Postgraduate master’s: How to avoid career panic

Postgraduate master’s: How to avoid career panic

Written by Elizabeth Wilkinson, Careers Consultant at The Careers Service

There’s one good way to stop panicking about your future career – and that’s to take some positive action.

Even with so much uncertainty about what’s to come, there are still things you can do right now to get yourself ready for whatever comes after your master’s.

  1. Explore organisations or sectors that interest you

Look beyond careers websites to understand what’s happening with them right now:

  • What new issues are they dealing with?
  • What new skills might they need to help them?
  • Where are they expanding – or contracting?

Read the trade press, trade association news (try searching for “trade association industry” where “industry” is the type of organisation you’re interested in), set up news alerts for organisations and follow them on LinkedIn.

That’ll keep you one step ahead of the competition.

  1. Review adverts which interest you (and start applying)

Now’s the right time to look, even though you can’t start immediately.

Why? Because you can find out which skills are in short supply and you’ve still got time to add them to your CV.

Need data visualisation skills, or learn about health economics or risk management? Try free online courses at FutureLearn or Coursera.

And in all honesty, three months before you finish your master’s is the ideal time to start applying for jobs anyway, especially as most business processes, including recruitment, are taking longer than usual at them moment.

Ideally, you want to be ready to pounce as soon as you hear of a job, which is why you also need to …

  1. Start to polish your CV and LinkedIn profile

The most effective CVs are tailored to the role you want, but a great precursor to this is to prepare your “foundation CV” – a great big long list of everything you’ve ever done, all the dates, lists of all your modules, societies joined (even if only for a couple of months), volunteer activities, part-time jobs, that time you helped your friend try to set up a business, and lots of carefully crafted bullet points to describe your achievements.

Of course, you never send this version, but it’s where you go to pick out the relevant details for your targeted CV when you need it quickly.

It also helps avoid overloading your targeted CV with out-of-date or irrelevant stuff (if you know your School prize for Most Improved Trumpet Player will always be there on your foundation CV, it helps you to let it go – it’s really not going to be the thing which clinches that job in professional services for you).

  1. Renew and expand your contacts

One of the best ways to avoid having to compete in a difficult job market is to hear about jobs before anyone thinks of advertising them.

Let your family and friends, former work colleagues, fellow students and lecturers know what you’re hoping to do, and tell them how your master’s has changed you.

It’s not all about talking though – listen intently to what they can tell you about their own or others’ work.

If you can spot problems which need to be fixed, or work which needs to be done, this is your chance to show humility, make it clear you’ll do whatever needs doing, and present yourself as a ready-made solution to their problem.

  1. Get support from the Careers Service

My last tip is don’t be tempted to finish that project or dissertation before trying to make a careers appointment.

The end of your master’s coincides with our busiest time of year with final year undergrads and keen new master’s hammering down our (virtual) doors, as we zoom between talks and workshops.

We’re here all through the summer, and you can have the pick of the appointments, all the way through to early September.

Skype and Zoom are both available, and it’s really just like a normal careers appointment – but you can bring your coffee (and we actively encourage Zoom-bombing from pets).

See you soon!

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