Non-Academic Career Webinar

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:

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How to…manage your network

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!

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How to…The First Year of Graduate School


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!


How to…The Gap Year

There’s a new trend that has become increasingly popular among post-graduate students – taking a gap year between college and graduate school. The idea is that this time is for students to boost their resume before taking on graduate school full-time, and to enhance their confidence and understanding of the graduate program they are about to embark on. I took a gap year (or rather, two years) and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have compiled some information for students who are potentially interested in taking a gap year but just aren’t sure if they should or what they should do during it. Click [here] for more information or just read it below.

Disclaimer: This information is geared toward students interested in going to graduate school in developmental or clinical psychology. But again, this information would be helpful for anyone interested in graduate programs targeted at working with children. 

Why take a gap year?  

  • If you’re unsure about what kind of graduate education you want to attend
  • If you need more experience before going to the graduate school of your choosing

What should I do during the gap year?                                                               

  • Get experience that is relevant to your field of interest!
  • Even if it’s broad, just get some experience that’s not just coffee shop or Pizza Hut

Sure the term is “gap-year” but should it really be only one year?                                        

  • Short answer… no!
  • Think about it…when you’re applying to graduate school you want to be able to USE your gap year to your benefit (i.e. get your boss to write a recommendation, talk about your responsibilities at your job)
  • By the time you are ready for this information, you will only be at your job for a few months
  • So… suggestion…take 2 years! No more… (3 can sometimes be okay) but definitely NOT more than that!
  • HOWEVER, we are all different, and this decision should not be taken lightly…so, think about it!

Psychology-related jobs                                                                                                                 

  • ABA therapist
    • Quick training, working with kids, school or home setting, work based on behavioral plan that your boss creates
  • Research Assistant
    • At a University (larger state Universities would have these kinds of jobs)
    • At a Research firm (Abt Associates, Urban Institute, ChildTrends, etc.)
    • Hospital setting (usually underfunded, but research hospitals are always looking for someone)
  • Working with kids with Disabilities
    • Kennedy Krieger in Baltimore is a good facility for this kind of thing
  • Teacher
    • Pretty easy to get teaching certificates
    • Even easier for preschool/daycare
  • PeaceCorps, Americorps, Teach for America, CityYear, KIPP
    • Great for those looking for service-related experiences
  • Shadow people you think are interesting
    • Just email them! People are really responsive!
  • Even nannying full time would give you good experiences!
  • Use resources!
    • Google it! You’ll find resources that other schools have!