Thriving Through The Experience

An Assesment Guide For Graduate And Professional Students


Joy Frestedt, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology

Wendy Crone, Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics

Katherine James, Veterinary Medicine

Jessica Morgan, Anthropology


editing and design

Lisa Brandt, Anthropology

The Coalition of Women Graduate Students

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus

 For more information contact:

Jessica Morgan / Coordinator
U of MN Minnesota Women's Center
212 Nicholosn Hall
216 Pillsbury Dr SE Minneapolis, MN 55455
612-624-9028 fax
Copy Right Coalition of Women Graduate Students, 1997




 The authors acknowledge the input and suggestions from other members of the Coalition of Women Graduate Students:

Lisa Brandt (Anthropology), Corrine Dickey (Educational Policy and Administration), Michelle Douskey (Chemistry), Susan Giovengo (Veterinary PathoBiology), Gail McGill Howe (Natural Resources), Deborah Johnson (Speech-Communication), Tomoko Kuribayashi (English)


and women graduate students in:

Biochemistry; Center for Advanced Feminist Studies; Chemical Engineering; Chemistry; Creative Writing; Conservation Biology; Design, Housing and Apparel; Ecology; Education; Educational Policy and Administration; English; Entomology; Epidemiology; Forest Resources; Geology and Geophysics; International Studies and Programs, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Liberal Studies, Masters in Business Taxation; Mechanical Engineering; Microbiology, Neuroscience; Plant Biology, Political Science; Psychology; Public Health; Rhetoric; Small Animal Clinical Sciences; Social Work; Sociology; Speech Communication; Statistics; Teaching Opportunities for Doctoral Students; and Water Resources.


Gratefully acknowledged is the support of the University of Minnesota Graduate School, Commission on Women, and Minnesota Women's Center.


 Table of Contents


History of the Coalition


The Coalition of Women Graduate Students Thriving Through the Experience: An Assessment Guide for Graduate and Professional School Students

I. Tough Questions about Why You Are Here

II. Joining a Discipline or Profession

A. What's Coming?

B. Professional Organizations

C. Journals and Scholarships

D. Fellowships and Grants

E. Personal References

III. Establishing Expertise

A. Teaching

B. Research and Scholarly Activities

C. Service

D. Skill Development

IV. Developing Networks, Relationships, and Mentoring Activities

A. Networks

B. Becoming a Colleague

C. Analyzing Power Relationships

D. Developing a Reputation-Making Yourself Visible

V. Getting Support and Evaluating Your Personal Health

A. Financing Your Education

B. Emotional Support

VI. Planning for the Future

A. Charting Your Future

B. Academic Careers

D. Private Sector

E. Nontraditional Careers

Appendix 1-Creating a Strategic Plan

Appendix 2-Self-Assessment Sheet

Appendix 3-Sample Completed Self-Assessment Sheet



The Coalition of Women Graduate Students

The Coalition of Women Graduate Students was a group of women graduate students from graduate programs and disciplines throughout the University of Minnesota's colleges and centers. The group organized in 1992 and continued thru 1997 dedicating their efforts to improving the climate for women graduate students by:

· improving mentoring,

· fostering women's professional and personal development

· creating a place within the greater university system for women's voices

The Coalition offered several workshops on campus, including "How to Get the Mentoring You Need,'' was held in January 1993 and followed October 1993 by "Improving the Climate for Women Graduate Students Through Quality Mentoring." At this follow-up workshop, a report based on outcomes from the first workshop, was presented to five Vice Presidents at the University of Minnesota's.

The Coalition also developed a departmental workshop on mentoring; it was piloted in the Department of Plant Pathology on the University of Minnesota's St. Paul Campus in 1994. That same spring they developed a questionnaire for Directors of Graduate Study and Deans to survey mentoring activities in their departments. The survey was distributed by the University of Minnesota's Graduate School.

Because of their work to improve the campus climate for women graduate students, the Coalition of Women Graduate Students won a prestigious national Saturn Award for Teamwork and Innovation on the University of Minnesota campus in 1994.

Thriving Through the Experience:

An Assessment Guide for Graduate and Professional School Students

 The Coalition of Women Graduate Students intends this Guide to facilitate a proactive and rewarding approach to your professional development and university experiences. Pursuing your goals, rather than passively waiting for things to happen, should increase your professional opportunities and successes and allow you to thrive in graduate or professional school. The Coalition encourages you to customize the issues and questions in this Guide to your particular experiences and goals.

In this Guide, questions are posed for your consideration. Some questions are appropriate to students at the outset of their programs and some are for those getting closer to completion. Some of the questions are most appropriate for those seeking a master's degree, others are more applicable for Ph.D. students. Not every issue or question will apply to every graduate or professional student, nor is this workbook intended to be all-inclusive. Pick and choose the questions that apply to you.

This Guide provides a way for you to organize your plans and activities at your university and will help you design a way to pursue your future actively. As you work toward graduation, be aware of three basic tenets for action. First, you were selected from a large and competitive group of applicants. Second, the faculty in your program have an interest and investment in your success; it is important that you foster this interest and focus on the positives. Third, now that you are a graduate or professional student, you need to take a professional interest in yourself.

No single prescription for success in graduate or professional school is available. You are an individual. The experiences of the members of the Coalition have shown that, for students to succeed, they must take responsibility for their own educations. Make the time to develop and act on a strategic plan that addresses specifically what you need. (See Appendix 1 for information on creating a strategic plan.) No one can accomplish all the goals suggested by this Guide, nor can one answer all the questions alone. With these questions, you will be prepared to discuss your options with advisors, mentors, and others.

Set a wide range of goals for yourself, some you know you will accomplish (such as completing your course requirements) and some that may take more time (such as getting a first author manuscript in press). Be attentive to and keep good records of your own progress. Share your records of achievement with your advisor, graduate committee, and mentors.

This Guide is organized according to six key components of your professional development:

 · tough questions about why you are here;

· joining a discipline or profession;

· establishing expertise;

· developing networks, relationships, and mentoring activities;

· getting support and evaluating your personal health; and

· planning for the future.

The questions listed in each section will prompt you to think about ways to increase the power you have over your life and future.

You can document your use of this Guide in a number of ways. You can use the space provided after each question to record your assessments. Or, you can use the sample assessment worksheets provided at the end of the guidebook to record your assessment (Appendix 2.) A sample of a completed assessment sheet is given in Appendix 3. An even more comprehensive method of record keeping would be creating your own assessment work sheet on your computer.

We have developed this Guide to help you keep track of your goals and achievements.


Be proactive: don't just survive at your university-thrive!


Section I

Tough Questions About Why

You Are Here


 Before committing to a post-baccalaureate training, as well as periodically during your graduate career, you may find it helpful to reexamine why you are in graduate or professional school.


1. What initially attracted you to your field of study? What attracts you now?


2. In what ways are you satisfied with your progress in personal and professional development at this point?


3. In what ways are you dissatisfied with your progress in personal and professional development at this point?


4. What career paths do you envision for your future?


5. Have you systematically examined the pros and cons of your degree? Many intelligent people leave graduate programs for various reasons. Is it still in your best interest to complete the degree program you started? Do you need the degree you are currently working on, or should you stop? Consider:

  • the cost of education
  • your earning potential,
  • your time to completion,
  • job availability,
  • personal and family responsibilities,
  • job satisfaction,
  • competing interests (hobbies, travel, volunteer work),
  • passion for your field,
  • recognition for your work,
  • opportunities for leadership.


Section II

Joining a Discipline or Profession


 You have made the decision to join a particular discipline or profession. The following questions and examples may assist you in becoming an effective participant in your field of study.


A) What's Coming?


1. Do you know what you need to do to get the degree you are seeking? What are the requirements? How do you get the information you need? Have you considered:

· reading materials specific to your own program and university

· reading about your discipline

· talking with department chairs, directors of graduate studies, advisors and support staff

· talking with peers and more senior graduate students

· visiting support offices such as women's centers or offices of financial aid

· attending professional conferences and meetings

· observing the progress of others

· observing the mistakes of others

· reading general literature about graduate or professional education


2. What are the milestones you must achieve, and when should you plan to achieve them? What are the expectations of your program? What additional expectations have you set for yourself?



3. How long will it take to complete your degree? How are you planning on accommodating this time frame? In assessing a realistic time frame consider:

· departmental, program, or advisor requirements/expectations,

· your life experiences,

· things that may slow you down, and/or

· personal responsibilities (debt, child care, family responsibilities).



B) Professional Organizations


1. What are the important professional organizations in your field? Have you identified groups/organizations both inside and outside the university? Why are they important during graduate school?



2. Should you belong to any professional organizations? Do they have student rates? Can you afford to join all the "right" professional groups? Can you afford not to join them? What are your options if you do not have the financial resources to join all organizations?



3. Do you have a plan for which professional association conferences you should attend? If not, do you know where you can get this information?



C) Journals and Scholarship


1. Which journals are the important and prestigious in your field? Do you read these regularly? Can you join or start a journal reading club?



2. Which journals are best for publishing your work? Which journals are most likely to publish your work? Why?



3. Which scholars are highly regarded in your field? Are you familiar with their work? Can you create the opportunity to interact with them?



D) Fellowships and Grants


1. What are the scholarships, fellowships, and research grants in your field? Do you review these opportunities regularly? Have you checked:

· the faculty in your department,

· web sites and other computerized search programs,

· the campus fellowship/grants office or your graduate school,

· the office of research technology transfer on your campus,

· national associations and other professional groups,

· NSF, NIH, NEA, and other related sources, and

· faculty or students who have received grants, for suggestions.



2. What resources may help you apply for fellowships and grants? How can you find these resources? Consider:

· books on writing grant proposals,

· examples of successful/unsuccessful grants in your field,

· grant writing classes,

· fellowship workshops,

· individuals with expertise to critique your applications, and

· application guidelines and procedures.



E) Personal References


1. Identify relationships you have developed with professionals who can write strong, positive references for you. In what ways are you maintaining these relationships? How will you establish new relationships? For example, how often do you meet with:

· senior professionals in your field,

· your advisors,

· director of graduate studies,

· colleagues,

· graduate student peers, and/or

· staff.



2. Who can provide the most appropriate reference for a given situation? Why? For example, whom will you approach to provide assistance with applications for:

· grants/fellowships,

· graduate assistantships (teaching, research, and administrative),

· academic or nonacademic positions,

· committee assignments, and

· officer position in professional organizations.



3. Have you considered what those recommending you will say? Are you prepared to write your own letter of recommendation to give to the person recommending you? How much experience do you have writing recommendations for yourself and others? Obtaining copies of the resumes or curriculum vitae of successful people and model yours similarly is advisable. A letter of recommendation should include such information as:

· work history,

· educational history,

· those specific skills relating directly to the position that make you stand out (e.g., specific teaching methodology, research methodology, and equipment use),

· action verbs and quantified data about your accomplishments, and

· relevant personal strengths with examples (e.g., communication skills, teamwork, and leadership abilities).



4. If you work as a research assistant, teaching assistant, or administrative fellow, you have a personnel file. This may include student evaluations, performance reviews, and recommendations. Have you reviewed this file? Can you identify missing pieces that you would like in your file? How can you work to get positive things into your file?

Section III

Establishing Expertise


To be successful in your field you must develop expertise and demonstrate this expertise to others. You must demonstrate how well you work in your chosen environment, and you must keep track of your accomplishments. Additionally, you need many practical skills (including leadership and teamwork skills) that most scholars and professionals develop to further their work and reputations. If you will be seeking an academic position, remember these appointments and promotions often require expertise in three areas: teaching, research, and service, known as the triple thread. In managing your professional life, how are you addressing all three areas of this academic equation for success?


A) Teaching

1. If teaching will be an important aspect of your career, how well developed is your teaching portfolio? How have you evaluated your success in teaching? For example, your teaching portfolio should include:

· teaching philosophy,

· reflections on your teaching experiences,

· student evaluations,

· syllabi you have developed,

· seminars/workshops attended,

· certifications, and

· records of your committee work related to teaching.


2. What resources are you using for teaching development? For example, are you participating in:

· programs designed for teaching assistants,

· faculty development seminars,

· teaching portfolio workshops,

· courses on teaching pedagogy and curriculum development in your field, and

· committee work on curriculum development.


3. What expertise are you developing within your discipline and in related disciplines? How do the classes you teach help you in developing that expertise? Can you think of ways to improve this? For example, do you:

· talk to faculty who teach in your areas of interest,

· talk to the faculty about how best to juggle teaching multiple courses in the same term,

· talk to faculty about how they developed areas of teaching expertise,

· teach seminars about your area of interest, and

· present at conferences and association meetings.


4. If you decide to stay in an academic setting (at a large university or small college), teaching will be an important part of your life; teaching experience will be considered for new hires. How will you develop teaching expertise if your department does not provide the opportunity to student teach or, does not allow you to teach? Can you find universities or community colleges in the area where you can gain teaching experience? For example, have you considered:

· teaching a course at a science or history museum,

· participating in a literacy program in your community,

· providing consultation to business and industry,

· participating in K-12 education programs, or

· investigating opportunities to teach abroad.


5. Do you have experiences teaching students from less academically and economically advantaged backgrounds or with disabilities? In what ways are you developing a sensitivity to issues of multiculturalism in the classroom?


6. How do you advise and mentor students? What are your advising strategies when advising students whose goals differ from yours?


B) Research and Scholarly Activities


1. Evaluate your goals. What depth and breadth of research methodology and scholarly experience will you need? How are you developing depth and breadth in your field? What can you do to expand your experiences?


2. What resources are available for research development at your university? Have you considered how you can benefit from participating in:

· programs specifically designed for research assistants,

· research seminars,

· grant writing or grant management workshops,

· committee work on research issues, and

· preparation of a research portfolio.


3. If research will be an important aspect of your career, how will you develop a research portfolio? For example, have you included:

· techniques mastered,

· descriptions of equipment used,

· reprints of manuscripts authored,

· your research philosophy and direction, and

· committee experiences.


4. How does the research in which you are involved serve to expand or limit your opportunities for the future? Can you think of ways to improve this? Have you considered:

· looking for a research assistantship,

· talking to the faculty about navigating your research program,

· talking to the faculty about how they developed expertise,

· talking to the faculty about how they would choose an area of expertise today,

· teaching seminars about your areas of interest,

· presenting your research at conferences and association meetings, and

· networking/collaborating with other investigators, including your peers and scientists you

meet at meetings and conferences.


5. How will you develop research expertise if your department does not provide the opportunity to conduct research or if you are in an ineffective research setting? Are there other universities or community programs in your area where you can conduct research? Have you considered:

· research at a science or history museum,

· consultation with business and industry,

· technology transfer programs between your university and industry,

· collaboration with other researchers,

· short-term research symposia at other universities and organizations, and

· opportunities to conduct research abroad.


C) Service


1. When and how will you gain experience in administration and leadership? In what ways are you challenging yourself to become a better leader, public speaker, or group member?


2. What committees and other university service opportunities are available to you as a graduate or professional student? Have you considered:

· all three levels of the academic hierarchy-departmental, collegiate, and university,

· which committees allow for student participation possibilities include: search committee, human subjects committee, animal use committee, policy and review councils, university senate or other governing bodies, or advising undergraduate programs or organizations, or

· starting or joining an informal student organization to work to improve student life.


3. What can you realistically expect to give in terms of time and effort toward service activities? Can you attend most scheduled meetings? What do you hope to gain from this experience?


4. Do you know how to be an effective member of a committee? What skills are you developing to:

· lead a meeting,

· create/follow an agenda,

· be heard in a meeting when you are outranked and overpowered,

· participate in team building,

· understand committee/meeting etiquette,

· prepare in advance to use time efficiently,

· make your comments succinct and puissant,

· deal with conflict effectively, and

· facilitate.


D) Skill Development


1. In addition to teaching, research and service, you need additional specific skills. What resources are available, and who can help you develop these skills? How will you gain experience in the areas of:

· writing and editing,

· making formal and informal presentations,

· networking,

· negotiating,

· time management, timelines, goal setting,

· providing constructive arguments,

· promoting yourself as a professional,

· getting your work published and recognized, and

· communicating effectively with others.


2. If managing a laboratory or research group is in your future, you will need additional skills. In what ways are you preparing for the functions of:

· recruiting and managing personnel,

· purchasing,

· understanding university policy and procedures,

· budgeting research projects,

· overseeing health and safety policies,

· understanding regulations pertaining to research human subjects, and

· writing and managing grants.


3. Your curriculum vitae or resume presents an image of you as a scholar or professional. Are you:

· thinking about how best to document your experiences,

· documenting your activities and accomplishments regularly,

· critiquing your resume regularly to assure balance and identify potential gaps,

· asking the image presented in your resume fit with the type of person potential employers will hire,

· getting feedback from professionals in your field, and

· tooting your own horn.


4. How are you gaining interviewing experience? What questions do you expect from interviewers? Have your prepared responses? What are your weaknesses and how can you mitigate them? What are your strengths?


5. Throughout your career you will most likely participate in performance reviews. Keep the following in mind:

· the review is a two-way street,

· make your own priorities known,

· inform your supervisor about your past successes and future goals,

· solicit your supervisor's assistance in achieving your goals,

· be proactive, both in getting recognition for past achievements and in creating future

opportunities, and

· focus on the future.


5. Do you know how and when to say "no"? What strategies have you developed to avoid saying "yes" when you want to say no? Specifically, can you turn down additional work yet maintain a positive relationship?


Section IV

Developing Networks, Relationships,

and Mentoring Activities


Academic and many other professions are "colleague systems." Your relationships partly control and shape your place within your profession and your field. You can negotiate your way through such a system by establishing a variety of acquaintances and relationships on multiple levels.


A) Networks

1. Of what networks are you already a part? What groups might you join to expand your networks? Have you considered:

· your peers,

· the faculty in your department,

· internet groups,

· professional organizations,

· social and activity-based organizations,

· student government and other organizations,

· community groups,

· past co-workers, advisors, and teachers, and

· family friends.


2. What are you looking for in your network connections and where can you find these people who will be in these networks? What do you have to offer them for their assistance? What do they have to offer you? How do you maintain your networks?


3. Do you have both positive and negative role models? How can you use the positive and negative models to motivate you in your desired direction?



B) Becoming a Colleague

1. How can you get to know people in your field locally, regionally, and internationally? In what ways can you use the internet to meet people and market yourself? Are you making connections and building relationships with other graduate students and faculty inside and outside your discipline and on and off your university campus?


2. Many of your colleagues of tomorrow are your peers today. What relationships are you establishing with other students, faculty, and staff? Whom can you assist? Who can assist you? How can you make these relationships happen?


3. Are you taking classes from people you will want on your committee(s)? Can your classroom professors help you advance in your professional development in other ways? How?


4. In what ways can you use the university organizations or departments that are designed to aid your professional and/or personal development?



C) Analyzing Power Relationships

1. Describe the power structure in your department and your place in it.


2. Describe how you delegate when appropriate.


3. What are the most effective ways to communicate with your superiors?


4. Identify whether your department is cooperative or competitive. How are you functioning within this environment? Where can you go for advice on working effectively with either or a combination of these models?



D. Developing a Reputation-Make Yourself Visible!

1. Getting involved in conferences and meetings will be important to help you mature in your discipline. Which people should you meet at these conferences? How do you initiate and maintain these relationships?


2. What experiences do you have in presenting and defending your ideas in friendly settings (a journal club or other less formal setting) and in more formal settings (departmental seminars, national conference)? How can you use these experiences to further your goals?


3. Describe how you have presented and defended your work at poster sessions, lecture sessions, and other events at departmental, university, community, national, and international conferences. Have you asked your advisor or others to critique your presentations and provide additional opportunities to develop your presentation skills?


4. How often have you published your work in appropriate peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings ? Are you taking care to copyright your intellectual property?


5. How often do you write about your work and submit publications and grant applications? Are you satisfied with this rate of publication and grant consideration? How might you improve your publications and grants? Have you ever submitted a paper from a class for publication or based a presentation at a conference based on such a paper?


6. How do you respond to reviewers' comments about your manuscripts? How can you minimize the number of rewrites?


7. Have you considered how to ensure that your actions and the manner in which you present yourself and your ideas will be reviewed as a positive, ethical image? In what ways are your developing your ethical decision making skills?


8. What kinds of recognition and reward systems exist where you work? Are you utilizing them for yourself and for others? Are some rewards/recognitions missing, and can you find ways to create them for yourself and others?


Section V

Getting Support and Evaluating

Your Personal Health


 Many things will make the difference between thriving and merely surviving at your university. The graduate student experience demands that you navigate, negotiate, and evaluate the boundaries between your personal and professional lives. The following are some examples of important things to consider.


A) Financing Your Education

1. Have you developed a plan for financing your education and early research? Some sources for funding include:.

· teaching, administrative, or research assistantship (inside or outside your department),

· fellowships, scholarships,

· research grants,

· student loans,

· outside employment, and

· family financial support.


2. If you are planning to have departmental support, have you had frank discussions with your program and department about:

· the track record of your department in supporting graduate and professional students,

· the availability of and eligibility for financial support,

· conditions you must meet for funding to continue,

· providing offers of financial support in writing,

· the length of funding,

· what to do if your program requires outside support,

· what to do if your program does not allow outside support, and

· options for summer employment.


3. How will you manage the work load required to finance your education, especially if part-time work is a part of your plan? Do you have a contingency plan if things do not work the way you expect? What is it?


4. If you must use student loans, have you calculated what your debt will be by the time you graduate and how much monthly payments will be? In what ways will you manage this debt?


5. Certain tuition benefits, scholarships and other forms of support are regarded as taxable income. What are your tax obligations, and how can you make meeting these obligations easier?



B) Emotional Support


1. How much emotional support do you need and can you expect from others? In what ways do you:

· communicate your feelings and thoughts to those close to you,

· optimize time for others and yourself,

· find people with whom you can talk, and

· make friends.


2. For women and men with children and/or other outside-university responsibilities, how much are you willing to give:

· to your graduate program,

· to work,

· to children, spouse, and pets, and

· to yourself.


3. In what ways are you taking care of yourself by:

· balancing time for your children and outside responsibilities,

· valuing yourself in a positive way,

· standing up for yourself,

· meeting your own expectations, not those of others,

· having fun, and

· keeping graduate or professional school in perspective.


4. If you are moving to a new school, have you allowed yourself time and emotional energy to adapt to new surroundings and find a place to live, shop, and recreate?


5. Are you taking care of yourself physically with:

· regular exercise,

· enough sleep,

· health insurance, and

· doctors' visits.


6. How well are you using your time? How do you maintain an equilibrium? How do you identify valuable and not-so-valuable uses of your time? It is not how much time you spend on something that counts; what counts are results.


Section VI

Planning for the Future


 The average person changes careers every seven years. Are your skills broad enough to permit this flexibility? What kind of continuing education will assist you as you navigate these changes?


A) Charting Your Future


1. What is your job search plan?

· when will your start your search,

· is your resume and/or curriculum vitae current,

· are your portfolios current,

· do you know how to use the internet to find job listings,

· have you consulted with the career center or placement office at your university,

· are you using the networks you have developed,

· have you done informational interviews,

· have you attend job fairs,

· have you talked to your references, and

· have you talked to head-hunters.


2. In what ways are you exploring future job possibilities? What are the hiring trends in your field? Do these trends affect your plans?


3. Can you describe what will be expected of you in future jobs? Have you completed or planned for the training you need to have to handle these new responsibilities?


4. In what ways are you developing the skills for the job you want in the future?


5. In what areas of the country or in what country do you want to live? How might this affect your career path and available opportunities?


6. Can your partner/family make the move with you? If not, will you and your partner/family be able to sustain a long-distance relationship?


B) Academic Careers

1. Are you interested in an academic career? Will you be forced to choose between teaching and research? If you want both, how will you negotiate with your potential employer? Are you most interested in a small college or a large institution?


2. Have you considered doing a post doctorate (or two) before obtain an academic position? Describe or define the ideal postdoctoral position and how you plan to find it.


3. In what ways will you balance the teaching, research, and service roles? How would you describe the importance that different institutions place on these roles? Where do your priorities lie?


4. In what ways have you explored the student populations, opportunities, and problems at other institutions?


5. In what ways have you explored the functions of the faculty at the different schools where you might apply?



C) Private Sector

1. How will you find out about opportunities in industry, independent companies, and government? How can you develop industry relationships while you are still in school?


2. Describe the steps you might take to pursue a career in consulting?


3. Describe the types of industry that might suit your interests and goals? What size company is best for you? In what corporate culture(s) can you work effectively?


4. Are you interested in the management track? In what ways have you been developing business skills while you are in school? Describe your basic management skills (both strengths and weaknesses). Where can you further develop these skills?


5. Describe the general attitude of your peers and the faculty in your department toward work in the private sector. How does your own attitude compare to those around you? You may need to find out how people in the "rest" of the world feel about working in their world. Your faculty may be an especially poor source of information here.



D) Nontraditional Careers

1. Are you interested in career paths not traditionally taken by people in your field? Have you found out about these alternatives via:

· career counseling,

· organizing an alternative career path seminar in your department,

· informational interviews,

· obtaining lists of employers from your professional society, and

· obtaining list of employers of past graduates from your department.


2. In what ways do your interdisciplinary networks help you to consider unusual career paths? How can your discipline be applied to other areas?


3. Describe how your skill set might fit into other career areas. Do you have suitable role models in these fields? How can you discover the opportunities that are open to you in a nontraditional field?


Appendix 1

 Creating a Strategic Plan


The idea of mapping out one's future at an early point in one's career scares many people. But if you realize that your plan will change and develop as you advance in your career, then you can think of it in a more creative and less permanent way. Strategic planning is a cyclical process that you continuously build on throughout your career. You should revisit your plan on a regular basis and modify it to fit your new needs.


At this point in your graduate education you may even want to have several endpoints in mind so that you take advantage of a variety of opportunities and keep your options open. Maybe your primary interest is in teaching, and you envision yourself in a tenure-track position at a small four-year college in five years. That is a solid goal for which you plan. But if, in the back of your mind, you also have an interest in working for a government agency, then your strategic plan should include things that will help you prepare for that kind of position too.


Your strategic planning should take place on both a global and local scale. Globally you want overarching goals in mind like obtaining a tenure-track position or getting a research position in a company. Locally you want to plan for short-term goals, like publishing your next journal article or teaching a course for which you are the primary instructor. This guidebook assumes that you have some global goals in mind and helps you to identify your local goals and accomplishments. Your next step is developing a plan to reach those goals.


You should ask yourself several questions while developing your strategic plans:


· What kind of time frame is appropriate for the goal I want to achieve? (That is, in the next week I should talk with my advisor about the schedule for my oral exams. Or, in the next year I should present at a conference.)


· What steps are involved in achieving this goal?


· Who can help me identify the steps I must take and how to achieve this goal? (Talk to your mentors, advisor, and peers. Use available university services.)


· Who can support me and help me to achieve my goals?


· What benchmarks can I use to judge my progress?


· How can I stay on track once I have developed my plan?


· How can I learn from what did not work in the past and deal with failure constructively?


There are also schematic methods that help some people to visualize their goals. Charts, time lines, and graphs can provide valuable tools in mapping out your future.


Sample Self-Assessment Sheet

(See Appendix 3 for samples of compled sheets.)


 Page _____  Question _____  Topic ______________________________________

 Strategic Plan:


 Page _____  Question _____  Topic ______________________________________

 Strategic Plan:


Appendix 3

Sample Completed Self-Assessment Sheet


 Section:   Question :   Topic: Additional skills needed


wrote journal article with advisor and handled reviewer comments

presented research in progress in dept. seminar

developed and negotiated a timeline for my degree progress


develop better network in my field

write at least one more journal article in the next year

present in departmental seminar again next year

 Strategic Plan:

talk to my advisor about attending a conference, possibly presenting in the next year so that I can begin developing networks

send out an email to see if other departmental graduate students are going to the conference

identify a segment of my research that can be written up and present

find out the deadline for submitting the abstract




 Section:  Question:   Topic: Managing a laboratory or research group


search committee member in hiring lab scientist

interviewed and hired undergraduate research assistant

safety coordinator for one laboratory


develop a better understanding of the grant-writing process

 Strategic Plan:

work with advisor on writing a grant proposal in the next year

take grant writing class offered by the university

find out about the new grant-management training offered by the graduate school


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