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Completing a postgraduate degree doesn’t mean that you bind yourself to an academic discipline forever. Your career path might end up extremely different from your chosen subject. That won’t make your Masters irrelevant though. There are many skills that you’ll learn and refine during your study which are extremely useful for almost any job.
From dealing with January panic mode when three assignments are due on the same day, to learning how to cobble together an essay from reading you didn’t fully understand: you learn a lot on a Masters.
Here are the top five (and a half) skills that I learnt – and you probably will too.
If you’ve read any other posts about postgraduate skills, then you’ll know that time management is a favourite theme. That’s because it’s the most useful. Soon after starting school (never mind university) we quickly learned that success equalled meeting deadlines. Detentions were handed out for late homework and teachers got frustrated if you arrived after the bell. Well, if 16 years of school and undergraduate study didn’t teach you good time management then a postgraduate year definitely will.
While each degree is different, my Masters was made up of multiple five week modules. Five weeks is not a lot of time to learn something new in detail, and so the year was a constant time crunch. Procrastination in the name of perfectionism goes out the window. Work just needs to be done.
It might seem stressful (because it is) but you quickly learn how to organise your time efficiently and produce work that meets expectations. In any job you will have deadlines. Knowing how to juggle tasks independently and schedule your time effectively is an extremely beneficial skill to learn.
Even if you are applying for a taught Masters course, you will have to complete some form of independent research. Lucky for you, lots of jobs value research skills! Despite what the many dystopian films may tell you, most employers aren’t looking for another brick in the wall. They want a human. If areas of your future career need improvements, then research (that is original and systematic thinking) can help you find a solution. Showing initiative is always a good thing too.
Additionally, before you even get a job, you’ll need to research the job market. As I’m sure many of you know, the more applications you send out, the more likely you’ll get employed.
What is the main point of university? To learn things. Postgraduate study not only advances subject knowledge but also improves your ability to learn.
As I mentioned before, you might end up in a job completely unrelated to your degree. But, with your improved learning skills, that won’t be an issue! You’ll comprehend your new job in no time.
Endless amounts of essays, presentations, and seminar discussions will have shaped you into a communication master (no pun intended). You’ll learn how to talk the talk before you walk the walk.
With new-found advanced writing skills, you’ll be able to convince anyone in a personal statement and CV why you’re right for the job. Point, evidence and explanation. It’s that simple.
Things don’t always work out, particularly with dissertation research. Given the time restraint, learning to ‘ignore’ sources that don’t benefit you is, in fact, a skill. So is seeking out the ones that do, even when they aren’t as obvious. It should go without saying that resourcefulness can also be very useful in the outside world. After all, the problems that no one else has yet solved are often the ones with the most rewarding solutions.
So, next time you’re lost in the woods, you’ll be particularly good at spotting what will and won’t help you. Bear Grylls would be proud.*
*Please do not test this theory
Not exactly a traditional skill, but it’s worth a mention. Given the fast-paced stressful environment of postgraduate study, heightened emotions are normal.
Some weeks your work might feel like the Titanic. A sinking ship. You watch as your argument desperately clings to a piece of driftwood. But we all know how that film goes. Some arguments just don’t make it. But like Rose, you must never give up, no matter how hopeless.
Soon enough you’ll learn how to cope with the bad weeks and how to make the most of the good ones. This is a life skill that will prove nothing but beneficial in the future.
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