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A Balance Of Study And Work

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In the rat race to a better career it’s all about who will beat whom to the finish and some have found a new way of reaching their goals. Naressa Coutinho finds out why part-time courses are becoming a new favourite as opposed to full-time post graduate programs with working professionals.

Once upon a time, chartered accountants were hard to find and if found were deemed demigods and the same went for engineers and doctors. Today, we are in an age where, a doctor lives upstairs a  and an engineer downstairs. Darwin’s theory of ‘the survival of the fittest’ then holds true till date even as nothing we are beset by competition here, there and everywhere.  Initially, graduation hats were thrown into the air to signify the end of bookish college days and a ceremonious entry into working life but today it only makes for a good photograph. You go on to study some more as you realize it is not enough while your peers decide to gain work experience which is equally essential. So what do you do? Do you collect post graduate degrees or do you hop on the employee bandwagon?

From this has evolved, until very recently, the concept of simultaneously working and studying. While most would believe that work experience helps to climb the ladder quickly, the trend says otherwise. “Nowadays besides the work experience, it is a postgraduate degree which will help you move up the ladder,” says Narender Yadav(27), a marketing professional and a final year MBA student, “Because when freshers come into the field they may lack hands-on management skills required in a practical working environment but they still have the education qualification that will guarantee them far better prospects in the company as compared to someone who has learnt on-the- job.”

While every field requires professionals to constantly upgrade their skills through training programs, it is somehow a recognized postgraduate degree that holds ground in your professional journey. People opt for distance learning courses that are offered by state-run universities as also part-time or weekend courses in business administration, travel, education, media and communications, etc. Many private institutes, recognizing the fact that increasing numbers of working professionals are looking to add to their educational side, have started weekend batches and post-work evening classes.

Albana Khatri (27), a manager and HR management student is of the opinion that doing a full-time MBA course of 2years would have been a waste of time. “As I progressed in the corporate world, I realized that I needed to gain that additional educational qualification to rise up smoothly, but I wasn’t going to leave my job and enrol in a full-time course. So I decided that doing it simultaneously would be a win-win situation for me. Working and studying helps convert class-learnt theoretical knowledge into practicality at work with the added benefit of industrial exposure.”

While on one hand it helps you understand bookish knowledge in a more practical way, it gives you an edge over your full-time competitors and a head start of 2 years with a total of 5 years experience by the time you have finished the course(to be eligible to do an MBA a student needs two years work experience). Rajendra Pareek(30), a management student and a marketing professional also sees this as added benefits in the mad race for a well-paid job. He says, “Earlier a B.Com graduate was hard to find but today everybody has a postgraduate degree and so the competition has gotten tougher and to even be considered in the league of the qualified, you have to study and meet the basic criteria of the job because today an MBA graduate can even be hired for a mere Rs10,000/p.m. So the only way to put yourself above the rest and be sought after is by adding to both, your education qualification and your work experience.” The competitive nature of careers and the need to beat the run-of-the-mill has thus fuelled this new trend.  In any field for that matter, Rajendra, in his experience, believes that a fresher who has done a full time course would do justice to the theoretical bit of it and would lag behind on the professional front. If one is to work and study, he automatically relates to the academic concepts as they are put into practice and thus has a better understanding of the workings of that concept. He can thus analyse, absorb and apply in a practical working environment everything that he studied.

So it is a good option to work and study at the same time but is it a viable option? Every working individual faces the stress of performing at his or her work place and after a day’s work to trudge to class or to wake up on the weekend and run to class is a superhero kind of stunt played time and again. And while Albana feels that such a challenging situation makes you more responsible, Narender admits to it not being in the least bit easy “It’s been 7 months that I haven’t met my friends as I’m constantly oscillating between work and class and I don’t even find time for family or  important family functions. It is extremely stressful and I’ve seen colleagues either leave their job to complete the course or leave the course to concentrate on their job.”  

To choose between a regular income and an expensive course is a difficult choice to make and most people who can balance the two will make it big but what about those with a poor economic background? There is a certain satisfaction knowing that you are earning whist equipping yourself with more skills in this way you would be less of a liability on your family. To end the debate on an inexperienced fulltime student and an experienced professional with a degree, all we can say is that the road is rough but the fruit of your labour is sweet, not to say that full-time students are making a wrong choice because then there is also the question of whether a part time student does justice to his studies and if he’ll excel in the same way he would’ve if he had enrolled for a full-time course? Again, it is to each his own and ultimately the survival of the fittest.

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