Archive for May, 2012

What I learned in graduate school in 700 words.

If you *really* want to know everything I learned in graduate school, it’s mostly captured in my thesis.

It’s 100 pages of academic discussion about how to apply accepted communication theories to a professional setting. The research  includes a literature review and content analysis examining  the online branding elements of user experience design, information architecture and social media content used by organizations to shape perception.

Bored yet? Imagine that paragraph times 500. Ugh. Give me 140c any day (<– this sentence is 81c including this.)

But graduate school was worth it. I learned a lot about my profession of Public Relations that I didn’t already know and came to understand the importance of establishing the field through proven scholarly research. I’m glad I went — but it’s not for everybody.

And I’m constantly asked about going back to graduate school: “Is it worth it?” “Should I?”

If you have to ask, I’d say you haven’t done enough research on your own. But that’s not always the mentality of recent grads facing a tough job market. Lately as job searches extend much past graduation dates, millennials in their mid-20s start thinking: “Hmm… that MA or MBA sure would help my resume stand out.”

Perhaps. But standing out is only  a fleeting opportunity — not to mention the epitome of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

Far be it from me to hypocritize for a moment, but I strongly encourage anyone looking to jump straight from undergraduate to graduate school to take some time to gain real world experience before going back to school. The reasons are twofold:

1) Graduate school isn’t like undergraduate where you enroll first and think about what you want to study later. An *advanced degree* is more specialized than an undergraduate degree and you’ll be asked to narrow your focus of study from day one. If it’s required, your thesis or project will eventually be much more specialized than the title of  your program. And even if it’s not required, you should be exploring areas you’re specifically interested in throughout your studies. If you’re going to put in the time, come out with something you’ll truly use and enjoy.

The second reason why professional experience is important for graduate school is less selfish than the first, but it still plays into how much you ultimately take away from the experience.

2) Real world experience makes the graduate class room come alive. More-so than undergraduate, your classmates — and your professors — are just as important as the material in the class. The things they’ve seen, heard and done in the professional world provide practical context to what are distinctly more in-depth thoughts about a subject. Without your own set of experiences some of the education can be lost in translation.

Admission time:  I only half followed my own advice. When I left Miami University with my B.A., I joined Kent State to get my Master’s in Public Relations immediately after. I managed part-and-full-time schedules of school, internships, freelance gigs and LIFE, but also took 5 years to get a “2-year degree.”

Looking back at the half-decade I spent at #PRKent it’s sort of surreal to think I’m done. It was part of my life in varying amounts for a long time. I’ve also done a lot of other great things in that time, and in the end, I walked away not being over educated and under experienced. I’ve gained the tactical skills of my profession doing communications for a living and understand where my role in an organization is. I’ve also learned how to apply strategic public relations thought processes to my positions as well as the value of continued education both in the classroom and on the job.

Both the education and experience will serve me not only now but for the rest of my career. And never for a second would I discourage someone from going after an advanced degree. The upper echelon of academia, a.k.a. graduate school, is a noble pillar of society. Establishing new knowledge for future scholars through bureaucracy and regiment is certainly a big step in humanity’s upward march. And I’d encourage anyone to walk up those steps. But learn how to walk on flat ground first. And please: don’t run.

Posted from WordPress for Android — 4G LTE faster than your broadband. (With some edits on desktop, of course.)

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May 8, 2012 at 7:17 AM Leave a comment


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