepted into your dream graduate program. Congratulations! So, what happens now? While balancing a career in higher education and graduate school is no simple task, it certainly isn’t impossible.
There are definitive upsides to working while in graduate school, such as acquiring less debt down the road. Not to mention, you will have the advantage over a person with similar education but lacks your firsthand work experience in higher education. With extra self-discipline and advanced planning, you’ll ace both areas of your life.
First things first, your employer and professors should be aware of your situation. Let your boss know that you’re attending graduate school, and let your professors know about your new career in higher education. The conversation doesn’t stop there. Your partner, family members, roommates, and close friends should also be up-to-date along the way. Be honest about your workload and ask for support when you need it.
In some instances, your partner may have to pick up some slack with the laundry, your roommates may have to do the grocery shopping without you, or your friends may have to forego drinks with you more often. But communication can lessen any resentment or confusion about your newfound schedule. Your close relationships will help push you through to graduation.
2. Get Organized
If you’ve struggled with time management in the past, it’s about to become your new best friend. Graduate students should invest in scheduling tools to help oversee the day-to-day, such as a planner or a large wall calendar.
Use these tools to map out your entire week. Try color-coding your reading schedule along with your work deadlines. Doing so will make your week that much easier. Organizing does not end with coursework. Pinpoint areas where you can multitask. Can you listen to a lecture in the morning when you take your dog for a walk? Do not forget to carve out time for self-care too. It will help you stay focused and refreshed throughout the process.
3. Intertwine Projects
If you can double-dip into work and school—do it! It will only help you get more out of your education. As a higher education professional, you have endless real-world application within your graduate studies. For example, you can use your career as a residence hall director to redesign residence communities’ marketing materials for a business course. Who knows? You may even create a better process at work through your school project. The options are endless, and the application is educational.
Despite your packed schedule, it’s essential to make connections. Find your champions at work and school through networking. A great advisor can become a lifelong mentor. And, a reliable classmate can connect you with future job opportunities and potentially become a lifelong friend!
By cultivating network connections, you may also discover new and encouraging insights as a graduate student. There could be a professor you meet who had a similar journey to you and can offer some meaningful advice for your industry. Networking will bring your graduate work to the next level.
5. Stay Focused
When constantly trying to meet deadlines, it can be challenging to stay focused on the big picture. But, this one is important. Remember why you chose this program. Think about its long-term effects on your overall career. Whenever you feel frustrated or burnt out, this end goal will keep you fighting. Grad school isn’t forever. But the degree and knowledge will be everlasting.
Some days will feel long and grueling. But graduate school is worth it for higher ed professionals. With careful planning and time management, your degree will help you move up the ranks at work. Once you complete your graduate program, you will also have a greater understanding of how best to support students as a higher ed professional. Plus, you’ll have a better sense of self, given your incredible accomplishment.