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Tran–>sit–>ion: From Grad to Pro

As I get ready to take job ONE, I’ve been reflecting on just what the transition from grad student to professional is going to mean. Here are my thoughts…

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LIFESTYLE

 Even if you’ve worked while in grad school, there are certain elements of the grad student lifestyle that are bound to change as you transition into a full-time professional role. First, if you have an internship (like I do) with strange hours that do not always occur during the business day, it can have it’s perks like the ability to sleep in. Once structured office hours are part of your life, that’s just not an option anymore. I don’t know about you, but this is going to be a hard pill for me to swallow because I value a long sleep after a long night. Then, there’s appropriate dress. For many grad students, it’s easy to get away with wearing jeans or even sweatpants to class or certain meetings. Well, it was nice when it lasted because that’s also something that will likely change. It’ll probably be required for us to dress professionally in the workplace. It’s also important that we dress in such a way that helps set us apart from students, especially if we’ll be pretty close in age to students with whom we work.  So, start getting that wardrobe ready.

EXPECTATIONS

Let’s face it. Once we relinquish the title of grad students and assume that of professional, people are going to start expecting more of us. This includes employers and colleagues, as well as friends and family. Expectations will feel particularly different if you’re taking your first professional job since being a student for 18 plus years. While many of us take on various responsibilities in our work as grad students, there will undoubtedly be a change in the level of responsibility and accountability that we experience in a professional job. Just as others will expect more out of us, we must expect more out of ourselves. Set that bar high!

LIFE GOALS

transition-thumbIn moving from grad student to professional, the “future” becomes real. Job one is that first step toward the rest of your career and LIFE. It’s time to make choices about direction and short/long term goals in your professional life, as well as your personal life. These choices can be hard. If it hasn’t already, life can get pretty complicated. Not to say that grad students have no direction, but becoming a professional means that it’s time to steer your own career ship. Entering the professional requires big decisions from taking that first job to leaving it for the next. For many people, that first or second job may not have finite cap of time attached to it like grad school had. It’s important to constantly evaluate where you’ve been, where you are, and where you want to go.

THE LEARNING CURVE

We’re not perfect as grad students. And, get this…we won’t be perfect as professionals! We will definitely make mistakes as we learn the ropes of our new job and culture of the organization or institution for which we’ll work. Over the past couple years, many of us have gotten comfortable with our lives as grad students. It’s important to embrace that feeling of being the new kid on the block. Open yourself to learn from people around you as you take this next step.

NO TESTS! 

There are some perks with leaving the student lifestyle behind. For one, no more tests! And, no more papers! Let’s be honest, this is pretty exciting. Let’s not forget…no more buying hundreds of dollars of text books as well.

FOCUS

As a grad student in classes and working in various internships and with multiple projects, it’s very easy to feel as though you’re being pulled in a million different directions. While becoming a professional comes with it’s own challenges and a significant workload, it’s also a time to focus on your role and how you can commit your time and energy to really doing your job well and leaving your mark.

Like all good things, grad school must come to an end. It hasn’t been an easy two years, but it’s definitely been worthwhile. During my two years in the College Student Affairs program, I’ve worn different hats as a Hall Director, intern, supervisor, mentor, advisor, and student. In just about one week, I’ll be taking off that student hat…at least for now. Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on the grad student experience through this blog. I hope you have found my posts somewhat interesting and hopefully entertaining at times. It’s now time for me to take my next step and become a full-time professional. Job one, here I come! 

Good luck to my fellow grad school grads…And, to those still toiling over papers, readings, group projects, and internships, enjoy the ride…

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Lyrics of Wisdom

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Whenever I’m dealing with stress and difficult transitions in my life, I turn to music. I find that one lyric in that one song that just gets me and expresses everything I’m feeling at that exact moment. Then, I usually listen to song on repeat until I feel ready to move on to other thoughts.

At this point in the semester, I’m finding myself confused, terrified, and overwhelmed by my future, the job search, and the important life decisions coming down the pike. I think most grad students who are getting ready to graduate can relate on some level to those feelings. Let’s be honest. The unknown sucks. We don’t have a crystal ball. And, change (as much as it’s exciting and welcomed), it’s really difficult to deal with in the moment.

As I’m trying to make some big life choices and determine my direction, I’ve been turning to certain songs that seem to encapsulate my emotions, general thoughts, and words of advice. I wanted to share them with you, so I hope you enjoy!

Control Your Destiny

“Who cares if you disagree.

You are not me.

Who made you king of anything?

So,  you dare tell me who to be?

Who died and made you king of anything?”

– Sara Bareilles “King of Anything”

As we’re all making big decisions and figuring out our next steps in life, I think it’s so important to remember that WE are the Kings/Queens of OUR OWN destinies. People will have their opinions. You may have voices (whether family, friends, or peers) trying to influence you and push you in one direction or another. While it’s okay to listen to these other voices, it’s important to make sure that your voice is the loudest. Others may disagree with your decisions, but that’s cool. They’re entitled to their opinions, but if you’re ever faced with someone trying to steer your decision, just sing to yourself: Who died and made you king of anything?  You’ll feel empowered… I promise.

Write Your Own Story

“No one else can feel it for you

Only you can let it in

No one else can speak the words on your lips

Drench yourself in words unspoken

Live your life with arms wide open

Today is where your book begins

The rest is still unwritten…”

– Natasha Bedingfield “Unwritten”

When you’re trying to make decisions regarding your first career move after grad school, it’s really easy to feel like a blank slate. You may have an idea of what you want your future to look like, but, in reality, you really don’t know how it’s all going to play out. There’s something really magical and extremely scary about your life being “unwritten” because that means that the future is completely unknown. What’s important is that you hold the pen and you write the story. Embrace the ambiguity of your future even though it’s often hard to do so without panic. This song really helps make me feel more excited about writing my own story and steering my own life.

Don’t Give Up

“Play on when you’re losing the game

Plan on ’cause you’re gonna make mistakes

It’s always worth the sacrifice

Even when you think you’re wrong

So, play on…”

– Carrie Underwood “Play On”

It’s pretty easy to feel overwhelmed, particularly when nearing the end of grad school and approaching the brink of your career. Even more so, starting a new job is scary! It’s going to be hard to transition to a new environment, new people, new responsibilities, and new expectations. There will be many moments where we’ll feel like we’re “losing the game,” but it’s important to never give up…and, play on.

Have Faith, Take Chances, Dance

“Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens.

Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance.

And, when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,

I hope you dance…”

– Lee Ann Womack “I Hope You Dance”

At various points in a grad student’s job search, doors close & open. Sometimes, others close the door for you, as you receive that awful letter/email/phone call of rejection. Other times, you gently close the door yourself by deciding to decline an opportunity because it just doesn’t feel right. Throughout the process of opening and closing doors, it’s so important to continue to have faith, take chances, and dance. For me, dancing is about taking a risk and trying something new. It’s about not giving up at the first occurrence of failure or making a mistake. It’s about getting out there and doing, acting, and pushing yourself to move forward.

Let Go

“Let go, let go, jump in

Oh well, what you waiting for?

It’s alright ’cause there’s beauty in the breakdown

Let go, just get in

Oh, it’s so amazing here

It’s alright ’cause there’s beauty in the breakdown.”

– Frou Frou “Let Go”

At a certain point as a grad student, you have to stop worrying, make a decision, and literally let go. I’m pretty good at over thinking things and worrying about whether or not I’m making the “right” decision. Unfortunately, none of us will ever really know if a decision we’ve made was the right one. It’s just the “right now” one. It’s what feels right at the moment. You can make your lists of pros and cons and try to quantify your decisions with numbers and codes, but, at the end of the day, you just have to make a decision that feels right, stick with it, and make the best of the situation. Letting go is about taking a leap of faith and heading head-first into whatever next step you’re taking. In the job search, there will be a point at which we all have to decide whether or not we’re going to “let go” and take the leap to accept a position. I’m hoping it’ll feel right when it happens to me. Regardless, it’s going to be a free fall that will encompass an element of excitement and terror.


I hope you find some of these lyrics helpful or inspiring. Maybe they’ll strike a cord for you like they’ve done for me…

 

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Last Call

As I sit in the airport this evening waiting for the plane to board, I can’t help but hear the words “last call” for flight ____  over the loudspeaker and think about my own situation. In just a few weeks, I’ll be graduating from graduate school, and I can’t help but feel a mixture of excitement and worry as I hear my own “last call.”

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Not that this next step is a last anything by any means…but, it still has that feeling of last call to being a student (at least for a while). When I graduated college, I worked for two years before I took the leap for grad school. But, I really reflect back on those two years as a strange, undirected holding pattern (to keep up with my airport analogies…). I was in a holding pattern because I wasn’t really sure which direction in which I wanted to start my life. So, instead, I  floated planearound from paid internship to unpaid internship to part-time work. While these were meaningful experiences in their own rights, they weren’t really tangible steps toward what I viewed as my career. In deciding to come to grad school, I took the first step toward embarking on a true career path.

And, now, as I hear “last call” to my grad school days, it’s time for me to “land” my first job. Wow. I’m really good at using plane metaphors! But in all seriousness, as grad school comes to a end, it’s time to finish strong and bring closure to the entire experience.

Here are some things to think about as you bring closure to your grad school experience.

Solidify Network: Determine who are the individuals at your institution (both peers and professionals) who you have social_networkintegrated into your network. Set up a lunch with these people to fill them in on your next steps, thank them for their help/support, and set the tone for how you will connect in the future. It’s really important to continue to foster these relationships even when you leave your institution. Whether it’s a monthly email or phone call or an occasional meet-up, it’s in your best interest to maintain as much of your grad school network as possible when you move forward.

celebrateCelebrate: Partake in the celebration of completing your graduate work. Whether there’s a party with your classmates, graduation ceremony, or closing banquets with groups you’ve worked with, it’s important to partake in these opportunities as a way to acknowledge your hard work and accomplishments, bid farewell to those with whom you’ve worked, and to provide you with a sense of closure. If you’ve worked with groups or supervised staff, it’s very important that you organize closing activities to provide a book end to the year. People like to reflect on their experiences.

Reflect:  Reflect on your experience—both the ups and the downs. Think about your legacy. reflectWhat will you be remembered for? What did you learn? As grad school comes to an end, it’s important to consider your accomplishments and the areas in which you’ve grown. While your resume gives the cliff notes edition to encapsulating your experience, your own reflection is what will help you make sense and meaning of your experience.

While last call to grad school signifies an ending, the experiences you’ve had have helped to prepare you for many new beginnings to come.

Oh, the places we’ll go

At certain points in our lives, we’re faced with 2, 3, 4, 5, 100 diverging paths that we can take, which will dictate our future. By choosing one, we inevitably pass by others. What’s been really difficult to me as I progress in my job search and get closer to having to decide between offers is not only the career path I want to take, but also the physical space in which I want to do it. In layman’s terms, I not only have almost no clue what I’m going to do, I also have absolutely no clue where I’m going to live. More importantly, which of my personal values will weigh outweigh others as I take this next step into job one?

Dr. Seuss says it best, as always. Oh, the places you’ll go! That’s an exciting phrase. Like me, you’ve probably heard a graduation speech themed around the concept. It’s inspiring…the idea that you can go anywhere and do anything. All you have to do…is go! Sounds soooooo simple.

Way to oversimplify thing, Dr. Seuss.

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As we get older (and, by no means do I consider myself old), we tend to have more complex lives. There are variables that greatly impact our decision making. How we navigate life choices comes down to our personal values. At the moment, I am struggling between the following as I decide which first job to pursue:

 

Love 

Will I find a job close by to be near these important people?)

 

Passion 

Will I hold out for my *DREAM* job no matter how long it takes?

Wealth 

Will I pass up an opportunity because it’s not offerring me enough financially?

Self 

Will I be completely selfish in making my decision?

Professional Development

Will I choose a job based on how it will challenge me regardless if it’s really what I want. 

Prestige

Will I focus on the  reputation of the organization/institution?

These are just some of the value priorities that have flooded my consciousness lately. What is comes down to is…

Do you follow your head or your heart?

Balance Heart And Mind

There’s no surefire answer. Our head and heart are inextricably attached, so it’s no wonder that both our reason and desire impact our decisions, but I think that’s it’s important to acknowledge to which side of the seesaw you’re leaning within the context of a particular decision. It’s not to say that one is right or wrong. That’s not the case at all. Depending on the context, I think that either your “head voice” or your “heart voice” will be louder. Regardless of which voice prevails, the funny thing is that your head is always there to question whether or not you, in fact, made the right choice.

So, maybe Dr. Suess isn’t so far off with his simplistic tale. Regardless of the path we choose and which values you prioritize higher, we’ll all be off to great places as long as we get on our way.

 

 

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Check out this article for more on the topic: Head vs. Heart: Which is smarter?

Food For Thought

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As grad students in education, we devote the majority of our time to working with, helping, and supporting our students. In our hectic and busy lives, we often develop tunnel vision, compelling us to only focus on what’s going on in our personal and professional worlds. Unless it’s for a class assignment, we rarely do research into interesting and cool things going on in our field. One interesting, interactive, and non-time committal way to learn more about our fields is to watch Ted Talks. About 15 minutes in length, these videos provide a forum for individuals to share thoughts, ideas, and perspectives on a wide variety of topics.

Ted Talks have revolutionized how we present and absorb information. It’s important that we not only listen to others’ ideas, but also use our knowledge and voice to share our own.

Take some time to peruse these Ted Talks on a range of topics related to education. Share any comments from what you learn below!

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education

Education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems of education — the best teachers and schools don’t exist where they’re needed most. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching.

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!

In this poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning — creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish.

Daphne Koller: What we’re learning from online education

Daphne Koller is enticing top universities to put their most intriguing courses online for free — not just as a service, but as a way to research how people learn. With Coursera (cofounded by Andrew Ng), each keystroke, quiz, peer-to-peer discussion and self-graded assignment builds an unprecedented pool of data on how knowledge is processed.

Liz Coleman’s call to reinvent liberal arts education

Bennington president Liz Coleman delivers a call-to-arms for radical reform in higher education. Bucking the trend to push students toward increasingly narrow areas of study, she proposes a truly cross-disciplinary education — one that dynamically combines all areas of study to address the great problems of our day.

 

Share your ideas for a “Ted” style Talk below:

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Stop and Smell the Roses

Some wise people once said:

“There is only one time that is important – NOW! It is the most important time because it is the only time that we have any power.” Leo Tolstoy

“I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.” Albert Einstein

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” Buddha

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We’ve all been there at some point or another. It feels like 50 million things are going on at once. Before you’re even done with one of them, your mind is already onto the next. Because of the craziness, you just want to fly through everything so you can take a breather. Finishing each task means you’ll be able to cross one more thing off that massive list. It sure does feel really good when you can cross something off, but does that mean that it felt good to get to that point? Not necessarily… Racing_mindIn the business and stress, we don’t stop to enjoy the journey…the process of getting from point A to B. We’re so consumed with just “getting through” it all that we don’t sit back to enjoy the moment for even a second. In the college universe, April is notoriously a crazy busy month. It’s that last month before May, which is basically a wash because of final exams. When I tell you that I have a commitment for my Residence Life internship every weekend this month, I am NOT exaggerating. On top of that, I’m aggressively job searching and have on-campus interviews at institutions around the country. So, when you, like me, have all of this going on (and more), it’s really easy to lose sight of the here & now. Self-Disclosure: I have a really difficult time staying in the moment. I am constantly either reflecting back on what happened or thinking/worrying about what’s to come…It’s a problem, I know. The worst part of not staying in the moment is that it doesn’t make you happy… But, it’s really hard to be completely focused on the present. Matt Killingsworth offers some intriguing ideas in his Ted Talk Want to be happier? Stay in the present The stats are crazy…but believable: 47% of the time people are thinking about something other than what they are doing In fact, my mind is wandering right now as I write this blog. I’m thinking about how I’m going to get to the train station on Tuesday, the dishes I need to clean in the sink, and my presentation later this week…sigh… now-yesterday-tomorrow-bg According to The Positivity Blog, staying in the moment has a lot of positive effects. Some of these include:

  • Clarity: When you are in the moment you have a much better focus and things flow naturally out of you. This is very useful in conversations, at work, while writing or while on the tennis court.
  • Calmness: You feel centred, relaxed and whatever you do you do more easily. Since you are not projecting into a possible future or reflecting on previous experiences there is very little fear holding you back.
  • Positivity: Since there is little fear, there are few negative emotions when you are in the present. Instead you move around on positive part of the emotional scale.

Here are some quick tips for trying to keep yourself in the moment:

Close Your Eyes & Breathe…Maybe some Meditation, too!

Tell Yourself: THIS (whatever that may be) is what I’m Doing Right NOW (repeat as necessary)

Step Away from What You’re Doing (figuratively or literally…) to Refocus

Change Your Surroundings

Clear Your Mind by Doing Something that Requires Focus

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Rejection 101

N-O

Probably the most painful one syllable word to hear…

Let’s face it. NO one likes hearing NO. When there’s something you really, really want in life (whether it’s love, a job, or a raise), the last thing you want to hear is “no.” Regardless of how much we may be averse to hearing “no,” we still hear it all the time. 

Rejection is a huge part of life.

Just as feeling rejected in middle school felt crappy, getting rejected from a job brings an equally unpleasant sensation. As humans, we all crave acceptance in all aspects of our life. Acceptance helps us feel like we belong and matter—and, simply, it makes us feel liked and wanted. Rejection, on the other hand, hurts. It makes us feel unwanted and inadequate. These feelings can be really painful and shake the inner core of our confidence.

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The reality is…rejection is not going anywhere. So, how can we better prepare ourselves for dealing with it in the workplace?

Don’t Take It Personally: Your self-worth and value is not measured by your ration of rejections to acceptances. When you’re rejected from a job, it’s easy to wonder…”what’s wrong with me?” or “what did I do wrong?” STOP yourself! These questions are futile. While it’s possible that there’s something you “did” to bring about rejection, it’s likely that you had no control. The fact that someone told you “no” doesn’t mean that you are no good. In fact, you are just as amazing and fabulous as you were before the “no.” Don’t ever forget that…

sphere-influence

Understand The Odds: When we play the lottery and lose, do we feel rejected? No. Of course, we feel disappointed, but we don’t feel rejected. Well, applying for jobs and getting rejected is a lot like playing the lottery. Sometimes, the odds are just against you. Various factors play into the employer’s decision. It’s important to understand your odds. Just like you know that your 1 in 175,000,000 chance of winning the Mega Millions Jackpot, you should know your odds when applying for a job. One particular job I applied for (and got rejected from) had one opening and received 400 applications. You do the math.

Know What You Can Control: There’s something called “sphere of influence” vs. “sphere of concern.” Your sphere of influence is where you have control. While the aspects of your life in the sphere of concern are important, you possess little to no control over them. If you look at the job search process as it relates to your locus of control, it helps put your anguish over rejection into perspective. Sometimes, you just have to relinquish control and accept the burn of some “no’s” before you get that one amazing “yes.”

Check out this Ted Talk on Understanding Your Sphere of Influence:

Rejection Means You’re Doing Something Right: If you’re not hearing “no” often enough, you’re doing something wrong or you’re just not applying to many jobs. It’s absolutely normal to be told “no.” Embrace it, and learn from the experience. There may be tangible factors that led to your rejection that lie within your sphere of influence. Don’t be afraid to ask an employer what factored into their decision not to hire you. Be prepared to potentially not enjoy what you hear, but, when you hear it, reflect on it, and determine how to use that information to move forward in a positive direction.

Remember You’re Not Alone: If none of my words give you any solace as you deal with your own rejections, the fact that you’re not alone in your rejection has to help…We all go through it. Even the people who seem like they are super successful and have it all together have been rejected once, twice, or 30 times. If you focus on your strengths, learn from your mistakes, and keep your head held high, you’ll soon find someone like Uncle Sam offering you a job.

UncleSam

Further Rejection Reading: 

Check out this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education 

Monster.com provides 6 ways to get over job search rejection: Read the full article for more in-depth advice

  • Process Your Emotions
  • Exercise
  • Regain Perspective
  • Volunteer
  • Work Your Network
  • Consult an Expert

Make Me A Match

For the past three weeks, I have been interviewing like it’s my job (to land a job) in high-energy, high-stress, and high-occupancy rooms like this…To say the least, it’s been intense. But, the over 30 interviews I’ve participated in have made me seriously think…how much can I actually tell about an institution, a place, a coworker from a 20-60 minute interview time slot in a convention center? Am I really supposed to have “that feeling” that tells me this is the right fit?

 

TPE interviews

For those looking to enter the field of higher education & student affairs like me, the phrase Institutional Fit is thrown around left and right, but what does it really mean?

There are the more concreate aspects of institutional fit that influence whether or not an institution or organization is a fit for you:

  • Location, Location, Location: Are you looking for big city living or a more rural atmosphere? location
  • Size of Student Population: This is pretty obvious, but are you looking for a more intimate, small student population where everyone knows your name, or are you looking for a larger population where you may not necessarily see the same person twice?
  • Highest Degree Granted: Is it important for your institution to have a more liberal arts focus? Or, do you value higher degrees of learning through doctoral programs?
  • Distribution of Effort (Teaching, Research, Service): Ask yourself, which aspects of higher education do you value most? Is it more important for you to work at an institution that places most of its resources on teaching, service, or research? ClipboardChecklist
  • Religious Affiliation: Are you open to a religiously affiliated institution, or is that a deal breaker? What role does the institution’s religious affiliation play in the everyday workings of the school?
  • Admissions Requirements: Do you see yourself at a highly competitive or open admissions institution, or somewhere in between the two?

*Above information adapted from the University of Kentucky’s Institutional Fit Rubric

Then, there are the less tangible aspects of institutional fit:

  • Campus Culture: Is there a strong sense of tradition and community on campus? Are students engaged in extra curricular activities, or is it primarily a commuter campus?
  • The People/Work Environment: Are you looking to be friends with those in your office? Does the office operate with a culture of collaboration or autonomy?
  • Values/Mission: Do you personally align with the mission and core values of the institution?

_i_gotta_feeling_png_by_unbelievablestyle-d4r7ssqFinally, there’s that feeling that touches your core and affirms that this institution or organization is the right place for you. For me, it’s important to listen to those feelings. A job may have everything on paper, but you may lack that feeling.

 

As I dove straight into the job search over the past few weeks, I’ve been learning to take the process one step at a time.

Try looking at interviewing like dating…

interview dating

 

That first 20-30 minute interview is a first date, where you’re really just trying to get to know each other.

first-date

The second round interview is dinner and a movie. Both parties already feel like there might be something there, but it’s just a way to get to a deeper level.

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The on-campus interview = the ultimate goal. At this stage, it’s time to meet the family in order to determine whether or not you can really see yourself fitting in…

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If we look at interviewing as dating, it’s more natural to make “fit” and compatibility a priority in the process. I don’t know about you, but I don’t date someone that I don’t want to spend lots of time with or genuinely feel comfortable around. So, why would I work at an institution that I don’t want to spend time at or feel comfortable with?

…I don’t.

Sometimes, you can get that gut “feeling” during the first or second interview, but other times, it takes meeting the parents and getting at the true culture and environment at the institution that helps you make that big decision.

The best part about dating, interviewing, and the job search is that you’re not jumping straight into marriage. If things aren’t quite what they seem and it doesn’t work out, you can start looking for another job…or date…

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Ask the expert…

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If you’re anything like me, you’ve found yourself thinking “I’m not an expert” at some point or another during your grad school career. Grad school has this magical way of making you feel like there’s SO much you don’t know. You’re being taught by seasoned professionals and faculty members with years of experience and learning. You’re working as graduate interns or teacher’s assistants. In every realm, you’re low (wo)man on the totem poll.

Learning is great, don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer in the whole lifelong learner concept. There’s always something else out there that you’ve yet to experience, learn, or understand. But, as a grad student, it’s sometimes a little too easy to fall back on the whole “I’m not an expert” argument. Instead of making a decision or taking the lead, we sit back and let our supervisors and superiors take the helm.

So, what is an expert anyway?

According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, an expert is:

obsolete : experienced
2 having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience 
Hmm…obsolete? Interesting word choice. Experienced: well, that makes sense. It’s in the second part of the definition where I think the real truth lies. No where in this definition does it say you have to be the end-all, be-all, know-it-all on a given subject, which begs the question:
Then, why are we, as grad students, so afraid to be considered (dun dun dun…)

EXPERTS?

Hope you didn’t hold your breath because I don’t have an answer. I’ve been in the situation where I’ve been asked to present at a workshop or I thought about submitting a proposal for a national conference, and I hear that little voice of self-doubt in my head whispering…BUT, you’re NOT an expert…

In her blog, Sarah Santacroce suggests a way to calm that fear. She suggests that we change the word “expert” to “specialist.”

I think what scares most of us about the word “expert” is that it’s very comital. In practice, the word “expert” implies complete, full knowledge, whereas “specialist” implies a strong degree of knowledge. While the difference is subtle, I think it explains why many of us cringe at the word “expert.”

But, this is just semantics. The real issue is that grad students have a tendency to discount their knowledge and ability to convey that knowledge to others for lack of “experience,” low level of expertise, and young age. The next time you think to yourself “I’m not an expert” or “leave it to the experts,” keep the following in mind:

Expertise is Relative: You may not be the most knowledgable person in a room full of Ph.Ds, but you may be the expert among your peers. Expertise is highly situational. In some instances, you may know more than some, while in other situations, you may know less.

Expertise takes Time: Becoming an “expert” doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and practical experience to develop expertise. Have a little patience with yourself.

Expertise is Achievable: We tend to believe the myth that the title of “expert” is reserved for a limited number of individuals. The truth is that there’s enough “expert” out there for all of us. You can do it! 

Next time you find yourself wanting to ask an expert, just look in the mirror, and ask yourself….

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Find Your Golden Circle

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As I’m getting ready to graduate in 88 days (who’s counting?), I’m starting to reflect on where I’ve been as I try to figure out where I’m going. In taking on this endeavor, I can’t help but remember back to a video I saw early on in my graduate school career. It’s a TED talk by Simon Sinek called “Start with Why.” 

If you haven’t already seen this video, check it out RIGHT NOW! If you have, well—watch it again because it’s just that good.

Now that you’ve watched it, let’s break this down.

The What: the nitty gritty of your daily work; the tasks, the requirements

The How: the way in which you approach your work; the strategies, solutions, methods

The Why: your purpose driving the work you do

So, what do you think about this golden circle business? Does it make sense? What strikes a cord in you? As you ponder these rhetorical questions, take a quick second and let us know what drives your current work.

Do you focus more on your WHAT instead of your WHY? How does this make you feel?

WhyUniversityLike you, most of my daily work falls unfortunately into the WHAT and WHY categories. Sometimes, I struggle to reach the WHY. Between the stress, unexpected tasks, and late nights, it’s hard for me to always focus on why I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s a very simple concept with a profound impact. Knowing, understanding, and embracing why we do our work is at the core of the work itself. The why keeps us going when the what tries to bring us down…

So, you may be asking yourself—WHAT does this all mean to me?

As graduate students, we all pretty much have an idea of where we want our professional lives to take us. We’ve chosen a field in education in some way, shape, or form, and we’re in graduate school in order to launch our careers. But, why are we doing this? Why are we taking classes, doing field work, and working late hours?

Knowing your purpose will only help better guide your next steps, whether that be another year of school or a new job. Beyond knowing your purpose (your why), it’s just as important to share your why with others through your everyday work. After you finish reading this post, think about your why, and share it in the comment section.

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