How is time different in graduate school compared to the corporate world?

Getting ready to head into graduate school after years in the corporate world? This video is for you:

Hi, Caitlin Faas, your productivity navigator, excited to talk to you about the differences in working full time and transitioning into graduate school or adding graduate school onto your busy plate.

Let's talk about the time difference.

You're probably wondering what is this experience going to be like? Maybe you've been out of school for so long that it's hard to know whether or not you know like, “Will I be able to pick this back up?” And you certainly will. I am confident that you can do that especially because you found this video and are being proactive, so kudos for that. You're figuring it out.

But let's talk about what happens with when you're thinking about working 40 hours a week for a corporation to when you start this graduate program.

The first thing is that there will absolutely be classes that follow a structure with project deadlines, but what we want to talk about today is your final project, capstone, thesis, or dissertation that you'll be writing – whatever the final product is in your specific program. So think back about what happened in your own undergraduate career and the lessons you've learned from that. I'm sure there are several, especially if you want to undergrad when you were 18 to 22. I teach undergraduate students and a lot of times, for them, being able to do well in a class without reading the textbook is a win. (YES!) But then you grow up and you're over the age of 25 and you realize would it really have killed me to read that book? Could I have learned something in that class? Retained it? – Especially when you're paying student loans. So all of those lessons are really great, yes, those lessons would have all served you well. You're going to be excited about this program. You're excited to read, excited to soak up knowledge, that is great.

But let's think about what happens to your time management for that final project. In a corporation there's the CEO, there are vice presidents. Somewhere in there is your boss, project managers, people working on teams. Now for your final project, one big difference is going to be that you have to play all of those roles. You become the CEO and the person doing all of the work on your final project. And that's a big shift because now there aren’t people to report to report to so to speak. You've just got to get the work done. You actually have to be the one that creates the work and creates the idea of the work, creates the plan of the work and then execute that plan.

You might say, “But wait, I have an adviser.” And I know you’ll have an adviser, but the difference there is they will advise you on your topic and yes they'll be excited about your topic but they aren't really interested in making sure you follow through on that project. I mean it in the way that they are not responsible for it.

And so, they aren't your boss, “Saying you must meet this deadline.”

Often times it's completely up to you. You can meet whatever kind of deadline you want. It's a very continuous process. You're not leaving your graduate program at 5 p.m. and seemed like well done with work for the day. I don’t have to think about that project anymore. It kind becomes something that you're thinking about all the time and it's there.

Now there are ways to help set healthy boundaries absolutely, but it's still kind of - you're thinking about it all the time and having to meet these deadlines. You’ll say, “I'm going to turn this in to you by this date.” And they'll say, “Great.” And then maybe you don't turn it in and they're all like, “That’s okay.” They're not upset with you, “I know, but I need you to hold me responsible.” So there's that balance.

So that's why I want you to think about this today that you're going from having all these roles in a corporation to being all of the roles for your final project.

That's why a lot of graduate students get writing partners, accountability buddies, or maybe you hire a coach to be able to help you fall through on your progress. There's a lot wrapped up in that, but I just want to highlight that one shift – that difference and thinking about who am I in my workplace and who am I going to be in graduate school and having to be in charge of all of those steps.

Tell us below about your experiences during the transition!