Tips and Takeaways from Graduate School Workshops and Programs

Can't attend a workshop or event? Check out these tips and takeaways from Graduate School-sponsored programming.


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..." 

Read more phrases to avoid and learn what to say instead

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. 

View the slide deck from this workshop. View other career presentations.

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. 

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 1Don'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 2Negotiation 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. 

For more information, check out Andrea Schneider's TED Talk on negotiation and the PCCW-GPWomeN Speakers Series recording of this event.

For more information about GPWomeN and events such as this one, please join the listserv by emailing, or check out the GPWomeN Facebook page

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.).

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? (Read the details, and if you have questions, contact Laura Salter (lc12). Contact jan.allen@cornell for a copy of the information distributed by the presenters.

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.

Writing a Teaching Statement, from the Academic Job Search Series

On July 12, 2017, Colleen McLinn, Director of CU-CIRTL, 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.

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. 

Related article

"Unbecoming! Leadership Thinking for a New Era" by Young Mi Park, from the GPWomeN-PCCW Speaker Series

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. To help promote well-being and adopt an effective leadership mindset, try power posingadopting a growth mindsetanxiety reappraisalwriting down three good things, or meditation. 

Tips from the Graduate School's Recent Fellowship Application Writing Workshops

  1. Many fellowship competitions list either faculty, reviewers from previous years' competitions or current fellowship recipient who may be contacted to answer your questions. 
  2. Seek out advanced graduate students in your field (or a related field) who have applied for the same fellowship competition. 
  3. Ask peers and friends for feedback on your essay drafts. 
  4. Use Cornell's Graduate Writing Service for additional help. 
  5. If you would find it useful, you can review sample fellowship applications, submitted by Cornell graduate fellowship recipients, in 350 Caldwell Hall. 

See more fellowship writing tips

"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."
Read more (PDF)

"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.

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 (e.g., herehereherehere) 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. 

Read more

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: 

  1. Highly curious people speak and think less about "actions" and instead consider their "options"
  2. Curiosity suffers when it comes to time and efficiency -  we have to make time to incorporate curiosity into our work
  3. 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. 

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: 
  • Interesting 
  • Memorable 
  • 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

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: 
  1. Be deliberate: Commit to learning skills through continued practice. 
  2. Be vulnerable: Approach a situation with the mindset of getting better rather than looking good. 
  3. Go all-in: Put in the time and effort. 
  4. Keep a loose-grip attitude: Don’t be too attached to the outcome.  
  5. 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 email) have free premium access to the meditation and relation app Calm.

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 here.