Talk with others

Talking with others can help you learn about different disciplines and professions. You can also learn something about the experience of graduate school itself.

If you happen to really enjoy one of your classes you might want to talk with the professor about different career paths in that discipline. How did that professor decide on their career and what other possibilities did they consider? If you aren’t sure how to talk with your professor about graduate school and careers, here are some questions to get you started.

Another potentially helpful group of people at the university are the graduate students who are teaching your sections and sometimes your classes. They will know how graduate school functions for their discipline and may know how it functions for related disciplines as well. They may also have friends who are studying elsewhere on campus who they can introduce to you. 

Graduate students are the BEST source of real information about graduate school in general and a good source about the particular program in which they are enrolled. They are in the midst of the process themselves. Here are some questions for graduate students to get you started if you are not sure what to ask.

An excellent source of information are professionals working in the field, company or organization in which you have an interest. Most professionals like to talk about their work and are quite willing to help a student interested in making a similar career choice. You may have friends or family who can introduce you to a professional in your field of interest, or you can do some research and approach people on your own.  The proper way to ask someone about their job experience and career is to use either the phrase ‘informational interview’ or ‘career conversation’. This is a sample email and a letter making that request. Here is a list of potential questions to ask a professional whose career path you might want to follow.

If your interview with a professional goes well, you might ask to ‘shadow’ them for a day or week. Job shadowing is used to find out more about a profession and sometimes for job training. When you shadow someone, you observe them at work, learning more about their skill set, interactions with others and workplace environment. Here is an excellent article about job shadowing.

Taking the time to Talk with Others will give you a variety of perspectives that you can compare and synthesize so that you can be more informed and better prepared. Talking with many people will give you a great deal of information and this can help you make better decisions.

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