How to Talk To Your Boss About Going Back To Uni

It’s one thing to decide you’re heading back to university – but breaking the news to your boss is a whole other kettle of fish. While having ‘the talk’ can seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom.

Here’s how to have the chat and come out the other side with everything you want.

Do Your Research

No matter how desperate you are to break the news to your boss, take a second to read through your contract and company policy to see if there’s anything that refers to studying while working. Contrary to popular belief, most progressive workplaces are happy to assist their employees in furthering their education.

Rob, 33, has been working within the health sector for a number of years and is currently completing a postgraduate degree. He strongly suggests researching what you’re entitled to and looking at how far up the chain of command your request will actually go (especially if you’re looking for financial assistance or flexible working hours).

“I have a good relationship with my immediate supervisor, so I swung the idea past him first, then moved it up incrementally until it got to the person it needed to be approved by,” he told Junkee.

Preparation Meets Consideration

You’ve made up your mind, you’ve done your research – now it’s time to give your boss a decent heads-up. The benefit of giving them as much notice as possible is that your boss can plan ahead without feeling overwhelmed by finding someone to cover or support your role while you’re busy hitting the books.

Keep in mind, your boss will most likely have a mountain of questions, so try to have your answers ready. These might include whether you’ll travel for classes, whether you’ve planned how you’ll balance work and study, and what led you to this decision in the first place.

“The more detail about your course you have, the better,” says Rob. “You need to know things like how many years your course goes for and how many hours per week.” Don’t forget – you’ve been thinking about this for a while and your boss has only just found out, so give them a second to take it all in before you jump to Plan B.

Prepare an outline of the key areas and skills you’ll be developing through further study and be equipped to explain how it’ll benefit your role – are you learning leadership skills or honing your strategic ability? Show exactly how it’s as beneficial for your boss that you spend this time upskilling as it is for you and your career.

Be Tactful

Whatever you do, don’t have the chat over a casual morning coffee. Do the right thing and request a meeting with your boss, preferably somewhere that allows you to discuss your decision without the risk of co-workers, emails or phones interrupting your chat.

And try not to tell your friends at work before you tell your boss. It’ll suck big time if your boss hears it on the grapevine before hearing it directly from you. Guy, 32, is currently finishing his MBA, which he has been completing while working full-time. He recommends a holistic approach to these conversations.

“Be grateful for the support you do receive – your employer is investing in your future,” he tells Junkee. “Your leaders will appreciate this.”

The Whole Truth

Going back to university is beneficial to you and your career, but it’s important to be honest with your boss about what your plan is, your expectations and any concerns you might have relating to balancing work and study. Chat it out. Your boss might have solutions you haven’t already thought of and it’s a great way to work together on a plan that will benefit everyone.

Rob believes time and honesty are key elements in this scenario. “Give them plenty of notice as they may need to plan upcoming projects around your capacity and thinking ahead for them will work in your favour,” he explains. “Be direct, because there’s no way to avoid the conversation.”

Ask Your Own Questions         

Even if you’ve done the research, it’s important to ask questions of your own. Will your company be in a position to cover your study fees? If so, in what capacity? Will you be able to work part-time and what happens if you need additional time off for on-campus study days or exams? Guy believes in being upfront about your needs.

“Don’t be shy about asking for support, whether that’s financial, time away from work, or mentoring,” he says. “Many large organisations have established policies and programs to support employees with additional study – it’s there to be used, and these policies have almost become a hygiene factor for the best employers.”

Go You Good Thing!

Don’t forget the benefits of your continued education are far-reaching for both you and your boss. Not only will it allow you to upskill, it provides your company with an employee who has innovative knowledge and experience gained from leaders within their field. Guy suggests explaining this during your chat.

“If your study goals are aligned with the business goals, the conversation is much easier,” he says. “It’s your chance to explain how your study could provide mutual benefits for the business down the track.”

(All images: Rawpixel via Unsplash)

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