Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Forming a Backup Plan

A couple of weeks ago, we took a look at James van Wyck’s tips for Ph.D. candidates, one of which stated, “You need, need, need to have multiple plans. Identify a few careers that align with your skill sets and cultivate opportunities and contacts that would help secure these jobs.” This week, Thomas Malgadi conveyed a similar sentiment in his piece, “The Backup Plan.”

At the beginning of his piece, Malgadi states, “Ph.D.s would never invest precious grant money and time in a project whose success is tied to the implementation of a single research method. Nor should they invest in a job search that is too narrow.” Malgadi offers a variety of steps students can take to create a “backup plan.”

Here are a few of the points Malgadi highlights, but be sure to read through the full article for the complete rundown of tips!

  • Consider the actual job market and hiring trends in addition to examining the qualifications required for a position. This can be done through conversations with those in the field or by searching online.
  •  Think about whether certain factors such as location and pay will affect your search—if so, you may need to modify your search to meet these other criteria.
  • Establish when you’d like to and need to secure a job and don’t lose sight (literally) of these goals. Keep them posted where you’ll see them and make sure to give yourself sufficient time to achieve them. 
  • When considering your first and second choice career plans, don’t forget to build skills that will help you become a viable candidate for your second choice path, too. 
  • You can select a post-grad opportunity that will allow you to build skills in order to transition into a new role. “A career should be viewed as a series of stepping-stones rather than large leaps,” Malgadi writes. 
  • It’s ok to think beyond the obvious in terms of a career—many people wish they had explored a backup option sooner rather than later, because these ended up being lasting careers!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Overcoming Self-Doubt

You’ve spent an extensive portion of the past decade prepping for your future career in academia, working hard through graduate school and beyond. Once you secure a great position, you’ll never want look back on that stressful time—right? Maybe not.

Josh Boldt, digital content manager at the University of Kentucky, describes his battle with self-doubt in a recent Chronicle piece. “I find myself fixating on the idea that I somehow got lucky with this job,” Boldt writes. “I have to remind myself that I deserve it and that I worked hard to get here.”
One way in which Boldt consoles himself is by “thinking about the 80-hour work weeks I spent researching and writing my thesis in graduate school” and “remembering all of the late evenings and weekends I invested in learning web design over the last several years in order to get the job I now have.” He relates his current state to the insecurities many graduate students experience when they feel as though they are not as qualified as their classmates and worry that they will “be found out and exposed.” 

Boldt has worked his way up the career ladder and is having difficulty accepting the nature of his new role. “I spent so many years underemployed as an adjunct professor and working hard for very little money that I’m having a difficult time adjusting to a work situation that’s finally comfortable,” he states. He’s found that he isn’t the only one who feels this way—other adjuncts can relate to the idea that “it’s easy to start internalizing a perception of inferiority and believing that low money is all you’re worth.” 

Boldt urges others experiencing similar feelings to “be intentional and take it one step at a time.” As it turns out, he says, those appointing positions wouldn’t choose someone who they didn’t think would succeed. “Accept it, say thank you, and don’t let self-doubt sabotage a good thing.”
View the full article for more of Boldt’s tips, and remember, “It never hurts to remind yourself that you deserve to succeed.”

Monday, June 22, 2015

Centennial Stories

Want to learn more about the people who make Penn GSE so unique? As part of GSE’s Centennial celebration, members of the GSE community have shared their stories and accomplishments, and we encourage you to take a look at this special collection. 

Graduates sharing their stories span a range of ages and professions, but each reflects positively on their time at GSE. “Penn GSE is an institution dedicated to discovery, networking, and critical inquiry,” wrote Tryan L. McMickens, who is now an assistant professor of higher education at Suffolk University. McMickens received his Ed.D. in Higher Education in 2011. “Ultimately I plan to use my Penn education as well as my research to lead a college or university,” he shared. 

Wrote Emmie Katz, “My experience at Penn GSE, although only one year long, gave me the courage to take risks, to think about how to improve my teaching, and to recognize the importance of community in every child’s life.” Katz completed the Teacher Education Program, receiving her M.S.Ed. in 2013. She now teaches third grade in Chelsea, Mass. 

Penn GSE alumni are also invited to submit their own stories to the site, which is a great resource for prospective students curious about their predecessors’ accomplishments!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Thinking about grad school? Here are some points to consider

Whether grad school has always been a major goal or is more of a recent aspiration, there are many things to consider before filling out that application or committing to a program. In a recent Time Magazine article, professional SAT Tutor Brian Witte of Varisty Tutors outlines three questions that prospective graduate students should consider before taking this major next step. We explore his perspective here. 

Question 1: What will my career path be once I earn my graduate degree?
Witte urges students to “ensure that the programs you are considering will truly lead you to your intended career.” Students can do so by reaching out to the program director and graduates of the program. They can also search LinkedIn for people pursuing an appealing career who may be willing to discuss “what they wish they had known before starting graduate school” along with other information about their field. Actually landing one’s desired job can be difficult, too. Students seeking to become professors, for example, should be aware that hires are becoming more limited and then decide whether this is a path they would still like to pursue. 

Question 2: Will I succeed in this program?
Witte encourages students to “keep in mind that not all programs are equally valuable.” It is neither ideal to receive average grades at a top university nor is it ideal to perform well at a lesser-known institution without making much of an impact otherwise, he explains. 

Question 3: Can I afford to attend graduate school?
Tuition aside, Witte runs through a sample scenario involving one employee who opted to pay for graduate school, one who received her PhD free of charge, and one who did not pursue graduate school at all. When comparing their salaries over a 10-year period, Witte illustrates that “the point is that no choice is as obvious as it first seems.” In this case, the PhD recipient had not earned significantly more than the employee who had not gone to graduate school at all. 

Witte acknowledges that his statements “may sound discouraging,” but he is really stressing the importance of thinking ahead before going down a particular path.

Current grad students, do you agree with Witte’s advice?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Fordham's James van Wyck Shares Tips for PhD Students

James van Wyck, a senior teaching fellow in the honors program at Fordham University, Lincoln Center, tells PhD students that “it’s better to regard yourself as a professional than as a student.” A PhD candidate himself, van Wyck recently published an InsideHigher Ed article in which he discusses the merits of both online and offline practices that others can adopt now to better prepare themselves for the future. We outline some of his advice here.

With regard to technology: Van Wyck stresses the importance of creating a Twitter account early on and taking advantage of online calendar systems to stay on top of fellowship applications that may be more relevant a few months down the line. He also encourages PhD candidates to talk ask their undergraduates students about technology, as “even younger graduate students don’t have their ears to the ground like undergraduates do.”

With regard to in-person interaction: “Be strategic about your networking,” van Wyck says. He suggests completing informational interviews during which students should speak passionately about their topics of interest. They should also look to their peers as examples and connections as well as partners for developing new initiatives.

With regard to the rest of one’s time on campus: If taking on part-time work, “look for jobs that add skills to your portfolio rather than jobs that reinforce skills you already have.” Attend events on campus and “make sure you don’t miss out on opportunities to network with visiting scholars because an event targets undergraduates.” Get to know administrators. Take part in a service-learning project “that is outside the sphere of your dissertation’s focus.” Lastly, students should consider “multiple options” when it comes to careers—“don’t buy the myth that nonacademic careers are any less worthy than academic careers.”

PhD students, be sure to check out the full article and keep van Wyck’s advice in mind! What would you add to his list of tips?