When you’re about to dive headfirst into grad school, it feels like a second chance. A chance to try new things you didn’t try before. There will be so many new doors opening at once it might feel overwhelming and you feel like you have to step through all of them at once. After talking with several current and graduated grad students, here’s what they have to say to new incoming grads on what to focus on to get the most out of grad school based on whether you are a career enhancer, switcher, aspiring entrepreneur, or future PhD.
1. Go to social events. Grad school is one of the best opportunities you have to make friends. It’s also one of the easiest times. Your rate of friendship making after grad school quickly decreases as the pool of people you’re around decreases as well and people start resorting to Facebook. Turn your grad school friendships into life-long friendships.
2. Stay active. It’s important to keep a school-life balance. Bike to class, take the stairs, join a sport, take advantage of the gym on-site, take your favorite fitness class on a regular basis, or train for a marathon. With all the mind development in grad school, don’t neglect your body. The one always helps the other when you keep them at peak levels.
3. Specialize. When you graduate, guess how many MBA’s will suddenly be on the job market, and that’s not just your class, that’s every grad school in the country. Differentiate your MBA from everyone else’s so you standout. Use a school or career advisor to help you customize your MBA for your future ambitions.
For Career Enhancers
1. Take on a leadership opportunity. As busy as you are, make the time to seek out a leadership opportunity. These show employers that you can take initiative and are confident that you can balance and time manage your life while putting the agenda of a cause or organization first. Anyone can be a follower, but if you show you can step up to the plate, get along with people and rally support, your employer will more likely get behind you.
2. As you’re mind matures, so should your attire. The higher up the ladder you plan to go, the more eyes are looking up to you. Your attire should show your personal brand. If you’re a creative type, up the color, if you’re all about customer service and satisfaction, remove the bling, you don’t want to outshine your customer. If you’re about clean functional design, dress simple yet edgy, perhaps with an early adopted trend conversation starter accessory. And most importantly, you’re a grad student, you are selling your mind, so always draw the attention and focus to your face.
For Career Switchers
1. Club! No, not the ones you party at, the ones you join on campus. Join a club that simulates what you want to do so you can get that missing piece of experience you are looking for. It’s a good opportunity to check in with yourself to see if that’s really what you want to do. College is the time and place to make that dream path more definitive as it is much more difficult later on to make a career switch. It’s also a great resume booster.
2. Do an internship (or a few). Internships are a great way to get a jump-start in the work place. Work with the career center to find one that’s right for you. Introduce yourself to as many people as you can and nurture the relations with people who are willing to help you. Feel free to interview people on how they got to where they are, people love talking about themselves and they’ll feel flattered. Ask them for any additional suggestions or resources you can use to get to where you want to go.
3. Network in college like crazy. Get as many contacts as you can of people who want to work in your industry because there will be a time where you will be turning to them for a job and them to you. Develop those relationships and make yourself memorable now because after college no one has time.
4. Use the Career Services Center. Make friends with the career counselors and ask for their advice on resumes, cover letters, social media profiles, and company connections. These should be solid by the time you ready to make the switch!
For Aspiring Entrepreneurs
1. Seek pitch opportunities. Find opportunities to practice your pitch. The more practice you get the more comfortable and confident you will get with yourself in your new role as well as your business. Networking events are a great place to start. You never know who can help you until they know what you want to do, so tell the whole world, don’t feel like you have to be selective.
2. Find a mentor. Reach out to an alum who resembles what you are trying to achieve and meet with them on a regular basis to touch-base on what you’re working on for tips. And of course, in return, since you are in school, you have 2 strong exchange points. One, you have a stronger in-school network so offer access to individuals you meet there. And two, you have access to the latest research and knowledge that is being taught, so you can provide this information to your mentor so he can keep up with the latest straight from the source.
For Future PhDs
1. Do good in school. The last GPA you earn is what you leave with and sticks on your back for the rest of your life. For those, who have educational plans for after grad school this is especially important for you to focus on. When pre-class prep courses pop up, take them. For those of you who plan to stay in the job marketplace, then focus more on making connections with others and read on to see tip #2.
2. Boost your GPA. If you find your GPA is suffering and not up to par with the class profiles of the PhD schools you are looking at, take an elective that’s not too challenging that way you can boost your overall GPA.