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By: Prof. Zack Ross

Professor * Philanthropist * International Psychologist * Private Equity and Venture Capital

As a professor, I’m always intrigued at the number of students that I come across who are essentially “placing all of their eggs in one basket” with their graduate school education, as they often convey anxieties over the uncertainties with following a very specific and traditional career path that aligns with their fields, majors, and concentrations. I’ve known many that have experienced defeatism, shock, and an unexpected “reality check” when this plan doesn’t pan out and are left in a state of confusion and disillusionment when they recognize that the world is changing rapidly through globalization, along with the uncertain workforce environments and markets.

I now make it a contentious point to dedicate time before and after each class that I lecture to engage in dialogue about viable alternatives to the use of their graduate school experience and education, while fostering an open-minded approach to assess their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, as any organization would when building from the ground up.

Pigeonholing ourselves to a particular set of outcomes is naïve and can be degenerative to alternative possibilities; which may take us on a variety of adventurous career paths that may invigorate areas of our brain that lay dormant, due to social proof and institutional coercion. We follow the rigmarole and guidelines of a general society, let alone the educational institutions which are preparing us for an ever-changing, globalized world.

There are terrible dangers in having a narrow-minded approach towards the utilization of your graduate school experience, and such dangers will not only objectively produce limited outcomes that impede the maximization of such education, rather it will inevitably minimize the value of yourself. Such inherent and socially dominant features of taking traditional career paths can seem inescapable, but the provocation and allure of pursuing an advanced degree should imbue a desire to be different; thus, separating ourselves from the doldrums of a very general, normal, and status-quo society.

The most important facet of graduate school is to exercise your Freedom of Differentiation, in which you approach various sets of issues with creative, efficient, and effective measures to achieve maximum gains within the operation of any given system. The general knowledge theories that are explicated in graduate may be phenomenal in their current uses, but are oftentimes plagued with incoherent, rigorous, and exhaustive processes that can be made better.

Think of every possible way that you can use your graduate school experience to have your gains far exceed the cost of attendance, and to make the world a more intriguing place through the actions of independent thought processes. Be brave. Be bold. And keep in mind the term ‘alternatives’ when it comes to the graduate school experience, as it speaks to a limitless aptitude in your decision-making process when viewing systems and organizations.

Zack Ross is a Professor of Marketing, Management, and International Business with the Brennan School of Business at Dominican University. You can find his private and non-profit business endeavors at &

You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at: @doctorzackross

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