Of direct benefit to my long-term career path? In truth, nothing Earth shattering. Nothing I’d planned on in advance (making what follows a rather round-about explanation).
I went for the Theory stream, but happened to arrive at the tail end of a departmental shake-up, at a time when most of the Theorists were scattered to the winds, or on sabbatical, so that while I happened to arrive the load was being carried by an unproven dingbat from the 22-varieties of Lockean liberalism school of thought. It also happens that I was heavily involved at my undergrad university – setting up a student association, helping out with the department, serving on the Board of Governors – and decided that it would be better (given that I wasn’t expecting to be there long) to focus on the books.
So, two mistakes: I didn’t make sure that the profs I wanted to work with would actually be on campus that year, and I opted not to play the career whore. On the other hand, by chance, a number of the fellow students I got to know best were those whose first language wasn’t English. One asked if I’d look over his paper, I did so and went to town on it. He was highly impressed, and I acquired a reputation as a first-rate editor. That led to a lot of work that I rather enjoy. First papers, then theses, now book chapters; from those classmates, or their friends, or friends of friends. All those works in process do wonders for feeding my brain. It also set me up to edit a journal at Academia Sinica, which is a very nice part-time position and looks like gold on my resume over here.
Aside from the push towards editing, long-term, the Poli-Sci MA will probably turn out to be most useful as a bridge. My BA is in History. As an undergrad I focused on intellectual history (specifically the migration of ideas between the arts and politics, especially in revolutions). The Poli-Sci MA focused on Rational Choice theory and how emotions distort (or inform) reasoning. Given that focus, my adviser suggested that I take a course being offered in the English department that combined political theory, philosophy and Shakespeare. I did so, was blown away, and ended up doing a second MA in English Lit (and going back to the theme of my History BA by looking at Machiavelli’s influence on Shakespeare). That’s had it’s own spin-off effects.
The editorial work I started doing for classmates in Poli-Sci grew into a small business and led to work in other fields – including a bit of speech writing – particularly after I launched into the English MA. It’s not what I’d planned on–being a university prof–but it’s interesting and pays the bills. However, as a dedicated jack-of-all trades, finding a university faculty position would be tricky now, because for all the talk given to interdisciplinary studies, faculty hiring is about turf battles, jumping through hoops, and ticking off the right boxes on some weird-ass checklist, and I’m a round peg looking for a square hole. I may still take up the Behavioral Economics Ph.D to add another tool set to my bag of tricks. It would make me look even more like an intellectual platypus, but would enrich my outlook (if not my bank account). And who knows what the spin-offs would be.
My plans are always reshaped by the unexpected, and long-term plans have so much built in wiggle room that I’m not sure it’s legitimate to call them anything more than an outline. I don’t know… maybe that’s most useful as a guide to what you should avoid.