By Sarah McPhee
Thanksgiving holiday is a time of gratitude, family feasts, cozy nights and no-holds-barred shopping. Unless you are a graduate student or college senior. For us, it is a time for studying, writing, researching and worrying. There are many applications for internships, government programs and graduate schools to manage on top of our academic load just prior to dead week. You may be eating turkey at the table, watching football in the den, or waiting in line for a Hollywood blockbuster, but the question will inevitably come up — “So, what are your plans after graduation?”
The truth is, even if you are proactive, that is a question you might not be able to answer just yet. Fortunately, there are small but powerful things that you can do to polish your image, practice your professionalism, and network while you are still in school. Here are three strategies you can work on over Thanksgiving break, so when your greatest-generation grandparents ask you what you are doing to make yourself more attractive to employers, you can feel a little more confident about your efforts.
Most graduate students do not have business cards, and this is a shame. Despite all the progress made in digital media, business cards are still crucial for networking. Professionals in your field will have them, and if you are fortunate enough to chat someone up who might be able to help you in the future, it is important that you can make that exchange. It will distinguish you from the pack and provide experience in the give-and-take of networking. Always try to send a quick email to any new contacts you make in order to follow up on the meeting.
The UW Creative Communications Center offers professional business card services with the official UW logo. A box of 250 cards runs between $20-30. Students can order online and pick up the box in a couple of days in the basement of the Communications Building or pay for shipping.
Academic blogging is quickly becoming popular for scholars at all levels of academia. It provides an opportunity for you to put your name out there to be Googled quickly, offers you a chance to reach a wider audience for your work, and is even an effective way to float a new idea. Most university departments have a blog, and blogs are always looking for contributors.
Think you don’t have time to blog? Think again. Chances are that you have already written something for a class that will otherwise never be read again after it is graded. Give a second life to your hard work! Most blogs have editors who are happy to help you adapt your work to their blog. Not only do papers make good blogs, but also journal entries and photo albums from events or travel abroad. Photo blogs are always popular with blog followers. Additionally, blog posts look great as “digitally published work” on resumes and CVs.
Become a contributor to the Ellison Center Blog!
What NOT to post in a blog: your next great work, the main body of your thesis, or anything you hope to get published. Academic department blogs offer a stamp of legitimacy to your work, but most journals want work that is not featured anywhere else.
You don’t have a LinkedIn account? Get one today. Many graduate students begin their program thinking that they have two whole years to think about “what comes next” after graduate school. Even undergraduates should consider beginning an account by their junior year. A LinkedIn profile is essentially your living, online resume with a high degree of customization. You can join professional groups, search for jobs, network, and get scouted. Additionally, the site provides analytics about your profile and you can see who visits your page. If you have worked on any projects with other students, held a job or served in an internship, colleagues and employers can endorse skills that you can list and leave recommendations.
Many Career Services offices on campus will offer tutorials on setting up an effective LinkedIn account and sometimes they will even take a free professional photo of you on campus to upload. After all, you can’t really put your cat on your resume. The Jackson School also has its own LinkedIn group for students and alumni, a great way to reach out to employed graduates who were once in your shoes.
Check out the Jackson School Career Services office for more details.
Happy Thanksgiving from the Ellison Center!
Best wishes for a restful yet productive break!