Adults going back to school after time spent in the workplace can often feel at a disadvantage. We assume that fresh-faced teens straight out of high school are far better equipped for the rigors of education than those whose skills have gotten rusty during years away from the books. This idea suggests that learning stops when you leave the classroom — it doesn’t. Chances are your years spent out there in the ‘real world’ have more comprehensively prepared you for going back to college than you’ve realized. You just need to start thinking a little differently.
Time management, adaptability, strong organization and prioritization are all skills you’re almost certainly better at now than you were your first time at college. All these qualities, essential for holding down a job, are also crucial in your studies. Being able to keep on top of deadlines, to understand what work needs to be done first and, perhaps more importantly, the will to actually do it instead of endlessly procrastinating— these are all things you’re bringing to the table as a postgraduate or mature student.
Another workplace skill which might not immediately stand out as something you can use in study situations is conflict management. College is full of potentially stressful situations, particularly for a more mature student. You might find yourself struggling with a professor, or getting frustrated with fellow students who won’t always take classes or group assignments seriously. Being able to manage these stresses and distractions and continue to work peacefully and productively toward a common goal is a terrific skill to have, and one which is necessarily honed in the workplace.
The mental attitude required for work can also be useful in classroom situations. As an employee, you are aware that you’re responsible for your own success in the workplace, and the same holds true when going back to school. That ability to “own it” can be an incredible skill in the classroom.
It’s time to start thinking of your years in the workplace as an asset, not a disadvantage. Making the choice to leave a job in order to go back to school, or to pursue education while still working, shows how committed you are. Now, just like you would on your first day at the office, you need to concentrate on coming across as a true professional, capable of reliably handling anything. If you can convince the people around you, chances are you’ll convince yourself, too.