Career Lessons Learned as a First Year Master’s Student

Career Lessons Master’s Student - Style Nine to Five

When starting my Master’s, I felt like I was going into the experience blind, especially starting my program virtually due to COVID-19. I wasn’t able to have the typical experience where you can interact with classmates on a daily basis, compare notes and ask questions. Although this experience posed its challenges, it forced me to rely on my own skill set and implement some strategies that have ultimately helped me in the workplace.

Creating Discussion Points

One of the most daunting aspects of starting my master’s was working through the assigned readings. Although I was prepared for a large workload, with smaller class sizes (mine were less than 8) you will need to contribute on a weekly basis, just as you would in a professional team setting. Although there was a steep learning curve, making notes on each concept – and I’m not just talking about copying and pasting because I know we have all done that but actually paraphrasing concepts in your own words, makes a world of a difference.

What I also found helpful is connecting key concepts to other readings or global events for discussion points in class. Finally, no matter the content readings can be dense, you’re not alone if you don’t understand them! After reviewing them, reach out to your professor during office hours and have a discussion about what you thought the main takeaways of the content was.

Company meetings and class discussions parallel each other. Before, when entering any meeting, I would speak off the cuff and rely on the improv chops, but this can be stressful! Even if you are not pitching, make a few points heading into each meeting and continue to take notes throughout as these will be an excellent resource later on as they’re not only great for reference, but they may spark an idea later on.

Saving Sources

Although you may not have narrowed the scope of your research related to your thesis, you should have a general direction. The classes you will take will have content hopefully connected to your future research. In order to lessen the burden of finding sources to support your research, save and catalogue any readings that may be relevant to your research in the future. When cataloguing these sources, create a document of theories and key concepts that you may want to feature in your research.    

You may ask how does saving academic sources relate to my job? I’ll tell you, utilizing past company reports will take anything from your pitches to conversations with your boss to the next level. These will be especially beneficial when doing market researching and understanding how newly implemented strategies are affecting your industry. 

Reaching Out to Faculty for an Advisor

When selecting your classes, look into what the professors research interests are to see if there are any intersecting focus areas. Try to enroll in classes with these professors early on in your program as the earlier you connect with a thesis advisor the better! It not only allows you to build a stronger relationship with them, but they will also provide you with class suggestions which will ultimately enhance your research. It is also helpful to do this as professors can only be advisors to so many students, so the more of a head start you get the better.

Foraging an organic relationship with your boss and/or manager can be so beneficial. Not only could this turn into a great mentor relationship, but also may create opportunities as they have more insight into your personality and skillset.

When starting my master’s, I was full of excitement, but had no idea what valuable lessons I’d be able to take away and apply in a professional setting as well. I was able to develop strategies that not only helped me in the academic space but also in the workplace.

Do you have a burning career question but not sure who to turn to? Try Style Nine to Five’s Ask 1 Career Question offering. Style Nine to Five’s Founder, Christie Lohr, will personally answer your question via email! 

Demetra Maragos – Demetra is a Master of Arts candidate at New York University, who loves thinking outside of conventional lines to combine her passions of everything culture, fashion and lifestyle.

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