Academics is being taken on a ride. Student loans, employment post graduation and university and college culture are under examination, argument and policy change. As a result, conversating with those who are not in school can be difficult, especially when you are trying to explain your degree path. My advice: don't. The decision to pursue a post graduate degree is enough of a maze. Adding multiple opinions to it produces whole new networks of corridors.
Industry and academics are total opposites, so it is important to remember that most of us will spend the majority of our time in industry. Deciding on a path has become a trick of navigating a terrain where the degrees offered may not be keeping pace with the jobs offered. Your school's responsibility is to educate you in your degree path, and handle the learning environment for best success. You may find a mentor that can assist in guiding you, and your program or faculty may offer work experience options. Do not depend on it.
I have adjusted the old industry saying: 'Your perfect job ( substitute degree) does not exist. You need to create it.' Navigation becomes easier when you laser focus past obtaining a diploma. This takes us back to the beginning. The power of academia is waning, but investing in it's influence while inside the small world of an educational institution is still tempting. It is easy to believe in the power of proximity.
You may be right beside a brilliant mind, or engrossed in a prestigious department, but that does not equal a career. Proximity ≠ employment.
Academics are struggling for relevance, and yes, the pressure should stay on. Hopefully, this will morph them into better versions of themselves. Too early to tell. Mind your path and build your post degree life. Proximity is not a valid career choice.