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5 minute read

Studying or Taking Courses While Working and Finding It Hard? Here’s Some Help

It can be hard going back to study-mode after joining the workforce. Here’s some tips and habits for those looking to reskill or upskill to build career resilience.

Yes, you want to reskill and upskill to ensure career longevity and resilience, and to future-proof yourself amid all the tech changes happening in your work industry.

But the idea of returning to school and classes, of coursework and studying, feels alien now. It’s been a long time since you’ve been in such settings, and you don’t feel like your mind is as young or agile enough to take on new learnings as quickly.

Apart from that, you’re not the carefree child you were in your schooling days – you’ve got a day job and family responsibilities to juggle… and that Korean drama you’ve been dying to catch and binge-watch.

How, liddat?

Don’t worry, Workipedia by MyCareersFuture has pulled together some really good tips and tricks so that you can get back into the studying groove.

Have a job but want to level up? Explore career events and resources designed to help you develop your skills and expand your knowledge with Career GRIT. Check it out now!

First things first: what should you pick to learn?

Set career goals for the short and medium (and maybe also long) term, advises Associate Professor Trevor Yu Kang Yang, from Nanyang Business School’s Division of Leadership, Management & Organisation.

Look at your overall portfolio of skills and competencies now, and research what skills are required for jobs and positions associated with your career goals.

Evaluate where you currently fall short and thus need to invest in, and search for opportunities where you can learn these skills.

In fact, engaging a career coach may save lots of time in finding your path forward.

More philosophical advice was shared by Professor Song Zhaoli, an associate professor at the Department of Management & Organisation at NUS Business School.

He quotes Sun Tzu’s Art of War: “‘If you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles.’

“Future-ready learners have to be wise learners who know themselves and have some insight into future social and industry trends!”

LinkedIn’s Career Expert Pooja Chhabria added: “Career breaks are also now becoming normalised in the world of work as professionals are re-evaluating their long-term career objectives and want to focus on areas that give them fulfilment at work.

“Professionals are taking career breaks to study and learn a new skill!”

Feeling lost in your course? Videos will help

Do you notice how sometimes it’s easier to remember and understand concepts and details when you’re told it as a story or parable, rather than in technical terms?

If you have a hard time remembering information in your course or studies, try watching educational videos about the topic, either on YouTube or Ted Talks!

These platforms have a wide variety of videos for many courses and study topics that should help.

Attend walk-in interviews, virtual career fairs, workshops and more! Explore Career GRIT and find events and other resources best suited to your career journey. Check it out now.

Ping! Finding it hard to concentrate?

Yes, it can be hard weaning yourself off the urge to grab your phone to check on your Instagram or Facebook feed or reply to those WhatsApp or Telegram notifications.

Make your phone a friend instead of a foe by using apps to block digital distractions, such as Leech Block, which only gives you a set amount of time to access them and then locks you out for the rest of the day!

Or, you could sit in front of Mum like in the good old days and ask her to bark at you when you’re distracted at the study table.

Time management 101

Before you even start your course, do an honest audit of exactly how much time you have to study, factoring in the upcoming demands on your time, such as:

  • Your day job
  • Family duties
  • The time you’ll need to spend in lectures, tutorials, and coursework
  • Your own “me-time” for recreation and leisure
  • Any other responsibilities that will take time

After that, start planning the study semester and period on a calendar, marking out when assessments and key classes are, and breaking that down to a week-by-week schedule with a daily “to-do” checklist.

Sort out all the different tasks into units of time. For example, proofreading your assignment might take 30 minutes, while editing it might take one hour. Working, writing and doing research for it might be a 4-hour session, which you can break down into shorter timeslots with breaks.

You’ll find that scary courses look a lot more palatable once you’ve broken them down into what they mean in your daily life.

So what happens if you fail?

Let’s face it; not everyone is going to take going back to studying and a learner’s mindset like a duck to water. Some will find it harder than others.

But as career coach Raphael See shared, don’t be afraid of failing — it’s totally normal. Raphael is a team leader for AKG (formerly known as Maximus), a career matching provider under Workforce Singapore (WSG).

“It doesn’t matter how many times you fail; it only matters that you succeed at the end”, he encouraged.

Sometimes trying to take what you’re learning beyond the classroom will help.

“Apply what you have learned beyond the classroom and in your everyday life.

“This will not only improve retention but will heighten your appreciation and understanding of what you have learned,” Raphael shared.

You’re not alone. Get support from friends and family

Involve those closest around you regarding your plans, advised Associate Professor Yu.

“Obtain input and support for these learning initiatives. Support from family and friends can be a good resource to help persevere through the challenges of juggling work and learning responsibilities!”

Pooja added: “Don’t be afraid to reach out to classmates or graduates who can share their advice and experiences.

“For working students, having an honest discussion with your managers on expectations and responsibilities during this time, such as arranging for a flexible working schedule, will also encourage you to prioritise your learning while balancing work commitments.”

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