As I sit in the airport this evening waiting for the plane to board, I can’t help but hear the words “last call” for flight ____ over the loudspeaker and think about my own situation. In just a few weeks, I’ll be graduating from graduate school, and I can’t help but feel a mixture of excitement and worry as I hear my own “last call.”
Not that this next step is a last anything by any means…but, it still has that feeling of last call to being a student (at least for a while). When I graduated college, I worked for two years before I took the leap for grad school. But, I really reflect back on those two years as a strange, undirected holding pattern (to keep up with my airport analogies…). I was in a holding pattern because I wasn’t really sure which direction in which I wanted to start my life. So, instead, I floated around from paid internship to unpaid internship to part-time work. While these were meaningful experiences in their own rights, they weren’t really tangible steps toward what I viewed as my career. In deciding to come to grad school, I took the first step toward embarking on a true career path.
And, now, as I hear “last call” to my grad school days, it’s time for me to “land” my first job. Wow. I’m really good at using plane metaphors! But in all seriousness, as grad school comes to a end, it’s time to finish strong and bring closure to the entire experience.
Here are some things to think about as you bring closure to your grad school experience.
Solidify Network: Determine who are the individuals at your institution (both peers and professionals) who you have integrated into your network. Set up a lunch with these people to fill them in on your next steps, thank them for their help/support, and set the tone for how you will connect in the future. It’s really important to continue to foster these relationships even when you leave your institution. Whether it’s a monthly email or phone call or an occasional meet-up, it’s in your best interest to maintain as much of your grad school network as possible when you move forward.
Celebrate: Partake in the celebration of completing your graduate work. Whether there’s a party with your classmates, graduation ceremony, or closing banquets with groups you’ve worked with, it’s important to partake in these opportunities as a way to acknowledge your hard work and accomplishments, bid farewell to those with whom you’ve worked, and to provide you with a sense of closure. If you’ve worked with groups or supervised staff, it’s very important that you organize closing activities to provide a book end to the year. People like to reflect on their experiences.
Reflect: Reflect on your experience—both the ups and the downs. Think about your legacy. What will you be remembered for? What did you learn? As grad school comes to an end, it’s important to consider your accomplishments and the areas in which you’ve grown. While your resume gives the cliff notes edition to encapsulating your experience, your own reflection is what will help you make sense and meaning of your experience.
While last call to grad school signifies an ending, the experiences you’ve had have helped to prepare you for many new beginnings to come.