Mithila Mehta explores the intricacies of leaving a cushy job to pursue further studies overseas
Taneesha Mukherjee, a 26-yearold public relations consultant at a reputed Mumbai firm, recently quit her long-time job to pursue a Master's in Marketing from the UK. "It was a difficult decision to take and then to actually implement. There were so many factors to consider, and so many adjustments to make," she shares.
"For me, just making the decision to quit and study was the most difficult part," divulges Mukherjee. "I had to muster up courage to leave my comfortable job and plunge into the unknown. There was a gnawing concern about finding a worthy job for myself after completing the course and whether taking time out would affect my career growth trajectory," she says. This uncertainty factor dissuades most working professionals from taking the plunge.
Many believe that those with some work experience are best suited to benefit from studying abroad. "Working helps one understand the real world and gain practical insights, which makes learning more effective. We can contribute to class discussions with personal experiences. Working also brings some amount of maturity and discipline, which is necessary at the academic level as well," says Ishani Chopra, who is pursuing her MBA at NTU Stern, New York. Furthermore, individuals with work experience can fund their studies, easing the financial complications that often accompany studying abroad.
Those who have worked are in a better position to identify which course will advance their career best, and make focused, informed choices. "After working for three years, I was pretty sure of the field I wanted to be in, and a masters at this stage seemed apt," says Pragati Luhadia, who completed her Masters in Mass Communications from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Mukherjee agrees, "Many of my friends went in for their postgraduate abroad immediately after graduation, as freshers. They picked courses randomly, for the greater part. Conversely, I made my choices after having seen the workplace, understood the skills/ qualifications most coveted, and the educational backgrounds of the top professionals in my field."
Others simply want to follow their hearts. "After spending three years in the IT sector, I was sure this wasn't meant for me. I took a course in film studies from Exeter College, Oxford University, UK. Going abroad allowed me to seamlessly change career tracks and find work that I loved," says Sonia Agarwal.
So you've finally decided you would like to pursue education abroad. When is the best time to leave your job? The answer largely depends on how serious/ keen you are on heading aboard, along with the notice period you must serve. "I quit my job well in advance, so that I could concentrate on my GMAT and applications. I did this because I was absolutely sure of my decision and didn't want any distractions," says Chopra. Others quit only after receiving acceptance letters from universities, to avoid the unsavoury situation where they are without a college or a job.
Making the switch from working to studying can be rather challenging. "While working, Google is your saviour and reading is limited to a few documents. Unlike at college, you are not required to quote scholars or write thesis," says Luhadia. In preparation for their time as students, many working professionals try to 'acclimatise' to the academic environment. "Before I left for the university, I had started reading extensively and solving some basic math, which I had lost touch of. I also made it a point to write a little every day, because I was so used to typing," says Chopra.
Leaving your job to study abroad can go a long way in furthering your career. However, adequate research and mental preparation can help make your shift back to academics comfortable.