5 Steps to Achieving Maximum
Benefit from Your Degree
(Continued from 1)
2. Collaborate with others. Share
ideas and plans.
Networking with peers throughout your academic career,
and beyond, is the most frequently practiced benefit
toward professional benefit. Your peers come to the
table with many different backgrounds and experiences.
Aside from the normal help in homework, problem-solving,
course and professor selection, etc., they also can
provide invaluable assistance in your career selection.
They can provide connections to individuals in your
chosen career field
that can share their experiences which can help focus
your choice of major or career direction. They can enlighten
you on the positives and negatives, future direction
of that industry, and whether your skills are a good
match. Peers can also assist you in setting a plan for
your job search to include tasks such as who to contact,
how to achieve some name recognition and how to get
exposure in your profession.
Before you graduate or narrow in on your career choice,
networking provides good information about what the
field is like. Use your classmates and their friends
to establish connections in your desired career field.
Then, make the calls and find out about the job from
the insiders. Another benefit is that these connections
can guide you in job interviews by providing insight
into the fields current issues, direction, etc.
If your connections are within the same organization
you seek employment, you can uncover unwritten information
about the company and/or the specific job.
3. Seek guidance from other professionals and
Take the time to get to know professors
in your area of study. Professors are part of a large
learning network that is a databank of ideas and support.
They can help you work on leading issues in your field,
keep you up to date on current and future issues and
help you establish relationships with industry. One
way to get the best of all of these things is to get
involved in research projects where you are trying to
solve an issue faced by your industry. This helps you
establish expertise and recognition as an expert. If
your professor or advisor doesnt do a lot of research,
get them to suggest other researchers that may have
a project you can contribute to. Research almost always
provides opportunities to write your own articles to
professional journals, monthly letters, and conference
proceedings which can give you name recognition. If
research isnt possible, have several professors
suggest articles and current research journals to review.
But dont just read them once, become a regular
reader of several journals
so you can learn about whats important and what
isnt. Lastly, most professors have relationships
with many professionals in industry and can connect
you with industry experts. After all, a lot of industry
research is performed by universities and colleges,
so academics have a good sense of what is important
in their area of expertise. Connecting with industry
is essential if you have plans for changing companies
after you graduate. Working with industry professionals
can give you the inside connections in getting hired.
4. Create opportunities to increase your knowledge
in areas in your plan.
As previously mentioned, reading articles from industry
journals and other periodicals are a good way to boost
your understanding of your chosen
occupation. Joining professional organizations
is another great strategy. Most local branches of professional
organizations provide access to industry professionals
through conferences, presentations and meetings. A good
approach is to join one of these organizations and seek
an active role. This will put you closer to those already
working in the field that can provide you a much better
understanding of the field than articles can. Use these
interactions to not only gather as much information
as possible, but setup opportunities to help specific
companies solve some of their problems. Companies like
to hire to fill a specific need so find out what some
are and fill them.
5. Reflect on your plan often.
Dont be afraid to change your plan or your path
to your goals. As you go through your plan, make notes
on which classes are a natural strength or a weakness
for you. This information, along with other pertinent
information from professors and business professionals,
should help you steer your career in the right direction.
If your grades
arent the best in your chosen career field, it
becomes vital that you collaborate with professionals
in that field to determine if you need to improve your
abilities in that area or you may be just fine with
what you know. This is even more critical if your degree
is in a different field than you are currently working
in. You should develop a list of skills and experiences
required to excel in that field and then work on checking
each one off until you have what it takes (all before
The days of the protean career path are long gone.
Companies wont hold your hand and guide you through
your career. Most likely, they wont provide much
help at all. Its your job to set up your career
Todd Rhoad has a MSEE from the University of Missouri-Rolla
and a MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University. He works as
a senior engineer for a leading edge research and development
firm in Austin, Texas.