media • 02 mar 2021
Balancing a Full-time Job & Being a Top MSc Student: Tips and Learnings

Balancing a full-time job while being a top MSc student seems challenging, right? Check the article below for some useful tips and learnings from Veronika Koltyukova, an Iscte Business School student from the MSc in International Management who is currently working as a Sales Intern at Amazon Web Services!

If you’re a student in the 21st century, chances are, you have considered conciliating working and studying at least once in your life. Studying while working gives you the financial confidence you need as a student, while the professional qualifications that you can acquire over time will give you a good head start in developing your career.

When I enrolled in my master’s degree, I was also giving my first professional steps as an International Business Developer for a multinational software developing company. Inclusively, I was living on my own for the first time. I remember surfing the internet to find valuable advice on how to balance a full-time position with my academic responsibilities, however, the online content on this topic was scarce or lacking specificity.

That’s why I'm sharing with you my 8 main takeaways from my experience as a full-time worker and top student. I hope this will help you navigate some of the most challenging but exciting time of your lives 

Disclaimer: This article reflects my personal experience, and does not necessarily apply to every situation.

1)    Set your priorities straight!

Before starting the “working-student” journey, consider your priorities for the upcoming year: is it excelling academically? Or focusing on your professional performance? Maybe what you are really after is maintaining your physical and mental health during this period? Or being with your friends and loved ones?

I advise focusing on 4 topics at most and leave the rest to the background. Remember that this life phase will pass, but it does require some sacrifices.

2)    Be creative when it comes to saving your time and energy

During this period, your time and energy become your most expensive commodity. Consider EVERY action you can take to spare them. From reducing your commute time by renting a room closer to your work and university, to choosing clothes that don’t need ironing, or even reviewing your notes during your bus ride - every second is valuable!

3)    Organization is key

Keep track of your academic and professional progress, and make sure your next steps are documented. One thing that really helped me was drawing a monthly calendar with all my to-do tasks and making sure I see it every day upon waking up. In the words of David Allen, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them” so make sure to free your mind from future concerns and responsibilities, and focus on doing your best in the moment. You can also leverage Google Calendar alerts or planning apps such as Trello, to help you organize your days.

4)    Food is Health

If you live alone, and following a healthy diet is not included in your top priorities, you will find it challenging to allocate enough time for daily homecooked meals during this period. Even so, the role of our diet in our wellbeing (and, consequently, performance) cannot be overstated. Try to opt for healthy choices, and if you find yourself slacking on your fruits and veggies, consider taking food supplements, such as iron, vitamins or omega 3. Still on the health topic, make sure to schedule periodic physical and psychological health checks with your doctor during this period of intense workload.

5)    Make use of your support network

Try to find a colleague that is also a working-student in your class, and support each other throughout this journey! This will give a whole new flavor to your days, and ensure your motivation levels are skyrocketing. If none of your colleagues are going through the same as you, rely on your closest people (friends and family) for extra support and healthy distraction. However unfamiliar the experience may seem, you don’t have to go through it alone!

6)    Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

If your experience is anything similar to mine - you are most likely performing new and unknown tasks every single day. In this case, know that it's perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed and to even experience the imposter syndrome. However, once you understand that these are nothing but natural consequences of your personal and professional growth, you will sit back and enjoy this thrilling adventure of yours.

7)    Do not set your hobby aside

Working while studying and living alone is a life-changing experience. Your life will be unfolding completely out of your comfort zone, therefore, make sure your hobby operates as a grounding activity in your hectic routine. In my case, I’d wake up at 7 am, go to work, go to Uni, and then hit the gym. Physical exercise would give me energy, and the so-needed senses of stability and control over my days.

8)    Gamify your life!

Finally, if there is one piece of advice I’d like to stick with you when it comes to being a working student is: try to enjoy it as much as possible! See each task as a challenge that will take you to the next level. For example, you can think “Ideally I’d need 10 hours to study this subject, but I only have 5 free hours. So, let's play a game: what is the highest score I can get, with only 5h of preparation?”. Also, don’t give up on the “game” the first time you lose- if you fail, make sure to try again, try better, fail better!

Good luck with your journey, you’ve got this  if you have any questions on this topic, feel free to reach out!