Some people grow up looking forward to youthful years spent at university – years full of learning, making friends, travelling, and exploring. Being a Masters student means being in that exciting place where you are still discovering the world but also facing the virtues of adulthood. As well as giving you expert knowledge, inspiration, and personal development, graduate studies are essentially your bridge to a fulfilling career plan. This is the time to develop your professional skill set and build up expectations and goals for your dream job.

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Forging ahead with a Masters degree

Many of the surveys and reports that keep track of the latest developments in higher education claim that the Masters degree is indeed a decisive factor for the career success of graduates. In fact, graduate programmes in Business and Management are among the most highly sought-after degrees, while career prospects for recent alumni in these fields are usually promising. According to the 2017 Alumni Perspectives Survey Report published by GMAC, more than 8 in 10 business school alumni agree that their career has progressed more favourably than their peers who did not attend graduate business school. As reasons for their success, they cite the skills they managed to develop in the classroom as well as the credential itself.

Moreover, graduating with a Masters degree is a worthwhile endeavour for those who wish to keep thinking outside the box and explore new professional spheres. GMAC’s report found out that almost 40% of business school graduates currently work in an industry they did not consider prior to their studies. Thanks to the various courses, networking events, career forums, and new connections made in graduate school, Masters students can easily dive into professional opportunities that would have been unavailable to them otherwise.

Read: The Latest Employment Trends for Masters Graduates

The allure of international Masters studies for companies hiring fresh graduates remains positive in 2018. In the UK alone, graduate recruitment at the country’s 100 leading employers is expected to increase by 3.6%, says the independent market research company High Fliers. So what do you need to do in order to make the most of your programme and reap all its benefits as a future professional?

How to prepare for your future career

There are many different measures you can take during your studies to increase your chances of finding a job worthy of your academic and professional efforts. As a start, you need to have some idea of what you want to do with your life. As a successful Bachelor’s graduate on your way to beginning your Masters journey, you may already have your dream career planned out, or at least a partial list of goals to fulfil. Your plan, however, probably needs to be subjected to some refining. Depending on how detailed it is you may need to work on it further by setting deadlines for accomplishing the goals you have set for yourself.

Discover career guidance

Since universities are intent on offering much more than excellent teaching, another thing you may want to do as soon as you get to campus is to visit their career services office. Leading institutions always ensure that students have access to professional career guidance by sustaining close relations with both local and global employers. Graduate school consultant Don Martin explained for U.S. News & World Report that it is important for newly enrolled students to introduce themselves to the careers office as soon as they get the chance. “There are a number of services that are frequently offered by career centres, including free skills and aptitude assessments, regular resume review workshops, mock interview sessions, employer presentations, networking events, and internship opportunities,” says Dr Martin.

Taking advantage of similar opportunities will not cost you extra, and yet it will be a step further towards your dream career. As Jan Straube, Master of International Business at Hult International Business School (US) Class of 2013, said: “It’s tough out there – you need to be on top of your game. It’s worth starting to think about your career early and talking to your career advisor.

Learn more about Masters programmes at Hult International Business School by taking a look at this handy school profile.

Attend job fairs

Apart from meeting career coaches and benefiting from career placement services, universities are an excellent venue for attending job fairs, getting introduced to a range of professional fields, and networking. In addition, real-life case studies and company projects are often part of the curriculum of international Masters programmes. They will provide you with another valuable opportunity to experience working life in a particular industry and to make up your mind about the next professional steps to follow.

Connect and interact

In many cases, the connections made during graduate studies and the events attended at university lead to tangible results and can successfully land you a job after graduation. Diana Grooters, who graduated with a Masters in Artificial Intelligence from Utrecht University (the Netherlands), is a case in point. She managed to secure her graduate job as a software developer after attending the local Careers Day: “After an informal interview and visiting the company a few times, they offered me a job. Altogether, it went quite fast: two months before my graduation, I already had a job, which I started two weeks afterwards.

Read: Bring Value to Your Future Career (Interview)

Hands-on experience

Internship programmes are yet another option you may consider as you tick off your pre-career goals. Many companies have such programmes that employ students to assist their staff or perform other duties. Landing an internship means you will have the opportunity to work on short-term assignments with real-life tasks and objectives. You will be exposed to real-life job situations and gain experience, which in turn will greatly enhance your full-time employment opportunities.

Build the mindset and skill set for the real business world

It is essential that during your studies you acquire some of the core skills highly valued by employers. You should learn how to work under pressure and tight deadlines, present your ideas clearly, and argue well. It is also important to be able to work both independently and in a team and develop a “contribution attitude”. Practise all these skills and attitudes during your studies. They are what employers need, in addition to your knowledge.

Plan your career journey

As useful as all of these suggestions may be, they can only do so much if you are not proactive in your career planning. In order to take full advantage of all the facilities and networking opportunities available at your university, you need to make an effort to get to know the job market and meet companies relevant to your professional field. As Anastasia Lai wrote in a blog post for Frankfurt School of Finance & Management (Germany), initiative is an essential quality sought by recruiters and one that can make a big difference for your career. “It shows your independence and ability to make decisions and take responsibility,” she adds. “These attributes are expected by employers in particular.

Learn more about Masters programmes at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management by taking a look at this handy school profile.

To a great extent, the process of preparing for your career is personal and there is no universal plan that everyone has to follow. However, ensuring that you have accomplished at least some of the recommendations explained in this section will help you become more confident and better prepared for the job search process.

This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2018-2019 annual Access MBA, EMBA, and Masters Guide under the title “Careers 101”. The latest online version of the Guide is available here.