Hi friends. Many of your are or will soon be heading into the grad school interview deluge in the fall/winter months, so I figured I would arm you with good interview questions that are sure to impress your potential future advisors. These are the kinds of questions you could ask during a phone interview, video-chat interview, or during the in-person open house.
Hi there! First of all, thank you so much for the positive feedback about that first post on phone/Skype interviews – I’m so glad you all enjoyed it so much. Here’s the follow-up post about tips directly related to phone/Skype interviews for grad school.
I recently “attended” a virtual training course on Transitioning into a Non-Academic Career sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Science. The talk was given by Dr. Josh Henkin and he outlined the kinds of preparation and professional development is useful for non-academic careers. Here’s a recap for you:
Cultivating deep, meaningful relationships with friends after college can be really difficult. What’s your advice for how to make lasting friendships during graduate school?
Ok, so this is one of those posts specifically tailored to students who are already in graduate school, but perhaps if you’re a college student, you might glean something from this as well.
Today’s topic – managing your network. I just came back from the SRCD conference in Austin, TX. And it.was.AWESOME. Not only was the weather in Austin absolutely incredible, the people who attended and content covered at the conference was just fantastic. I didn’t have anything to present this time around, so I just focused my efforts on networking, taking with people, and just taking it all in. I’m about a year out from graduating, so there’s a lot that I need to accomplish, and networking is what I focused on last weekend!
As a graduate student, I am expected to teach undergraduate courses. So far I have taught Child Development and Mystery, Murder, and Madness (which is basically a criminal behavior class). In my program, upper level graduate students are required to teach 2 courses each semester, so by the end of the program, we have A LOT of experience teaching at the college level.
Ahh, the dreaded curriculum vitae….vita?…Latin? WHY?!…oh gosh!…either way, you know it well. It’s that nebulous document hidden somewhere in the depths of the files on your computer and you have no idea which version is the most up-to-date, what to include in it, how to write it, and ohhhhhh the formatting issues!! I’ve been there, your colleagues have been there, and we know you’ve been there too.
I’ve put together a list of suggestions and helpful hints on how to get your CV in perfect shape! But remember, it’s always a work in progress.
So, maybe you’ve graduated college and you know you need to get a job, but have no clue how to get started. Or maybe you’re a senior in college and haven’t the faintest idea where to begin looking for a job. Well, I’m here to help with one possible solution to this tragic dilemma that plagues so many of us…
One option, if you’re considering a future as a graduate student somewhere in the social sciences/humanities, is to get a job as a research assistant in a lab at a University. Now, if you’re currently attending a liberal arts college, like I did, you might be asking yourself, “Wait, what?! They actually hire people full-time to work in labs, and pay them!?” Short answer, YES! Larger universities typically demand a larger scale of research from their professors. This kind of research can often be funded by major grants or outside sources and professors often run major multi-million dollar projects off these grants. That’s where you come in. In order to successfully run these mega studies, professors need research assistants (like you!) to help them collect data, analyze data, interact with participants, code data, do data entry, the list goes on. These jobs are often full-time with a reasonable salary, and require little more than a cheery attitude, some research experience during college, and some good recommendations.
Now the question is, how do you find these jobs. Well, one way is to cold-email professors at universities who are doing research that seems interesting to you. Often undergraduates or recent college graduates have trouble knowing exactly what to say in these first emails. Here’s my version of a tutorial on what to say and why.
Here’s the draft of the email:
My name is NAME and I am currently a senior at UNIVERSITY. I am majoring in MAJOR will be graduating in DATE. I am interested in pursuing a graduate degree in FIELD and I am hoping to get more research experience over the next few years before applying to graduate school. I found on the UNIVERSITY research lab website that you are currently doing research with the TOPIC. I would love to learn more about this research! I am wondering if you have any opportunities for employment as a research assistant in you lab, and if so I would love to learn more about it and possibly set up a time for us to meet or discuss this over the phone.
Let’s break it down:
My name is NAME and I am currently a senior at UNIVERSITY. I am majoring in MAJOR will be graduating in DATE.
First, you introduce yourself, your major, and where you go to school. Remember, if you go to a smaller school, you’ll want to give the city and state just to clarify.
I am interested in pursuing a graduate degree in FIELD and I am hoping to get more research experience over the next few years before applying to graduate school.
Here, you are showing your interest in the field and right away you’re letting the recipient know why you’re contacting them.
I found on the UNIVERSITY research lab website that you are currently doing research with the TOPIC. I would love to learn more about this research!
Next, jump right into why you’re interested in the topic. You could also write something here to give it more of a personal touch, like this “I am really interested in TOPIC and EXPANDED ON TOPIC. I have a particular interest in this area for both personal and academic reasons since RELATED EXPERIENCE. I am contacting you because I am interested in potentially working in your lab after I graduate.” By showing that you have done your research and have an interest in the topic, the professor you’re contacting will know you’re serious and ready to work.
I am wondering if you have any opportunities for employment as a research assistant in you lab, and if so I would love to learn more about it and possibly set up a time for us to meet or discuss this over the phone.
Towards the end you should bring up why you’re contacting them exactly. Be more specific. You are looking for “employment as a research assistant.” Importantly, be open to talking with them more. This one email is not going to employ you, YOU will employ yourself by being proactive and talking with people who you admire and want to work for. If you’re close enough, set up a time to meet in person. If that’s not possible, Skype and phone calls are often a really popular way of reaching out. Don’t be afraid, tackle it at full speed.
I would be available starting DATE. I have attached my CV to this email for your convenience.
Last line, show them you’re serious. Give a start date and attach your CV. For more information on how to write your CV you can see mine here, or check back in a few weeks, and I’ll post some handy tips for writing your CV.
Hope this helped! Feel free to post any questions below.
So…you got into the graduate program of your dreams and you want to make the most of your first year. Here’s a list of the 11 things that will make your first year a total success:
- Stay organized. Schedule out what assignments you are going to do every day of the week and try to stick to it. Use a hand-written planner or an electronic one (like Google calendar, or cool Aps like Wonderlist or Evernote) – whichever you prefer to keep you organized.
- Meet with your advisor early and often. Your relationship with your advisor, whether you’re a Masters or Doctoral student, is the most important relationship of your graduate career. Make sure you’re cultivating it early, and it will make the rest of your graduate career much easier. Set up weekly or bi-weekly meetings with your advisor, even if just to catch up on the things you have been working on.
- Don’t be afraid! If you have a question, don’t hesitate to ask anyone! Graduate students (especially in our department) are like a family, we help each other out and want to learn from each other’s mistakes.
- Don’t procrastinate… yes, let’s all just admit it…we’ve been there, you’ve been there, and it always stinks! As graduate students, we are expected to balance many different responsibilities at once, and excel at all of them. This is an extremely difficult task on its own, so don’t leave assignments for the last minute. This will ensure that you are able to complete all your responsibilities, and come out standing on the other end.
- Stay healthy and active. Graduate school can be one of the most fun, but also most stressful life experiences. Don’t let yourself become victim to the severe negative consequences of stress. Make sure you schedule in some “you-time”. Go for a run or a hike, bake cran-oat chocolate chip coconut muffins, play with puppies, make fish tacos, take a yoga class, go to Sweetgreen and get a deliciously overpriced salad…whatever it is that you like to do that relaxes you and keeps you mentally and physically healthy! Get out there and do it!
- Make new friends…join study groups, attend social events, don’t be afraid to have a little fun in grad school. Set up study sessions at Panera with a buddy, go to happy-hours, or just hang out in your lab and get to know your lab-mates. Making friends in graduate school is your first step to developing your social network of colleagues, so get out there and socialize!
- Join professional organizations. By joining professional organizations (like SRCD, APA, APS, etc.) you become eligible for discounts to attend conferences, receive journals subscriptions, and you can hear about the latest news in the field. Most of them have student rates too, so us poor-old grad students can afford the hefty bill.
- Relatedly, start following your favorite professional organizations on social media. Almost all professional organizations keep and maintain Facebook and Twitter accounts and constantly update them with the latest news, articles, research findings, and cool facts. It’s an excellent way to get your favorite information, fast, simply by browsing your Facebook or Twitter accounts, which, let’s face it, we would all be doing anyway.
- Attend conferences. Conferences are usually associated with a professional organization. This is where you can start to build your professional network of collaborators, friends, colleagues, and the like. You never know where these relationships will take you! Submit to them as often as you can, talk with your advisor about potential topics and research ideas that could get you towards a conference submission. There is always something out there that you can do!
- Update your CV…OFTEN. Any time you take on a new task or responsibility make sure you are updating your CV ASAP. Graduate school is about taking advantage of the many opportunities that are being thrown at you; make sure you’re giving yourself credit for those opportunities on your professional Vita. Trust me, if you don’t put it on your CV right away, you WILL forget, so update it many times throughout your career to ensure you always have the most up-to-date version. You never know when you’re going to need to whip out your trusty CV and impress someone in an elevator…
- Being a TA is important, but don’t let it take over your life. Some graduate students will be asked to be a teaching assistant (TA) for an undergraduate course. This is a very educational, but time-consuming assignment. You will learn A LOT, but it can easily take over all your time, so don’t let it! Get it done, and make it good, but don’t let it take over your life!