Send that Email: Thank Your Mentors

It’s that time of year when students have asked their mentors for letters of reference. While you wait to hear from the graduate, medical, or law school, you need to remember to send a quick update and perhaps thank you email to your letter writers. It’s good to remember to thank the team who helped you during the application process. People who took care of you, reviewed your statement of intent, and wrote you letters of reference.

Once you hear from the programs, make sure that you let your support team (friends, family, and your mentors) know that you got in or that you will be re-applying next year. I know that I appreciate the follow up emails. Also, remember that full-time tenure track faculty usually get paid a living wage and part of our expected duties includes mentoring and writing letters. However, the majority of faculty at universities are now contingent faculty who are exploited and are not paid a living wage–let alone paid to do this extra work. Many of these hard working colleagues write letters, mentor, and go above and beyond their job description. They are teaching work horses. This doesn’t mean that I like this or endorse it, but it is the sad reality of the two-tier system in higher education. Please remember to send them a thank you card, the coffee card or box of chocolates.

Good luck with the “waiting game.”

Today’s Fri Fun Facts is dedicated to thinking about what you do well and life planning. This is really for all of us, but I’m thinking of my college students who are on “break” working or taking Summer courses. It gets so easy to think about what needs to be done or what you haven’t scratched off on the “to do” list.During my office hours, I’ve also noticed a real apprehension with what is next and lots of self-doubt. So, let’s think about what you do well.

1. Get out a piece of paper. Oh, wait, open a new document or text yourself…

2. What do you do well? What are you known for among your friends or family?

3. The last time you were complimented–what was it for?

4. What do you want to known for at work or home? Remember to take care of yourself.

5. Think about your positive traits and what you have to give the world.

Now, think about what is next for you. You do not have to solve everything today, but just think about what is next. And, make this list realistic. Then, go chat with other mentors/coaches in your life and ask them for any guidance they might have as you embark on the next chapter in our life.

Revisiting Conferences and Making it Worth It

An academic conference provides the more than the venue to present your work and hear other presentations. It also is a great place to network and make connections, as well as learn from colleagues in the field. This post makes suggestions for a successful conference appearance. I know that the Western is this week and ISA is at the start of April. My hope is that this post will be useful for most.

If you are presenting and need technology (a video data projector), do make a point of making sure that your needs are met. Likewise, always have a Plan B if the technology does not work. This means copies of your slides for you to refer to and handouts of any pertinent slides or related matter is also copied (introduction, findings and conclusion) for distribution. I gave a talk on campus last week and had my iPad, thumbdrive, Slide Rocket and Drop Box versions of the presentation; however, everything worked fine with my iPad.

For graduate students, you should come with some business cards in hand. The standard in my areas of familiarity (Women’s Studies and Political Sciences) are that you can use the university crest and get cards printed. Please note that when you are writing your thesis, you are a candidate (for instance MA Candidate) otherwise you are a Graduate Student. When you have defended your prospectus for you dissertation, you are a PhD Candidate. You cannot put PhD on your card until you have defended or have your PhD in hand. I see that a few people have PhD on their Twitter profiles or blogs and they do not have this degree earned yet. This is misleading and unprofessional to do—don’t do it!

Practice your presentation in front of a mirror or a friendly audience. There is nothing harder to do than to sit by and pay to attention to a terrible or wooden presentation. Don’t stare at your computer. If you must, place phrases in your document that read: scan the room, breathe, smile, look up, etc. This will help you add some semblance of connection with your audience. Speaking of which you could present to one person or have no one in your audience, but this still counts as a presentation for your vitae. Enjoy your presentation!

Make sure that you take time to attend some of the receptions. This is a good place to network or catch up with others. Make sure that you are available to attend some of these events. The conference is not a vacation, but a working series of meetings. Take some time off, but your main job is to use the conference experience to help you share your research and meet people in your discipline. It is worth the time to meet people, too. I have found that some of my publications were thanks to a conference presentation, when an editor was in the audience or another panelist invited the panel to submit a special issue to a journal.

Before your trip you also want to peruse the conference program well so that you can organize your daily itinerary of what you have to do. If your advisor, mentor or other faculty in the department are attending the conference, go to some of their talks. Ask them to introduce you to some people at an event. A good committee member or mentor, will do this naturally, but some people need the little nudge to do so. Also, try and meet other graduate students. These people will provide the cohort of scholars you will see at the conferences and it is worth getting to know them.

The next few things are obvious: have fun, eat, sleep and exercise. Conferences are often 12 hour days and you want to make the most of them, but not work too hard that you return home exhausted or sick. Have a great time, but be careful to not drink too much. You are presenting yourself to others in your field. Likewise, be careful what you say on social media during the conference.

Remember that your first academic conference might appear a daunting experience, but it is not if you plan well and take the time to network and attend conference events. Also, engage with others online via social media–this way you can also meet people prior to the conference and have a meet up.

For the established academic, all of the above is obvious. But, let me add that we need to remember to make time to mentor. I try and take grad students out for a drink, coffee or a meal to chat with them about their progress. These brief meetings make a difference. I know that they did when I was a grad student.

On the Job Market: Undergrads

This post is going to offer some suggestions for students who are entering the job market. Some of my suggestions were shared previously, but they are worth repeating.

1. Go by the Career Services or similar offices on your campus. Usually Alums can also use this service.

  • When there check out the services.
  • Attend a resume writing workshop or ask one of the staff to review your resume
  • Attend any other useful workships that the office staff offers

2. Chat with your mentors. If you don’t have any–chat with your current or former professors. If you feel unsure, then contact the Undergraduate Advisors and chat with her/him.

  • Let this contact know that you’re on the job market and see if they have any suggestions for you.
  • Ask this person if s/he is willing to review your resume or CV.

3. Work your networks.

  • Let everyone in your network know that you are looking for work. (This might include your partner, girlfriend/boyfriend, parents, coworkers, pastor, coach, etc.
  • Make coffee appointments or other appointments with people and come with your resume in hand. Let people know that you are looking for work.
  • Ask your contacts if they have any leads or suggestions for you.
  • Offer to take the person out for coffee…chances are that you’ll go dutch or the other person will want to pay, but you really should be willing to offer.
  • Research if there are other means of engaging in the community–social media, Chamber of Commerce, and other groups related to your area.

4. Keep a positive attitude.

  • it might take you several months to find work that meets your requirements
  • Be willing to get your foot in the door and accept an entry level position
  • Sleep, eat right, exercise, and try to save money or spend as little money as possible as you’re set on your job search goal.

5. Be flexible

  • Make sure that you’re willing to take a job that isn’t your career. This job might help you get to the next step.
  • Don’t dismiss the job. The connections you make might turn into gold for the next job or get you toward your career goal.

6. When you get an interview offer for your dream job or even plan b

  • Talk to a trusted mentor about questions to expect, dress, and other points so that you’re ready for the interview
  • Try to coordinate a mock interview with a few trusted friends–preferable people who have interviewed more than you.
  • Think about the questions you might get asked and work out answers. You might even practice in front of a mirror.
  • During the interview, remember that it’s acceptable to pause for a second–get your bearings and then answer the question.
  • e. Send a thank you card after the interview. Keep it simple: thank the person, committee or team for the interview and note that you look forward to hearing from them.
  • f. Do not bad mouth the company or any of the employees on any social media.

7. You get an offer

  • Try to negotiate for more pay or benefits. It doesn’t hurt. Particular to women–we tend to not negotiate and accept the offer.
  • Review the offer with someone who you trust.
  • Counter offer and wait. (Be reasonable with your counter offer)
  • Do not involved your parents in the counter offer—your mom or dad should not call and complain about the offer!

8. Accept the job

  • Work in the position like you are in probation. You might be on probation! So you have to prove to your employer why you are invaluable.
  • Dress for the job you want and not just the job you have.
  • Be professional in dress (note 8 b) and in your attitude.

Remember your job does not necessarily define you. Each job can provide you useful experience and build your resume.