The Balancing Act is a Tribe series on juggling work with something a little extra. Part two is work and studying. We speak to Tribe’s Suzie Gates, who is back to the books at university while continuing to work as a full-time recruiter.
It’s been 20 years since Suzie Gates could be found at a university library. Now however, the sales and marketing recruiter has headed back to school and currently juggles work and being a parent with studying a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Studies, majoring in HR Management.
“I was at a stage in my life where I had a toddler and I was going to have more time at home so I thought it was a good time to study.”
While this might sound to some like a nightmare, Suzie says it’s been incredibly motivating.
“It makes me feel satisfied and that my cup is half full. I think in all aspects it makes me more upbeat and feeling like I’m moving forward instead of just the same old.”
Suzie made a career change from being a ‘suit’ in advertising to recruitment three years ago. She wanted to study because she feels it’s important to upskill.
“I know as a recruiter, when I see people who have done further study, I always look into that,” she says.
"Studying has made me look at things from a bigger picture or world view. When I watch the news or I’m listening to the radio, I feel like I’m listening to it with a different perspective now, I’m more interested.”
Suzie’s advice for telling your employer…
She recommends telling your employer the skills you’ll gain from studying that can be applied to the workplace.
“You’re better at writing, you’re more aware of world news and trends and it makes you more of a critical thinker,” she says, “these days in business, employers like people that are continuous life learners, I think it’s a good quality to have.”
Commitment and keeping up
At times, Suzie says studying can feel like a grey cloud hanging over your head.
“I’m doing what would be a year degree over four years so it does hang over your head a bit, it’s continuous, ominous and expensive.”
Suzie says studying by correspondence can also be lonely. Joining class Facebook groups and connecting with fellow students helps.
“You can do it in your own time and that’s awesome because it suits but you need to have conversations with other students because that’s when you work stuff out.”
Falling behind isn’t an option when you’re working full-time and Suzie’s advice is to keep up with all of the tutorials and readings.
“They take time and you would much rather be watching Netflix but you’ve got to read some journal article.”
As an adult learner, Suzie’s discovered she’s a bit of a geek.
“I’m the annoying adult student asking questions that you used to hate when you were younger, but you’re actually genuinely interested in the paper and what you’re learning.”
Suzie says uni is to be passed. When it’s a critical time she knuckles down and studies hard.
“You know, with the crook in your back and really uncomfortable at your desk just like at uni.”
Frame of mind
The name of the game is to work smarter, not harder, Suzie says. One of her top tips is making sure you’re in the right mood and frame of mind to study.
“If I’ve had a really busy day at work and I’ve just put a tired toddler to bed, it’s not the right time. You have to be focused otherwise it’s a waste of time.”
Suzie says at university, you’re in the zone and can “bish bosh bash” your way through four papers a semester. Correspondence means you need to keep fully focused for the time you’ve set aside. She says remembering why you chose to study in the first place should be the motivation you draw on in times of frustration…or procrastination.
“If you’ve got an hour block, make sure you spend the full hour studying,” she says, “I vacuumed my vacuum cleaner with another vacuum cleaner while procrastinating.”
Suzie also gives herself treats as an incentive while hitting the books and if she studies in the morning, she will make sure she does something nice in the afternoon.
Suzie operates by fitting her study around her working week. She will take a half day to study in the lead up to an exam and a half day to sit the exam. Studying in your lunch break, on a bus or train is recommended, otherwise Suzie says it can become a full day on Sunday.
“Be flexible to fit it within your week otherwise you’ll resent it. It’s not work, you’re ultimately doing it for pleasure so don’t make it something you resent.”
Studying has made Suzie more grateful of time and conscious of how she spends it when not hitting the books.
“I exercise, do yoga and make sure I see my friends and be social, when I have leisure time I make sure I’m doing something I enjoy.”
Suzie laughs when asked if she’s proud of juggling study with work but admits people have told her what she’s doing is cool.
“Twenty years from doing a formal qualification is a really long time so yes, I guess it is quite a cool thing to do,” she says.