Tips and Takeaways
Job Search Tips
Three Tips on What NOT to Say in a Job Letter
At the January 2017 Non-academic Job Search Mechanics workshop, speaker Anne Krook, a former academic and former Cornell graduate student who transitioned successfully to the corporate and nonprofit workplaces, offered advice on how to find and land a non-academic job, and tips on what to say and what NOT to say.
What not to say:
- Tip 1: “In my thesis, [title], I argue that…”
- Tip 2: “As a Ph.D., I…”
- Tip 3: “My publication, [title], shows…”
Evaluating Your First Job Offer
In December 2016, Rebecca Sparrow, Director of Career Services, presented a CA$HCOUR$E on job offers.
- Tip 1: Employers determine benefit packages. Each employer will be different. Some employers will include generous time off or retirement plans; others may have family friendly policies like flexible workplace arrangements. Some companies have one of a kind perks, like tuition reimbursement.
- Tip 2: Ask about benefit packages after you get the job offer. Typical benefits include: paid time off, health insurance, flexible benefits plans, retirement plans, and life insurance. Less typical benefits include family friendly policies, like telecommuting or paid family maternity/paternity leave. Some benefits are negotiable; others are not. (For example, health insurance plans are not usually negotiable, but flexible workplace arrangements are.)
- Tip 3: Employment in the U.S. is at-will. This means that either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time for any reason. The exception is a reason prohibited by law, for example, gender, age or other protected class status. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time and for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences.
Five Tips on How to Nail an Interview and Negotiate an Offer
At the February 2017 Academic Job Search Series workshop, Interviewing and Negotiating for Academic Positions, speaker Christine Holmes, director of the Office of Postdoctoral Studies, offered advice on how to prepare for an interview and negotiate a job offer.
- Tip 1: Practice, practice, practice. Look at sample questions and prepare answers so you are comfortable with anything an interviewer might ask; practice your talk with your lab and others.
- Tip 2: Do your research and come prepared. Use Google, talk to contacts, surf the websites, and learn as much as you can about the potential employer.
- Tip 3: Expect to eat. Many interviews include informal opportunities to get to know the interviewers and for you to get to know them. Even informal meals are part of the interview experience for many employers.
- Tip 4: Choose to negotiate. When you get a job offer, this is your best, and maybe only, opportunity to negotiate the terms and conditions of your employment.
- Tip 5: Understand what is negotiable. Understand then benefits and salary structure and what is possible to negotiate. Not everything is negotiable. It’s up to you to understand what is commonly offered, and where there is give. For example, benefits are usually non-negotiable. Salary and starting package usually are negotiable.
Read more tips from the Office of Postdoctoral Studies.
C.V. to Resume, from the Academic Job Search Series
Presenter: Christine Holmes, Director of Postdoctoral Studies, Cornell University Graduate School and Gaeun Seo, Graduate and International Career Advisor.
- Target your documents (resume, CV, cover letter) for each job application.
- Opinions vary; everyone who looks at your resume is looking for something specific.
- Put the most important information on the first page.
- Use clear, easy-to-understand language.
- Use at least 11 point font size.
- Do not make your resume longer than 2 pages.
- Make sure it is error-free and uses correct grammar.
Tips on Presenting Your Key Skills to Employers
Compiled by Gaeun Seo, Cornell Graduate Career Advisor
If you’ve browsed job listings outside academia recently, you may have noticed that few require advanced degrees or academic skills (e.g. research or teaching skills) in the job description. This does not necessarily mean you are not qualified. Employers outside academia look for a core set of competencies, abilities, experiences, and values that a candidate can bring to their organization.
So, what should you do?
The short of it is that YOU DO have valuable transferable skills that build upon and extend beyond teaching or research! You help employers see the unique set of transferable skills that might make you the perfect candidate a position.
More on transferable skills:
- Transferable Skills from Cornell Career Services
- Doing vs. Thinking: Valuable PhD Transferable Skills
- 10 Transferable Skills All PhD Graduates Have
See our Prepare for Your Career page for more tips.
Mastering Your Elevator Pitch and Networking Skills
At the inaugural Pathways to Success Symposium on January 23, 2018, consultant Judith A. Rowe discussed how to develop and effectively present your own elevator pitch.
Tips to keep in mind when communicating your elevator pitch:
- Make eye contact
- Offer a firm handshake
- Speak clearly
- Exude confidence
Types of audiences for an elevator pitch:
- Potential clients
- Prospective donors
- Potential employers
- General professional connections
The ideal elevator pitch is:
- Succinct—20-30 seconds long maximum!
Three-step process of developing your pitch:
- Think about your unique capabilities, what you want to accomplish, and how networking can help
- Write your pitch down on index cards
- Practice it with friends, and continue to edit and hone it over time
Navigating Employment as an International Candidate
Tips from the Pathways to Success June Symposium panel.
- Be aware of basic work authorization requirements based on your visa status. It helps you understand the process of hiring as an international candidate in the U.S. and better plan your US job search. To learn more about these regulations, contact a career advisor at Cornell Career Services and ISSO advisor. You are not alone in this process!
- Remember to consider what is a life that you want to have beyond finding a job in the U.S. because it indeed impacts your career choice about whether or not stay in the U.S.
- International candidates shouldn’t be afraid of telling an employer that you need a sponsorship because you have unique skills and values that you can bring. Be confident about what you have and present them to employers!
Negotiating Skills in the Workplace
In the March 2017 GPWomeN-PCCW Speaker Series workshop Negotiating Skills in the Workplace, speaker and PCCW alumna Professor Jill Gross discussed how to negotiate in the workplace and gave participants the following tips:
- Tip 1: Don’t buy into negotiation myths! Women can and should negotiate to improve initial job offers, terms of employment, job assignments, promotions, deadlines and other key factors that impact professional success.
- Tip 2: Negotiation is persuasive communication and can take several forms. We typically think of negotiation as a competitive and adversarial process, but integrative negotiation is interest-based and focuses on problem solving. In the work place, using problem-solving techniques to create value for both parties and determine a zone of possible agreement is key for continuing relationships.
- Tip 3: Prepare for negotiation by assessing your interests, your rights, and factors that increase/decrease your power. Compile information such as comparable salaries and benefits from people within your company/organization and at similar entities. Write up a list of questions that will help you obtain relevant information to strengthen your arguments.
- Tip 4: Practice, practice, practice! Before entering a negotiation conversation, be sure to practice what you will say and how you will respond in different scenarios.
Getting a Faculty Position, from the Academic Job Search Series
On May 17, 2017, Cornell graduate students and postdocs offered advice on how to land a job in academia. Here are some of their tips:
- Start early: Begin your job search early and put your ideas about what makes you a desirable candidate on paper.
- Practice: Run practice seminars to hone your teaching skills, and do thorough research on the institution before your interview.
- Be accessible: Make sure you can speak about your research in a way that is understandable for people across various backgrounds and research fields.
- Sell yourself: Focus on forward-looking, big ideas and your ability to attract funding to the institution.
For more tips on the academic job market, check out this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
How Could You Possibly Derail Your Career?
By Cynthia Cuffie, from the GPWomeN-PCCW Speakers Series on October 20, 2017.
- Different stress reactions: Each of us has a different personalities and a unique set of traits that make us who we are. These personality traits give us our strengths but, under stress, they can become intensified and lead to derailing behavior. For example, when a hard-working person is under stress, this personality trait is amplified and can lead him/her/them to become a micromanager or a perfectionist.
- Identify your derailing behavior: To avoid this derailing behavior, you must first identify it. Take a personality assessment like the Hogan Development Survey or ask peers, colleagues, and managers to give you honest, candid feedback on your behavior. Be open to receiving this feedback, even if it seems critical.
- Become more self aware: Take steps to be more self-aware and set goals to counteract and minimize these derailing behaviors. For example, someone who is prone to micromanaging would need to focus more on the big picture and take steps to delegate work where necessary.
- Complete list of traits: To view a list of traits and their accompanying derailing behaviors and possible solutions, see “Could Your Personality Derail Your Career?” by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.
Three Tips from Cornell Alumna Janet Gerhard
Cornell alumna and PCCW member Janet Gerhard lectured on “Curiosity: The Language of High Performance” at a workshop on November 28th sponsored by the student group, GPWomeN, and the group of alumna, PCCW.
Gerhard covered how to identify curious people, how to create a team of highly curious people, and what organizations can do to foster curiosity.
Three tips from the workshop:
- Highly curious people speak and think less about “actions” and instead consider their “options”
- Curiosity suffers when it comes to time and efficiency – we have to make time to incorporate curiosity into our work
- Check out this TED talk Janet shared during her presentation on the importance of curiosity in scientific discovery
Janet Gerhard has extensive experience transforming the way organizations understand and manage customer experience. By analyzing and strategically changing how organizations interact with their customers, she helps clients redefine their growth strategy and customer experience ecosystem thereby driving top-line growth and bottom line results.
Any Person, Any Study, Any Career: Graduate Careers in Academic Library:
From the February 15th workshop.
- Being a librarian is like being a professor, but with an emphasis on good customer service.
- Librarians connect with people including faculty and graduate students due to their own academic background but have the extraordinary opportunity to elevate other’s work as a result of their reference capabilities.
- A library career is like being a professional academic student- you conduct small scale research and publish as well as teach both professionals and students. In addition to that, you will have 1) an opportunity to directly impact practice via your research and 2) have the freedom to shift your research interest.
- When applying for a career in an academic library, it is all about how you sell yourself. Pay attention to tailor your cover letter to the posting to demonstrate why you are a good candidate.
- It is all about transforming your academic skills to transferrable skills that are relevant to your career goals. Developing both an academic CV and resume can help you identify your career competencies that might apply to various careers beyond academia.
- Use the resources available to you to explore careers outside of academia such as campus career services- even the most well intending advisor may not have much knowledge/ experience beyond the professorate. Speak to librarians about their professional development if you want to pursue a library career!
- Connect with people outside your department and don’t be shy about telling them what you want! They will be impressed by your passion and may connect you with various career opportunities in the near future. Network, network, and network.
Unspoken Needs: Enabling (Aging) Woman Leaders
From the GPWomeN-PCCW Speaker Series held on February 23 with Jennifer Leeds.
- Women in positions of senior leadership continue to face disproportionate challenges due to their gender, such as menopause, health concerns, and the responsibilities of caring for aging and/or ill parents.
- Due to fears of being perceived as vulnerable, distracted, unable to keep up, obsolete, or replaceable, there is virtually no conversation around, or support systems for, these challenges, leaving female senior leaders isolated and silenced when trying to navigate such difficulties.
This raises three questions:
- How can we enable women throughout the entirety of their careers?
- What is holding women back from asking for help?
- How can the next generation “pay it forward” so that the environment will be better for all down the road?
Some suggestions for company/cultural changes would be:
- Normalize menopause-in-the-workforce (just as pregnancy-in-the-workforce has been normalized in the past 50 years.
- Change the perception that women as caregivers (for children, parents, etc.) devalues them as capable, focused leader.
- Develop mentorship programs for women in their mid-or-later careers/create a culture where being vocal about these challenges is not a career-jeopardizing endeavor.
- Offer support, even when unsolicited. Be cognizant of the cultural stigmas around aging (particularly aging women), and how that plays into the extreme gender gap at top positions of leadership, power and authority.
Further reading on this topic:
- Different Career Paths for Men and Women in Corporate America
- Perspectives of Women in Leadership Roles: Working Through The Change
- Reproducing and Resisting the Master Narrative of DeclineMidlife Professional Women’s Experiences of Aging
Finances and Taxes
Understanding Federal Taxes
At a March 2017 CA$HCOUR$E, Mary MacAusland, CPA, PhD, Sr. Lecturer, School of Hotel Administration, covered aspects of both tax preparation and tax planning to help you better understand the U.S. internal revenue code, how to reduce your tax liability, and how to find answers to specific questions you may have.
- Purpose of Taxes: Taxes are a way to make sure that every person with an income pays the government their appropriate share and the burden is on you to understand, interpret, and report accurately.
- Do not listen to “tax advice” from friends and associates who are not paid tax advisors. Each taxpayer has a unique set of circumstances, and a tax professional will need to understand all aspects of your situation (i.e., filing status, residency, gross income, etc.) before offering sound advice.
- The tax code is socially constructed, which allows the government to impose financial incentives and penalties. For example, there are currently deductions for home ownership, retirement savings and some allowances for education. Recently, a penalty was added for those without health insurance. Given these incentives and penalties, taxpayers should take the time to fully understand the options available to them, and the tax implications for each, so that you can make decisions that provide the maximum benefit.
- Tax planning is important and should be completed as part of your tax preparation each year. If you are receiving a refund and/or paying additional taxes with your return, you should review your W-4 allowances or quarterly payments.
- Keep all records and receipts for everything that is related to taxes. And, respond swiftly to any inquiries made to you by the IRS.
- As a way to learn more about taxes consider purchasing a tax software program, as they are inexpensive and easy to use. Programs such as Turbo Tax guide taxpayers through each item of income and deductions, and users need to simply input the information from their tax documents (i.e., W-2, 1099, 1098, 1095, etc.).
Takeaways from Women Driving Their Financial Future
From the GPWomeN-PCCW Speaker Series November 1, 2018 with Cornell alumna and PCCW member Beth Prudence, CFP®.
- Women have more challenges to making and saving money. Women are more likely to take a break from work for caregiving (both children and elderly parents), meaning that women miss more years of earning/saving and receive less from social security because they have less years of service. Women also continue to earn less on average than their male counterparts. However, on average, women live longer than men and therefore will require more savings.
- Making more money doesn’t always mean you are richer. Making more money can result in more spending.
- We have an emotional relationship with money and we need to invest time in working on this relationship too. This includes educating yourself, understanding the difference between wants and needs, making decisions based on facts and data, setting and tracking goals, and having honest conversations about money.
- Save now, not later. Understand the time value of money and compounding interest. If you save the same amount of money starting at 25 rather than 40, you will earn exponentially more money.
- Everyone will likely make mistakes at some time. Forgive yourself by accepting that you made a mistake, owning it, and learning from it so you don’t make that mistake again. The best thing we can do is to make the best decision that we can at the time.
Tips from the Graduate Student's Guide to Personal Finance
From the February 14, 2019 talk with Emily Roberts, Ph.D.
- Make financial goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
- Your brain (math/logic) and gut (personal disposition) both hold opinions about your money. When in disagreement, you must decide which to weigh more heavily.
- Budgeting software that you need to know: Mint, You Need a Budget, Mvelopes, Every Dollar, GoodBudget, Pocket Expense.
- Building an emergency fund of a few months of expenses should be a high priority.
- Passive investing or index investing is the most effective, least expensive, and most time efficient manner of investing. Learn more on the Personal Finance for PhDs website.
- Invest inside an IRA if you have/your household has taxable compensation (i.e., W-2 income with respect to grad student pay). The Roth IRA is favorable for lower income earners.
- Popular debt repayment methods include the debt snowball (prioritized by the lowest payoff balance) and debt avalanche (prioritized by the highest interest rate).
Further resources available from Dr. Roberts:
- Personal Finance for PhDs
- Email Course: Investing for Early-Career PhDs
- 2018 Tax Center
- Workshop: How to Prepare Your Grad Student Tax Return (and Understand It, Too!)
- Workshop: Quarterly Estimated Tax for Fellowship Recipients
Leadership and Mentoring
'Unbecoming!' Leadership Thinking for a New Era
With Young Mi Park, from the GPWomeN-PCCW Speaker Series
- The world today is facing three tectonic changes: the burgeoning development of technology, increasing globalization, and the growing emphasis on creation and self-actualization. In a rapidly changing world, leadership is more important now than ever before.
- Leaders are not necessarily managers or top executives, but they have to have a vision and the ability to bring people into that vision. Leadership is about creating the future and creating yourself and those around you.
- The barriers to becoming an effective leader are often our pre-existing ideas about what is right or wrong and our ideas about ourselves. Challenge assumptions, live authentically and share your reality with the people around you.
- In order to be an effective leader, you have to “un-become” some of what brought you to this point and move forward with new leadership thinking. Accept yourself, forgive yourself, love yourself and remember that you always have a choice.
- To help promote well-being and adopt an effective leadership mindset, try power posing, adopting a growth mindset, anxiety reappraisal, writing down three good things, or meditation.
Leadership Journeys: Networks, Not Ladders
From the March 20, 2018 GPWomeN-PCCW Speaker Series with Eva Sage-Gavin
- Think of your network as an ecosystem. How can you best nourish, interact, add value to, and sustain it?
- Remember the individual impact that each of us can have on others: bring other women with you at every opportunity.
- Recommended reading: Accenture’s summary of research on gender parity in the workplace “When She Rises, We All Rise“
Tips and Takeaways from the GPWomeN-PCCW Leadership Retreat with Julie Kumbel
Leadership, Success, and Happiness:
- “Normalize don’t pathologize” – it’s normal to feel imposter syndrome! We need to communicate with others to eliminate the feels of shame that often accompany feeling like an imposter.
- Banish “just” – it diminishes your authority and presence. You didn’t just win an award, you won it.
- Use mindfulness and reflect on times you felt confident to combat imposter syndrome.
- Gender gaps are the cause of not only psychological (where importer syndrome is), but also systemic, cultural, and economic barriers.
- Defining characteristics of leadership, success, and happiness is a very individual process. Thinking about a mission statement as it relates to these areas can allow us to better understand what this means to us.
- For more information on these topics, other resources that may be helpful:
While the GPWomeN-PCCW Speakers Series has concluded for 2017-18, know that we have secured additional funding for 2018-19 to continue this. Stay tuned for topics next year about women’s professional development on the GPWomeN Facebook page.
Tips from Handling Tricky Situations with Your Mentor
From the February 15, 2019 talk with Professor of Immunology and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Avery August, Ph.D. ’94:
- Acknowledge that there is a conflict or issue. Taking notice of the way you are feeling is the first step to resolving the issue.
- Diagnose the conflict. Ask yourself:
- What is the source of the conflict?
- Who is involved?
- What type of conflict is it?
- Prepare to have the conversation. Identify:
- The resolution you are hoping for and how to achieve it
- Your assumptions about the other person involved
- The other person’s contributions to the conflict as well as your own
- Your attitude towards the conflict
- Your potential triggers
- Think through what you will say.
- Reflect again on what you hope to accomplish
- Think through how you will start the conversation
- Prepare ways to steer the conversation back in the desired direction if needed
- Consider practicing with a friend
- Know your resources. If you need additional help or support, know who to reach out to. Graduate student support can include:
- Director of Graduate Studies
- Graduate Field Assistant
- Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Life Janna Lamey
- Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs Jan Allen
- Associate Dean for Inclusion and Student Engagement Sara Xayarath Hernández
- Title IX Office
- Office of the Ombudsman
Tips and Takeaways from Mentoring 20/20
From the GPWomeN-PCCW Speaker Series March 4, 2019 with Cornell alumna and PCCW member Susan Klugman, Ph.D.
- Having an advisor is not the same as having a mentor. An advisor directly determines your career or curriculum, a mentor aides in your growth and development (personally, professionally, etc).
- Find a mentor through your network. Ask around! Ask your advisor, ask fellow students, or get involved in extra-curricular activities.
- The most important quality in a mentor is availability. Your mentoring relationship won’t be beneficial if you can never interact with you mentor. You also want to find some who is knowledgeable about your field and who can serve as a positive role model, but other desirable traits (e.g. having enthusiasm, active listening, taking a personal interest in you, setting goals) are up to you.
- To organize your goals and tasks, try using the Eisenhower Box method. This can help you streamline your goals and prioritize what’s important and urgent.
Research and Writing
An Introduction to Tech Transfer at Cornell: What You As a Grad Student Should Know
Over lunch on April 25, 2017, graduate students met with Cornell Technology Licensing (CTL) directors to discuss commercializing their research.
Did you know that a good first step is to contact CTL before you present your research at a conference? (It impacts your ability to patent or license internationally…but not in the U.S.).
The CTL directors discussed the resources available to Cornell faculty and graduate students in the licensing and patent process. (You don’t have to go it alone!)
Students were particularly interested in jobs with a university licensing office. (No JD or PhD required!) The directors described their path from graduate student to working for Cornell as a licensing specialist. An essential first step is to consider an internship at a university licensing office, including Cornell’s CTL.
Need information about CTL’s internship program? (Visit the CTL website, and if you have questions, contact Laura Salter (lc12). Contact Jan Allen (email@example.com) for a copy of the information distributed by the presenters.
Writing a Teaching Statement, from the Academic Job Search Series
On July 12, 2017, Colleen McLinn, Director of CIRTL at Cornell, presented on how to approach writing a successful teaching statement for the academic job market. Here are some tips on what to include—and what not to include—in your teaching statement:
- Include details about what courses you have taught or TA’d that are relevant to the position you are applying for
- Show how you propose to structure the courses they expect applicants to teach, with examples on what you might do
- Mention your major objectives for different types of student audiences, and ways you assess if students develop those skills or that knowledge
- Mention your lack of teaching experience or gaps in your skillset
- Make unsubstantiated claims (don’t just tell them you are innovative, show them)
- Use unfamiliar jargon about teaching approaches
- Get too philosophical about teaching – keep it tied to helping students learn in your discipline
For more tips and takeaways from this event, see the PowerPoint slideshow. You may also wish to download the Chronicle of Higher Education Vitae resource, How to Write a Teaching Statement that Sings.
Tips from the Graduate School's Fellowship Application Writing Workshops
- Many fellowship competitions list either faculty, reviewers from previous years’ competitions or current fellowship recipient who may be contacted to answer your questions.
- Seek out advanced graduate students in your field (or a related field) who have applied for the same fellowship competition.
- Ask peers and friends for feedback on your essay drafts.
- Use Cornell’s Graduate Writing Service for additional help.
- If you would find it useful, you can review sample fellowship applications, submitted by Cornell graduate fellowship recipients, in 350 Caldwell Hall.
What Academic and Other Writers Need to Know About Writing, Publishing, and Working with Editors (and Agents)
Betsy Lerner, New York City-based author, agent, and former editor at Doubleday, recently spoke at a workshop for graduate and professional students to discuss writing and publishing for non-academic audiences.
She offered advice (and encouraging stories) for writing, publishing, and securing and working with agents and editors. The Graduate School provided copies of her book, The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers, which offers practical advice, insider observations, and trade secrets about writing and publishing.
At the workshop, Lerner encouraged students to “Find your voice and tell your story…including the story revealed by your research.” She told them she would love to read a book about research, “I’m a deeply curious person, but you’ll have to write in such a compelling way that you help me understand it.”
See full list of tips (PDF)
Overcoming Your Writing Challenges
At the Pathways to Success Symposium on January 23, 2018, Michelle Cox, director of the English Language Support Office, discussed common writing obstacles and strategies to overcome them.
Strategies for tackling each stage of the writing process:
1. The invention, or generating, phase
- Write even when you’re not inspired
- Push forward with the first draft—it doesn’t need to be perfect
- Create a writing environment that will help you succeed
- At the end of your writing time, leave yourself notes for next steps when you return
- Overcome writer’s block:
- Take a short break to let your mind percolate
- Free-write to work out whatever it is you’re stuck on
- Talk to someone about what you’re working on
- Read a mentor text about a similar topic
2. The revision, or re-seeing, phase
- Share your draft with someone in your field for questions and comments on the general content and direction of the paper
- Share your draft with someone outside your field who can ask you questions about the content and point out areas that need clarification
- Take some time away from the draft before your dive back in
- Focus on organization, noting what each paragraph is about and how each paragraph functions in the paper as a whole
3. The editing, or fine-tuning, phase
- Share your draft with someone in your field again, with specific questions or concerns for them to keep in mind
- Share your draft with someone outside your field again, asking them to pay close attention to sentence structure, wording, grammar
- Locate places in your draft where you are unsure of the wording and use mentor/outside text examples for guidance
- Check to make sure you vary your writing style throughout, e.g. that you don’t start each paragraph with the same words or phrase
Further, Cox emphasized the importance of keeping these three activities (inventing, revising, and editing) separate rather than attempting to do all three at once. The most painful and slow writing process is when the writer tries to come up with the idea while putting it into prose and perfecting the word choice and sentence structure. She also talked about writers who are using English as an additional language may use additional strategies during the writing process, particularly analyzing sample texts to see how the writer made decisions related to language, organization, and structure.
Learn more about the writing support programs offered by the Graduate School.
Tips from the 3MT Presentations
Finalists of the 2018 Three Minute Thesis received this information before the big event. Will it help you with your job talk?
- Think about your audience. By the time you are on the job market, you need at least three versions of your research talk. One presentation is for your audience of experts, such as your audience at a conference or job interview. A second for an “elevator speech,” a brief description of your research for a non-specialist audience, the one you would give if you found yourself in an elevator with the university president, provost, Meryl Streep or anyone else you want to impress. The third version is a talk for a “skeptical audience”- someone doubtful whether your project has relevance to solving a problem or promoting important knowledge. They would say “Convince me of its value!”
- Your 3MT presentation should be a hybrid of the second and third versions, a talk to a bright but non-specialist audience, who might need some convincing. Especially in this case when, at the end of the 3MT event, you could be awarded $500, $1000, or $1500!
- Consider your presentation title. Is it descriptive, understandable AND intriguing (attention-getting)? (At the regional competition in April we are going to place adjacent on the program Cornell’s 2018 winner, My “Theces” about Feces with Concordia University’s 2018 winner, Why We Drink. Did I just get your attention?)
- For the 3MT competition, you can’t use notes. It’s like a Ted Talk; no notes and engage with the audience. For a job talk where you might be using notes, be familiar enough with your presentation that you regularly look up while continuing to speak. You do that to emphasize a point, to engage the audience by asking a question, or to check that they are awake or still in the room.
- Try not to be nervous! Consider the message your demeanor and body language sends, and identify some strategies to help you overcome your nerves. Breathe deeply. Relax your muscles. Practice, practice, practice so you have the confidence that you know the material. One of the things that works for me is to smile in the minutes before I start. Then smile at the audience before you start speaking (if you feel natural and comfortable doing this). A smile to the audience signals that “I’ve got this,” that you are confident…even if you are not!
Tips from Proposal, Thesis, and Dissertation Writing Boot Camp
From the January 2019 session with Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs Jan Allen.
- Just write. It is easy to postpone writing to read more, conduct more research, analyze more data, etc., and to tell yourself that there is not enough information collected to write, but the best way to know what you do not know is to begin writing.
- Find a way to hold yourself accountable. Whether it is by writing in the company of a friend or group of peers or sending a nightly email to someone of the next day’s writing plans, finding a method of accountability makes it more likely that you meet your goals.
- Realize you do not have to write your entire thesis or dissertation at once. Start small with an outline, then gradually add more information until you are ready to write. Once you begin writing, set smaller goals, such as a paragraph or chapter. Each smaller step will come together to form a full draft.
- Write daily. Even if for only 15 minutes, be sure to write every day. Block out an amount of time on your schedule to hold you accountable. Fifteen minutes alone might seem short, but over time it will add up.
- Reflect on your writing process. Figure out what does and does not work for you, whether it involves motivational sticky notes, finding a new writing environment, or restricting internet access during designated writing time. If one method is not successful, take note of it, and find something that works best for you.
Wellbeing and Personal Development
Changing Your Fixed Mindset into a Growth Mindset
At the Pathways to Success Symposium on January 23, 2018, Catherine Thrasher-Carroll, mental health promotion program director at Cornell Health’s Skorton Center for Health Initiatives, offered tips on how to develop a growth mindset to achieve success in graduate school and beyond.
Mindset is an attitude that determines how we interpret and respond to situations. On the mindset continuum, fixed mindset is on one side and growth on the other. A person with a fixed mindset is focused on being perfect, is afraid of change, and believes that abilities are innate and set-in-place, while a person with a growth mindset is continuously learning, willing to try new things, and believes that abilities are malleable. A person with a fixed mindset might think “I’m not as good as my peers, so I’m just going to quit,” whereas a person with a growth mindset will think “I’m going to figure out what my peers are doing differently and try that.”
Five skills to practice to help you develop a growth mindset:
- Be deliberate: Commit to learning skills through continued practice.
- Be vulnerable: Approach a situation with the mindset of getting better rather than looking good.
- Go all-in: Put in the time and effort.
- Keep a loose-grip attitude: Don’t be too attached to the outcome.
- Create a mistake-opportunity ritual: Use a physical gesture, like a deep breath, to rethink a situation and focus on more constructive thoughts.
Mindful meditation can be a helpful tool to reframing your mindset. See this video to learn more about mindful meditation and how it can help you. Graduate students (and anyone with a cornell.edu email) have free premium access to the meditation and relation app Calm.
Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset
From the Pathways to Success June Symposium’s opening plenary by Emmanuel Giannelis, Vice Provost for Research and Vice President for Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property and Research Policy
- Broad training makes you a better student and will help you in your career…it’s all about seizing opportunities–be open.
- Think about leadership, entrepreneurship and tools you can use in any job; drawing from these examples will help you in an interview. Don’t focus narrowly on your research.
- Entrepreneurship is not just about starting a company. The process of customer discovery (what does your audience want/need?), problem identification (do you offer a different perspective? why would the world be better with your idea?) or formulating a value proposition (what exactly are you selling? how will it help others?) will make you a better academic, make you a better researcher at a big corporation, make you a better contributor to a non-profit organization.
- Don’t only talk to people in your field or across the hall from your workplace, but broaden your thinking by interacting with people from other disciplines.
- Failure is an important component in how we learn. Now’s the time to experiment!
- Literacy in other fields allow you to better communicate with others, gives you an advantage over other PhD applicants. Employers prefer to hire individuals who have these broader experiences and skills.
Takeaways from the Entrepreneurship at Cornell Celebration Event
From the keynote address by Pelin Thorogood, president and co-founder of Wholistic Research and Education Foundation and co-founder of Mana Artisan Botanics.
Advice to PhDs
Seek as many non-traditional twists to the PhD experience as possible. “I look for people who work between the lines, who don’t look to the rules.”
Tips and Takeaways
- Start with WHY.
- Understand your purpose and follow your true north (George, Bill: True North).
- Be a change agent.
- As Steve Blank says,”People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
- Know what you don’t know and focus on your strengths.
- Get ahead of trends by recognizing patterns.
- Identify real-world problems that you’re passionate about solving, and stay true to your purpose.
- Own up to your mistakes- immediately- address them directly, head on.
- When you start thinking about things, you start to notice things you didn’t see before.
- First bet on your team, then your product and market.
- Demonstrate leadership that promotes ownership.
Takeaways from the Productive Sleeper
From the Perspectives Series session September 24 with Cornell Health’s Dr. Kaitlin Lilienthal and Dr. Alicia Ventresca.
- Twelve percent of Cornell students (including graduate and professional students) do not get enough sleep!
- Productive sleep is necessary to be able to perform at your best, along with improving your emotional health and well-being (self-esteem, confidence, and social relationships). More reasons why sleep is so important for graduate students.
- There is no one-size fits all in terms of needing sleep, but strive for between eight-nine hours of sleep each night. Plan to have an additional one-hour of wind-down activity.
- Establish a regular bedtime and rising time to help maintain the sleep cycle. It is a myth that you can bank extra hours of sleep during the weekend without impact.
- Sleep is not just a biological process, but a learned behavior that you can learn to do differently.
- Create a sleeping space that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool. Reserve the bed for sleep, relaxation and sex only.
- Restrict caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and stimulant drugs that can affect sleep.
- Sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, and other conditions can impact the quality of sleep and are worthwhile to talk with your health care provider.
- If you are still feeling tired after trying many sleeping strategies, please bring this up to your health care provider for further discussion.
Takeaways from How to Successfully Launch Your Adult Life
From the GPWomeN-PCCW Speaker Series September 26, 2018 with Cornell alumna and PCCW member Susan Anderer, Psy.D.
- Becoming an adult is a key transition for adolescents. Adulthood has many benefits including independence and autonomy, but it also comes with challenges such as financial responsibilities and crafting a satisfying career.
- To successfully navigate the adult world, emotional regulation, self control, and tolerance for failure are critical.
- View life as an experiment! Adopt a growth mindset and change what you can control. For example, use job crafting (see work by Amy Wrzensniewski) to overcome job dissatisfaction by enhancing the parts of your work that you enjoy.
- Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket! Build resilience by nurturing multiple aspects of your life (friendship, hobbies, mental and physical health, etc.).
- Setting short term goals and tracking their progress can make larger projects more tenable. Be realistic and self-forgiving. Persist and be resilient in the fact of setbacks.