Professional Advice, circa 1993

My graduate program had a weekly “Research Lunch” and during my last year in the program, the organizers invited a few of us that had one foot out the door to give some advice to the newer students. I recently dug up my notes from this event, and I’m sharing them here.  Most of the advice is still relevant. Don’t know if that is a good thing or not…

I’ve found at least two strange things about grad school:  1. Going home and having to tell my little brother, when he asks, that I’m now in the 21st grade.  2. Knowing that, try as I might, I can’t keep going to school forever. And soon, soon it will be over— and what then? Then I will be a PROFESSIONAL.

This is a potentially scary and risky transition without proper preparation, and that prep is done now, while we are seeking degrees. I suggest two general areas that help you build professionalism — these re networking, which provides you a base or structure to fit into/draw on once you leave, and vita building, which is of utmost importance in that first real test — the job interview.

Networking. The fact that we’re in grad school means that at some level we believe “what you know” is important, but we learn this is a career as well, and some times what is important is “who you know”, or perhaps, “who knows you”.  This is not something that happens overnight, so good to build relationships now —

  1. join the associations that are in your area/concentration.
  2. go to conventions. Talk to people who present research similar to yours. Discover networks that already exist. Introduce yourself to bigwigs. Go to “school” parties. Go to “business meetings” of the divisions you are interested in.
  3. Tap into networks here in the department.  Journal circles, writing support groups.

Vita Building. Your vita is like your resume.  There’s nothing wrong with doing something because it will look good on your vita. [hm, my 2013 self might not fully agree with this, but then again, my current c.v. is 17 p. long.]

  1. Service – may be easiest. Opportunities include department committees, textbook selection, ad hoc committees (e.g., faculty search), department council.  College committees (COGS, subcommittees, curriculum development) and professional association committees
  2. Awards  Department awards, college awards, professional association awards (best paper categories, research scholarships), national grant register has listing.
  3. Publications – includes papers and publications [my 2013 self says this expectation has increased tremendously]. Although there may be thousands of journals published, most of your experiences with journal will be rejection slips.  (Perhaps that’s also why most of us don’t try as often as we should.)  Every journal has submission info in front of the journal [today, it’s on the journal’s website. remember, I wrote this before the commercial internet!] Publications are available for how to publish.

Conclusion:  The important thing to remember is, these are all extracurricular activities.  These are things you need to do, and are expected to do, beyond taking classes and earning your pay.


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