On the one hand, you may take great pride and feel relieved that you're done. On the other hand, you're probably also experiencing trepidation, because you now have to find a way to put your degree to work.
My advice: Don't be overly concerned about it. Take some time first to celebrate your accomplishment and do something special for yourself.
As the celebrations wind down, you'll need to start thinking about how to make the most of the other side of graduate school. Here are five tips to help you as you embark on the next leg of the journey.
1. Be prepared to manage real world expectations: I'm not breaking any news here, but having a master's degree does not guarantee a job. Employers are increasingly seeking more than just content knowledge.
They are demanding a wide array of personal skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, oral and written communication, and teamwork and collaboration, according to a recent report by the Council of Graduate Schools and Educational Testing Service. Use this knowledge to hone your skills and be ready to apply them effectively.
[Get advice from the Hired Before Graduation blog.]
2. Build lasting relationships: Developing a strong network of relationships is critical. Maintain ties with your former classmates, some of whom will become lifelong friends and professional colleagues. Keep in touch with former faculty members, too.
Make sure you have a few individuals you trust and who can provide professional advice. Offer to help former classmates and professors in any way you can. What you give will come back.
3. Be open to mentoring others: During grad school you likely benefited from the support and guidance of a mentor. Now that you have completed your graduate studies, I suggest being open to mentoring others.
Not only does it offer a great way to share your insights, but it also helps maintain focus and provides a sense of purpose that brings both professional and personal gratification.
4. Be a loyal alumnus/alumna: Show your appreciation for your alma mater—and I'm not just talking about money. After all, you're a new grad and money is tight. However, there are ways to show some appreciation without having to cut a check.
Offer to share your knowledge and experience as a guest lecturer. You could help the admissions office by representing your school at a recruitment event or volunteering to interview prospective students. The value you give back is often returned—in both personal and professional opportunities.
[Learn how LinkedIn is transforming the job search for M.B.A.'s.]
5. Remember what success is really about: Believe me, success in life is not directly correlated with one's grade point average or with the ranking or prestige of your school. It is about persistence and determination.
Employers are going to be most interested in how motivated you are and whether you are a strong match for their needs. While academic performance is a consideration, it is not the final deal maker or breaker by any means.
In the end, it's about who you are and what you bring to the table. Your GPA or the school that you attended may initially open some doors, but that is all.
Dr. Don Martin, Ph.D., is a higher education admissions expert, author, and former admissions dean at Columbia University, Northwestern University, Wheaton College, and University of Chicago Booth School of Business. To learn more about graduate admissions, visit gradschoolroadmap.com.