Top Ten Tips for... Returning to Study After a Break
Once you’ve left the world of lectures, assignments and exams at school, college or university behind for the workplace then it can be difficult to figure out how to rekindle your spark for learning and development.
Whether you're a new mum looking to study while on maternity leave or someone who wants new qualifications to aid a change in career; taking on the extra study when you’re juggling a busy family life, work commitments, holidays and hobbies can be really daunting. But it could also be the best thing you have ever done!
Here are our top tips for returning to study after a break:
1. Make time for your studies
Whether you are enrolling on a short-term course or something which will take a year or more, you need to realistically think about what time you can dedicate to your studies. You will need to make sacrifices with your free time, but don’t be deterred. Think about your schedule and allocate whatever time you can and stick to it. If you are enrolling on a course which requires your regular attendance, consider what things might prevent you consistently showing up. Could you use some of your annual leave to commit to your studies instead, for example?
2. Ask for support
You may have your new qualification in your sights, but to get there you’re likely to need some help along the way. It’s unrealistic to think that you won’t need a helping hand from those around you to succeed. Talk to your mentor or manager at work and let them know what your ambitions are. They may allow you to work flexibly so you can meet your course deadlines. Also, speak to your family about the extra commitment you are taking on and what they can do to help you make your home life run more seamlessly and stress-free.
3. Find your study space
There are going to be times when you need to get your head down and concentrate on your studies, especially if time is tight. Your time management skills will be essential but finding the right space and environment to help you learn will make a big difference. It might be that you prefer to de-camp to your local library where all the books, free WiFi and computers you need are available. Or you may want to de-clutter your spare room and create your own study oasis. If you thrive in a busy environment, then your local coffee shop or work canteen might be the ideal place for you.
4. Figure out how you like to learn
Knowing your learning style is important to help you get started on the right foot. This may be completely different to what you did at college or university when lecturers and course leaders generally dictated how this would happen. If you like to learn alone in a quiet space, then you will need to think about your study space and time away from family commitments and the workplace even more. You might feel happier learning with others and like to set up study dates with friends on your course. If you’re a practical learner, think about how you can get some one-to-one experience or work shadowing with a mentor.
5. Make an action plan
The secret to successful learning is in the planning and preparation. Don’t leave things to the last minute; it will only stress you out more. An action plan will help you focus on the individual steps you need to take to complete whatever module, essay or exam preparation you need to do. Crossing each action off as you achieve it will help you see how far you’ve come and will be a great source of motivation. An action plan will also help you keep on track if your study time is limited. Your course tutor or mentor would be an ideal person to help you with this.
6. Get into the right mindset
How you approach your learning is just as important as what you do. Studying might be a necessary task but you’re likely to get more from the experience if you enjoy and thrive on it too. Being in the right mindset will help you work smarter. You can’t always force yourself to be in the right mindset and that’s when you’ll probably find it frustrating and a chore. You can improve your mindset by thinking positively. For example, if you didn’t do as well as you hoped on your last assignment, think about how you can improve on the next one. Another good tactic is to stop comparing yourself to others. Think instead about what personal milestones you are achieving.
7. Use the resources around you
Resources could mean anything from technology to the people around you. Modern technology means you can (usually) tap into your studies anywhere and at any time. For example, you could use the free WiFi on the train to work to read up on your chosen subject. It might feel old-school going to your local library but there will be a wealth of resources and information that you never knew existed and it will cost far less than buying books and study guides yourself. And don’t forget, if you’re already working, there may well be a career coach within your business who would be happy to help mentor you.
8. Study with your family
If you have a busy household with children in school, college or university then why not schedule study time together? You can lead by example and show them how important it is to set time aside for learning and how rewarding it can be. You could try to make it as fun as possible by having study snacks and a quiz about what you have learned. You can also decide as a family what your reward will be once you have finished.
9. Stay motivated
Staying motivated while juggling your work/life balance can be one of the most difficult things about taking on extra study. There will be times when you’d prefer to be spending your free time on the settee with your favourite box set or having fun with your family and friends. You could add milestones to your calendar to show how far you’ve come or pin-up motivational messages in your office to help you feel positive and inspired. Try to think about the bigger picture – what will your new qualification ultimately help you to achieve?
10. Celebrate your achievements
There are lots of tricks you can utilise to help boost your motivation, especially if you celebrate your achievements along the way. Why not set yourself rewards for the milestones you have reached? This could be anything from a meal out at your favourite restaurant for every module completed to a well-earned holiday once you have graduated.
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cHRysos HR Solutions is a Doncaster based HR training and consultancy company providing CIPD accredited qualifications, Apprenticeships, Training and HR Services to SMEs nationwide. For more information about how cHRysos HR can help you or your teams successfully achieve further qualifications, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1302 802128.