Saturday, February 2, 2013

From Master's Student to Graduate (or From Undergrad Debt to Master's Debt)

Since I mentioned last year (gulp) that I was completing my master's thesis, I thought I'd put together a summary/update/what-the-heck-ever post to tell you a little more about that experience.

In my head (sometimes a scary place, btw), I envisioned a master's education to feel/look like this:
Engaged classroom participants
Inquisitive Minds of a Graduate Class (such as Harvard Law). 
In reality (a sometimes even scarier place), it felt and looked a bit more like this:
Monkeys Sitting in a Room Four Hours a Week. And Writing Papers. And Discussing Parts of a Sentence.
Sad, but also, sadly, a bit true. By obligation of the mountain of student debt I now posses, I am required to say I am glad I went. And, truly, I am. Because despite the best efforts of a few misguided professors, a chaotic, in-flux school leadership team, a couple of obstinate classmates, Grammarly, Agile systems, and pregnancy brain, I did learn a few things. And because I am generous and like imparting wisdom, I will share some of what I learned with you. Free of charge. That's a $20k value. You are welcome.

Things I now know, courtesy of/because of/in spite of a master's education:

  1. I hate Agile systems.
  2. I also hate Grammarly. And, for the record, Microsoft is not always correct when a program suggests changes in text. Please use common sense.
  3. Common sense has gone the way of dinosaurs. Or maybe, like unicorns, it just never existed. A figment of the collective imagination.
  4. Sometimes you learn far more by talking to and observing those around you than by idly doodling while a professor talks at you. Good and bad, you really can gain knowledge through your surroundings.
  5. Depending on the professor, you may also learn more by playing Words with Friends. Unless you cheat. Don't cheat. It's just a game. A game I must always win (ahem, Niki).
  6. It is possible to conduct research, write, edit, assemble a presentation, and present a thesis in a period of four weeks. It's just not fun. But, procrastinators can rejoice. Later.
  7. Professors aren't perfect. They're people with people flaws. So if a professor doesn't like you because all the young people are stealing their spouse's jobs (and you have been lumped into the young people group)...well, that professor may hold a grudge. Probably nothing to be done about it except try to be better to others than others are to you. And, find out what job was stolen. Maybe it's a good one that you should go after. Hey, it's a dog-eat-dog employment market. Especially for young people. (No dogs were harmed in the composition of this post).
  8. Some professors are good. They will go above and beyond the expectations of the class, the program, the school, and maybe even you. Cherish those professors like the last box of Hostess Twinkies. Unlike Twinkies, they won't be around in 100 years.
  9. You can never count an opportunity to learn, in whatever form that learning comes, as a waste of time. Stop learning and you stop growing. You might even regress to one the monkeys in the classroom pictured above.
  10. I absolutely am grateful for the experience and treasure the connections I made with two fantastic women that I can call role models, leaders, peers, and friends. Hey, we even started a blog. Oops, speaking of said blog, I am pretty sure it's my turn to post. Maybe I could just "repurpose" this post... Unfortunately, I think they may have paid attention to the part of the program about self-plagiarism. 
Ladies of The Take 3
My Take 3 Ladies. We're Wearing Our Most Expensive Outfits.
Bottom Line: Leadership is an under-valued and under-taught skill. I am glad I have a piece of paper that says I attempted to learn more about it and how to do it better. Even if it is the most expensive piece of paper I own. Except, perhaps, my marriage certificate or my daughter's birth certificate.

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