Apr 13

How to use VersatilePhD for Career Exploration

VersatilePhD provides information to graduate students by identifying careers outside of academia that both utilize and value your professional skill set. There are a few key features to note:

The PhD Career Finder offers information about a wide variety of interesting careers that real PhDs have gone into. Their stories are both fascinating and informative, and are categorized by different career paths. Each one includes a narrative of the PhD graduate’s career discernment and job search process, the resume they used to apply for their job, and their academic CV for comparison. Many also include their cover letter, questions they were asked during the interview process, job offer letter, information about the negotiation process if applicable, and more.

From time to time, there have also been panels of PhD professionals. These asynchronous panels featured designated individuals who volunteered to be available in the Humanities/SocialScience forum. They wrote a post introducing themselves and their career path into various fields, and then throughout the week other members of VersatilePhD posted career-related questions in the forum that those designated panelists then answered. Forum posts related to each monthly panel started with the word “Panel:” followed by the topic or question. You can find these previous panel discussions in the archive.

This year, VPhD has been offering structured “Ask-Me-Anything (AMA)” events that were similar to the panels but were a little more targeted toward a specific individual. The previous AMAs are in a separate section of the Forums page. The next event will take place April 17-19, and will feature two well-known figures in graduate student professional development and career advising: Dr. Thi Nguyen from Washington University in St. Louis and Dr. Fatimah Williams from Beyond the Tenure Track.

Overall, the other forums operate in an ongoing way every day as well, to leverage the collective knowledge and experience of all members of the VPhD community. One of the great aspects of VPhD is that it is a more positive and supportive community than many other PhD related forums or wikis, because the alumni have all found successful careers with their PhD and are happy to help current graduate students find success as well.

Visit our website to get started:

Has VersatilePhD helped you in your career exploration or job search? Leave a comment below.

Mar 29

LinkedIn 101: Using LinkedIn to Land Your Dream Job Before You Leave ND


Today’s guest blog post was provided by the LinkedIn Careers Team, whose role is to help job-seekers maximize the value of LinkedIn in their job search.


LinkedIn is helping graduating students tap into their professional community—whether they realize they have one already or not.

Trying to land your dream career out of the gate is a tall order. But here’s the good news: There are roughly 11 million job openings per month in America at any given time. Sure, you don’t want all those jobs, but you want some of them—and some of them want you!

LinkedIn connects qualified candidates with companies and organizations that crave top talent. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to snagging a seat at the professional table before graduation.


Why LinkedIn?

  • 80% of LinkedIn members consider professional networking to be important to new job opportunities and career success, according to LinkedIn research.
  • 70% of people were hired at a company where they had a connection.
  • More than 20 million professionals including recruiters, hiring managers and decision makers use LinkedIn every week.

With 530+ million professionals in the LinkedIn community, there is no other place where you can access such a wide range of knowledge, skills and resources to help you reach your goals.


Let LinkedIn do the work for you

Searching for a job can seem like a daunting task. More than a quarter of professionals say they have no time to search for new opportunities.

But worry not, with search alerts you can get notifications and updates to a saved search via email or shared with you on LinkedIn. Use advanced search filters to narrow down opportunities by industry, location, experience level and more. Once your filtered search is set, simply create the alert.

Let recruiters know you’re open to new opportunities by simply flipping a switch on your LinkedIn profile. It’s called Open Candidates, and yes, it’s that easy. Open Candidates is accessible from the “Preferences” tab on the LinkedIn Jobs home page.

By flipping the switch, you privately signal to recruiters that you’re interested in new opportunities. Don’t forget to update your career interests. This helps you appear in the search results that recruiters are regularly scouring. Additionally, this helps inform the daily job recommendations LinkedIn sends you and surfaces on the jobs homepage.


Discover your earning potential

LinkedIn tapped into its network of more than 530 million members to give you deep salary insights into the compensation landscape. You can also dig deeper into compensation insights about specific companies you’re interested in so when the time comes to talk money, you’re ready.

This tool includes salary, bonus, and equity data for specific job titles, and the different factors that impact pay such as years of experience, industry, company size, location, and education level


Connect with alumni

One of the easiest ways for students and alumni to make connections is through the LinkedIn Alumni tool. It’s an easy way to explore people who graduated from your same school, where they work now and in what cities. Simply search for your school and select “see alumni” to get started. You can access career paths for more than 23,000 colleges and universities worldwide.


Entrepreneur? Create your own job — become a freelancer

  • Nearly 20% of freelancers confirmed they’ll make six figures or more this year with their freelance work, according to LinkedIn.
  • More than half of freelancers confirmed that they will never return to more traditional, full-time employment.
  • 80% of freelancers do not actually have any concern about their freelance work being replaced by technology, artificial intelligence, or automation in the next 10-20 years.

LinkedIn ProFinder started as an idea that has grown into a vibrant freelance marketplace being used by more than 70,000 freelance professionals across the nation. LinkedIn has seen client demand surge with weekly requests for proposals growing more than fivefold in one year.


Seek career advice from others

  • More than 80% of professionals on LinkedIn have stated they either want to have a mentor or be one to others.
  • More than half don’t know where to begin and more than one-third have a hard time finding the right person.

LinkedIn launched Career Advice, a new feature that helps connect members across the LinkedIn network with one another for lightweight mentorship opportunities. Whether you need advice on your career path, switching to a new industry or best practices for a project you’re working on, Career Advice can help you find and connect with the right person who can help.

[Note from Graduate Career Services: http://irishcompass.nd.edu is a Notre Dame resource you can use for establishing mentoring relationships with ND alumni]


Learn the skills needed for your next gig

  • One-third of job-seekers have expressed concern that they don’t have the necessary skills to be competitive in the job market

With LinkedIn Learning, you can now access a gigantic database of online courses on topics from coding and graphic design to public speaking. And here’s the best part: each course is typically sliced up into very manageable 5-10 minute learning chunks. Learning a new skill over the course of a week quickly becomes very achievable.


What now? — Get started

Create or update your LinkedIn profile today. This provides other LinkedIn members with a better understanding of the unique skills, interests, and experience that make you — you.

  • Make sure you have a profile photo – it will help get you recognized and connect to potential opportunities. Members with a profile photo receive up to 21x more profile views and 9x more connection requests.
  • Members with current positions are discovered up to 16x more in recruiter searches.
  • Members with more than 5 skills are 27x more likely to be discovered in searches by recruiters.
  • Including the city where you are based makes you stand out up to 23x in searches.


Bonus: Check out Resume Assistant, a new integration from Microsoft and LinkedIn to help you craft a compelling resume directly within Microsoft Word.

Mar 15

Virtual Career Fair – advice from a past participant

With the GCC Virtual Career Fair coming up on Wednesday, March 28th, we asked PhD alumna Julia Beck to share her experiences and advice after participating in last year’s event.


The virtual career fair is a great way to enter the job market and practice important job search skills without a lot of (or really any) pressure. There will be several companies attending the fair, so it is important that one is prepared prior to chatting with companies.

How to prepare:

  1. Know the companies who will be there and their open positions.

After registering for the career fair there will be a list highlighting all of the companies who will be attending the career fair, and it will list the company’s location, job area (e.g. health care, marketing, consulting, etc), and open position. Many of these companies will have more than one position offered. Be sure to visit their website and understand the company, their mission statement, and the position.

  1. Refine a list to your top ~5 companies.

After going through all of the companies that have positions of interest, create a word document listing the top 5 companies including the times that they will be online. Include any important reminders about the company and how your skills mesh with the position.

  1. Have specific questions and an introduction for each company.

Example: Hello my name is _________ and I am a _______ at the University of Notre Dame.  I enjoy list specific skills that would make you marketable to the position (use key words in the job description if applicable). Could you please tell me more about your _______ position?

  1. Have your CV ready.

If your CV has not been reviewed by Graduate Career Services, please do! It is a very valuable experience. After registering for the career fair, the CV can be uploaded for the companies to view. Be sure to do this!


What to expect:

  1. Jobs that are advertised are non-traditional science jobs (non-academic/industry).

While you are creating the list of top companies, the job type can be refined. Many of the jobs related to science included consulting, health care, medical or academic editor, or technology leadership programs.

  1. Will not be able to simultaneously chat with multiple companies.

Be sure to prioritize and chat with top two companies first. I had another word document up while I was chatting with companies. This allowed me to copy the questions and responses in the chat room so that I would not miss any information if I switched to chatting with a different company. Each chat room will have two or three representatives for the company and everyone will be able to see who is in the chat room, so I would not recommend bouncing between companies.

  1. Call backs can occur weeks or months later.

I received call backs from companies both a few weeks after the career fair and even a few months later. If there is a particular company that interests you, be sure to get the contact information from one of the representatives and stay up to date with that company.


Julia Beck graduated from the College of Science in August 2017 and is currently a post doctorate at Purdue University. Her experiences and insights are her own.

Feb 15

Alumni Guest Post: Employed ABD

Today’s guest blog post comes from Meagan Simpson. Her bio appears below the post.


Like many academic hopefuls, I applied for and enrolled in my PhD program with only a tenure-track career path in mind. It was during orientation, however, that I resolved to have contingency plans. As I’m sure it does for many, the (now cliché) crisis of the humanities speech sobered me right up!

I was aware that one of the service appointments available to English PhDs in their third year was managing editor of Nineteenth-Century Contexts, an interdisciplinary journal co-edited by a faculty member in our English department. I advocated for and was granted the appointment for the entire academic year. I managed the submission process, peer review process, and production processes under the guidance of my faculty mentor. When my appointment was over, I helped train the incoming graduate student editor. When the journal eventually moved from the University of Notre Dame to the University of Texas two years later, I also helped hand off the journal operations. I left confident that I understood the entire publishing process and, more importantly, that I found the work rewarding.

As I finished my sixth year of graduate study, I decided to conduct a job search in publishing the following fall—even before I had defended. I had been considering this move for quite a few years, but it was a workshop offered by Graduate Career Services and run by Stephen Wrinn from the University of Notre Dame Press that gave me the confidence to send out cover letters and résumés immediately. I offered up my experience as the managing editor of Nineteenth-Century Contexts and my advanced research in literary studies as the credentials that would make me most appealing to employers. I began applying, interviewed, and was hired within 10 days—breakneck compared to the academic job market.

For anyone interested in pursuing an “alt-ac” career, particularly an editorial one, I would suggest the following action steps, which I took myself:

  • Research career paths:
    • Learn as much as possible about the potential careers you want to target. Analyze job descriptions of current employees, read job postings, and subscribe to industry digests or periodicals in order to learn about typical salaries, benefits, and career mobility.
  • Gain some experience:
    • Ideally, you’ll have at least one year of experience in whatever field you intend to target. Realistically, any experience helps! The more, the better. Search out these opportunities at Notre Dame; search them out anywhere. Journal publishing is different in volume and scope from book publishing, but it is logistically almost identical. My employer hired me knowing there would be a learning curve, but confident in my content expertise and commitment to long-term skills acquisition.
  • Tailor your résumé:
    • Ideally, you will tailor your cover letter and résumé to each position; realistically, you should at least tailor these documents for each industry. I worked with Erik Oswald at Grad Career Services to tailor my cover letter and résumé for the academic publishing industry and then I further tailored both documents to my current position by myself. It is painful to compress 4-5 pages of academic accomplishments into 1 page, but it is crucial. Human resources departments and employers read through these materials lightening fast, sometimes scanning for keywords alone. I’ve helped hire assistants and interns since joining the company, so I now have first hand experience in wading through dozens and dozens of applications over the course of a single day. Be concise!
  • Publishing-specific caveats:
    • Publishing is region-specific, primarily New York. This includes trade, academic, magazine, etc. Be prepared to fly into interviews at a moment’s notice and be prepared to relocate quickly. If you’re interested in academic publishing, but not interested in relocating to New York, target university presses.
    • Pub jobs are advertised and filled unbelievably fast in New York! Even postings 3 days old might be filled already. Use bookjobs.com, mediabistro.com, or publisherweekly.com to find job postings and apply immediately.

Almost a dozen other graduate students have reached out to me in the last year asking for advice. Typically, they’re looking for concrete tips about how to conduct an alt-ac job search. Just as often, however, they are interested in hearing how I feel about my decision looking back.

Truth be told, I miss the intellectual rigor afforded by scholarly work. I miss the creative aspect of wrestling with and producing new knowledge. There is simply nothing more rewarding than academic work in my opinion. However, for me, the future it promised was unstable and therefore potentially unhealthy. I find the security and flexibility of fulltime alt-ac work more valuable than the intellectual and creative affordances of academia. What’s more, my particular job is what I like to call “intellectually adjacent.” I still get to engage and wrestle with scholarly work; I still get to attend conferences and read the latest journals; I still get to think. It also affords me an exceptional amount of free time—time that I could easily fill up by teaching courses as an adjunct or independent research.

I also tell inquirers that it is tough work to balance a full time job while completing a dissertation. It will take much longer to finish and defend the dissertation if you’re also employed fulltime. Committees might not approve of such a plan for exactly this reason. So, be sure to talk frankly with them and come up with a concrete plan to finish. It might be in your best interest to defend the dissertation before going on an alt-ac job market. I had personal mitigating factors that made this balancing act my only option and an exceptionally understanding committee. If you are going to juggle both, then be sure to create and stick to a writing schedule in consultation with your committee members.

Technically, I could still go on the academic market after I defend, but I have no interest in doing so. While I will always miss certain features of academia, I much prefer the “alt-ac” career path I’ve taken. I have no regrets.


Meagan Simpson is Acquisitions Editor of the Humanities List at Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. in New York, NY. She is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Notre Dame, currently completing her dissertation.

Feb 01

New Semester, New Grad Careers Offices

Today’s guest post was submitted by Trish Bredar, 2nd year English PhD student and graduate assistant in the Grad Careers Office. The views presented are her own, but we highly support them!


Acclimating to a new semester after winter break can be a bit of a challenge. It ushers in a new schedule, fresh deadlines, and a slew of emails and meetings. Not to mention having to brave that arctic air as you walk across campus when, let’s face it, you’d rather be working from home in your sweatpants. Fortunately, though, this semester’s transition was brightened by the opening of the brand new Duncan Student Center! That means an improved exercise facility, more dining options and study spaces, a graduate student lounge (with free coffee!) and a brand new Graduate Career Services office space.

As you may know, Graduate Career Services has officially relocated from our previous location in the Main Building to a new space on the fifth floor of Duncan. The fifth floor serves as a dedicated Center for Career Development which also houses the Undergraduate Career Services team and Mendoza Graduate Business Career Services. Not only does the space itself offer upgraded facilities for students, staff, and employers, but it also opens the door for increased collaboration between Career Services professionals—which means even more innovation and insights that your graduate career consultants bring to the table.

If you haven’t yet made the trip up to the fifth floor, I highly recommend taking a look. When you step out of the north elevators (or, for those more motivated than I am, the north stairwell), you’ll find the Grad Careers and Mendoza offices to the north and the undergraduate team to the south. The west side of the building is lined with windows, offering a pretty impressive panorama of the campus. A welcome desk just outside the elevator bank makes it easy to check in for your appointment or find out where you need to go. On the way to the Grad Careers office—North Suite, 528—you’ll see a couple of impressive conference rooms. Step inside the GCS suite and you’ll find a set of snazzy new offices where your Grad Careers consultants are hard at work and where you will have your one-on-one appointments. (Need to set up an appointment today? Just fill out this Appointment Request Form.)

Even if you’re not coming in for an appointment right this minute, there are some great spaces on the fifth floor that you should know about. 40+ interview rooms with various seating configurations and technology setups ensure that you can find the perfect space for group, in-person, telephone, or Skype interviews—just scope out the ideal room and book it at a fifth floor welcome desk. This floor also houses Duncan’s hidden gem of work spaces, with plenty of window-facing open seating and tables which students can use even after business hours. I’ve already scoped out a comfy couch with a perfect view of the Dome and the Basilica where I will be spending a lot of time this semester.

While the beginning of a new semester can be hectic, it’s also a great time to set professional development goals for the months ahead and check in with your career strategy. Think of the new Grad Careers offices as an extra incentive to reassess your plan and perhaps seek out some expert advice in a fresh new space!

Jan 18

How to Contact an Employer Prior to Applying

Contacting an employer prior to submitting an application can be a delicate or tricky balance, and depends on the nature of any pre-existing relationships with individuals on the hiring team.

In a scenario where you know a hiring manager and want to reach out in an unsolicited way, your pre-existing relationship (assuming it’s not a mere acquaintance from high school, for example) gives you an open door to reach out. That’s one of the benefits of building strong relationships with a good network of people.

The approach could go something like this: “Good morning, Jane. [Insert small talk such as I hope you are enjoying the warmer weather this week]. I noticed on the [Organization] employment listings that you are hiring a [Job Title] for the [Department]. The position seems to align very well with my background and interests, and I am wondering if I may speak with you for a few minutes to learn more about your team and the position. I understand if this would cause a conflict of interest for you, but wanted to check just in case. Please let me know either way at your convenience. Thank you for your time, and I hope you find a great candidate for the position.”

In a scenario where you would be interested in an organization that has an open position but you don’t know anyone there, the most effective approach would be to conduct an informational interview with someone who is not directly involved with the hiring. Such a person can provide honest information about the organization, possible insights into the general hiring process, and ideally a referral to the hiring manager (which may include physically sending your resume on your behalf or simply allowing you to reference your conversation in a cover letter).

Knowing when and how to contact an employer prior to applying just might give your application the boost it needs to get noticed. What are your strategies for reaching out? Share your success stories in the comments below.

Jan 05

Navigating Change in the New Year

This guest blog post was provided by Larry Westfall, newly retired Director of Graduate Career Services.

And suddenly you know...it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”
In time-held tradition, we awake on New Year’s day and resolve to make a change in some aspect of our lives as the new year unfolds before us. We are hit with a barrage of ads from media sources encouraging us to lose those extra pounds, pay off our home loan faster, feel ten years younger, or join the fitness challenge. And with the best of intentions, many of us sign up for our ‘free consultation’ or click the download button in hopes that in some way this first step will evolve to some lasting change of our former self. But are we focusing too much on the past and what we want to change versus shifting our sights to the future and what we want to become?
Dan Millman, world champion gymnast and athlete, writes in his book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, about the physical and mental challenges he faced in his early life and the spiritual growth he experienced through his fictional mentor and counselor, “Socrates”, an all-night gas station attendant not the renowned Greek philosopher. At one enlightening moment in the conversation, Socrates offers to Millman,
“You have many habits that weaken you. The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
How often, during our own moments of seeking a change do we focus more on the past and what we want to change about ourselves or our situation rather than focusing and envisioning what we want to create for the future. We get caught in a paradigm of retrospection as opposed to setting our minds free to envision a myriad of possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead of us.
I’ve encountered over the course of my career numerous situations that found me at the proverbial crossroads. Life’s crossroads create opportunity for us to choose between different options, and when we see someone embracing the moment when choices are made, it can be awe-inspiring. Crossroads are about change. Choices must be made — not just when things are not working out as we had planned, but also during positive moments when we must choose to continue the course or pivot into something new. When we experience an ending in a relationship, a change in careers, political turmoil, the loss of a friend, or challenges with our health, the crossroads we find ourselves facing can either inspire us to choose differently, or during these moments of change we can paralyze ourselves with fear.
Making a crossroads a moment of profound and lasting change and learning how to thrive when life’s changes descend upon us can be learned. Here is what I’ve learned about weathering change…
  • Don’t settle for acceptable.  When our habitual response leads to what is normal or customary, we can typically expect less than remarkable results and then suffer disappointment or regret.
  • Don’t resist the effects of change.  Controlling or forcing things to happen is typically a response to the fear that comes with change. Not making a decision or taking action when faced with change due to fear or uncertainty is itself a choice. Reevaluate your coping mechanisms with stress and apprehension. Move with the change instead of against it.
  • Trust your inner voice.  Deep within ourselves lies our inner voice that guides us between right and wrong and tells us what we need to do, how we need to react, and how we need to think during times of change. Learn to trust this ingrained wisdom to guide you toward a new destiny.
  • Dream big(ger).  Change what you expect from life and then create a plan and work to orchestrate the right conditions for your growth and success.
  • Create balance amidst the chaos.  Let go of agendas, push away daily demands, limit distractions and give yourself the gift of time to reflect and contemplate the areas of your life that may need more balance.
  • Fail forward.  Failure is inevitable in the face of change and in life. And that’s okay. Make the best possible decision you can and move forward knowing that if it turns out to not be the right decision, you can always start again. Remember, failing creates not only additional opportunities for success, but fosters courage and determination for those of us brave enough to attempt it.
When I’m standing at the crossroads or faced with the inevitable fear of change, I’ve learned to look it squarely in the face and say, “you can do this!” Things may not always turn out the way that I envisioned, but I’m stronger for having risked, taken a stand, trusted and believed in myself. Come join the fun and let life’s adventures unfold.

Nov 30

Thank You Notes


We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! If it was anything like mine, it featured at least four different kinds of carb-loaded dishes, and you are looking forward to the new Smith Center for Recreational Sports opening in January like I am.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to focus on the important art of writing Thank You Notes. As I mentioned in our post on September 7th, thank you notes are essential to the recruiting process. They confirm your interest in the opportunity, demonstrate your initiative and professional follow through, and help you stand out from other candidates who don’t follow up appropriately. Students often ask us about the process of sending a thank you note. Here are some answers to your FAQs:

When should I send it? 

The old standard of “within 24 hours” still applies, but the electronic age and the pace at which hiring decisions can be made are pushing that to “within 12 hours.” You don’t need to send it from your phone in the parking lot after the interview, but later that day, that evening, or early the next day are best if sending by e-mail. If planning to send a hand-written card, put it in the mail no later than the next day.

Email or postal mail?

Either is usually fine. However, if you know the interview process will proceed rapidly (e.g. the interview is a Thursday and they will follow up with candidates on Monday), then definitely send an e-mail so that your thank you note is included as part of their decision making process.

How long should it be? 

It shouldn’t be the next great novel, but it also should be longer than just a sentence or two. Rather than simply the basic “Thank you for meeting with me…I enjoyed learning about your organization…I look forward to hearing from you…” try to add some details from your background that remind them of how great you are, or follow up on a question you weren’t quite sure of and needed to research further. If sending by e-mail, 1-3 short paragraphs will be sufficient. If writing by hand, 3-5 sentences will be fine as long as you include something that connects the card to you as a candidate (see links below).

Who should get one? 

While I know that “everyone you talked to” is not always practical, it really is your goal. E-mail makes it easy to send a personalized thank-you note to every member of the search committee individually. It’s best if you can provide slightly different information that will be interesting/relevant to each person (e.g. the interviewer from Human Resources may care about one of your past jobs while your director might find your education more important). To make it more management when interviewing with multiple panels throughout the day, you could potentially send one e-mail to each group of interviewers you met with.

After phone interviews, too?

YES! Any time you speak with someone who is evaluating you as a candidate or could influence your chances of being hired, thanking them is a polite and professional courtesy. This is a highly American custom, but can be critical to your success. Employers have indicated in general that only 20% of candidates follow up, so it definitely helps you stand out in a positive way.

What should it look like?

Rather than re-inventing the wheel here, I encourage you to check out the following articles that are also posted on our Pinterest page:

Phone Interview Template

Multiple Thank You Templates

Anything else I should know?

As I mentioned in this September 14th post, it is important to continue following up periodically over the weeks and months after the interview. If you haven’t already followed up with the folks you met at the Fall Career Expo and other recruiting events in September, now would be a good time to check in with them.

Do you have any success stories that relate to sending thank you notes and/or following up after an interview or recruiting event? Please share them in the comments below!

Nov 20

Leverage Your Grant Writing Skills in a Cover Letter

This week’s guest blog post comes from Hannah Babbini and the Graduate School Office of Grants and Fellowships.


When I work with graduate students on fellowship applications, I always try to impress that funding is not the only endgame. The skills developed through grantsmanship can be adapted to many opportunities, including live presentations, project management on the job, or other professional writing, such as cover letters. Those personal statements frequently attached to grants are in many ways analogous to the cover letter accompanying your CV or resume: both serve to convince your audience that you are the best person for this opportunity. In particular, there are six essential skills developed when writing a grant. Use these to your advantage in your cover letters!

The key to any successful grant or cover letter is persuasive writing.

  1. Start with More than the Minimum

Gather as much information as possible up front. Underline key points from the solicitation or job posting for easy reference. Investigate the organization’s website and other sources. What products, projects, or people are emphasized? How does your profile align? Consider contrasting competitors’ approaches.

Determine who will review your materials. Your readers are as diverse as the opportunities available; you may be writing for academic reviewers, government officials, or administrators. Adapt your writing for the intended audience every time.

When you write a grant, I will tell you to research previous essay examples or reach out to past winners. When a job is on the line, look to your network through LinkedIn or IrishCompass for additional insight.

  1. Manage Your Time; Manage Your Project

Project management is an in-demand skill, and when you write a major grant – even if you do not win – you demonstrate serious commitment and project management skills along the way. Planning ahead to balance deadlines, content development, reviewer feedback, and other duties is a skill you will use throughout your chosen career. Likewise, managing content and feedback from multiple sources like your collaborators, recommenders, or reviewers can be utilized time and time again. Make those comparisons clear in your cover letter. If your grant deliverable was ultimately successful, highlight that as well!

  1. Structure Your Content for an Overwhelmed Reader

Your first paragraph is crucial. In a grant, your first paragraph should establish context for your project and outline your approach – demonstrating relevance for this specific opportunity. Similarly, a cover letter should immediately verify that you are eligible for this job. Once those basics are established, you have more freedom to balance details about different criteria with your expertise and how each component is weighted.

  1. Be Specific!

Whether you are working on a dissertation fellowship or a competitive job application, assume the shortlist of candidates will meet the basic requirements. Show how you exceed those expectations using experiences that might not appear on a short resume. Compare these hypothetical examples about leadership:

The second version shows a lasting commitment, personal growth, organizational skills, teamwork, clear results, and dedication to public outreach. The job posting might not have explicitly asked for those things, so now you have an advantage.

  1. Proofread for More than Typos

Proofreading is not limited to grammar and spelling. Ensure that you are answering all questions – ideally in a compelling manner. If you submit a resume instead of a CV, compare your long CV to the cover letter. Did you leave anything out that supports this application?

Lastly, adhere to formatting guidelines. A grant application may be rejected during format review. If cover letter guidelines are not explicitly stated, limit yourself to one page, 1-inch margins, and 11- or 12-point font, along with your header and contact information. Academic cover letters may be longer.

  1. Analyze Feedback from Multiple Sources

Use your networking skills and take advantage of professionalization resources! In addition to online resources, get personalized feedback on your job materials by making an appointment with Graduate Career Services. Related campus resources include the Office of Grants and Fellowships, Writing Center, One Button Studio, LinkedIn groups, and department resume books.


Hannah Babbini is the Assistant Program Director in the Graduate School Office of Grants and Fellowships and ND graduate alumna. She has helped hundreds of ND graduate students develop successful funding proposals and increase their competitiveness. Reach her at hannah.babbini@nd.edu.

Nov 02

Your Research Matters

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


I want our graduate students to know that Your Research Matters.

This is not a generic slogan.

This is the Graduate School remix of an old Notre Dame classic. Perhaps the Notre Dame classic.

I am referring to Father Sorin’s legendary claim that Notre Dame will be a force for good in the world.

Or, as he put it, in a letter to Blessed Basil Moreau on December 5, 1842: “This college will be one of the most powerful means of doing good in this country…”

Father Sorin had just arrived in South Bend when he wrote these words. He was confronting one of South Bend’s coldest winters for the first time. He was twenty-eight years old.

I am moved by Father Sorin’s words—by their zeal, and by their conviction. They’re powerful. And they’re consistent with the types of scholars that the Notre Dame Graduate School attracts.

We draw scholars who are different. Scholars who are passionate. Scholars who truly want to be forces for good in the world. And scholars who approach their research with the perspective that their research matters.

Because it does.

For me, this concept captures the essence of what makes graduate training at Notre Dame different. It’s what’s so unique about being a graduate student in this place.

My job, from an administrative standpoint, is to marshal our resources so that the graduate students can extend their research into the world beyond Notre Dame as effectively as possible.

This includes promoting an outstanding Office of Professional Development, and supporting the four spires our Professional Development office advances: Research, Teaching, Ethics, and Career.

The Career spire is sustained by the Office of Graduate Career Services. In concert with the other three Professional Development spires, this office can serve as a key launchpad from which graduate students introduce their impactful research into the world.

Whether a student is in the internship phase, seeking a career in a top corporation, or pursuing an academic role, Grad Career Services is an indispensable resource.

Consider one of our students who knows this first-hand. Last summer, Yushan Zhang, from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was one of eight Notre Dame students to complete an internship with IBM Research.

From a lab in Dublin, Ireland, Yushan applied machine learning to forecast wave conditions. Her team ultimately developed a deep learning framework that can predict wave conditions 12,000% faster than current models can—with dramatic reductions in computational expense, and comparable levels of accuracy.

Yushan credits Grad Career Services with helping her score the internship, and make the most of the opportunity once on-site. She utilized the office’s 1:1 consultation resource, meeting several times with a highly-specialized Career Consultant to polish her resume and discuss interview preparation strategies.

After landing the internship, she attended a meeting led by the Director of Grad Career Services to gain practical wisdom for professional conduct, networking, and more. “I definitely referred to my handout sheet and notes [from the meeting] multiple times during my internship to refresh my mind and motivate myself,” she says.

Yushan’s research is a force for good in the world. Her research matters. It will help meteorology professionals provide accurate information, and marine industries maintain safe conditions. Therefore it is important to us that Yushan position her research from a vantage point with reputation and reach.

The Graduate Career Services Office empowers Yushan to do just that.

For information about the other spires of professional development, please visit the Professional Development homepage, or the pages associated with each spire: Research, Teaching, Ethics, and of course, Career.

Older posts «

» Newer posts