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Girl studies for post-graduate degree with head in her books

Applying for a Post-Graduate Degree

When we get to the end of our studies, many of us are at a loss as to the next steps in our careers and our lives. At this stage, it can be tempting to apply for a post-graduate degree.

After all, more time spent at college seems like fun!

But it is vital to go into post-graduate study for the right reasons. It is important to make measured decisions and not act on impulse or whim. At the end of the day, you will be investing a lot of time and—more importantly—money in the program. And some may question if a college degree is worth the effort.

Read on for useful tips to bear in mind when contemplating to apply for post-graduate study.

Don’t rush into it

First of all, you should think about whether heading straight back into studying is the right option for you. Maybe you should take a year out to relax and earn some cash before embarking on your next challenge.

Contrary to what you might think, many employers look favorably upon those who have removed themselves from their comfort zone to work and travel abroad. It demonstrates a certain quality of independence most employers will value.

Also, don’t simply go into post-graduate study because you want to stall your entrance into the ‘real world’. You should think carefully about whether the course you intend to enrol in is going to help you with your career down the line.

Rather than undertake a post-graduate degree because you’re unsure of the next step to take, you should ask yourself: will it be worth my time and money? Where will this course get me?

On that note, if you haven’t already, make some goals and objectives.

What are your goals with a post-graduate degree?

Before making any major life decision, it is always a good idea to set out some targets and goals.

In this case, some questions to get you started could include: what are you trying to achieve from your move into post-graduate study? What do you hope to get out of it? How will this course further your career ambitions—if at all?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you might want to consider why you are thinking about a post-graduate degree. You should also reflect on whether you could achieve your career goals via other means.

Of course, some professions require a master’s degree or higher level of academic qualification. But others—such as journalism, business, finance and marketing—offer industry-standard qualifications at a fraction of the cost of a post-graduate degree. For this reason, think about how you can get better value for money.

Earn while you learn

Making money while studying is, for most of us, the only feasible way to fund a post-graduate degree. Therefore, it is crucial to consider if your chosen mode of study is compatible with part-time work. If not, you may struggle financially, making your degree more stressful than it needs to be.

Many post-graduate degrees offer the option of part-time study. Opting for this route will ensure you get the most out of your degree without compromising your ability to make ends meet.

Why not take a job in a café, bar or restaurant? Hospitality work can be a fun way to make new friends. You could even meet influential figures who might help you out.

Weigh up the rewards of a post-graduate degree

Think about what this course is going to do for you.

Will it help you obtain skills in employability? Or do you already possess those skills? Is the cost of the degree going to be outweighed by potential future earnings? Will you be able to pay back your loans?

All the above questions are vital when you consider a post-graduate degree. Think about their answers sensibly to avoid disappointment or a difficult financial situation later on.

Remember: be realistic about what post-graduate study is; it’s not a golden ticket to employment!

Be ready for a challenge

After you have deliberated on all of the above, if you still think a post-graduate degree is right for you, be ready to embrace a challenge.

Post-graduate study is much harder than undergraduate.

You will be expected to do more reading and researching than ever before. If you think this workload will be too tough, perhaps post-graduate study is not for you.

Think carefully about whether you are willing to devote a whole new year of your life to intense study. Post-grads are expected to explore their subjects in comprehensive depth and detail. Be prepared for this and bring your A game!

So, before you fill out that application form, consider the above tips to ensure you make an informed decision.


Questions to ask at the end of an Interview

Five Questions to Ask at the End of an Interview

Asking questions at the end of an interview is just as important as answering them. Get your questions right and you’ll reinforce your suitability as a candidate, while discovering if you’re a good fit. Don’t ask questions and you’ll come across as disinterested and unprepared.

Everyone knows a job interview is a two-way process. Of course, the employer wants to know about you. But it’s also an opportunity to find out if the role is right for you. For this reason, it is vital to ask intelligent questions—based on research—when prompted to do so at the end of the interview.

This doesn’t mean asking things like: “What’s it like to work here?” “Do you like working here?” or “What do you usually do for lunch?” These questions are too simplistic and obvious; you want to seem sharper than that. Besides, you can save these questions for if/when you start the new role.

Read on for five questions guaranteed to make you stand out as a candidate.

  1. How will my development/performance in this role be measured?

This is, by far, the best question to ask at the end of an interview. Variations include: “What will you do to measure my progress?” or “How will my success be measured, here?

The reason this is such an important question to ask is because it shows you are really thinking about the role, and what sort of impact you might make in it.

It also demonstrates to the employer you have seriously thought about what you will bring to the table. And it shows you are keen to do well.

  1. What are your expectations of someone in the first three months of this role?

Use this question to gain credible insight into if you think you have what it takes to do the role. There’s no point putting yourself through a gruelling recruitment and application process for a job you don’t think you’ll be capable of doing.

This question also shows you are looking to the future and considering the long-term impact of your presence at the company. Employers will see this as an indication of your reliability and work ethic.

  1. Ask an industry-relevant question.

Do your research and find something out that has recently affected the industry you are applying to get into, and ask a question about it. For example, a political event—such as Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium imports—may lead to changes in the industry. Use this opportunity to ask your interview what they think.

Ask about what changes/challenges the industry is facing, in light of modern trends. This shows you are abreast of what’s going on and makes you look switched on.

  1. How can I impress in my first three months here?

You could also ask: ‘What are the key attributes someone in this role needs?

Asking this question at the end of an interview highlights your commitment to the role and desire to succeed in it. It shows you’re thinking about what’s best for you and for the company. It also highlights you are a team player who wants to positively impact the business.

The answer, here, is just as important as the question; take some notes on what the interviewer says to show you are genuinely engaged.

  1. What are the next steps? (If this hasn’t already been made clear.)

Don’t forget, this is also a chance for you to gain some practical information about what you need to do next in the recruitment process.

There may be several stages in the process; use this time to find out more.

General advice  

Depending on the type of job you are going for, this will vary. But here are some general pointers.

  • Be humble. No one likes a boaster—interviewers and potential employers are no exception. Try to strike the delicate balance between humility and hubris. You want to be confident and enthusiastic, not a show-off or smart aleck.
  • Don’t use hyperbole. Try to not exaggerate your claims, as this will make you look amateurish. Avoid saying things like: ‘I have the best CV of all my classmates,’ or ‘My work is always of the utmost quality.’ Not only is this unlikely to be true—the last thing you want is for your interviewer to think you’re lying—but it also makes you look big headed.
  • Don’t ask too many questions at the end of interview. The interviewer doesn’t want to feel as though they are being interviewed.
  • Take notes. If you take a notebook into the interview with you, use it to note down important points the interviewer mentions about the role. It is especially pertinent to make notes while your interviewer is answering your questions. This is because it shows you are engaged with what he/she is telling you—and you’re not just asking questions for show.
  • Go with some ideas. Show the employer you have something fresh to bring to the company.

Further reading: Avoid These Interview Mistakes