The dissertation is the largest piece of individual work that a postgraduate student will work on. And tackled strategically, it could be the unique factor that gets a student noticed by employers.
Dissertations can be a daunting prospect, but choose a topic you’re passionate about and you can have so much fun with it. Don’t get me wrong – it’s hard work and an intensive piece of research which can, at moments, take over your life. But tackled strategically, you will have a valuable piece of work that doesn’t just count towards (approx.) 33% of your mark. It could be the tool that helps you access the industry or organisation you want to work for.
Well, first you need to have some understanding of what you want from your career. Which industry or organisation do you want to work for? In what role? Once you have pinned down answers to some, or all of these questions, you can design your dissertation around that career goal. By researching something that is unique and relevant to that organisation or industry you can distribute your findings to employers or mention it in applications and interviews to help you stand out from the crowd.
At a recent alumni panel discussion one of our alumni shared with us how he did just this, designing his research around an organisation he already knew he wanted to work for. On completion of the research, he sent them his final dissertation and was consequently invited to New York to discuss a job offer.
Once you have identified an area of research, the Business School can often help connect students with alumni in relevant sectors and companies, to help plan a project that is topical and will provide fresh insights for employers.
As you progress through your studies, you might find your ambitions change as you connect with new ideas and widen your knowledge and network. You will soak up new material, and in the meantime the business world will continue to evolve, meaning that what you chose to specialise in a year ago may have morphed into something entirely different. If your chosen School doesn’t offer an option course in this new specialist area, your dissertation is your opportunity to delve deeper into a subject that will support your career goals. You might have little relevant work experience when you graduate, but when filling out application forms or preparing for interviews, you will be able to draw on this piece of research to fill in the gaps. You may be able to highlight key skills that you developed through the experience – a well-researched piece can, for example, showcase analytical, problem solving and critical thinking skills that are important to employers.
Of course a good dissertation is not a guarantee to your dream job – employers are looking for well-rounded candidates. But it is a large part of your postgraduate studies and it is important to consider how you can make it work for you.
This advice has been provided by the University of Edinburgh Business School.
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