When I decided to leave my job of three years at a mid-size insurance carrier, I knew graduate school would be hard and expensive. I knew I would have to reteach myself how to study and make choices about allocating my time and money. Here are five things I learned in one year of grad school, which could save you time… and sanity.
1. K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Stupid
Everyone thinks grad school is about writing papers upon papers, like undergrad, but longer. Wrong. I actually had more reading assignments than I could handle. When I saw my first assignment was a two page paper, I thought “pfflt, easy.” However, papers became a challenge when, suddenly, I couldn’t fit everything I wanted to say into two pages. It took several assignments and a few red pens later to teach me to cut the fluff and “get to the meat” in as few words as possible.
2. What is “voluntold?”
Volunteering is a term for offering to do something freely, but some programs will use the term “voluntold.” Voluntold refers to the spoken (and unspoken) expectations to go above and beyond. Learning your program’s expectations is something I cannot stress enough. As someone who came to grad school with my partner, managing expectations on my time outside of school and work was a difficult adjustment. Buy a planner, use your Outlook calendar, and try talking to current grads to find other ways to cope.
Before grad school, I exercised five to six times a week while holding a full time job and spending time with loved ones. I thought it was odd that everyone at grad school preached “work/life balance”, but I quickly learned why. Being at every event because everyone else was doing it consumed my life (talk about FOMO). Ultimately, I slacked on what I loved to do and burnt out. Burning out is common, and wanting to do it all is inevitable, but at the end of the day we all have one life and body. Take care of it because YOU are just as important as school.
In grad school, you will meet a lot of people, especially if your program is conference heavy and your field is small. Knowing that you’re always “on” and everything you say could be heard through the grapevine is crucial to your current and future success. Choose your outfits appropriately, be professional, and be polite because people will notice. If you need to vent, buy a journal.
Networking should be as easy as breathing by the time you’re in grad school because that is how you will get opportunities. If you want something, you have to be your own advocate and make it known. Utilize your university’s career center (not that I’m biased) because they have great resources to help you become comfortable in this second language. If you don’t love social media already, learn to love it (and use it to your advantage) now!
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Cristina Lawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.