I've Been Promoted Twice as a Full-Time Student — Here's How I Did It

student and full-time professional

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Taylor La Carriere10
July 24, 2024 at 3:52PM UTC

In the throes of the pandemic, I found myself yearning to reconnect to past passions: I had always loved the arts and humanities, though imagined this affair had concluded with the purchase of my first tailored suit. 

Employers at my full-time job supported professional development beyond stretch assignments and additional projects, yet I assumed that this was limited to weekend conferences or one-off courses and hesitated to ask my manager if graduate school was an option. I had always dreamt of obtaining a master’s degree, though I feared that schooling would slow my career ascension to a grinding halt. 

As my once in-person role became fully remote, and application fees were waived, I took the leap and decided to apply. When I received my acceptance letter, I feared the difficult path ahead: Could I maintain a dream career that was still in its infancy? Would I be able to do well in school with the daily pressures of work?

My manager was incredibly receptive and ensured that no matter what, I would still have his support in achieving my career aspirations — even though they felt rather lofty when undertaking a total of eight writing-intensive graduate-level courses while working full-time. Even more daunting was that my program was not built for working students like myself. My boss repeatedly reminded me, “We’ll figure it out when the time comes.” After experiencing much doubt and deciding to go with my gut, I committed to Claremont Graduate University and began my master’s degree journey.

Nearly two years later, as I prepare to enter my final semester as a full-time graduate student, I have been promoted twice at my biotech job, now serving as a Manager of Corporate Communications while maintaining a strong grade point average. Even more exciting, I’ve worked as a part-time research assistant at school and have had the opportunity to publish an article in a forthcoming edition of a literary journal. While some days have been harder than others, I have never felt more professionally and personally fulfilled.

Whether you have a full-time career you absolutely love and are looking to augment your experience, or would like to dive into a completely different field, attending school and excelling at your career should not be mutually exclusive. In other words, this is your sign that you can have it all. Here’s how.

1. Discuss your desire to enroll in school with your manager.

Schedule a one-on-one, casual conversation and be transparent regarding your academic and professional ambitions. If applicable, explain how you hope to utilize your degree at work and beyond. For example, my humanities studies, though not directly related to my field, have been integral in strengthening my development as a professional communicator.

Emphasize your hopes to continue to develop in your role – do not be afraid to be vocal about what you hope to achieve in one, three, or five years. The sky is the limit.

2. Look for online programs or in-person, local universities that offer flexibility, or ask if flexibility is possible at work.

Numerous universities went virtual during the pandemic, with many, including my own, remaining in a hybrid state. While several of my course requirements were scheduled during my 8 to 5 workday, I was certain to make up for any time missed by working extra hours throughout the week or starting my day at an earlier time. 

Throughout previous semesters, I always notified my manager several months in advance if I would be taking a course that conflicted with my working hours and outlined how I planned on working a full forty hours with that in mind. It is important to note that this was not something my boss asked for; rather, I took a proactive approach in ensuring he knew that I would not let the team down with many critical milestones ahead.

3. Set professional goals and follow up on them.

Schedule weekly or biweekly check-ins with your manager – these could be 15 to 30 minutes and as formal or informal as you would like them to be. Discuss what you’re working on, how you’re managing and what you’re doing to set yourself up for success. 

Highlight how you’re tracking against monthly or yearly goals, if applicable, and any key learnings from recent projects. Request constructive feedback, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

4. Start off slow and celebrate the small wins.

When starting a graduate program, I recommend beginning your journey by taking just one course. Test the waters, and perhaps add a second course during your next semester. Remember, whether it takes you two years or ten years, you’re still going to get the same degree.

Keep separate checklists of professional and academic tasks – you’ll be amazed at how incredible it feels to check something off a list, no matter how seemingly minute.

5. Set aside time for yourself. 

It is not impossible to maintain a social life while going to school and working full-time, although it may feel that way at times. As a dog mom, I feel most at peace when I’m able to take 30 minutes out of my day to hike with my furry companion. 

Plan a day and/or night every 1-2 weeks for friends and family – that could be going out to dinner, visiting a museum, or going to the beach. At times of high stress (I’m writing this with an essay and project due in two days), a wave of relief washes over me in knowing that I’ll have time to decompress with the people I love most.

6. Do not get discouraged.

No matter what happens, keep going. Ask for support from your manager, seek out mentorship from others who have gone down similar paths, and realize that you’re investing in something with an incalculable return – your future self! 

Today and every day, honor how far you’ve come, look forward to the journey ahead, and never stop learning.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Taylor La Carriere is a full-time Manager of corporate communications at a Southern California-based biotech organization leading social media and internal communications, a full-time Master of Arts, English student at Claremont Graduate University, and a hobbyist photographer. Her passions include presenting academic research at conferences, creative writing, visiting museums, and reading modern American literature through a feminist lens. 

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for continuing education while working full-time? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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