How to Create a Meaningful Career Path to Successfully Go from a Graduate Student to a Young Professional

By Alix Crichton

April 26, 2020


Happy employees could increase “sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%.” (Shawn Achor, 2011). In 2011, Shawn Achor demonstrated that happiness at work is not only beneficial for self-development, but it is also a key success factor for employers.

With this statement in mind, I dedicated my last year of graduate school to seeking the perfect job. Like many Millennials, I felt that the traditional job market did not go along with a fulfilling career (Julia Ivy, 2019). The Answer seemed to be elsewhere, but maybe I did not ask myself the right questions.


An Uncommon Practical Application of Graduate School Education

In May 2019, I started the last semester of my master’s degree at Northeastern University D’Amore-McKim School of Business. This semester was dedicated to a practical application of our education with the analysis of a real company case study (the icing on the cake!). The objective was to select a company that was facing an international business strategy challenge, conduct market intelligence, recommend a solution, and assess its feasibility.


See Opportunities

When Dr. Ivy told me that the first step, and most challenging one, would be to define my core as a professional, I realized that this case study would bring more than practical training. I spent the first month defining my long-term professional project with The BE-EDGE model. It enabled me to set a clear direction and break it down into small professional objectives, such as improving negotiation skills, managing projects, working with entrepreneurs, or working in an emerging market. This method grew my awareness of the array of potential professional paths available and helped me to step back from the anxiety of making the perfect decision.

To make the master’s case study meaningful, I targeted working with a small organization that follows a sustainable development mission and operates in emerging markets. I took advantage of existing connections and developed new, meaningful, professional relationships. I had the opportunity to meet with school-affiliated business gurus and work with a North American start-up founded by Northeastern Alumni. This organization addresses social justice challenges in emerging markets.

After a series of interviews with the company CEO, I had a clear idea of what was at stake: this organization needed a business plan to develop its strategy of internationalization in an emerging market. I gathered enough data to conduct strong market intelligence, and I conceived plausible scenarios to answer the company challenge. These scenarios were to take advantage of the company’s strengths and mitigate its weaknesses in ways that match market opportunities and threats.


Build Skills with Confidence

The creation of a case study requires a strict methodology and a high capacity for analysis. It is important to get an overall vision of the situation and then imagine and analyze valid scenarios. The choice of the optimal solution and the elaboration of a business plan must be relevant, convincing, and accurate for the company to implement it in the targeted market. I discovered the complexity of global entrepreneurship, in terms of financial challenges and company visibility.

When it comes to the development of a business strategy in emerging markets, it is critical to understand the cultural specificities of the target market and its geopolitical influences. In this case study, the key was to create trust with local influencers: politicians and distinguished professionals; before starting business activities.

Along with this project, two main challenges arose. The first challenge was to communicate and value my ideas in front of the CEO. As a young professional, it was difficult to stand as an expert. My lack of confidence was felt by the client who became aloof. Afterward, I realized that I should have engaged the stakeholders more often with the project to maintain their interest.

The second challenge was to align the company objectives (expected advantages) with school requirements and the application of my educational knowledge. To meet both expectations, I oriented the conversation toward results and the reasoning process with my school advisors.

While facing these challenges, I realized how little education prepares students in adapting and communicating with professionals. Thanks to the guidance of Dr. Ivy, I gained the confidence to advocate my ideas and improved my soft skills to adapt my communication to my interlocutors.


Employability And Beyond

From shaping a professional project, breaking it down into smaller professional goals, and achieving one of those goals, the case study analysis built-up my employability. It brought me to the heart of my professional inspiration and gave me a practical strategy to achieve it. The challenges faced during the project taught me about my strengths and weaknesses. I also observed that intellectual stimulation and human recognition are the drivers of my ambition.

After graduation, I was more confident about exposing my professional project, which helped me target the right network and get a position as a business operations manager. My objective is to streamline and enhance existing business processes, to ensure the company’s scalability.


About the Author

In 2019, Alix Crichton graduated from a dual-degree master’s program in International Management at Northeastern University D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Boston, and Global Management at Neoma Business School, France. She is currently employed by a North American company distributing high-end optical equipment.
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