Students getting ready for LinkedIn photos ! 
Photo credit: CDO

When going back to school doesn’t mean taking time off from your career

Above photo: F&ES students wait to have their LinkedIn photos taken. Photo credit: CDO

Like a lot of students, when I was thinking about going back to school to get my masters, I was worried about taking “time off” from my career. I’d spent six years in the workplace, and was worried that I would lose momentum and valuable professional connections. Just a few weeks out from finishing up my courses here, I’ve found that this hasn’t been the case at all. In fact, my time at F&ES has been a tremendously advantageous, resource-rich networking experience.

Right off the bat, first years are introduced to staff from the Career Development Office (CDO) at orientation. F&ES has three full-time staff who make themselves available from the start, meeting with you one-on-one, setting up info sessions and informational interviews, and providing off the cuff advice on everything from resume formatting to the right subject line for an out-of-the-blue networking email. CDO staff guide you through brainstorming careers, internship searches, and interview prep from day one.

CDO staff provide core support, but I’ve also found many staff members and faculty throughout the school to provide me with advice and support during my internship and job search. Generally, F&ES faculty are well-connected in their professions, know which alumni have gone on to pursue what, and are happy to be sounding boards and help you make connections outside of school. Faculty and staff know that you’re in the program to build towards a career in your field of interest and I think they take mentorship very seriously here.

CDO Bulletin Board on the first floor of Kroon Hall

CDO Bulletin Board on the first floor of Kroon Hall

Additionally, many courses here involve a clinic component, where you and other classmates work with an external client on a project. I can’t recommend this kind of experience enough—not only do you get real-world experience in your field, you build relationships with professionals outside of F&ES who know the quality of your work. I also have friends who are working on independent projects with external organizations or companies—being at F&ES is the time to make connections and gain experience working on the issues you care about, and we have a lot of flexibility and support in forging those connections. And trust me, it is so much easier to reach out cold to a potential professional connection as a student than as someone on the job market. I’ve found they’re generally much more excited to talk to you because they don’t expect you to ask for a job (yet).

Finally, there’s the alumni. I can’t really speak highly enough about the alumni network here. It’s such an enthusiastic, warm, and connected group, interested in sharing experience and helping you build connections. The alumni office keeps an up-to-date spreadsheet on all alumni and where they’re working (they work everywhere!) and it’s pretty easy to send off an email and start up a conversation. And once you graduate, there are alumni listservs and meet ups in a lot of major cities throughout the U.S.

Boy…this is a lot. But I wanted to give a sense of what your two years here will look like: a really well-supported networking experience (which certainly doesn’t end once you graduate). I’m coming out of F&ES feeling connected professionally and prepared by my coursework, research, and experiences. As it turns out, I wasn’t taking “time off” from my career: I was just working on it from another angle.

And if you’re curious about where everyone ends up after graduation, you can check out CDO’s employment profile of the Class of 2016 here.