Experienced Master’s students: actions to take in February, March and April

An informational interview

February and March can be particularly difficult months for Master’s students who have gone back to study full time after a couple of years (or even many years) gaining work experience since graduating from your Bachelor’s.  At this point you’re at the half way point of your degree, and well past half way in your taught modules, and your less experienced classmates are talking about graduate schemes, video interviews and assessment centres.

It’s really difficult not to hit the panic button and start applying to jobs that are available now but, even though they sound right for you, you can’t start full-time work until October.

In fact, every April & May I see lots of despondent Master’s students with plenty of experience asking me why those panic applications weren’t successful.

They weren’t working because recruiters only want you to apply for jobs when you are available to work. So when it’s clear that you can’t join until the Autumn, they aren’t interested.
If there’s no point applying for jobs until July at the earliest, then what can you do now?


As an experienced person, with a shiny new qualification, there may well be lots of employers interested in you, but they don’t know you exist yet, and you (probably) don’t know which of them would be good to work for. You can change both of those things if you start engaging in some primary research.

Before you start your research, the first thing you need to do is remind yourself that you are an experienced professional, who, only a few months ago, had multiple conversations a day with fellow professionals. That’s still you. Just because you paused your career to top up your academics, you haven’t become an inexperienced student again.

Now that’s remembered, you can start to design a research plan:

  • What sectors/industries/causes are you interested in?
  • What don’t you know at the moment that will be useful to you when you start applying? (e.g. the biggest/best/most exciting organisations, the individual movers and shakers, the locations of those organisations, the current market conditions, organisational culture)
  • How much time can you devote to the research?
  • What research methods are you going to use?
  • How will you achieve your research?

The research method that I’d propose is the informational interview. That is contacting someone (maybe using Linkedin) and asking them for a 15 minute video chat about “X”. As long as “X” is something that they can easily answer, about 25% of people will say yes (so ask 4 times as many people as you want to talk to).

The benefit of this research method is that you can suss out what that person is like (e.g. do they seem like an expert, would you like to work with them and their organisation?), and they get to know you too. This is research that’s also networking, and good networking leads to opportunities coming your way.

There are other ways to do research – e.g. going and talking to people at industry events, or devising and circulating a survey. You can do what fits best for you, but informational interviewing is the most efficient way to get you where you need to be.

Armed with all that new information, and a wider network of contacts too, you can analyse the information in order to determine your next steps.

That, in a nutshell, is what you can do to aid your job search from February to the end of June.

You are unique, and one size doesn’t fit all, so if you’ve read this and are thinking that it doesn’t work for your circumstances, then why not book an appointment with me or one of the Careers Consultants to discuss further. We can listen objectively to your plan, role-play an informational interview, help you determine your next steps and much more besides.

Just don’t start applying for immediate-start jobs yet!


Graham Philpott, Head of Careers Consultancy