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Returning to study? Preparation and flexibility is the key

Returning to study after years in the workforce often adds layers of stress.

Starting a university course can be challenging for any new student but if you’re returning to study after years in the workforce, raising a family, or both,  there are often added layers of stress that come with juggling study, work and family commitments.

There are many good reasons for wanting to add a university degree to your portfolio: enhancing professional skills, preparing for a career change, achieving long-held personal goals or simply boosting your knowledge, networks and confidence.

With good planning and preparation, mature-age study can be one of the most satisfying career and personal decisions but what’s the best approach?

Kellie Inglis is an associate director with the Commonwealth Bank who, after 17 years in her career and with no prior undergraduate degree, is currently studying a Deakin MBA.

Her advice is to first explore what university programs are available and ensure they offer flexible delivery.

‘Investigate and research the options and if you have the capacity just get started! Deakin has excellent cloud, online resources and various off campus options. I’ve [also] found the on-campus experience highly beneficial for my learning and the opportunity to meet other students invaluable,’ she says.

Kellie adds that the MBA program is already providing her with important client insight and enriching her career pathway.

‘It’s a  holistic, all-encompassing business course … in terms of my own career progression, the confidence I’m gaining from my studies are opening my mind to transferring and using my skills more broadly.’

Psychologist Carly Jayet, another Deakin MBA student, credits postgraduate study with her recent appointment to an executive management position and says that ‘self-care, persistence and focus’ have been fundamental in her study success.

‘I try to achieve as much as possible in the first four days of the week so I can relax with time with family and friends on the weekend. Sleep, exercise and relaxation have been the key for me. I think it’s more about work life integration and finding a balance that is unique and works for each person. I also have an incredibly supportive family which makes the world of difference!’

After 25 years with the same employer and no formal qualifications, Tracey Lefebure also made the choice to expand her retail industry experience by completing a postgraduate business degree.

She balanced her full-time work, family and study commitments by completing Deakin’s flexible MBA program through both online and intensive residential units which enabled speedier progress. 

‘The residential units made it all possible. One of the highlights was being able to build networks through the group and assignment work.’

Tracey’s advice for a happy work-life-study balance is to set boundaries, goals and take advantage of support.

‘I made it a rule not to study when my (young) children were awake. But I’d also advise to take assistance where possible … in group assignments find people you can leverage off to work with – someone who balances your weakness with their strengths. Try to complete the assessments faster than you anticipate, do the hard yards, have fun and learn as much as you can.’

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