If you believe in the value of professional education but struggle with the challenges of balancing work, life, and study – you’re not alone. According to a recent poll conducted by Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE), more than 80 learners who have taken classes with us have had to overcome obstacles as working professionals trying to manage their families, workloads, and demanding continuing education programs. But for every challenge, there is a solution – if you’re a high performer intent on making a success of your career. Here are some of the top challenges our learners have faced and the steps they took to beat them.
1 - Finding the Time
Time seems to be the biggest culprit when it comes to committing to professional education. Most working professionals find adding classes and homework to already crammed schedules to be the main challenge. Related to the time problem is the issue of motivation. When time is tight, motivation doesn’t come easily. Many adult learners find that carving out the time to attend classes and complete homework is difficult in itself – and when they do, motivation doesn’t flow freely. They have to work at it.
So how have some of our learners overcome these problems? The majority said they set priorities and used their time more efficiently. For example, many placed non-essential activities on hold and made purposeful use of time outside of work. Giving up evening and weekend leisure activities in favor of attending classes or working on homework assignments are common examples.
Some learners found that getting their class schedules early and planning around them before beginning their programs helped them to prepare for the upcoming changes to their regular routines. Understanding the course expectations early helped them to plan ahead and proactively schedule to eliminate potential work and personal conflicts. As a result of this early planning, they were able to manage their time and stay motivated throughout their programs.
Tackle Homework in Small Chunks
Others recommended making use of short periods of free time throughout the week to review coursework and complete their homework in stages. By managing their workloads in small chunks, they avoided becoming overwhelmed.
2 - Balancing Work, Life, and Study
Another common challenge for adult learners is balancing their personal lives with work obligations while studying. To manage family and work responsibilities while taking rigorous programs, working professionals have found a variety of solutions.
Anticipate Crunch Times
Some arranged for more flexible schedules with their employers. Others planned ahead and took time off work to be able to focus exclusively on their coursework at critical times during their programs.
Many learners said that they were careful not to over-commit in the first place. Instead, they limited the number of courses they took and chose classes that did not require extensive time commitments at the same time. Another popular solution was choosing programs with flexible course schedules. By choosing carefully and keeping their coursework manageable, many learners were able to manage their studies without neglecting their jobs or families.
3 - Managing Work While Taking Classes
Disconnecting from work came up as a common hurdle for many adult learners. Often, taking time out of the office to attend classes meant falling behind on work. Some managed this situation by using their class breaks to catch up on calls and emails and evenings after class to deal with the most pressing matters. One learner found that not taking professional development at work but off-site at Georgia Tech Professional Education facilities made it easier to set work concerns aside and focus on coursework.
Sell the Value of Professional Education to Your Employer
Several learners mentioned that making sure their employers understood the value their professional education would bring to their workplaces made a difference. When employers pay for their employees’ professional development, or understand how their organizations stand to benefit from it, or both, they tend to be more flexible in their expectations of their employees while they’re studying.
4 - Covering Costs
The cost of high-quality, in-demand programs and courses is often a challenge for learners. Fortunately, since many employers are familiar with GTPE’s offerings and understand the return on investment they deliver, they are willing to cover the cost of their employees’ professional development. GTPE offers on-site programs at employer locations, which reduces the costs of professional education and enables employers to train groups of employees at the same time.
Choose Online Options
Some learners found that by taking online courses, which typically cost less than traditional, face-to-face programs, they were able to cut their expenses while deriving the benefits of formal instruction in their fields.
5 - Traveling to Classes
Traveling to classes presented a challenge to many learners. Some found it inconvenient to drive in traffic to get to their classes. Others, who had to travel from other cities, or other countries, also faced the issue of having to cover travel and hotel costs in addition to tuition. Possible solutions included opting for online classes, which don’t require travel. Some learners optimized their trips and combined taking classes with business meetings.
Find What Works For You!
Professional education is as important for career advancement as progressive on-the-job experience. Challenging as it can be to add to an already busy schedule, it’s always worth the effort. The working adults who succeed at juggling work, family, and professional development are the ones who explore solutions until they find those that work for them.
Georgia Tech Professional Education is a leader in innovative educational delivery, designed for working professionals in tech, business, and leadership. Our connection to the marketplace — coupled with our world-class faculty, researchers, and subject matter experts — provides an unparalleled prospective to education innovation, industry trends, future work, and lifelong learning. To uncover additional resources to help with questions and challenges around career advancement visit our Working & Learning page.