On Wednesday, I gave you a few questions to ask yourself before deciding whether or not to return to the classroom. If you’ve decided to apply or are already in graduate school, the next step is to make the most of the years you have at the university. It can be easy to just go to class and go home, especially if you’re working full time and going to school, but this is a great time to build your network and your experience. Just because you’re in school doesn’t mean that you don’t also try to actively advance your career.
How do you ensure that you make the most of graduate school? Here’s what I learned. Some of these I did do, and some I wish I’d done more of:
- Make friends with classmates. If there is someone you click with in class, go out with him or her for coffee now and then before or after class. When the class is over, try to keep in contact via Facebook or LinkedIn. You’re all looking to work in the same field, and it will help for you to have contacts from school. They already know and trust you.
- Connect with professors you admire and respect. This was hard for me to do in undergrad, but it was much easier in a small graduate program. You inevitably find a professor or two you really like, and whose classes you keep signing up for. Go to their office hours, ask them questions, ask them for career advice. If they are on a panel or have a presentation open to the public, attend. When you show support for your professors, they’ll support you long after you graduate.
- Join professional groups or get involved with an activity. A lot of graduate programs have chapters of professional groups that are geared toward your industry. You can also get involved with certain activities related to your field. For example, as a writing major, I ended up co-hosting a radio show for writing students — and it was a great way to meet a lot of people in my program who I didn’t meet in class.
- Do an internship or externship. If you’re not sure yet exactly what kind of job you want, a great way to test it out is with an internship or externship. Most schools will give you class credit and, even if they don’t, it will get you out and meeting people in your industry.
- Attend university events geared toward your major. Is there a great series of speakers or panels the university is planning? Attend as many as your schedule allows. You’ll pick up a lot of valuable information from professionals, which is a great supplement to what you are already learning from your professors.
You might not have time to do all of these things, and that’s okay. But be honest with yourself and know the difference between what you really don’t have time to do and what you’re afraid to do. Aim to do at least two of the above and fully commit to them. You’ll be glad that you did — it will certainly help you once you’ve graduated.