Balancing certification studies with family and work
When it comes to furthering your career in technology, the name of the game is certifications. But studying for certifications requires time and energy and both of those are pretty scarce when you’re already working full time. You’ve just gotten out of work where you’ve had to use your body and brain for the last 8+ hours and now you’re wanting to punish yourself again with a grueling session of protocols, and ports. Now add to that, if you’re a family man like me, a demanding personal life. A spouse, and maybe even some kids give the whole situation some added complexity.
You’re not alone! Most of the professionals in our industry have this problem. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, but remember back to the first time you decided that you wanted to work in this industry. It was fun to constantly learn something new, and solve problems with the new knowledge gained from that education. And with some effort, it can still be fun!
One of the vitals to the success of your studies is the support from your family and especially your spouse. After all, you decided to commit to them, not the mountains of literature and configurations you’re pouring through, even if it does feel that way after a while. Take the time to articulate just how much of your time is going to be spent studying and preparing for the exam. Asses your current knowledge, check the blue prints and rate yourself on each section. This will help you build a study plan that you can then frame a study schedule around. It’s a bit of work up front, but it will bring unspeakable amounts of organization to your studies, which will translate into efficiencies gained in the overall studying and information retention. Once you have this schedule, sit with your family and explain to them that this is the schedule you’re going to be following going forward. Deviation from that schedule will occur, life happens and there is no getting around it, but it is important to try and stay on course as best as possible. I’ve gone as far as setting up a shared calendar with my wife that I can post my study schedule in, that way she has up to date access to when I will be unavailable. It helps your family to make them feel included.
Now that you have your schedule setup for your study times, take a look at your personal life and do the same thing. Assess the demands of your time and build a schedule that your family can agree to and stick to it as best as possible. While making this schedule, remember to budget some playtime. Something to take your mind completely off of the studies and distract yourself. I can’t count the amount of times that I’ve caught myself pondering a multicast configuration while I’m supposed to be spending time with my family. Let it go! There’s a common phrase in the industry that “a fresh set of eyes will do wonders”. Give your brain a break and you’ll come back to the problem with a different perspective and may even surprise yourself by figuring it out, and pretty quickly at that.
Lastly, understand that this whole process is a marathon and not a sprint, so pace yourself. You’re going to be balancing a lot and it will be easy to burn out if you’re not careful with how you proceed. I can’t stress how much you’re not the only one being challenged through this process. Don’t forget about the family. They’re probably the reason you’re doing this to begin with.
Take a look at the IT Careers section of the Cisco Learning Network and ask any questions you have.