MSc or PhD: Maximizing Your Graduate Experience for Career Success

On the 1st of October, the Guelph Chapter S2BN invited Nezar Rghei, MSc, and Mathew Platt, PhD, to share their experiences and advice with graduate students at the University of Guelph.

Firstly, Nezar Rghei, who is the VP of Strategic Partnerships at Ontario Genomics, shared his experiences of immigrating to Canada and the educational path that he chose. He discussed the importance of industry to scientific discoveries and technological advancements. He stressed the importance of developing other soft skills while in graduate schools as these are critical for a career in industry. Mr. Rghei emphasized communication and team work as extremely important skills, as technological advancements rely on people from many different disciplines coming together to break new ground in science. However, above all else, passion and curiosity are the keys to success. At the end of his talk, Mr. Rghei advised students to figure out what motivates them. By harnessing that, they can succeed.

Next, Dr. Platt, a recent University of Guelph graduate, gave a presentation entitled “How to Maximize Your Graduate Experience”. He also started off by discussing his educational journey, which included his ‘graduate school blues’ – not feeling successful because of a lack of scholarships, publication rejections etc. However, his advice to those currently experiencing this is that you can be successful by feeling successful! Students should shift their focus to recognize and appreciate the translatable skills they are developing while in school:

  • Creative Problem Solving

  • Oral and Written Communication

  • Knowledge Translation

  • Time Management

  • Project Management

  • Data Analysis

  • Original Thinking

  • Resiliency/Persistence

  • Preparation

  • Collaboration and Interpersonal

  • Initiative/Independence

  • Ability to ask questions

  • Ability to learn a topic

He advised students to appreciate the publications and scholarships they have achieved as well as the conferences they have attended. Students should avoid comparing themselves to others, and instead focus on their personal growth and the positive changes within themselves. Dr. Platt suggested we redefine graduate success to include having a balance between professional productivity and personal growth, while setting realistic goals. This shift in mind set will make you feel more empowered!

He also advised students to take advantage of the non-research opportunities afforded by graduate school, the most important of which is time. Graduate students should take the time to enjoy the ride (travel, exercise, hobbies, friendships, network, volunteer, recharge, self-care). Graduate students should also allocate time (even just 2-3 days a year) to purposely think about their post-academic career. This was nicely emphasized with the quote “Everything you plan to do in the future eventually needs to be done in the present.

These presentations were then followed by a period for networking and QA with the invited speakers.

A sincere thank you to Dr. Platt and Mr. Rghei for sharing your valuable experiences and advice with the Guelph Chapter S2BN.

Bonus: check out this video on procrastination!

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