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Life after grad studies: Next steps?

Whether you are a master’s student about to enter the job market or a Ph.D. candidate thinking of paths outside the professoriate, graduation can be a time of great satisfaction and great concern. A common observation among most career strategists is that many grad students seldom think about life after graduation until their studies end. Grad students should consider the future of their professional portfolio in the present. However, it is never too late to think about life after graduation and strategize for a smooth transition even if you do not. Furthermore, here are some steady steps to take laid out in this article! 

1. If you have not planned, start immediately 

It is important to note that panic and stress undermine decision-making and act as a barrier to your next steps. Overcoming this entails taking ownership of what is in your hands: your life. Planning now will require serious self-reflection and taking advantage of resources all around you, especially at school. It may also help to contact your school’s academic or career advisors for more input. 

2. Utilize all your experience  

Knowing how to articulate your qualifications and what you can professionally bring to the table speaks volumes about how equipped you are for success. Write out all the work or volunteer jobs you have done in your time as a grad student and even before. Then carefully craft at least four resumes and cover letters to suit specific industries you are interested in.  

Note that simply including your duties in each role is good, but what is even more remarkable is using exciting keywords that appeal to employers and the tools they typically use to scan applications. Try words like “oversaw,” “managed,” and “provided” to seem more like you were a leader in your role. Not only will you impress employers, but you will improve your confidence in yourself. It is also a great opportunity to self-reflect and avoids imposter syndrome (Something that plagues many grad students).  

3. Use all resources on your belt 

Always have people around you to emotionally support you. But besides that, family and friends may know of countless opportunities to approach. All you must do is ask. Utilizing school resources like your school career and academic advisors, networking events, and even asking professors will take you a long way. Together, these pursuits can drive you to achieve your long-term career goals as a seasoned professional.  

4. Use your research skills 

If you are a grad student, it is practically ingrained in you to be a seasoned researcher by now. Moreover, career exploration is that much easier for you. Sourcing information now to aid your search has never been smoother. Resources like LinkedIn present a great way to network. Optimize those networks for possible informational coffees, and job opportunities, develop relationships with employers to ask more personal questions about their companies, etc. 

It is ultimately a great spot to access the hidden job markets and talk to people right in the middle of it. However, while researching and chasing that lucky referral, keep in mind what innovative skills you can bring to the table and which companies attract you the most.  

5. What does your future look like? 

The present often determines the future. What are some urgent changes you need to get done? Do you have loans to pay off or a financial plan to get started? Do you have a house to buy or rent to take care of? Realizing that current expenses need to be dealt with does not mean indefinitely pushing aside your long-term career goals. It may help to have a side job to handle your current expenses while applying for your dream jobs and taking advantage of all opportunities. A side job could turn into something much more profound than you imagined and lead you even closer to your ideal career.  

What type of companies to apply to right now (and why)

It has been implied by the United Nations that global economic conditions are reducing the availability of viable and well-paying jobs. For instance, many professionals find the job market even more challenging as a result of the global pandemic. However, it is still possible for proactive and skilled individuals who are motivated to work to find numerous opportunities for their careers despite the global employment market struggling to recover fully from the recent recession.  

There are still numerous opportunities for passionate professionals who are motivated to work, especially grad students thinking about their post-grad careers. It is reflected in the growth of multiple sectors that continue to create brand new jobs for people with similar interests and aspirations. For instance, many Canadian banks have really stepped up their game in terms of looking out for their employees.

So, without further ado, here are some key things to look out for while applying to companies, scouring the perfect one for you. Hopefully, it helps you find your dream job in no time at all. 

1. DIVERSITY AND GROWTH ARE KEY

It has a healthy work culture and the structure of the company is such that employees work as a team. Inclusion and diversity remain central to who they are and what they do. Regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, language, or experience, people aren’t held back by differences of any kind. If they have any initiative to address the lack of relevant experience, skills, knowledge, and networks that some young Canadians in marginalized communities need to succeed in today’s rapidly changing work environment, that’s a plus. Of course, there should be an abundance of opportunities open for individuals in this group. 

2. COLLABORATIVE

This is a place where you may pursue your dreams and achieve your objectives in a safe and welcoming environment. Every employee has the chance to have a significant effect on the business by collaborating with skilled colleagues on fascinating tasks. The company might pledge to have no job losses as a result of COVID in 2020 and has specifically educated HR specialists to assist in the reassignment of staff from one business to another as the organization adapts to changing demands.

3. INNOVATIVE

From tackling issues like cancer cures to natural disaster prevention, the company takes pride in revolutionizing its operations. They invest in groundbreaking research and are committed to environmental and social responsibility. Additionally, they vocally advocate for those in need with campaigns.

4. CREDIBLE AND CONFIDENT

There are many possibilities for developing and enhancing your career with the company due to its well established name. Furthermore, it’s a positive if it is so confident in its abilities that it is willing to evaluate a broader spectrum of candidates, relying on talent evaluations rather than specific job criteria or histories. 

5. FINANCIAL STABILITY

They financially meet your needs. They have fantastic leadership that has provided you the opportunity to further your education, work in a welcoming workplace, and have a good work-life balance.

Grad student tips for low burnout and high productivity

Right off the bat, it is crucial to mention that going to graduate school means setting apart a large amount of your time to prioritize post-graduate school work. But it is also crucial to mention that it is more than worth it as the feeling of earning a post-graduate degree is unmatched. 

To thrive as a graduate student requires the blossoming of a healthy study-life balance to avoid chronic burnout. You already know how strenuous 40 hours a week of work (I.e. writing countless papers, making presentations, writing funding or grant proposals, library research, TA tasks, etc.) can be on your psychological and physical wellbeing.  

Hence, in this article, we give some helpful tips on how to avoid said burnout to achieve optimum productivity while working hard all throughout the year. 

1. Time Management 

Calendar

Avoid procrastination! Students who prepare in advance for any task such as assignments or TA work experience less burnout. It also allows you to spread out your workload more evenly. And a good way to do this is by keeping track of things with a calendar (preferably digital ones which send you notifications closer to deadlines). 

Pareto Analysis Method

For more specific techniques, another option is the Pareto analysis method. It’s an 80/20 rule created by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto that entails 20% of actions are responsible for 80% of outcomes. Utilizing the Pareto analysis method allows you to prioritize tasks that are most effective at solving problems.

Pomodoro Method

You can try the Pomodoro method as well. Created by entrepreneur and author Francesco Cirillo, this time management method requires some sort of timer to divide work into intervals. Every interval is referred to as a Pomodoro, named after a timer that Cirillo made. 

For more information on the techniques above and some others to try out, check out this article: 9 Proven Time Management Techniques and Tools.

2. Set Reasonable Goals  

Stress often leads to full blown burnout. And students who set unrealistic vague goals constantly find themselves drowning in a workload far more than they can handle, leading to high stress and the urge to give up entirely. Make sure you never take on more than you can handle and always communicate with people like employers or lecturers if you feel overburdened.  

SMART Method

A very helpful way of doing this is by making sure each of your goals adhere to the SMART method:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  • Achievable (attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic, results-based).
  • Time-based (time limited, time/cost sensitive).

Now we all know what a SMART goal is, but what makes a good SMART goal?

Keep in mind that while setting goals, you can’t cheat. The easier your goal is, the less you’ll put in an extensive effort to do it. If you set difficult and vague goals, you’ll have to put in the most effort. So think deeply about what you truly want.

It’s important to make sure your goal is as specific and well-suited to you as possible. For instance, most people have the intent to study more. But their intention isn’t as well fleshed out or as specific as it could be in order to actually achieve them. Instead, they could say they want to “study for 30 minutes a day to get a 30% increase in their grade by the term’s end.”

When you finalize that, use the SMART method to double-check if it is suitable. If it is, the next step is to write the goal down. Having it right in front of you to read rather than floating around in your mind will always keep you on track.

Next, formulate an action plan. How exactly will you achieve the goal? What necessary steps do you need to take to get to where you want to?

It might also help to keep some sort of timeline where you note the steps you took; any that worked and any that didn’t, until you finally achieve the goal.

To learn more on how to use the SMART method and make your goals achievable, check out this article: The Ultimate Goal Setting Process: 7 Steps to Creating Better Goals.

3. Maintain Good Health  

It may sound obvious but many students neglect their health due to how tasking graduate studies can be. Avoid the temptation of eating inexpensive take out or staying indoors around the clock. Fast food has high sodium and an immobile lifestyle contributes to stress, so it’s ideal to cook your own meals and find stress-reducing activities such as taking regular walks, swimming or yoga.

To make these sorts of healthier choices more commonplace, try figuring out a way of implementing them as a part of your personal lifestyle and making them better suited to you. For instance, if you personally eat large quantities of food and find that you have a lot of energy in the evenings but hate extremely long exercise sessions, a healthy choice you can make specifically suited for you is to have only 30% of each meal (no matter the quantity) as carbohydrates and processed fats. Additionally, you can spread out your exercise sessions in the week, making each one less than 30 minutes, and only do them in the evenings.

4. Turn Off Your Social Media 

Social media updates are endless and this ultimately overwhelms students. So, it’s key that we understand these updates can wait, especially when it’s time to go to sleep. Besides constant updates, light from screens can keep people awake and ruin body clocks. A helpful trick to overcoming this is at least one hour before going to sleep, turn off your gadgets or put it on airplane mode. 

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