“Business-y”

Terms and strategies within career development tend to feel very business-y”. The one page resume and “networking” just to name a couple. As an educator who has supported humanities, fine arts, and social science students with their career development over the past seven years, I find it difficult to connect with the mainstream terminology and approach that often dominates the landscape of career education. From my perspective, it takes changing perspective to better relate to, and understand, the career development process and all that it entails.

To begin, “business-y” terms feel more product-driven. In the business world, there tends to be a bottom line. Even though there are always people involved in any business, it seems the focus is on numbers, not names. This, I believe, has led to product-like hiring trends (one page resume, applicant tracking systems) and cold connectedness through competitive, passive, and getting ahead “networking”.

From a human services perspective, people are the focus. For those who are committed to this craft, any use of a product needs to have a direct correlation to the betterment of others. It isn’t about the bottom line; it is a focus on raising the bar of potential for others.  A person-first mentality can lead to hiring practices that focus on getting to truly know an individual through robust application materials and a willingness to connect directly without the use of applicant tracking systems. When it comes to networking, it does not become a means to an end to get ahead but centers on developing and building meaningful, genuine, and value-oriented relationships. It is active listening, not passive conversation. It is cooperation, not competition.

Overall, the key is to realize that there are a variety of approaches to anything you do in life and to decide on what you perceive to be the best approach for your unique values, interests, personality, skills and goals. If you prefer competition, networking, fast-paced environments, and a slew of other terms that tend to feel more “business-y”, there are certainly options for you. For those who don’t fit this mold, know that there are other ways to view this process. Solving societal problems instead of outperforming people can be your competition. Building genuine personal and professional relationships based on trust and cooperation can be your networking. Slowing down and taking the time to reflect can be your pace. There is a place in the career development process for being “human-y”.

Erik Simon
Arts and Letters Graduate Career Consultant (Center for Career Development – Graduate Career Services)

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Planning a Vacation

Question: I want to plan a family vacation for May or June 2015. When does Notre Dame’s spring 2015 semester end and summer 2015 session begin?

Answer: The registrar’s office maintains the university’s current and future academic calendars, which include the dates for the first and last day of classes, semester breaks, and exams:  http://registrar.nd.edu/calendar/future.php.

Students planning a 2015 summer vacation should keep the following dates in mind:

April 29, 2015 – last class day
May 8, 2015 – last exam day
May 11, 2015 – grades due (for those teaching/grading courses)

June 15, 2015 – summer classes start

However, before booking time away from campus (whether for work or pleasure), graduate students should consult their faculty advisor or director of graduate studies. Graduate students may have additional responsibilities in their department besides coursework, and it is important that students let their PI, advisor, or department know about their plans ahead of time.

Have a great vacation!

How to Write (When you really don’t feel like it!)

Question: I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I have had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out there. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin.

Answer: Needing a bit of time to orient yourself at the beginning of a writing session is a normal part of the writing process. If you feel you’re spending too much time getting started and not enough time actually writing or if you feel overwhelmed when you sit down to write, change how you end your writing sessions.

The best time to plan the beginning of your next writing session is at the end of your current one. At the end of a productive writing session you’ve just spent a significant amount of time immersed in the project, and you’re acutely aware of what still needs to be accomplished. Take advantage of this and spend some time thinking about what you hope to accomplish during your next session before you close your laptop. Write down the following: 1) what you accomplished today 2) your next writing session (date, time, and length) and 3) your goals for your next session. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, and reasonable. For dissertation writers, examples might include: edit the footnotes of chapter two, figure out how to articulate the connection between data set X and theorem Y, or outline the literature review section of chapter five. Write your goals down and place them in a visible spot in your physical or digital work space. Next time you sit down to write you’ll be able to jump back into the project seamlessly.

More generally, learning about how other academics write can help you develop strategies for overcoming your own writing obstacles. Check out Gradhacker and Profhacker. Both blogs frequently post tips and reflections on academic writing issues such as overcoming writer’s block page or developing a daily writing schedule.

If you need more personalized help with your writing, schedule an appointment with a graduate tutor at Notre Dame’s Writing Center.

Things I Wish I Knew: A Letter to Incoming Students

I graduate in one week with a MA in Peace Studies from Notre Dame. The two-year program has provided amazing opportunities to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet, there are things I wish I knew before coming to the program. I hope they help you in your journey as an incoming student.

  1. Your department or cohort is who you will spend the majority of your time with. The downside is that you do not have as many opportunities to get to know others in different departments. The upside is that you often become very close to those in your program. For an extrovert like me, I tried to overcome this by attending events for graduate students and meeting undergrads at football games and other campus-sponsored events. I also happened to have a few classes with undergrads and enjoyed conversation over coffee and lunch. Additionally, I contacted different professors, faculty, and administrators who I thought would be interesting to get to know and asked them out for coffee.
  2. Sometimes you will feel overwhelmed by the amount of readings, assignments, and papers you have to do. During my first semester, my professors assigned about 500-700 pages of readings each week. Remember to take a deep breath and prioritize your to-do items. Eventually you’ll develop tactics to manage your assignments.
  3. There are a lot of free events, lectures, activities, and food giveaways on campus. I discovered this fairly quickly upon arrival, but think it is important to share. Notre Dame brings in amazing speakers, ranging from Heads of State to activists. While you may be tempted to skip out on certain events because you have a lot of work, consider attending some of these each year. It is also a great way to meet other people and take a break from work.
  4. There are a lot of wonderful resources on campus-from the Rec Sports fitness facilities to the Hesburgh Library and the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures (CSLC). Take advantage of the resources they offer, from kickboxing class and Kung Fu, to foreign language support.
  5. Notre Dame offers a variety of funding opportunities for research and presenting at conferences. Although MA students are not eligible for the same opportunities as Ph.D. students, I was able to secure funding to present at conferences in Italy and Spain. Consider looking at the Graduate School, Nanovic Institute, Institute for Scholarship and Liberal Studies (ISLA), and your home department.
  6. While academics are an important part of your grad school experience, don’t forget to enjoy your time on campus. Because Notre Dame’s academic programs are rigorous, it’s easy to focus all of your attention on maintaining a high GPA. While there is nothing wrong with striving for academic excellence, remember to keep things in perspective. You will develop life-long friends, be mentored by amazing faculty, and get to spend several years at one of the foremost universities in the nation. Remember to enjoy the sun after all the snow has finally fallen, meet new friends, and grow as a person.

Enjoy your time learning, growing, and experiencing all the wonderful opportunities Notre Dame offers.

Go Irish!

Tamara Shaya