Room for play in work-study
Meeting demands of work, study, family and friends can be a stressful juggling act, reports Alison Aprhys
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