Postgraduate courses are about much more than just studying. Although, the main reason any of us undertake a postgrad program is to learn (and this is vitally important), there are more ways to learn than just in the classroom. Postgrad courses offer the opportunity to focus on your chosen subject and you should embrace all aspects of this.
Here are a few of ways to ensure you get the most out of your course, going beyond academic study.
Talking to professionals and networking will give you an insight into real world opportunities and experiences and may open doors for you in the future. Take the opportunity to attend events in your college and greater community. Make an effort to chat to people during breaks and take an interest in people’s work. Attend non-compulsory talks. If you’re particularly interested in a guest speakers’ topic, introduce yourself. Chances are, if you reach out to connect with people, they will be impressed by your initiative or even, just your friendliness. They may invite you to contact them for future advice or possibly even work opportunities, and if they don’t, ask if you could contact them in the future.
Conference tickets can be incredibly pricey, some costing a couple hundred euros. But students can sometimes avail of cheaper tickets. Recently, I was offered a student ticket for €10, which was a steal in comparison to the standard rate of €160. Conferences present another opportunity to network but they are also a chance to open your mind to new ideas and areas of work to gain an insight into the working world. Don’t think you’ll be in over your head. You are there to learn from speakers and fellow attendees. So be proud to avail of places, if you can.
Volunteering is a great way to learn through experience and meet a diverse range of people, all of which leads to personal development. As postgrad programs tend to be focused on self-directed learning, you have a certain amount of flexibility in your schedule. This can accommodate volunteer work, which is not always possible if you are tied to specific times and places of work.
However much we love our friends, sometimes they just don’t have the same interests as us. Postgraduate study is a great way to meet people with common interests. Take time to get to know your classmates. At the very least, you’ll hear another persons’ perspective on your chosen topic of study. At most, you could make life-long friendships or valuable future connections.
In all, postgrads offer you the opportunity to develop personally, learn in both academic and non-academic settings and make connections.
It’s important to remember that as the workforce is becoming increasingly educated, employers don’t just want to see lists of academic achievements. More and more, employers are hiring for personal traits. You can train for certain skills, or fill knowledge gaps, but you can’t make someone be the ‘right’ person to fit the team.
So, use your time as a postgrad student to grow in every way possible.
Stephanie Costello is studying a Masters in Sustainable Resource Management at the National University of Ireland. She is one of our Postgrad Solutions Study Bursary Winners 2017.