“I’m done! I’m finally done! I can’t believe it…I’m done with grad school.”
I’ll never forget the sense of relief … well maybe more like disbelief, of hitting that submit button on my final thesis. I was sitting on my bed, eyes red and glassy from staring at the laptop that housed every word I had mulled over, researched, revised and then revised again, over the past two years. Every late night and early morning, every research essay and hours spent studying had led to that final moment where I hit that small, green submit button.
I began working towards my Master’s of Business Administration degree in October 2017, a few months prior to joining Terakeet the following February. Juggling a full time job and going to school part-time seemed kind of … terrifying. I was unsure if I would be able to find balance. After my initial interview at Terakeet, I knew I was in the place I not only wanted to be, but needed to be in order to grow professionally and achieve my academic goals. It wasn’t the flexibility or amazing culture that really drew me to that conclusion, but the people. They were kind, motivated, and clearly had a love for their company I hadn’t found at my previous jobs.
I left that morning excited and anxious to hear if I had received the role, and about a week later I was offered the opportunity to join the Terakeet team. At this point I had just wrapped up my first course towards my master’s degree and was beginning to prepare for my next course, all while dealing with the stress of onboarding at my new job. I was in a daze of management basics and SEO and leadership ethics and keywords and … well you get the point. I had a lot on my mind.
It wasn’t until my first team meeting that I knew I would be okay and that I could do this. Everyone was inspired by one another and celebrated even the smallest of achievements. As we went around the room sharing what we had achieved and our plans for the following week, I began to sweat. I didn’t feel like I had achieved anything noteworthy (even though I was only in week three…talk about putting unnecessary pressure on myself). But, when it was my turn, I remember my teammates cheering just because I had received a positive response from a publisher that morning. That was enough to be valued, and I felt a sense of relief as I took a breath and shared my plans for the following week.
I realized in that moment that I was putting all of this pressure on myself to be perfect, in both work and school, and it was turning me into a ball of stress to say the least. I hadn’t found that balance I so desperately needed. So, that night I went home and spoke with my advisor and explained that I could only take on one course a semester in order to find that balance. This was difficult as someone who likes to push their limits and take on as much as they possibly can! But, I knew if I wanted to be a valuable member of my team at Terakeet and reach my academic goals, and well, have some fun here and there (I was only 23), I needed to take a step back. I needed to add some breathing room.
It’s easy to get lost in an overwhelming schedule when it’s all you know, and if you are anything like me — a Type-A perfectionist that never wants to stop growing, moving, learning to the point of exhaustion — it is definitely all you know. Once I reduced my class schedule, I was able to find more time after work to dedicate to each assignment. I had time to grow, move, and learn without hitting that wall of exhaustion. I was better during the workday, with more focus and drive to perform my daily tasks, and there were positive results that grew from that work. Most importantly, I was able to recognize when I needed to reassess my footing and take that necessary step back again.
As my courses became more in depth and I became more challenged within my role at Terakeet, I began opening up to my managers and team members about how I was really handling everything. It was at this time that I had joined a new team, and in true Terakeet fashion, they were in awe at the workload I was taking on and didn’t miss a beat before cheering me on and offering their support. They would check in with me every week about how school was going as I finished my tenth course, and then the eleventh, and then my capstone course. Their unwavering support and excitement gave me that push to keep going when I was really losing steam (Senior-itis, am I right?).
It made me remember why I wanted to join Terakeet way back when … the people. They were a major support system in and out of the office. When I finally graduated, I couldn’t help but feel that without my amazing colleagues who never faltered in providing inspiration and support, I might not have been able to work full-time and get that degree — with a 3.7 overall GPA I might add. I’ll be forever appreciative of that.
Juggling work and school is not for the faint of heart. To be fully transparent, there were some days where I would have a complete meltdown over a poor grade or the fact that I didn’t finish everything I needed to at work. I would often spend my weekends catching up on sleep, just to wake up on Monday anxious at the thought of doing it all over again. There seemed to be no end to my academic career in sight.
But, amongst all of these difficult times, there was excitement over an A on an assignment I spent days working on. Or, a teammate would thank me for helping them on a work task they were struggling with. There were feelings of accomplishment when a professor would email me with praise over my latest research piece, or pride when my team leaders would give me a shout out for upholding one of our company core values. All of those moments made it doable … not easier … but doable. And so, so worth it.
Well, now that you know a little bit about my story, I figured I could narrow down a few tips for those who are thinking of or are currently working towards a degree while balancing a full time career:
- Make Work Work for You – The routine brainstorm sessions we have on the outreach team would sometimes spark inspiration for a research paper or solidify a thesis I was finding difficult to explain. Or, sometimes an article for work would benefit from information I gained in my studies. Either way, make work work for you. Use one as a resource for the other. Make the skills you are learning tangible by applying them to your day to day and never stop looking for these learning opportunities.
- Over Communicate – Reach out to your teammates, managers, or others you might be comfortable confiding in and discuss ways to adjust your schedule to make it more manageable. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. Set reminders for daily tasks to ensure you hit your work goals, and determine days dedicated to your schooling that might need to be flexible for work. Over communicate to keep your team informed and so they can support you in the best way possible.
- Take a Step Back – It took me too long to figure out that leaving some open time in your schedule intentionally is actually a good thing. Not every minute of your day needs to be booked. Take a step back and reassess your goals. Design a plan that outlines the steps to achieve them, both career wise and academically, and set realistic milestones. This will help to limit stress, give you a sense of direction, and allow you to be more productive in your day to day.
- Keep the End Goal in Mind – In other words, set a goal for yourself academically and keep it in mind on those nights where work might have been long and you just want to lay down with your favorite Netflix show. Keep going. Write your goal down on a sheet of paper and tape it to your desk or computer screen, and even if you don’t achieve it, still be proud of how far you’ve come and that you worked hard to try and get there.
- Don’t Panic – It can be easy to dwell on that email you forgot to send or that assignment that is past due. Don’t panic. Instead, find ways to stay motivated. Take a day off to practice self-care to reset and unwind. Make a list of everything that needs to get done and check off tasks as you go. Or, reach out to someone to vent and sort through everything with a fresh perspective. Whatever helps you, do it and don’t worry about the small bumps in the road. They’re part of the journey.
Monica is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Terakeet.