Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to pursue an online degree. Making this commitment to your future should feel exciting and empowering — but you also might feel anxious about telling your boss.
You shouldn’t. Many students enrolled in a Master’s degree program with Coursera complete their coursework while continuing at their current job and even earn promotions along the way as they learn new skills!
If you take the right approach, you can turn an anxiety-inducing conversation into a positive one. Here are some tips on how to talk to your boss about getting an online degree:
Know The Facts
First of all, you should know that you’re not alone. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), over 3 million undergraduate and graduate students are aged 30 and over. That’s about 18% of the total. It represents over 45% of the total number of graduate students.
What does that have to do with you? It means you’re hardly the only person in an online degree program that works a full-time job. That should give you (and your boss) confidence that you can balance both workloads. Increasingly, it’s the norm!
Find the Right Time
Timing is everything! So, make sure to schedule the meeting at an opportune time to discuss your plans for an online degree. According to Forbes, your boss is most likely to be in a relaxed state of mind during the afternoon and on Fridays. It’s in your best interest to avoid scheduling your meeting first thing Monday morning.
Set Your Goals
Before your meeting, take time to consider your goals for your online degree, as well as how it will impact your current job. How do you foresee your online degree changing your weekly routine?
For example, are you studying because you’d like to take on more of a leadership position? If so, you should have that conversation with your boss up front. Alternatively, are you looking to transition to a different type of role or career? Consider how you’ll bridge that with your manager and your team.
Change can be scary when you’re trying to run a business, so be sure to start your meeting on a positive note. Reiterate your commitment to the company, and make sure your boss understands that your online degree isn’t going to prevent you from doing your job.
Then, emphasize your dedication to developing your career, and explain how your new skills will enhance your value to the company. If you make your case sincerely and effectively, your boss should be almost as excited as you are about your decision.
… but Be Realistic
Of course, you also need to acknowledge the added responsibility of pursuing an online degree as you keep up with your existing workload. This is the more challenging part of the conversation, so be sure to understand the schedule for your program and the demands it will place on your time beforehand.
How many hours a week will you need for your classes and coursework, and on which days? Are there periods of the semester when you’ll be especially busy (or not)? Make a plan for how you’ll manage your new time commitments, and share it with your boss to provide assurance that you’ve got everything under control.
Make It a Conversation
Follow your plan as best you can, but remember to allow for an open conversation and listen seriously to any feedback from your boss. That includes addressing valid concerns without getting defensive; instead, hear your boss out, and work together to tackle the issue.
This kind of give-and-take can be a great opportunity to finish the conversation on a high note. By jointly establishing plans for managing real-life situations at work, your boss will be more likely to buy in to your decision and endorse it with confidence.
Stay Above Water
So your boss has given you the seal of approval and you’ve enrolled in your online degree program. What’s next?
Deliver what you promised. Stay on top of your responsibilities at work and keep your boss updated on any major developments with your degree program. While your boss and colleagues might be aware of your online degree program, it’s easy for them to forget just how much it’s impacting your day-to-day life. Be vocal about what’s on your plate and reach out if you need support.
And always remember, if an online degree benefits you it will also benefit those around you — including your boss. Follow the right steps and you’ll make this opportunity a win-win for everyone.
Considering an online degree? Coursera offers high quality, 100% online and affordable degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, and others.