Oct 19

CGS Career Pathways Project

Today’s guest blog post was provided by Laura Carlson, Vice President and Associate Provost, Dean of the Graduate School, and Professor of Psychology.


This past August, the Grad School was awarded an $80,000 grant from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). This funding allows us to participate in the PhD Career Pathways Project, a high-profile investigation seeking to better understand how and where doctoral graduates apply their educations professionally.

Twenty-eight other institutions will collaborate with us in this research study, co-funded by NSF and by the Mellon Foundation, so we’ll be able to dig up quite a cache of information. With this vast data store, we gain a huge opportunity to enrich our Graduate School and serve our students:

♣ We’ll strengthen our relationships with our amazing doctoral alumni.
♣ We’ll acquire a better understanding of the significance of doctoral education in the real world.
♣ We’ll learn how to better prepare our students for a wide variety of diverse career options, including all the traditional ones, too.

We are now ready for the first step of the project: sending surveys on career pathways to the PhD alumni. We’re asking them questions about where they’ve landed since graduating from Notre Dame, and how they’re applying their expertise and education in their daily lives.

I can’t wait to see those completed surveys.

I already know that our graduate students’ research matters. I am reminded of this when I hear of the government tapping Sarah Lum to address the national sexual assault kit backlog, or when I read Emily Maiden’s blog as she helps combat childhood marriage in Malawi.

But what I don’t always know—and the potential that excites me the most—is how our graduates are changing the world, in ways big and small, since leaving Notre Dame. Each and every student cultivated his or her impact while at Notre Dame. But what does that impact look like today?

Once we have answers to these questions, we’ll ask more questions. It’s a three year project, after all.

♣ What can our current students learn from our high-achieving alumni?
♣ What features of our professional preparation approaches best served our graduates?
♣ What are some career platforms from which PhDs can change the world that we may not have thought of before?
♣ And how can we invigorate our professional development and career preparation to prepare students to shine in these roles?

As we interpret our findings, we’ll collaborate with our graduate programs in STEM and Humanities, as well as our twenty-eight partner colleges in the study. Sharing our data with them—and seeing theirs—will be a huge asset.

And we will feed these data to our Graduate Career Services Office to help that team strategize on the best ways to communicate out-of-the box career options to our students, and to implement tools to help them prepare for and obtain these roles.

Our students’ research matters. I am #IrishReady to investigate how our alumni mobilize their research to be forces for good in the world today, and to brainstorm with us on the best ways to enable our current students to enter into this tradition of using their research to change the world.


Have questions about the CGS Career Pathways Project? Leave them in the comments.


Oct 05

Grad Student Appreciation Week – Campus Quotes

In honor of graduate student appreciation week, we wanted to find out what folks from all corners of campus appreciate about our graduate students. The responses flowed in, and it is clear that you are greatly appreciated! #thanksbetograds


Laura Carlson, Vice President and Associate Provost, Dean of the Graduate School, Professor of Psychology

Their passion! I am inspired by their desire to pursue questions that matter in the world.

Mandy Havert, Digital Research and Outreach Librarian, Hesburgh Libraries

I find that graduate students are so enthusiastic for their research. Whenever I meet a new graduate student it is fascinating to see their faces light up and their conversation become animated because in most cases their research is their passion. When that energy ignites it’s inspiring.

Kayla August, Assistant Director of Evangelization, Campus Ministry

I appreciate the hard work and dedication of the graduate community. These students are often far from home, working multiple jobs, heading families, balancing their personal and professional lives, or within the long process it takes to complete their PhD, but they still manage to go above and beyond. They excel in classes, make time to engage their mind, body, and soul and even participate in the life of the greater community.

In the Campus Ministry Department, I am happy to offer them a free meal and a chance for fellowship on the first Friday of every month, but daily they show me so much more through their dedicated spirits and drive to learn despite long hours of studying and endless workloads. Their perseverance is inspiring and their presence on campus is a continual blessing to all those who encounter them.

Tony Oleck, Assistant Director for Off-Campus and Transitions, Office of Housing

I appreciate their role in our shared project of building a preeminent research institution with an excellent undergraduate education. Our graduate students contribute much to the production of knowledge, while also forming our undergraduate students by serving as Assistant Rectors, TA’s, course instructors, or RCIA sponsors.

Mara Trionfero, Assistant Director Assessment & Education, McDonald Center for Student Well-Being

We love graduate students at McWell- from those that visit our spaces, to those participating on the Healthy Campus Coalition and even those working with us on various projects we find the diversity of perspective and experience that they bring to the campus community to be extremely rewarding.

Larry Westfall, Director Graduate Career Services, Graduate Career Services

I appreciate their curiosity to explore options, their willingness to seek and accept guidance, and their commitment to always do their best

Rebecca Overmyer, Administrative Assistant, Sociology Department

I appreciate how helpful and supportive our students are to each other both in academics and in their personal lives. They work very hard to create a sense of community which is so important when you spend so much time independently reading, studying and writing! We have the best students!


Thank you to everyone who participated in this initiative, and especially to our graduate students for being so awesome! Want to tell us what you appreciate about grad students? Leave a comment below!

Sep 21

Navigating Your Career with IrishCompass

Today’s guest post was written by Sharon Keane, Notre Dame Alumni Association.


Important dynamics are at play in today’s marketplace and in the minds of professionals. They include the mindset shift from “career for life” to “career for me,” the rise of the “gig” economy, and increased job changes. Research reveals that individuals will experience more job changes going forward. Key stats include:

  • The average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times during his/her career.
  • Many workers spend 5 years or less in every job.
  • Millennials will constitute 50% of the workforce by 2020 and will change jobs on average every 3-5 years.

What does this mean to a Notre Dame graduate student who will enter the job market?

It is reasonable to assume that working professionals will need a robust network in order to navigate these realities successfully. Actively cultivating your network now so you have the positive relationships over the life of your career is the way to go. For many, networking is uncomfortable or disappointing. You want to network with purpose and clarity as you build relationships. One concrete step in this direction is to develop a clear, concise elevator pitch so that as you connect with others, you are able to communicate your distinct value. In return, you want to listen well as others share their professional pursuits so you can help direct them too.

Many say that the time to build your network is before you need it. I agree. No question that building your network takes time, energy, and focus. You want to invest these resources wisely.

Enter the Notre Dame network, filled with people who are successful and willing to help others achieve their professional aspirations. To start, there are 140,000 alumni who have valuable experience, perspective, and referrals. How do you plug into this network?

Join IrishCompass.

IrishCompass is the University’s new official online community for professional growth and development in support of students and alumni. As a member of the Notre Dame family, you can participate in a wide variety of ways — from networking and mentorship opportunities to a private job board and industry groups. Here are a few specific ideas for this exclusive community:

  • Match with alumni based on interests and career goals to engage in 30-minute career conversations or three-month mentorship relationship.
  • Participate in the industry-specific online discussions by joining industry groups for your current and desired fields.
  • Access the job board featuring professional positions (as graduate students, you also retain access rights to Go IRISH.)
  • Explore the library with helpful videos, webinars, books, articles, guides, and worksheets that address a variety of career-related topics and help with the career discernment process.

Engage with the ND network. Give others the benefit of your experience as you gain from theirs. Your active participation will ensure that IrishCompass is a vibrant community of alumni and students who learn and achieve together.


Sharon Keane ’84 serves as the Director of Professional and Academic Programs in the Notre Dame Alumni Association. She is responsible for career services and intellectual engagement of Notre Dame alumni. In her role, she draws upon her work experience in government, business, and academe.

Sep 14

Following Up After a Career Event – Part 2

In Part 1 last week, we covered the process of following up the day after a career fair or other networking event. Today we’ll look at steps to take in the coming weeks and months to maintain and foster the relationship with the individuals and organizations you met there.

A few weeks after the event

Depending on how quickly and actively the organization is hiring, you will want to stay engaged with them to maintain momentum after the event. Some recruiters will respond to your thank-you note and immediately proceed into an interview process. Others may not even have any jobs available right now, and those are the ones you must remember to stay in touch with. Check in every 3-6 weeks with the person you met at the event, depending on the timing of their search processes. This achieves two goals: 1) you stay at the forefront of their mind, so that they think of you if an opening arises in their organization, and 2) they don’t assume you are no longer interested or have accepted a position elsewhere. These e-mails can be fairly simple, and follow a format similar to the following:

Dear [his or her name],

I hope the [project they mentioned at the event OR current season e.g. fall, winter, etc.] is going well. I am still very interested in potential opportunities at [their organization’s name], and am available to answer any questions about my background that might have come up since our conversation in [month of the event or previous conversation since].

Best wishes for an enjoyable [upcoming holiday/event/project].

[Your name]

Over the months and years following the event

Especially if you attended the event while not actively seeking new opportunities (e.g. prior to the last year of your program), you will need to take a strategic approach to maintaining the connection over a longer period of time. It won’t work to just keep sending the same general follow up mentioned above, because you are not adding new value to the relationship. Instead, keep an eye out for articles you think they might appreciate, and periodically forward it to them with a note such as:

Hi [their name], you may have seen this already, but I noticed it today and thought you might find it interesting as it relates to [their ongoing project/initiative or general industry].

<provide the link or attachment here>

Warm regards,

[Your name]

Another approach would be to update them on new developments within your own research activities, or something of mutual interest you accomplished or experienced. For example,

Hi [their name], our latest discoveries on [your topic] were published last week, and I thought you might be interested in seeing them as they relate to your [their ongoing project/initiative or general industry].

<provide the link or attachment here>

Warm regards,

[Your name]

The idea is to remind them of your interest and relevance to their organization, as well as provide information that can benefit their work. That value will be appreciated and ideally rewarded in the long run.

Bonus tip: engage with the organization on social media as well. Retweet their news, send follow-up information as comments on their posts, or tag them when promoting your own work. This would likely be more general engagement with the organization rather than specific recruiters or reps, but can keep you on their radar and provide opportunity to be seen as an expert on their topics of interest.

For more tips and resources about finding success before, during, and after networking events check out our Networking and Following Up boards on Pinterest. And please leave a comment here with your own favorite way to stay connected with employer representatives.

Sep 07

Following Up After a Career Event – Part 1

We hope you had a chance to participate in the Fall Career Expo or STEM Networking Breakfast events yesterday. Events like these should be considered the opening introductory touchpoint in an ongoing meaningful relationship. As such, there are steps you must take to foster and cultivate that relationship now that it is off the ground. Today will focus on some things to do the next day (ideally). Part 2 covers the following weeks and the long term.

Immediately following the event (ideally within 24 hours)

Hopefully you know the importance of sending a thank-you note within 24 hours after an interview, but did you know you should also send a thank-you note after a career fair or other networking event? The employer took time out of his or her day to speak with you personally about your career interests, their organization, and opportunities where those two topics might come together. You need to show appreciation for this time, and indicate that you feel there is a mutual connection between your background and their organization. This does not need to be as long as a cover letter. A few sentences in an e-mail will suffice, but avoid being too generic. They met with many individuals at the event, so you want to remind them of something unique about yourself or of interest from your conversation so they can picture you in their mind. Rather than “Thank you for your time last night; I enjoyed learning about your company; I look forward to hearing from you;” consider the following example:

Good morning, [his or her name].

Our conversation at the Career Expo last night was very engaging, and I greatly appreciate the time you spent discussing how my background in [your field] would add value to [name of their organization]. My research into [your specific topic] seems to fit well with [project names or brief description of 1-2 current projects at their organization]. You mentioned you will be conducting interviews in the coming weeks, and I would sincerely enjoy participating in that process. Please let me know if you have any questions about my background or if there is anything I can do in the meantime to help foster this relationship.

Warm regards,

[Your name]

If your specific research topic did not come up in the conversation or is not related to the organization’s work, then connect back to another aspect of your background you discussed, such as a leadership role, teaching experience, or something else from the conversation. You want to remind them of who you are, and reiterate something great about you that should interest them. If they are not conducting interviews as shown in the above example, refer to something else that they mentioned to demonstrate you were listening and are interested in their organization moving forward.

Check back next week for Part 2, focusing on steps to take over the coming weeks and months after a career event. In the meantime, leave your comments below with your own tips and experiences for being #IrishReady to follow up with an organization’s reps.

Aug 24

Employer Guest Post – Success at Networking Events

The Fall Career Expo, Breakfast with Graduate STEM Champions, and CBE Symposium are less than 2 weeks away (September 6th). Lisa Kochert, leader of the North America campus talent acquisition team at Avanade, was gracious enough to provide us with this guest blog post from an employer’s perspective on how to succeed at networking events on campus. Avanade will be at both the STEM Breakfast and the Career Expo.


To Play Like a Champion You Need a Strategy

How to Get the Most Out of Networking on Campus

For many, the thought of attending a campus event where employers are present can lead to eye rolling and thoughts of wasted time. I’d like to argue that nothing could be further from the truth. Avanade, a leading digital innovator has hired many “Fighting Irish,” and we met all of them on campus!

In today’s competitive job market, employers are increasingly in pursuit for the best talent, and there’s no better way to meet those candidates than in “your backyard,” at a campus organized event.

If you’re able to get facetime with an employer, there’s no such thing as waste. Every contact has value in preparing you to talk about your strengths and learn about prospective career opportunities and employers. Who knows – the company president may even be in attendance.

Although we’re in a digital era, nothing takes the place of a meaningful human interaction. Too many students have unrealistic expectations about the effectiveness of blasting out resumes to potential employers without considering their game plan – which is so old school! Just because you send out 20 resumes per day, doesn’t mean that you’re going to land a position you want. In fact, that may not get you anywhere at all.

Developing a game plan for a campus event doesn’t have to be difficult – come on, you are the Fighting Irish – you have been taught how to play strategically and act like a champion. To remove barriers to starting your game plan, ask yourself a few important questions:

  1. What do I hope to accomplish at the event?
  2. Who would I like to meet with and why do I want to meet them?
  3. What do I need to know about the companies before I meet with them?
  4. What questions will I want to ask?
  5. What are the take-aways that I want to leave potential employers with?

Asking yourself these questions will help you create a plan for putting that hard-earned degree to use; and developing a solid professional network of people to connect with as you build your career.

To take full advantage of your time at a campus event, use your “Champion Approach.” Employers have taken the time to come to your campus for a reason – they want to meet you! With “soft skills’ like communications becoming increasingly important in our technological age, the ability to demonstrate your interpersonal skills, combined with a professional demeanor and appearance, you’ll stand head and shoulder above your competitors.

Now that you’ve bought into the value of networking at these campus events – remember it’s important to be the real you. Relax and be yourself – networking is about building and maintaining relationships. Remember, it’s not a test or even a judgement, it’s just an effort to get to know you and establish a connection; because at the end of the day, these employers need you as much as you need us.


Lisa Kochert leads the North America campus talent acquisition team at Avanade. In her role, she leads the strategic direction and delivery of the campus talent acquisition organization across several key functions including sourcing, full life-cycle recruiting, and event management. Lisa has been with Avanade since 2011. The opinions presented above are her own.

Aug 17

Surviving Your PhD Journey – Part 2

Today’s guest blog post is part 2 of 2, and comes from our Director, Larry Westfall. Read part 1 here.


The Road Less Traveled

A father took his 12-year old son boating. He had him motor out of sight of land and distracted him with conversation. Then he said, “Son, plot a course to the harbor.” The son replied, “I can’t. I don’t know where we are.” The father told his son never to forget what he had just learned: only when you know where you are can you plot a course to your destination.

This lesson applies just as strongly to your Ph.D. journey as it does to boating. Two of the larger causes of transition stress are when you don’t know where you’re going and when you feel you don’t have any control over how you will get there. You need to ensure you have a road map of the entire Ph.D. journey and learning process, recognizing that detours may happen along the way, but also acknowledging what part each of your fellow travelers (coach, mentor, advisor, or lab mates) will play. This road map should identify the stages between the current and future destination, the academic and experiential learning required, the skill enhancement and professional development needed, and the coaching and mentoring that is desired at each stage relative to the outcomes that are being sought.

Inevitably, all of us look at change processes and judge the prospect of the change by the WIIFM principle: ‘What’s in it for me?’ The answer to this question must be relevant to the needs and interests of the individual along with answers to additional questions such as ‘why should I leave here, how hard will the journey be, what will I need, and who will help me?’ Responses to these questions will help you not only feel more confident in the change process but will help you in your ability to understand and realize the part that others can play in your journey.

Your Destination Grows Closer

In the final analysis, as with many things in life, the ultimate choice is up to each of us. There is one thing that individuals retain irrespective of change and that is personal choice. You can choose to be involved or you can choose to sit on the sidelines. You can choose to be happy or you can choose a path of discontent. You can choose to ask the questions or you can choose to wait to be told. Ultimately the choice remains yours, to determine how you can overcome resistance and have positive and hopefully lasting personal change during your Ph.D. journey. So where are you in your Ph.D. journey? What is your destination? Are you confident in your road map and destination or are you on an off-ramp somewhere waiting to be towed? What one first step could you take today to get closer to your destination? What fellow travelers have you chosen to take along on your journey?


For more information on the various tools and resources available to you to chart a course for the future, please contact Graduate Career Services. We are available to assist you in developing a plan of action, providing individual coaching or engaging in broader group facilitation.

Aug 10

Surviving Your PhD Journey – Part 1

Today’s guest blog post is part 1 of 2, and comes from our Director, Larry Westfall.


“Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll understand.”

– – Chinese Proverb

I’ve worked in management for many years and have experienced my share of change. Through this experience I’ve found a common mantra that “change is inevitable” or “change is constant.” And through it all, there’s a reluctance or inability to cope with it.

So what is it about change that seems so disconcerting to us? While there is something comfortable about the familiar, I find that I am uncomfortable with this notion that we resist change because it’s something new. I would offer that it’s often not the new future destination of the change we are most concerned about, but rather the journey in how to get there. I recall a family vacation in mid-1960, driving cross-country from Indiana to California in a Chevy sedan. My father had planned the trip down to the tenth of a mile; no unnecessary stops; no unwarranted bathroom breaks; no sightseeing along the way; driving into the night and departing early in the morning. He was focused on the destination…to get to the end. The journey, to him, was almost non-evident.

Not dissimilar to a trip across the US, the journey for the Ph.D. student can seem just as daunting and fraught with change, transition and unforeseen detours along the way. So how is it that you are supposed to survive and hopefully thrive along this Ph.D. journey?

The Elements of Change

To help us navigate change and transitions, we need to know what the journey involves. The path between the present and the future is rarely described with the same level of certainty as the end result, leaving us with a growing sense of fear regarding what lies ahead. Change is an emotional event growing from the cognitive appraisal of the situation. These emotions predict how receptive we will be towards change and how much resistance will be encountered to the effort.

In the 1970’s, work by Beckhard and Gleicher led to a formula that describes how organizational change occurs and how we might go about reducing resistance to change. What if we used this same model to affect positive personal change in the PhD journey?

The model says Change occurs when Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps > Resistance to Change (D x V x F > R). Using this model to affect positive personal change in your PhD journey, you need to get to ‘one common brain’ and ‘one common, compelling heart’ around these elements: Dissatisfaction with where you are right now (D), times Vision common and compelling about what you aspire to be in the future (V), times agreement on the effective actions and First Steps you can be doing to move in the direction of the vision (F), where the result of this equation has to be larger than any Resistance to change (R). The key to the equation is that if any element is zero, the product will be zero, and you won’t be able to overcome resistance to change. We each resist personal change if we do not have an ennobling vision of what we could be, or if we can’t think of any actions that we believe will make a difference. The magic however, is when the three elements in the equation do indeed overcome resistance. When all three are in place – D, V, and F – you will see things differently and understand what you can do differently to make positive progress along your journey. You will know this ‘magic’ has been unleashed when:

  • You are discovering yourself and your passions more fully
  • You are aligning your hopes and desires with a vision of the future
  • You are feeling valued and heard
  • You are taking increased risks and responsibility
  • You are getting increasingly excited about new possibilities
  • You are experiencing a profound sense of belonging
  • You feel proud of being part of something larger than yourself
  • You let go of old paradigms and embrace ‘new ways’ of doing things

Check out part 2 when it posts on Thursday, August 17th.

Aug 03

Alumni Guest Post – Starting Your Professional Career

Today’s guest blog post comes from Billy Smith, who graduated from ND with a History PhD in 2017. He has worked as an Academic Advisor and Scholarship Coordinator at Oklahoma State University since Fall 2016. Billy can be reached at william.r.smith@okstate.edu.

After several years in graduate school, transitioning to a full-time, non-traditional academic job was intimidating. Traditional work weeks replaced the flexibility of my graduate student schedule, while new office rhythms demanded that I adjust my time management and workflow habits. In addition, I still needed to complete and defend my dissertation. Below are some things I found useful as I entered my professional career in academic advising and student development.

  1. Watch and Learn

Formal training for new positions varies widely among employers—some places expect you to dive into the job equipped with only your previous work experience, while others have more structured plans for gradually easing the transition. During the first several weeks of my position, I had many opportunities to watch professionals in my department do their jobs. Watching others helped me see the various styles and approaches used in our office. It also allowed me to borrow the best practices I observed and use them in my daily routines. If you find yourself in a new position, I highly recommend sitting in with colleagues and watching them work. Eventually, you can adopt the best strategies you’ve seen from others and combine them with the methods that have worked best for you.

  1. Professionalization

An obvious but useful tip is to take any opportunities you can get toward professionalization in your career. These opportunities may come from your employer directly, but sometimes you will need to seek them out yourself.

Early on in the application and interviewing stage of job hunting I began to familiarize myself with the research and theory conducted in my field. Reading current work in my career area helped me identify many concrete, transferable skills I could offer a hiring committee. It also allowed me to speak the same professional language when it came time to interview. Once I entered my new position, reading professional journals helped me target key areas of professional development and gave me practical advice for the job.

In my first year, I also attended a regional conference with my colleagues that helped me settle into my career. As graduate students already know, conferences are great places for networking and hearing about cutting-edge work. A few of my co-workers presented their research and I heard from a diverse range of other professionals outside of our institution. Attending the conference energized me with new ideas and hanging out with my colleagues helped me integrate into our office culture.

  1. Keep Writing

I accepted my new position knowing that I would still need to revise and defend my dissertation. Making time for writing was a major challenge, so I had to prioritize it in my weekly schedule. I blocked off time early each morning before work and later in the evenings to write, as well as on lunch breaks. Weekends I reserved largely for my family. Knowing that time was precious, I allowed myself to be okay with small daily gains toward completion and celebrated crossing each milestone.


As a final thought, scheduling the defense and coordinating my schedule with those of my committee members across the country took a lot of time and planning. Staying in close contact with your advisor, committee members, and departmental administrators can help ease this process.

Jul 20

Mailbag: Customizing Resumes – Part 2

Last week I discussed making big changes to customize your resume for each open position. This week we’ll talk about the “micro changes” that can make a big impact on the success of your application.

The little changes involve the specific words and terminology you should use on the resume. Take your cues from the job description first, and fill in gaps from the website of the organization. The bottom line is that most employers run their applications through a computer program that looks for key words. The resumes that feature a critical mass of the desired key words will pass through for someone to actually see them. There’s really no way for you to know exactly what those key words will be, but chances are they’re in the job description or on the company website. The organization is telling you what’s important to them and the job (through the language they consciously or subconsciously use), so you can show them it’s important to you by using those same words. This doesn’t mean you should copy and paste bullets from the job description into your resume, but if you are trying to describe something you have accomplished that relates to the job, then incorporate their terminology.

One tool to help you figure out what the important keywords might be are word clouds. For example, go to https://www.jasondavies.com/wordcloud/, paste the text of the job description into the box, and watch the system magically assemble a word cloud where words that appeared more frequently in the text appear bigger and bolder in the word cloud. In theory, words that appear more frequently in the job description may be important to the job and helpful key words to include on your resume. Not all of them will be, but it can help you figure some out as a starting point. While it doesn’t necessarily help you find important key words that only appear once in the job description, I find that pulling those words out of their context and separating them into the word cloud does sometimes help me notice them more. Once you’ve noticed the important terms, you can go back to the job description and use ctrl+F to identify where in the context those words fall and how they’re being used. That can help you figure out not just what word to use but what experiences from your background might be related.

Another resource that can help you figure out how well customized a resume could be for a certain job is https://www.jobscan.co/. Try it out and let us know what you think.

Are there other ways to customize the micro portions of a resume that I didn’t mention? Leave us a comment with your ideas!

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