Q&A: Managing Work and School

Are you looking for a new challenge? Has the thought of going to school to earn a degree for the first time crossed your mind? Maybe you’ve already experienced college and would like another degree under your belt. Furthering your education could be a good way to diversify your skillset and advance in your career.

We spoke with Express Employment International employee Ashley C. about her experience balancing work and school. If you decide to attend school or are already enrolled and just need some direction, Ashley gave us some helpful advice to apply to your own journey.

Q: What were some of the motivating aspects for you to pursue your education while working a full-time job?

A: I had a career change in my late-30s and felt I needed a more formal education. I was able to find a master’s program at the University of Oklahoma online for Strategic Communication and Digital Strategy and enrolled. For almost 10 years, I worked in the Events Department at Express International. Now, as an Email Marketing Specialist, I want to be able to give the most current information to our Franchisees and brush up on my skills. I graduated college in 2009 with a public relations degree but didn’t use those skills daily as an event planner.  

Q: How do you balance your time between work, school, and family obligations?

A: It is very hard; I have two small children at home (3 and 5) who need my attention. Time management is my best friend. I generally try to get all my schoolwork done after the kids are in bed and again on the weekend before they wake up. I also use my lunch hour to catch up on any homework during the week.  

Q: How do you manage your mental health when work and school keep you so busy?

A: I try to take breaks when I am feeling overwhelmed, which happened frequently last semester. There have been times when my husband had to take the kids to the park to get them out of the house so I can concentrate. It also helps to know my master’s program is only 20 months. I am lucky to have a great support system at home with my husband and in-laws. Anytime I am getting overwhelmed they pick up the slack, offer encouragement, and prayers, lots of prayers. My husband tells me, “You can do it!” when I tell him I am not sure I can.

Q: What is one hurdle (challenge) you’ve conquered while juggling education and work?

A: The amount of reading and videos I must watch was a challenge for me. One class, five articles on top of three or more videos. I expected to be taught more, rather than teaching myself and having to come up with questions for the weekly lecture.

Q: If you could tell someone who’s on the fence about furthering their career a piece of advice what would it be?

A: Do your research to see if having that extra degree will make a difference or if more experience is more valuable in the field. Make sure your time and financial commitment are worth it and know “this too shall pass.” While it might feel overwhelming at times, it is for a relatively short period and the rewards will be worth it.     

Businesses want to make sure they offer perks and benefits to retain top talent. If you’re interested in pursuing a degree or certification, take advantage of any educational or tuition assistance your employer has available. If your company doesn’t offer an educational assistance benefit, ask HR if they plan to offer the perk in the future.

Making the decision to go to school while working isn’t always easy. If you have a solid game plan in place to make it happen, go for it!

1 comment
  1. This was an awesome read! It came just in time. I am looking to advance my skills. I am extremely nervous because I also have children. Thank you so much!!!

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