How to

Things to Think about When You Start Your Masters and Plan to Work Full Time

It’s easy to forget about the demands of studying when you’re in the throes of Masters applications: the juggling, the perpetual mental strain of focusing on two different spheres at the same time, or the seemingly relentless workload. I didn’t think of any of this as I tapped happily away at my writing portfolio and cover letter, listing my experience and credentials.

Thankfully, if I had the chance to do it all over again, I would do it all over again. What I would appreciate in my hypothetical redo are some tips to help manage the chaos. Although I don’t plan to redo my Masters, my hindsight could be helpful to others who are about to embark on the study–work frontier.

Here is some advice to help navigate the stretching—and rewarding—adventure of work and study.

1. Be realistic about what you can achieve.

The demands of full-time work are bigger than we often realise, especially when embarking on a new course of study.

Where our eagerness to throw ourselves into a new load of study and work can make us almost feel like superheroes, reality can quickly set in once the excitement starts to wane.

It is possible to manage both, but perhaps with a little more pragmatism. Part-time study is often the best way to do this. I found completing one subject at a time allowed me to maintain energy and professionalism at work, while ensuring I could give enough attention and space to my Masters to do well.

Some people can manage more, but be careful to know your boundaries before you cross them and become some chaotic, exhausted semblance of your normal self.

2. Carve a space for yourself where you can get ‘in the zone.’

For me, it’s a desk in the corner of my room with a plush chair, a pinboard of inspirational quotes, important documents and some splashes of colour. It is ordered and calm. There, I can quickly get to the work I need to do and am uninterrupted.

Creating a space for yourself where study can be the focus—and you don’t see the many other life or work-related jobs that need doing—can assist productivity and keep you sane.

3. Keep your end goal in sight.

There may be moments when it all feels a bit too much. It’s important to always have the purpose of your study at the forefront of your mind, or emblazoned in a place you will see it regularly. Balancing demanding work and postgraduate study is hard, but worth it. Reminding yourself regularly why you’re doing it is effective motivation in times of crisis. You can do this, you genius. (Emblazon that somewhere too!)

Completing my own Masters—while working full time—was the best kind of challenge. I even think it kept me stimulated and intellectually sharp at work.

However, thinking about how to practically manage it is a necessary step in the preparation phase—and you will thank yourself for it later! Hopefully, it will go so well that you make it through unscathed and start contemplating the next study challenge: working full time while raising young kids and thinking of the next degree. Like I am.

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