This week’s post is courtesy is Thomas Ferrao. In September 2015, Tom completed his MSc. in the physical activity epidemiology lab of the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. Since his graduation, Tom has taken the ‘real-world’ head-on and has been kind enough to share his experience in this week’s Gradifying post. Enjoy!
Life after Grad School?
Congratulations! You’ve worked hard, passed all your courses, and successfully navigated the treacherous waters of graduate school. You worked late, you worked weekends, you probably pulled an all-nighter or two, and you came out on top with your diploma in hand. You’re a master. Now what? As a student, preparing for life after graduation can be daunting. You tend to be absorbed by the immediate requirements of completing your degree and find yourself underprepared for what comes next. Having graduated from my undergrad and taken several years off to work, I know that I had several restless nights in anticipation of completing my MSc and having to once again face the uncertainty of life after school.
I will preface this post with a brief background about myself. After completing my undergraduate degree in Health Sciences, I allowed my interests in physical activity, epidemiology, and public health to guide me to pursue graduate studies at Queens in the School of Kinesiology of Health Studies. My master’s thesis focused on the topic of children’s outdoor play and I have recently have begun working for a public health agency in a job that is closely aligned with my thesis work. I was quite fortunate to find work in the not-for-profit sector where the bulk of my responsibilities involve working on a policy project in the realm of children’s play.
When I recount similar iterations of this story, I am usually met with the shocked expression that I am one of the lucky few to have found a job that is perfectly aligned with my recently acquired expertise. Of course not everyone gets this lucky and many give up on their dream job, or pursuing work in their area of expertise altogether, because after all “you gotta pay the bills”. However, I feel that it’s important to share my overall positive experience in transitioning from graduate school to the workplace to provide an example for fellow students that will soon find themselves in a similar position.
A Master’s degree comes with many returns in what people love to refer to as the “real world” (if there really is such a thing). For instance, graduate school confers opportunities for otherwise inaccessible experiences and opportunities for important skill development, most of which are necessary qualifications for many jobs. In my experience, I learned how to design surveys and worked with statistical software packages which are essential to my career path. Also, attending academic conferences are exciting learning experiences while networking events can serve as a platform to make connections in industry. As a graduate student, attending conferences and symposiums were some of my favourite events as I was able to meet renowned experts in the field, some of which I have the pleasure of interacting with as part of my job.
Of course, the transition from student to professional varies wildly in different disciplines and the path one takes to build his or her career is specific to their field of expertise. However, the vast majority of job seekers are bound to encounter the common feeling of frustration after being ignored or receiving a rejection email. After experiencing this feeling several times, I was fortunate enough to come across the right opportunity at the right time.
Like in all walks of life, the role of timing and circumstance can be just as important as hard work and dedication. These factors may be out of your control, but you can control how you approach this situation when sifting through the endless array of job postings. Keeping an open mind, setting goals, and staying positive are of the utmost importance. In my experience, I found it helpful to ask for advice from my graduate supervisor as well as several colleagues coming from different backgrounds whether it was academia, government, or the private sector. These discussions gave me a great foundation for seeking out opportunities that would help build my career. Moreover, I found that taking time off after school helped me regain my focus, while returning to part time work, travelling, and becoming immersed in my favourite hobbies helped pass the time while reminding me of why I pursued graduate studies in the first place.