I Got My Degree, What Happens Now?
How to Succeed After Degree Completion
By Caleb Jones
After finding the right program, applying, getting accepted and working hard to succeed in grad school amidst a hectic life, you have finally graduated from your program! Well done. You have your degree, and that part is done, but what happens next?
Whether you are a twenty-something entering the work force for the first time, or an experienced career changer looking to use your degree to open new doors, taking the next step forward can feel intimidating. Interviews can be stressful and asking for a promotion can make even the most qualified of palms sweat.
It’s important to be prepared as best you can for what comes after degree completion. Specifically, interviews, promotions and increased pay after graduation. The job search presents its own sets of challenges, and armed with the right tools, you can face them head on. Here are some tips on how to succeed after degree completion.
Preparation is Key
Always do your research on the company before an interview. Knowing about the company and its history and values will give you more confidence. Also, be sure that you can express why you want to work there and what value you can bring to the organization.
“Match your qualifications to the job description and be prepared to sell your transferrable skills, especially the soft skills,” says Jeremy Fisher, Director of the John P. Fahey Career Center at Creighton. “Have a plan to address and gain new skills to show initiative to learn and flexibility.”
“Soft skills” are those to do with interacting effectively and harmoniously with other people, and Jeremy emphasizes their importance to employers during the interview process.
If you are a career changer, be ready to answer the most dreaded of job interview questions: why are you leaving your previous career? Explain why you are wanting to change careers and how this new employment opportunity fits into your professional development. Avoid negativity. Keep things positive and light. Focus on how this opportunity will help you grow as a professional.
Know Your Worth and Bring Evidence
Before you can convince an employer that you are the best fit for a job, you need to believe it yourself. Themuse.com recommends “writing out everything you do, in detail… This will help you to see your experience in a fluid way that can apply to many settings.”
Think of it like this: You weren’t a “customer service representative” you were someone who “assisted customers with orders, promoted new products and services, and addressed customer complaints professionally.”
Think about bringing hard evidence to support your readiness for this job. This could be in the form of sample work, training certificates, or even mock projects that you know would be relevant to the business conducted by the company with which you are interviewing.
Timing is Everything
Timing is everything when asking for a promotion or raise, so do your homework! Be ready to provide specifics about how you are ready for the next step. Emphasize what value and accomplishments you have brought to the organization before, and how you are invested to contribute to the company in the future.
“Either before, during, or after earning an advanced degree, you should have a conversation with your hiring manager or direct supervisor about how earning a higher-level degree fits into your professional growth plan and how that brings additional value back to the organization,” says Jeremy Fisher.
Just like when you are interviewing for jobs, don’t make it about the salary! Salary discussions and negotiations will happen after you are offered a job or promoted by the organization. Do your homework in advance on average salaries for someone with your level of experience and education.
Certainly, the value of a graduate degree lies in its effects on long-term career growth and income. However, that doesn’t mean things will just be handed to you. You must still work hard, prove your value, be patient, and show your commitment to your employer. Those promotions and raises will come in time.
Keep a positive attitude, develop strong working relationships with your supervisor and teams, and make sure to have conversations about your future growth plan with your manager when it feels appropriate. A large part of being successful is finding the right mix of being prepared and timing things right.
Remember to believe in yourself, and lean on the knowledge and skills you gained from your advanced program.
Whether you are seeking a change of career, a promotion, or a new job, with the right approach, you can move forward in your career. Your professional goals are within your reach.