Education - Page 4 - Career preparation

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Career preparation
Colleges go beyond resume writing skills to prepare graduates

By Gregory J. Alexander, Contributing Writer

Properly positioning yourself to land a job after graduation through career and professional development is a right of passage for college students. Undergraduates take advantage of career exploration seminars, seek advice from a career counselor on resume writing and consult with career services personnel on what type of internship will appeal to a potential employer. In fact, some colleges require that all students take part in career development services offered on campus.

Traditionally, however, these types of useful services were geared solely toward undergraduate students – possibly assuming that graduate level and doctoral students already had a clear career path planned out. Recognizing that the number of positions in academia has not expanded to equal the increased numbers of Ph.D.’s graduating, The Graduate School at the University of Maryland created a new position to enhance career development services targeted specifically at graduate students.

Susan Martin, Ph.D., director of professional and career development for The Graduate School, University Center & the President’s Promise at the University of Maryland, was hired in July 2016, and says her goal is “to ensure that doctoral students are ready to step into whatever job they desire – whether it’s in academia, government, non-profit or a for-profit private company. We also urge students to do an intense exploration of all career paths.”

Martin says that one of the basic services her office supplies is to help students write a resume before graduation. “A lot of our students have a CV (a curriculum vitae), which is required for positions in academia, but they may be unsure how to translate a CV into a resume,” she says. Martin’s office also plans an array of career develop seminars, job search workshops and sessions to help hone in on what skills the students possess (see sidebar). “The attendance at our seminars has increased significantly, as students need to be able to articulate to employers what exactly you did as a Ph.D. student.”

Mary Carroll-Mason, communications officer at The Graduate School, University of Maryland, says that the school has also increased the number of international and cross-disciplinary academic opportunities. “Our students engage in a number of international partnerships for academic research, so we help our students go overseas and bring international research partners to College Park,” Carroll-Mason says. “We will also hold seminars on how to get external research funding and help connect students to these funding sources.” Carroll-Mason adds that The Graduate School is aiming to create a graduate community across disciplines. “Graduate school can be a grueling and lonely process, and a network of peers can help.”

Getting Published
For 20 years since its inception, the MFA creative nonfiction program at Goucher College has had a clear mission – getting students’ books published. Having a book published, of course, is no easy feat, but Goucher’s track record is quite impressive. “In 20 years, we have had over 100 books published by our students; in fact, we have had over a dozen published by either current students or recent graduates,” says Leslie Rubinkowski, director of the creative nonfiction program at Goucher’s Welch Center for Graduate and Professional Studies. Rubinkowski points to a couple of recent books in particular as notable works by Goucher students – Laura Tillman’s “The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts” and Pamela Haag’s “The Gunning of America,” which was selected as a “Washington Post Notable Book” of 2016.

“Non-fiction writing is on the rise in America, and in this current political climate – no matter what side you are on – fact-based story telling is very important. We teach our students how to tell stories with facts in a creative manner, which is applicable to any profession,” says Rubinkowski. “Our students come to Goucher to improve their writing skills and challenge themselves.”

Despite its format as a limited-residency program, Rubinkowski says that students create a strong network with each other. “Writing can be a solitary experience, but here students have a support network. They can bounce ideas off of each other, and discuss writing processes and project management techniques,” she says.

In-Demand Skills

Employers are looking for myriad skills from business majors applying for entry-level positions; however, when area companies were surveyed by the Towson University College of Business and Economics on what skills were most in demand, the answer was very clear: Businesses need students who know how to write well. With this in mind, and with the support from McCormick and Company, Towson’s College of Business and Economics developed the CBE Writing Proficiency Program and Writing Lab. Here students work hand in hand with graduate assistants to improve their writing skills and be better positioned for the workforce.

When Sarah Andreychek, a senior business administration major at Towson with a concentration in human resources, received her first assignment in a business communications course to write a business memo, she turned to the Writing Lab for assistance. “I had no idea how to format a business memo or how to even properly sign it – something I will definitely need to know in the business world. The Writing Lab was very helpful and I felt comfortable there, so I have returned to get help on resume writing – how to format a resume for a human resources job, how to make sure it is limited to one page and to make sure that the important parts of my education are noticed,” says Andreychek.

“In today’s business world, communication has become more and more mobile; we communicate more through email, so writing skills are even more important,” she adds.

One of the graduate assistants helping students like Andreychek at the Writing Lab is Karen Saffran, who is obtaining her master in science degree in professional writing at Towson. “My end goal is to be an English professor, so being able to tutor students at the Writing Lab is the most relevant experience to teaching,” says Saffran, who adds that business writing was required for her major so she had the skills and experience to help business majors.

“Business writing is much different than essay writing – you have to be concise and get to your point quickly. I help them with this and try to reassure them that they are on the right path,” Saffran says. •

A sampling of the career development events at The Graduate School, University of Maryland

• Career Fair Prep: Walk-in Hours for PhDs and Postdocs 15-minute walk-in sessions for PhDs planning to attend the fall career fairs. Perfect for quick questions about how to maximize the experience or a last minute resume critique.

• How to Manage Your Professional and Career Development What are you going to do with that PhD? This session provides a useful overview of professional development and career planning strategies for PhD students. Students leave with a timeline of recommended professional development tasks, a list of online career tools and resources, and information about upcoming events that PhD students can use to prepare for and successfully transition to careers in and outside academia.

• PhD Career Skills: Identifying & Communicating Your Transferable Skills PhD students develop and possess many highly sought after skills that can be applied to a variety of career paths in and outside of academia. This workshop enables students to identify the unique set of things that they do well and how to justify to employers that these transferable skills can be applied to positions in different industries.

• Careers in Big Data, Bioinformatics and Analytics Panel
• Job Search Techniques (Industry, Nonprofit & Government)
• Job Search Strategies for International PhD Students & Postdocs