More and more people are now juggling their full-time jobs with studying HR part-time. The end results can be highly rewarding, as your skills and knowledge are recognised both academically and professionally, although at times during a course you may feel as if you don’t have any time for a life.
Unfortunately, there is no miracle solution to this, but there are steps you can take to try to manage both and achieve a good work-life balance.
1 Think strategically
If you are able to choose from different HR subject options, give them careful consideration and work out where you could combine your day job with your studies. For example, if your work involves training it might be sensible to opt for an employee development-related subject. As well as saving you time this may enhance your work. If you are required to complete a management report or equivalent, choose an area that would be of value both to your organisation and your job role so there are double the benefits of spending a lot of time working on it.
2 Build a support network
Studying part-time can be a lonely experience at times, particularly if you are a distance learner or if you only attend your institution one day a week. In addition to the support you receive from your tutors, you can also gain a lot from your peers. Many institutions are using learning sets so students can share their knowledge and support each other. Distance learners can also engage in this process by using discussion boards or email. This can be a very positive experience and allows you to share resources. Remember that your tutors are a rich source of information and are there to support you throughout your studies, so aim to establish a positive working relationship with them.
3 Keep your manager in the loop
If your manager knows what you are working on, it may be that they can provide support in terms of getting you involved in relevant projects. They may also be able to offer you help in terms of flexibility when you have a big assignment to hand in. Your colleagues can help by keeping you up to date with any related activities they are working on.
4 Be organised
Remember that there are some times of the year when your tutors may be away from the university for several weeks, so you need to build this into your planning. There also tends to be a clamour for key textbooks about three weeks before assignment deadlines, so bear this in mind and be prepared. Make the most of sessions on writing good assignments, research skills and examination techniques.
5 Manage your time
You will have some fixed deadlines, such as dates for handing in work or assessed presentations, although it is likely that there will be other tasks and occasions where there is more flexibility. As soon as you receive details on when your assessments will take place you can plan out your time. It is important to build in extra time to cover areas such as proofreading and referencing. You need to accept that you don’t have unlimited hours to study so be realistic about how much time you can dedicate to it and then plan how you can make the best use of it. Remember to make some time for fun activities and a life outside of work and studying. You may be more productive when you are working as a consequence.
6 Work on your key study skills
Time spent on some of the key skills at the start of your course can save you a lot more time in the long run. For example, if you learn to reference your work in the first semester this will help you with future modules and improve your marks. When you receive feedback on your work make sure you use it to inform future assignments rather than simply checking your mark. Assessments are not meant to be a memory test, so concentrate on showing how you can apply your knowledge and skills.
7 Link with Continuing Professional Development
Investigate whether your organisation can support you as part of your personal and professional development. Does your training and development policy offer any scope for spending some of your working time on your studies? You might find it useful to present a business case to your manager about how having qualified HR staff can add value to the department and the organisation.
8 Make the most of resources
The internet has made a huge difference to studying and is invaluable for self-directed learning and research. Many institutions may also offer a virtual learning environment (VLE) with a range of supporting resources to help you. It is definitely worth investing some time at the start of your course to find out how it could enhance your studies. Remember that you do need to be selective about your sources, but there are many good sites. Access to journals has been made much easier now they are online, and you can perform more comprehensive searches. Make use of the CIPD’s websites – including PM Online – which, in addition to providing information on the full range of HR issues, have links to resources such as company profiles and electronic journals.
9 Keep your end goal in mind
Remember why you decided to enrol on the course – for some people it may be about providing evidence of existing knowledge and skills, while others may be seeking a career in HR for the first time. Looking at the bigger picture and the opportunities available to you at the end can balance out any feelings of having too much work to do.
• Plan strategically how you can combine your studies with your day job so as to make optimum use of your time.
• Use all the resources you have access to, including your tutors, peers and electronic-based systems.
• Communicate your progress regularly to work colleagues and managers to keep them up to date with what you are working on.
• When workloads seem high, remember why you enrolled and picture yourself at your graduation ceremony.
• Studying and working at the same time can be hard but is ultimately rewarding, both personally and professionally.