So… you’ve started a master’s program or are thinking about beginning one. How do you make the most of this opportunity? How do you make sure that your master’s program helps you towards your hoped-for career path?
Here are four steps that will help you maximize your grad school experience and help you land the job you want:
Earning your master’s is an investment of a year or two of your life, and most master’s students take out student loans or pay out of pocket to be there. How do you ensure you make the most out of your time and financial investment?
To start, you should definitely know why you’re getting your master’s and what you are hoping to get out of it. Does completing your master’s help you earn a new credential, start a new career path, or open up more opportunities down the road?
To help clarify why you’re getting your Masters, try outlining what your objectives are and how graduate school fits into your career plan. You should be able to articulate this briefly to yourself and to others. It’s OK if your career plans change—they often do!—but you should work to know what your goals are, even if they shift. Starting a master’s with your goals in mind can help you stay on track, motivate you to put in the hard work, and ensure that you are using your master’s as a stepping stone to the job you want.
Master’s programs go by fast. The year or two you’ll spend in your program will be over before you know it, so don’t wait — start planning for your post-degree job NOW.
In some programs, graduate students find themselves applying to internships weeks into their programs, even before a semester has gone by. That’s why it’s important to start planning for your post-degree job now. Begin attending job workshops and career events at the beginning of your program. Research the career services offerings and resources at your university now. Even if you’re not ready to start applying for positions, you can begin building an effective resume and learning about the job application process.
Getting an early start in this process will help you build important relationships at the university and in your professional networks, setting you up to be an effective applicant when the time comes.
Make connections between your master’s program and your hoped-for career every chance you get. Make your course selection, class projects, thesis, internships, and networking opportunities all work towards your career goals. Think of your grad program as building the foundation for your professional life and consider how you can use it to build your portfolio of professional experiences.
Some ideas for making your work work for you:
Work smarter, and consider how you can benefit down the road from the work that you are doing now.
Use your time in your master’s program to build and strengthen your professional networks:
The structure of a master’s program can be a great natural environment for fostering relationships, and building these networks now means that they will be available and accessible to you when you need them.
You’re in grad school to help advance your career goals, so use the resources and opportunities that are available in your program to set yourself up for success down the road.