If five years ago you told me I’d be pursuing a master’s degree at the age of 25, I wouldn’t have believed you. And if you said that degree program would be in political communications, 100% online and I’d be working full-time from my studio apartment in Washington, DC, I would have thought you were insane. When I received my bachelor’s degree in 2019, I thought that was the end of school for me, and I told everyone how excited I was to be done with school forever. Oh, how things change.
The COVID-19 pandemic gave me a ridiculous amount of time to take a hard look at myself, where I was in my life and what I wanted my future to be. I was working at my first “real person” job post-grad, living in an apartment with my best friend, reading way too many books and trying to find the positive in every situation.
While there was nothing wrong with my life, I realized I wanted to make a change. I was yearning to learn again, stimulate my brain and challenge myself. I could have picked up a new hobby, like knitting or bread-making, but instead, I decided to return to school.
I started my graduate program in political communications at the University of Florida online in January 2021, just about a year into the pandemic. Even though my master’s program is 100% online – purposefully, not because of COVID – managing work, school, and personal life have the potential to be extremely challenging. Stratacomm makes it easy.
Stratacomm values personal and professional growth for all its staff, and learning is a core value. When I joined the company in July 2021, I was only two semesters into my grad program. My team made it clear that school should and could remain a priority for me. Ultimately, cultivating my skillset and knowledge outside of work will help me at work – and I already see results!
In my grad classes, I’m learning so many things, including Photoshop, HMTL website coding, developing a comprehensive strategic communications plan for an advocacy campaign, designing online advertisements and so much more. My program focuses on real-life applications of these skills to political campaigning, advocacy and government-related professions.
I work with three government clients at Stratacomm and constantly find myself jotting notes during class when I learn something I can apply at work. I still have three more semesters to go, but I already view many projects through a new lens and bring a fresh perspective to the tasks at hand.
Tips & Tricks
A master’s program isn’t for everyone. And it certainly isn’t for everyone already working full-time. But, if you’re like me, and decide to continue your education, here are some tips for working and pursuing a master’s degree at the same time:
- Choose a program that fits well with your academic and professional goals.
- Inform your team of your busy times at school (e.g., midterms and finals).
- If you feel stressed at school, tell your supervisor. They can help you manage work-related tasks to lessen the stress, so it doesn’t impact your job performance.
- Take a break from your screen between the end of the workday, classes and studying.
- Designate certain evenings during the week to focus on school. Leave the other nights and weekends to socialize and take care of yourself.
- Remember to move your body!
University of Florida Graduate Class of 2023, I’m coming for ya!
Maris Laughton is a senior account executive based in Washington, DC. She provides communications, stakeholder outreach and events services for government clients.