Room for play in work-study

Meet­ing de­mands of work, study, fam­ily and friends can be a stress­ful jug­gling act, re­ports Alison Aprhys

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Career One -

JONATHAN Cartwright is a man­ager in KPMG’s Busi­ness Per­for­mance Ser­vices de­part­ment, and half way through study­ing part-time for his MBA at the Melbourne Busi­ness School at the Univer­sity of Melbourne.

‘‘ A lot of firms talk about work-life bal­ance but in my ex­pe­ri­ence, KPMG re­ally does it and has some great poli­cies in place to sup­port their peo­ple,’’ says Cartwright. ‘‘ The firm re­ally has of­fered me a level of flex­i­bil­ity in how I man­age my time, study and exam leave as and when I re­quire, be­cause when an exam looms, you need to be in the right headspace,’’ he says. ‘‘ Some days you are car­ry­ing your life: text books, lap­top and a change of clothes in your bag,’’ he says, re­fer­ring to his busy sched­ule that sees him con­stantly on the go. ‘‘ You need to take stock of your val­ues and man­age ac­cord­ingly.’’

Cartwright be­lieves that if you are in­tent on get­ting the most out of your study, then you need to be as or­gan­ised as pos­si­ble.

‘‘ It’s amaz­ing how much ex­tra time you can squeeze in if you get up that bit ear­lier and at night don’t lounge in front of the TV,’’ he says. Cartwright also ad­vises keep­ing friends and fam­ily in­formed of your progress, so they can un­der­stand why you may be less avail­able and can feel a part of your achieve­ment. Be re­ally open with your com­mit­ment to those around you, let them know and get them in­volved.’’

Cartwright is also tak­ing time off as part of his course to study full-time at New York Univer­sity’s Leonard N. Stern School of Busi­ness. ‘‘ It’s go­ing to be a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity to study in New York,’’ he says.

Ac­cord­ing to Susan Heron, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Vic­to­rian and Tas­ma­nian di­vi­sions of the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment (AIM), you need to approach your fi­nan­cial, men­tal and emo­tional com­mit­ments to study as a form of ca­reer in­vest­ment.

Na­tion­ally, AIM is one of Aus­tralia’s largest providers of man­age­ment train­ing and has 5000 peo­ple pass through their train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses and sem­i­nars an­nu­ally. ‘‘ You need to think about how to do things smart and be un­afraid to say you need help,’’ she says.

‘‘ I al­ways say to peo­ple it’s the per­sonal re­turn on in­vest­ment, and that ad­di­tional study will be the jewel in your ca­reer and life. If you have a fam­ily then you have to put in the due dili­gence, as the fam­ily has to de­cide this is go­ing to be a part­ner­ship in as­sist­ing you to suc­ceed.’’

Ann-Marie Moodie has a great deal of em­pa­thy for part-time stu­dents hold­ing down a full-time ca­reer, and she knows first-hand the stress can re­sult in the seem­ingly un­end­ing bat­tle to jug­gle fam­ily, work, study and self. In 2004 Moodie com­menced study­ing for the grad­u­ate diploma of ap­plied cor­po­rate gov­er­nance through the Char­tered Sec­re­taries Aus­tralia.

‘‘ I de­cided to do the course be­cause the qual­i­fi­ca­tion is the aca­demic path­way to be­com­ing a com­pany sec­re­tary,’’ says Moodie. ‘‘ This course keeps me abreast of is­sues, es­pe­cially as I’m si­mul­ta­ne­ously work­ing on my PhD and I also teach board per­for­mance as­sess­ment in the cor­po­rate gov­er­nance mod­ule.’’

When de­cid­ing to un­der­take this course she was sin­gle. ‘‘ Now I have a hus­band, a teenage step­son and an 18-month-old daugh­ter who all need my at­ten­tion.’’

As the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of The Board­room Con­sult­ing Group (BCG), where she leads a team of gov­er­nance pro­fes­sion­als, Moodie has flex­i­bil­ity to set her own sched­ule. She be­lieves the way to stay fo­cused and sane is to be as or­gan­ised as hu­manly pos­si­ble, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously ac­cept­ing Mur­phy’s Law. ‘‘ My hus­band has stud­ied part-time too, so I’m for­tu­nate that he un­der­stands the de­mands and is ex­tremely sup­port­ive and help­ful.’’

Judi Green, a ca­reers con­sul­tant at Vic­to­ria’s Swin­burne Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, says ‘‘ you need stamina to get through it and need to be 100 per cent clear about why you are there.’’ In the 12 years Green has worked in the cam­pus ca­reers and em­ploy­ment di­vi­sion, she’s seen a lot of peo­ple make work-study bal­ance work.

‘‘ If the course is not go­ing to be fun, if there isn’t some­thing good about it that will keep you mo­ti­vated, then I’d be con­cerned about whether you can main­tain the pace,’’ she says. Green con­curs that in­ten­sive prepa­ra­tion is vi­tal and some­times peo­ple can get car­ried away by not con­sid­er­ing how much in­put will be re­quired.

‘‘ Know­ing what you are in for and be­ing re­al­is­tic about the op­er­a­tional level points such as con­tact hours, study hours, ex­ams and travel time is re­ally im­por­tant,’’ she says. ‘‘ Work out what are your other com­mit­ments and obli­ga­tions, and how stress­ful your work and home life are be­fore de­cid­ing to go ahead.’’

Green says that by plac­ing your agree­ments in writ­ing, ev­ery­one knows what is ex­pected of them, and can re­fer back to what was said to avoid dis­rup­tions and mis­un­der­stand­ings.

‘‘ Pre­dict­ing prob­lems, such as know­ing when as­sess­ments and ex­ams are due and be­ing able to work out the work, home and study peaks and troughs will help you make it through and avoid you be­com­ing a bas­ket case,’’ she says.

Be­ing firm about com­mit­ment is also crit­i­cal to avoid tak­ing on too much to over­com­pen­sate. ‘‘ Say­ing ‘ no’ can be dif­fi­cult as you want to feel like you are pulling your weight, or to avoid not pleas­ing peo­ple.’’

Green says that you should do the ne­go­ti­a­tions with your em­ployer at the com­mence­ment of your study and present your strate­gies for man­ag­ing work­loads as well as time needed for classes and ex­ams.

Rob Holt agrees that study­ing while work­ing can be tricky, but be­lieves the ben­e­fits far out­weigh the dif­fi­cul­ties.

Holt com­pleted his Mas­ter of Science (Science Ed­u­ca­tion) last year while bal­anc­ing his day job as course co-or­di­na­tor, surf science and tech­nol­ogy, at Edith Cowan Univer­sity’s Bun­bury cam­pus in West­ern Aus­tralia.

‘‘ It was just a mat­ter of mak­ing time and while I’ve a bloody busy life, the old adage of ‘ give a busy per­son a job’ seems to ring true,’’ he says. ‘‘ On a pos­i­tive note, it prob­a­bly stopped me mind­lessly watch­ing the box. I left some of those un­nec­es­sary TV shows out of the mix and have main­tained that,’’ he says.

Holt reck­ons that his en­ergy to per­se­vere came down to cof­fee, a very sup­port­ive fam­ily en­vi­ron­ment and fit­ting study and as­sign­ments in around catch­ing a wave. ‘‘ I al­ways per­form bet­ter when I’ve had some good waves, it gives you great mo­ti­va­tion,’’ he says.

Spice of life: Jonathan Cartwright finds work and study hec­tic, but ful­fill­ing

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