When you start your first “real” job, your first thought probably isn’t going back to school. Working 35 hours per week or more, plus commuting to and from work, can leave you feeling like you have no time or energy to do anything else.
But this phase in your life – when you have few responsibilities, such as a spouse, children or a house – is an ideal time to go back to school and either boost your existing education or change directions.
“Taking the time and energy to invest in yourself is always worth it,” says Cadence Berry, a 2009 University of British Columbia grad who holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Art History and works as a Business Analyst at eHealth Ontario.
She recently discovered that she’s interested in a career in project management, so last year she started looking for courses she could take outside of work hours. Like a lot of new grads, she couldn’t quit her job to go back to school.
“I selected The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University because I had read excellent reviews regarding the programming and faculty for the certificate I wanted to take,” she says. “Additionally, the ability to take courses online makes it easier to take several courses at one time.”
Since July 2011, Cadence has been taking courses such as Planning and Scheduling, Leadership in Project Management, and Communication: Short Management Reports toward a Certificate in Project Management at The Chang School, which she expects to complete in May.
Continuing education courses vs. undergraduate classes
“Unlike my undergrad classmates, 100% of my classmates at The Chang School are choosing to be there for specific reasons,” she says. “We are all there to further our careers or augment our knowledge about something that we will be using to our advantage later, therefore discussions are rich and to the point, and everyone carries their load in our group work.”
She says all of her professors have worked hard to make the classes interesting for her and the other students since the profs know they’ve been at work all day. She also finds the guidelines for the assignments to be very clear – there’s no guesswork.
Planning your time wisely
“When picking your classes, assume that you will have 2 to 3 hours of work per week for each class, on top of the time you spend in lecture,” Cadence says.
That means, for example, if you’re enrolled in 3 classes and each class is 3 hours long, you should allot an additional 9 hours per week for reading, studying, group work and completing assignments – for a total of 18 hours per week. “When signing up for classes, really consider how many hours you have to spend on your other commitments first, and work from there.”
It adds up quickly, but Cadence says it’s manageable – and totally worth it. “It’s a great way to network, expand your knowledge and give yourself a competitive edge in the job market!”
Staying on top of readings and assignments
Cadence recommends staying right on top of the class readings, printing off course notes before each class and, of course, bringing snacks to class. “Hungry heads don’t learn well!” she says.
“I would also make it really clear with your groups that you want to use the class time you have to the max to work on projects – this will really help you with your time management.”