Want to Make Your Own Schedule? Here's How
If you’re returning to school and working at the same time, chances are you could use a little more flexibility at work—even if you’re attending an accredited online college. Working from home or being able to come in late or leave early can have serious life quality benefits—and can help you manage your work/life balance more easily. However, it’s not always easy to make this happen for you.
Students in both traditional and accredited online degree programs could benefit from more flexible schedules. And there are two common ways people succeed in landing one. The first is to work within your existing job and negotiate these terms with your employer. The second is to work for yourself.
Negotiating a Flexible Schedule At Your Existing Job
Know what you want. Do you just want to come in an hour later or leave an hour earlier every day? Or do you want to telecommute four days a week? Know what you’re asking for—and whether or not it’s a tall order.
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Spell out how it will benefit the employer. Once you’re talking with your boss, don’t make the focus about you. Make it about them. Explain how your flexible schedule will make you more productive; how it will allow you to earn a degree that will make you a valuable employee; or how it will give you the freedom to work evenings to connect with clients overseas. Be sure to express all of your arguments in terms of what it will bring to the company, not how it will benefit you.
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Make concessions. Show your company what they’re getting. Offer to work an hour more each day you telecommute. Offer to train other employees at the company in the skills you’re learning as part of the degree program. Offer to be on call during irregular office hours on the days you’re telecommuting.
Ask for something small at first. If your boss is reluctant to give you the flexibility you want on a permanent basis, ask for a short trial period—of a month or two. Or offer to make it temporary until you finish your degree. Once your boss says yes, be sure to stay in contact with your boss constantly—and over-deliver on your promises. That way, you’re more likely to be able to keep the arrangement going even after you’ve earned your degree.
Working for Yourself
It can be highly challenging to start your own business even while you’re going to school full-time—and the pressure may not be good for your college career. However, for some people, it’s the right move. Here are some thoughts on how to do it while earning your degree.
Have your safety net in place. And that doesn’t just refer to money. If you have kids, be sure you have reliable and affordable day care—or a family member or friend who will help out. Be sure you have enough savings in the bank to cover your tuition payments as well as your living expenses. If you have a job, don’t quit until your situation is fairly stable.
Research a natural fit. While you’re in school isn’t the time to branch out into a field where you have no experience. Choose something that’s an easy transition from your existing career, where you already have connections, or something that makes sense for your lifestyle.
Choose a low-investment business. If you need to invest thousands into getting your business started in addition to thousands in school tuition, you could be setting yourself up for financial problems. Instead, choose a field that requires a low investment. For example, while a restaurant owner might have to invest large sums in hiring staff, designing restaurant layout, and other costs, a graphic designer needs only a computer, an Internet connection, and the appropriate software.
Getting a flexible schedule at work to accommodate your school schedule isn’t easy. But it’s possible. Whether it makes more sense to you to negotiate these terms with your existing employer or to work for yourself, chances are you’ll have an easier time finishing your degree if you can design your own schedule—instead of working around an inflexible job.
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