Four Tips for Successfully Combining Work and Study

Four Tips for Successfully Combining Work and StudyBright Horizons Corporate Marketing Manager, Joanna Thubron, gives her tips for combining work with studying.

From October 2019 (nearly 25 years since I had last claimed the title) I was officially a student once more.

I chose to embark on a Chartered Management Degree in Business Studies at The Open University mainly because throughout my career I’d managed projects, and people with success – but I always felt like I was doing this instinctively, and I had a nagging feeling that I wanted to learn the more ‘formal’ aspects of management theory and practice. 

Bright Horizons has a comprehensive Professional Development portfolio – and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to undertake this course of studies as part of our Apprenticeship Programme.

Twenty five years on from my first University experience (BA English Literature at what is now London Met) and needless to say combining studying with working full-time is a completely different proposition to the full-time dedicated study I previously enjoyed – and if I’m honest, navigating how to do this successfully has been a challenge.

With this in mind, I’d like to share four tips for success for anyone who is combining work and study.

  1. Plan your study

    This may sound simple -  but is actually one of the trickiest aspects to balance – making sure that you stay on track and are learning the right thing at the right time and keeping up with any set study schedules. When the course materials initially land through the letterbox/arrive in the inbox, the scope of the material can be daunting. Planning out what is required on a weekly basis and sticking to it sets up a sound basis for success – and if your course does this for you – stick to the schedule.

  2. Create a dedicated space/community for study

    Easier if you are office based – but harder if your job already involves working from home. Creating a dedicated space can be as simple as clearing your desk of anything job-related, or moving to another area altogether. If your course hosts online discussion forums, making use of these to connect with other students can be helpful. Also, if you work for an organisation where several members are on the same course – connecting with colleagues gives you an added sense of community.

    Doing well? Celebrate together. Finding a particular aspect of study tough? You’re probably not the only one – set up a course WhatsApp group for discussions - and you may well find that a problem shared is a problem halved.

  3. Discuss your progress -and set boundaries

    Communicate what you are working on to your boss and your peers. Colleagues are naturally curious - and I’ve found that whilst a lot of people understand the concept of studying whilst working – unless they’ve done an apprenticeship or a degree themselves, most are unfamiliar with what this means in terms of work. Talking about what you are doing during your course is beneficial for all – linking your studies to your role and the wider business embeds learning, gives you a broader perspective at work and reassures your employer that your personal development is also reaping organisational rewards.

    If (like mine) your course involves allotted study time to be taken during your normal hours of work – tell your colleagues what you are doing and make sure they are aware of your availability. Also, if you’ve agreed study hours with your manager, stick to these hours as much as you can – there will be occasions when compromise is required, but overall I recommend sticking to allotted hours and ‘developing a routine’ where possible. If you have a supportive manager (as I do) they will take into account your study timings and can help by allocating your workload appropriately.

  4. Enjoy yourself
  5. This is perhaps the most important point of all!

    Whatever you are studying, as your course progresses you are more than likely to find yourself outside of your comfort zone and in many ways, this is the point – we can only grow and progress through learning new skills. It’s okay to feel out of your depth, and it’s only natural to feel unsure sometimes. 

    If your organisation have invested in a course of study for you – it means they believe in your skills – and so should you.  Of course it is important to take studies seriously – if you can add in a genuine element of enjoying your work and approaching it with a positive attitude – you will thrive.