Helpful tips in returning to coursework or your career
There are various reasons people take a break from their studies or before pursuing a career. You might have explored a little more of the world and gained some new experiences. Family or parenting obligations may also have briefly interrupted your education. Whatever the reasons for your time away, returning to coursework or a career can be a challenging prospect.
This is an important fact to recognize. It’s not unusual for returners to put too much pressure on themselves to seamlessly transition and achieve their goals immediately. But there will be bumps in the road on your journey to your new career. Being aware of this isn’t about expecting failure or becoming more overwhelmed. Rather, a little extra knowledge and understanding can empower you to navigate the experience successfully.
We’re going to explore a few helpful tips you can build into your approach to returning to coursework or a career.
Handling the emotions
The first thing to understand about the transition back into work education is it can be emotionally taxing. You are going to face different expectations and pressures you may not have lived with for some time. This can be especially overwhelming if you’re returning to coursework while also working full-time. As such, it’s important to adopt measures to navigate the emotional and mental turbulence.
One of the most common things to find is that the transition might result in periods of low mood or depression. It’s natural to experience the blues when you move from the freedom of your break away to the pressures of a structured environment. This low mood is recognized by psychological experts and you can face a sense of loss, anxiety, and even insomnia during your readjustment period. You can mitigate the negative impact here through occasionally reminiscing about your time away, identifying new things to look forward to, and expressing your feelings through creativity.
Indeed, recognizing the source and effect of your emotions can be a valuable tool. Take time to stop and acknowledge how you’re feeling and why. You can then build coping mechanisms into your routine that most directly deal with these. If your negative experiences persist, it can be wise to seek guidance from a therapist to help you readjust. Support groups can also help share and manage your emotions with others going through similarly challenging changes.
Above all else, be kind to yourself. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself to immediately get back into the swing of work or education. Give yourself time to transition. Take breaks in safe spaces when things get a little too much.
Gaining some structure
The next aspect to acknowledge is you’ve had a certain amount of control over your time while away from work or school. A sudden return to more disciplined environments can be quite overwhelming. There are new performance expectations, behavioural standards, and demands for you to be in specific places at certain times. It’s wise to set some personal structures in place to help you stay organized and feel more in control.
Particularly in the beginning, it’s worth keeping a schedule for each day. This doesn’t mean micromanaging yourself to death. Rather, create a strong framework you can build your activities around. Using calendar software can help keep this visible for you. Importantly, keeping organized in this way can relieve some of the sense of having a lot of balls in the air at once, all in danger of being dropped. Instead, you have a solid structure you can position everything on.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this structure is to schedule time for breaks and fun. When you don’t have a sense of structure it can be easy to get lost in a constant stream of activities. Before you know it, you’re missing lunchtimes, working later than you should, and risking burnout. Make time for yourself, whether this is simply stepping away from your desk or taking a hike in nature.
Connecting with others
When you’ve spent significant time away from work or school, it can be easy to find yourself in your own head a lot. Particularly if you’ve been travelling alone or spending a lot of time just with your children, you may find yourself out of practice in being with other adults. But you need to remember how connecting with new people can be valuable. It may not be comfortable, to begin with, but making time for networking can help you get ahead.
A common mistake when jumping back into educational or career networking is approaching it transactionally. This tends to create a stressful and negative experience for everyone involved. Rather, it’s worth considering how you develop networking strategies that are both healthy and mutually enriching. This can include not relying on alcohol consumption in an attempt to quell stress or anxiety. But above all else, it’s about recognizing that the most value comes from building genuine and supportive relationships.
Approach building your network as you would making friends. Seek to learn more about what is important to those in your burgeoning network. Connect on a human level. Have empathy for their challenges and needs. This helps you develop your soft interpersonal skills. Not to mention it widens and strengthens your support circle in ways that are sustainable in the long term.
A return to education or work can be a daunting prospect. It’s important to gain an awareness of the emotional challenges and develop coping mechanisms. Creating some structure to build your day on can also help you regain a sense of control over your new environment. Remember, networking isn’t just a method to get ahead in your career, it is also a vital form of support. There are no easy answers to transitioning back into the grind, but there are tools to help you manage the experience.
Featured image courtesy of Pexels
Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. You can follow her work at charliefletcher.contently.com