Judging by the tone of his voice, I knew May 17 was not the right answer ... but I said it anyway. His response took me by surprise. "That's too late," he said. The point he was making was that if I wait until I am handed my master's degree and a handshake to feel like I am ready for my professional career in marketing/advertising to begin, then I am already far behind.
Think about this: By mid-May, you either will have secured an awesome job already or be knee-deep in your job search. This means you will have had many interactions with professionals in the field. You can't afford to have those interactions resemble anything close to that of a student and a prospective first employer. Those meetings, interviews, networking functions -- you name it -- need to be an exchange between two professionals. I mean, let's face it: You know what you're talking about, you have had plenty of practice, and the only thing left is for you to believe that you are ready for it. Now I understand that the industry is already littered with egos and those other things people have besides opinions, but this is a case where the ego should take over.
You need to be able to carry yourself as if you aren't coming from school to a job, but from one professional experience to another. This should guide everything you do professionally. From your greeting when you meet someone, to your word choice in an e-mail, to your cellphone voice-mail message, to the socks you are wearing -- the list goes on. Your creativity and personality will not be suffocated by professionalism.
And this doesn't just apply to your world outside of school. In fact, that is where it should begin. I suspect that if you increase your level of commitment to being professional and mature in all your school interactions with classmates, professors and other faculty, the benefits will be priceless. Not to mention great practice for the real thing.
Like I said, this question really struck me, and I intend on being ahead of the game. I am shooting for a mid-February commencement. You?