Gaining Experience in School

14/10/2011 § 1 Comment

For graduate students, ‘practical experience’ can mean a lot of
different things. For some of us this means traveling to foreign
countries for digs and research, volunteering in labs, internships at
potential employers, or simply participation in conferences and
papers. Regardless, practical participation in our fields is extremely
important to our future success.

Jensie Simkins:

These days it seems like even “entry-level” jobs are asking for
candidates with experience. It’s a little tricky, but not impossible,
to round out your resume and skill set while you’re in school. This
semester, I have been working as an intern for a marketing/design
firm. I’m not paid, but was able to get some credits toward my
Master’s for my work while I’m there. The work I do for my internship
is invaluable and is giving me experience in lots of areas I’m
interested in pursuing for my career. Many places take interns, and
many more would probably be willing to make an internship if you ask.
It’s also definitely worth doing the legwork to find out how to get
school credit for the position! Although a little clichéd, volunteer
work is another way to get experience while in school — especially if
you can be involved with the organization for a longer term than just
a semester. Work your way into a position that can be applicable to
your career, and always look for opportunities to take leadership
positions. Finally, it is relatively quick, easy, and non-committal to
job shadow someone in your field. You can see what the day to day of
the job is like and hopefully learn a few tips or skills that will
help you in the future!

Chris Stawski:

As a graduate student (or as my partner likes to call me, a “lifelong
learner”) I soon realized early in my career that in order to be
successful, I had to leave my classroom comfort zone. I had that part
down pat. But in order to gain professional experience, I needed to
learn how to write, present, and research outside the classroom.
Ultimately, this means presenting at conferences, submitting articles
to journals, and doing multi-disciplinary research.

A vital aspect that underlies all these out-of-classroom experiences
is collaboration. The professional experience that you will need to
accumulate derives from the ability to work and do research with your
peers, faculty, and advisors. Collaboration is essential to the
process of becoming a professional in your field, and it is vital to
the learning experience. By collaborating with someone on, lets say a
journal manuscript, it
not only gives you experience in research, writing, editing, and
ultimately getting your name in print, but also shows that you work
well with others. And this isn’t limited to multi-authored papers.
Read any acknowledgement section in a book, article, or dissertation
and you will see successful collaboration at work. For me, the road to
experience starts with collaboration.

Katy Meyers
Practical experience for my discipline is a little different than other peoples. As an archaeologist we are expected to do field work. This means an extended excavation, potentially in a foreign country. We need to show that we can plan an excavation, know the steps for gathering primary data, and use our theories in a practical sense. Doing field work is extremely rewarding in that we gain a wide range of experience, deeply connect with a range of individuals in the profession, and work from the ground up on data and interpretation. However, the requirement to be away in the field for months at a time can be very draining and stressful. It is difficult to balance having a life here and be away for a large amount of time. Once in the field we are faced with uncommon languages, foreign cultures, and in general faced with an unknown world (See Charlotte’s post on fieldwork for more information on what we face). Right now I’m faced with the problem of deciding whether to have a library based dissertation, or one that will take me out of the country for a couple months but will give me both primary data and practical experience. Getting this experience is not necessarily part of our program, so its up to us to be proactive and gain that experience. I’ve been involved in fieldwork where I’ve paid to attend, been a volunteer teaching assistant for, and also been paid to conduct. It is often this range of experience that gets noticed on my CV. In the end, our discipline is known for getting in the dirt and doing field work, so its essential for us to get this practical experience however we can and to get a wide variety of it.

Terry Brock
Gaining experience in your discipline is one of the most critical parts of being in graduate school. For PhD students, the obvious training comes in research: the majority of our time is spent on learning how to conduct, structure, and write about research. However, this is really only part of the battle: getting an advanced degree is also about learning how to be a professional. Included in this is how to teach, how to present your research, how to engage with the public (who likely supports your research), begin active in your professional societies, and how to work effectively with your colleagues. No matter how good you are at your research, these other components of becoming a professional will be critical to your success. Most graduate programs don’t work these elements into their programs, although the training can be found elsewhere. In some cases it comes through your advisor or another faculty mentor, through programming offered by your graduate school, or through your involvement with professional organizations. If your discipline is like mine (I’m in anthropology and archaeology), there may also be opportunities to work professionally in your field, or to gain additional experience through teaching at a community college, assisting in a lab, or getting an internship of some sort. Regardless, it is important to remember that getting an advanced degree is more than just learning about how to be an effective researcher, it’s about learning to be a professional, and that includes a wide array of experiences and skills.

Favorite Tech Tools – GradHacker Reports

12/10/2011 § 4 Comments

Alex Galarza

Zotero has become my favorite tech tool for three
reasons. I have had great success organizing my personal citations,
collaborating with my peers in coursework, and building group a group
library for my field. I use Zotero as a giant net to catch all of the
citations relevant to my courses and research. Every course has its
own folder with subfolders for the syllabus, seminar discussion, and
research paper citations. I have also used Zotero to organize my
dissertation research, which at this point consists mostly of archival

With a few fellow Zotero-using grads, I have also benefitted from
setting up a Zotero group library for directed readings. Without the
weekly presence of an instructor, the Zotero library has been a great
way to maintain some structure in sharing notes and reflections while
also allowing us to share readings in a digital format. Finally, I
have set up a group library for the Football Scholars Forum, an
organization I co-founded to discuss recent works in soccer
scholarship. Three semesters into the project, the Zotero library has
become an invaluable resource for sharing citations, syllabi, and
ideas for future sessions.

Andrea Zellner

I have a good long list of tech tools that make my
life better as a graduate student. But my most favorite are the ones
that make collaborating with others a breeze. For this there is no
easier to access that Google’s tools: Google Docs, Spreadsheets,
Forms, and Presentations. With these now integrating with Google+
Hangouts, collaboration is made much, much easier.

On Google Docs, I can now share with a few people via email or via a link. I can restrict access to view only, comment only, or full-edit. It is even easier with the sharing via a link feature for others to edit: they don’t even need an account with Google to open up the document and experience the full-functionality or editing or commenting. With the Google+Hangouts with Extras, up to ten people can be synchronously interacting in a multi-party video chat, and in the middle will be the Google document. All members can see the editing in real-time andd iscuss it. Finding common time to collaborate has never been easier.If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at Google’s suite of collaboration tools, it is worth a look again.
Katy Meyers

Like Andrea, I also have a long list of tech tools that
help me out on a daily basis, especially Google tools and Twitter. But
if I narrow it down to the tool which has helped me out the most in my
professional life it would be WordPress. WordPress is a open source
publishing tool, and is specifically tailored to blogging. It comes in
two forms, the dot org version, which is downloaded to a server and is
more flexible, and there is the dot com version which is hosted by
Wordpress and allows for more basic blogging. Both are easy to use for
basic posting, although much more can be done with it if you work with
the plug-ins and know HTML or CSS.

I work with WordPress every single day. I use it in my job, for one ofmy classes and for non-academic blogging. Most importantly, I use it as a personal website. One of the most important things in my discipline, archaeology, is staying on top of current news and journal articles. I began the blog as a way to force myself to stay up to date with journal articles by writing short posts summarizing them. Now that I’m doing an independent study in mortuary archaeology, putting them on my blog not only keeps me on task but means that I have to do good work. My WordPress is more than a blog, its also where I put my CV, contact information, and professional work. More than anything else, my blog and website has been a major boon to my professional development.

The Advisor/Advisee Relationship – GradHacker Edition

11/10/2011 § Leave a comment

This post is written by GradHacker writers and is part of our crossover week, check out Hack Library School’s advice about advisor/advisee relations on their blog here: GradHacker.

In graduate school, creating the perfect advisor/advisee relationship can be a daunting if not impossible task. Trent, Cory and Katy give their advice on navigating this relationship: find someone who you can work with, be proactive, and be explicit about what you want out of grad school.

Trent: The most important advice I could ever give anyone about advisors regards compatibility: If your relationship with your advisor is rocky, or you don’t feel you’re compatible, then you need to change advisors. You shouldn’t worry about ramifications if you change. If they are professional, then they’ll understand and encourage you to do so. A good advisor will have something academically in common with you, urge you to seek out classes you’re interested in, that pertain to you thesis or dissertation, and that will get you closer to graduating.

Cory: The advisor/advisee relationship can stressful, nurturing, or non-existent.  I think it is easy as grad students to forget that our own attitudes can often shape this relationship.  For example, when I started my Master’s program, my advisor was a Shakespearean scholar (I was researching post-colonialism!) who retired halfway through my program and who I met with only once.  My bad attitude about the seemingly poor match up really meant that I lost out on a year of advising with someone who could’ve pointed me in the right direction, helped me find resources, or just be a mentor (albeit with different research interests).

The relationship with your advisor is definitely a two-way street, and while we are incredibly busy, we need to keep in mind that our professors are as well.  Now, I try to be more proactive about talking with my advisor.  For me, it was also important to build a friendly rapport on a personal level–I need to know that my advisor is human.  This help me foster understanding so that when I’m stressed out about something in my personal life, I can also cut them slack when they’re behind on something because of a stressor in their personal life.

Again, it is important to gauge what kind of advisor you have while figuring out how you work best.  Sometimes you really don’t have a choice about your advisor if your field of specialization dictates whom you work with–make sure you find an outlet for a professor who you do connect with on various levels.  There are plenty of people in your department who will be able to mentor you unofficially if that personality type is what you need to keep on track.

Katy: Having a good relationship with your advisor is key to success not only in your department, but also in your future. As Cory noted, this is a two way street. Your advisor is there to guide you through the process of getting your graduate degree, so you need to be proactive in using them as a resource. However, they are not the sole source of knowledge and advice on pursuing your degree. You need to be clear with your advisor about what you want to study and the type of career you want in the end. To get the advice that will be most helpful you need to be explicit about your goals so that your advisor can help you out.

It’s also important to realize that your advisor may not have all the answers. It is beneficial in some cases to have a number of different mentors in addition to your advisor. Not all professors have the same knowledge about what the job market is like today, or how research is proceeding in certain areas. By expanding beyond the advice of a single advisor you are able to make more informed decisions. Advisors are not infallible, so it’s better to get advice from a diversity of sources. In the end it is your decision to make whether it pleases your advisor or not. You need to be explicit about what you want, strategic in choosing which advice to take and follow the path that is going to fit with your ambitions.

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