When #gradschoolproblems first launched, Greer and I wrote about going to graduate to wait to the recession. With my time in graduate school spilling out of the hour glass, finding a job once I complete my M.S. is a growing concern. I came to graduate school to further my career. I do not want to leave graduate school and return to the same dead end that I was trying to escape in the first place. Here are the four strategies that I am employing to prevent this from happening, and I will gladly accept more ideas if you have advice to share.
1. Start with the end in mind.
This advice is taken from the president of California University of Pennsylvania, Angelo Armenti Jr., who took it from his friend Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I started graduate school with the goal of using my M.S. to land a job within my chosen field. From my first day of class, I structured my every academic step to further my goal. If I am assigned research, I make it relevant to my field and build upon previous research. If I have the option to take an elective, I take electives that will develop my skill set and make myself more appealing to future employers. With my end goal in mind, it is easier to fill in the space between with behaviors and choices that bring me closer to that goal.
2. Volunteer in your community.
Career search professionals are advocating more and more for strategic volunteering as a means of making yourself more appealing to potential employers. At WVU, connecting with the community is become a more important part of University culture, making volunteer opportunities more visible and more accessible to students. I have been taking advantage of some of these opportunities, and when possible, I try to do community service that is relevant to my career interests, like guest lectures and high school visits, to sharpen my skills while giving back. Volunteer hours build experience and social capital, which could give you an edge over your competition.
3. Network with peers, mentors, and sources.
According to the Society of Human Resources, networking is the most popular way to find a job. Networking does not come easy to me because I am a shy person by nature, but I am making a greater effort to make connections because of the potential benefits. My fellow graduate students are intelligent individuals that are part of networks that are very different from mine, and when they graduate and progress in their careers those networks will grow. Having that in with an old classmate could pay off. Professors as well have well-developed networks that are resource rich, and even interview subjects can become contacts for future career opportunities. Networking opportunities are everywhere. Look for them.
4. Keep an eye out for contests and conferences.
At WVU, the Business & Economics College has an annual contest that provides start-up capital to budding entrepreneurs, and similar opportunities likely exist at your university or even on a state or national level. Ideally, your research could be leveraged for these contests to maximize the return on your effort while minimizing the amount of time you have to invest. On a similar note, submit your research to relevant conferences and journals. Consider breaking up your thesis into mini-studies to again maximize your return. These will look great on a resume and may open other doors as well.
What are you doing outside of the classroom to increase your odds of landing a job? Please share. We’re all in this together.