Jun 15

Skills and Squirrels

(Source: Flickr)

Last week I saw a squirrel hanging upside down on the side of a tree trunk, using just its hind legs, while eating a nut with its front paws. Could you do that? Probably not, because you are not a squirrel. But as I alluded to in the June 1st post “Be Confident,” you have many other skills and abilities by virtue of your graduate training and experiences.

If you break down your research into its components, regardless of your field, you have developed the ability to collect, interpret, analyze, and report information. The information looks different for each discipline, and the specific processes, tools, and techniques you apply look different, but the concept is the same. You can then apply the concept of “research” within the various careers you might pursue.

The amount of writing you have done during grad school will depend on your program, but no one gets through without honing their writing skills. Written communication is essential for every career path, and graduate school allows you to be confident that your writing experience is valuable.

Project Management
Whether it was for your dissertation, thesis, or smaller projects during your coursework, graduate school requires the completion of projects. And projects require the ability to do long-term planning as well as to overcome the inevitable short-term problems that arise along the way. Employers love when you can manage your projects independently, and that is not always possible right out of an undergrad program.

Public Speaking
I didn’t develop a comfort level with public speaking until I completed my own graduate program. Through teaching, class presentations, the Three Minute Thesis competition, conference presentations, symposia, workshops, and other opportunities, graduate students receive plenty of chances to hone their skills speaking in front of small to large groups.

One of the best parts? All of these skills are consistently among those listed as most important by employers.

What other skills have you developed during graduate school that you think are valuable for your future career? Leave them in the comments.

Need help turning your skills into a career strategy? We can help. gradcareers@nd.edu

Jun 01

Be Confident

Confidence is a funny thing. And so is déjà vu. As I was walking through the 2nd floor rotunda of the Main Building recently, I was struck by a déjà vu feeling about walking that same path during my first few days in this position. It was an odd sort of feeling, though, because my current strides were filled with confidence, whereas “new-hire Erik” had slinked along with trepidation, anxiety, and a little confusion about which staircase to take or where to find the elevator.

Obviously something had changed. But what makes us confident? Experience, mainly. But also knowledge, skills, and a belief in oneself. Also power poses, but I’ll come back to those. My confidence now stems from the belief that I belong here. The first few days of a new job are filled with imposter syndrome, because you don’t know what situation you are walking into. However, with 9 years of professional experience to draw from, I should have realized that my knowledge and skills were relevant and valuable.

My advice to our readers based on this realization: your time in graduate school has given you the knowledge and skills to be successful in whatever role you take on. If you are starting a new job or internship this month or later this summer, I want you to stride through the halls of your new organization with the confidence that you have been there before. I will talk more about your skills in the upcoming June 15th post, but suffice to say: you can do it! And if you are conducting research this summer, participating in some other initiative, or still interviewing for new positions, know that you belong there.

As for power poses? Well they’re a great way to add a boost of confidence when you’re not feeling it on your own. Had I held a power pose for two minutes prior to walking the rotunda those first few days, perhaps my recent déjà vu feeling wouldn’t have been so odd. For more information on Amy Cuddy’s research into power poses, view her Ted Talk here: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are

What advice do you have for boosting your confidence when beginning a new job or taking on a new initiative? Tell us about it in the comments.

May 18

New Beginnings: Advice for transitioning from grad school to career


With commencement taking place this weekend, I can’t help but think of the transition that will take place for grad students who have completed their programs. Particularly for those students receiving terminal degrees, there likely will not be further formal education in your future, and a new set of habits and behaviors will be necessary for success beyond the Golden Dome.

TheMuse recently published a list of 43 simple habits that can improve your life, even if you only did a few of them. Since that list is geared toward life in general, I thought I would spin some of the non-work ones as they could relate to improving your work life more specifically. Reference the original list for context as you explore these opportunities to grow as a professional and colleague.

1. Do the Gratitude Snooze

If you are incorporating this habit in your daily life, I suggest including the following on your list of things to be grateful for: your new degree, your time at Notre Dame, your advisor’s time and support, other mentors who helped you here, your next opportunity (even if you don’t know what it is yet), your future colleagues, the opportunity to learn and grow in new or different ways, etc.

4. Meditate

Whether you are still applying for jobs or preparing to start your new career, meditation can provide focus, clarity, and renewed mental energy for tackling any aspect of career development. Feeling stuck customizing a cover letter? Hit a wall in arranging informational interviews? Need motivation to read the training manual for your new position? Give meditation a try.

7. Eat Mindfully

When starting a new career, it can be tempting to work through lunch in order to accomplish everything that needs to get done. However, take some time to step away from your desk, if possible, and eat mindfully. You can avoid indigestion and overeating, and might connect better with your new colleagues.

8. Breathe Deeply

Breathing exercises are helpful no matter what is stressing you out, but the job search and transitioning to a new career involve many stressors that can benefit from three seconds in, hold for one, and exhale for five.

17. Put Yourself in “Monk Mode”

I have started to do this myself where I close my e-mail tab for a period of time while focusing on a project. Engaging in deep concentration on a task can lead to more productivity for me.

19. Stand Up

As you may have seen, I sprained my neck back in April. My chiropractor compared the negative health effects of sitting at my desk all day to those of smoking (figuratively), and encouraged me to take breaks from sitting every 30 minutes.

20. Strike a [Power] Pose

I have long advocated for the benefits of power poses on interview success. Before entering an interview (not during the interview), hold postures that are expansive, such as arms out wide or on your hips while puffing your chest out. This can reduce interview anxiety and increase interview success. Try it to calm your nerves before giving a job talk or a big presentation at your new job.

23. Practice Being Charismatic

When starting a new job (or interviewing for one), it is important to connect with your colleagues or hiring committee. People connect more easily with individuals they enjoy speaking to and being around.

24. Listen

Get to know the environment and your co-workers before asserting your own ideas. It will give you credibility, and the information you learn while listening will help you pitch your ideas more effectively.

31. Put Your Phone Away

This should go without saying, but don’t bring your phone to group and one-on-one meetings. Even if others are using their phones, maintain your level of professionalism at all times.

33. Set Up Your Own “Smile Therapy”

For those moments when you feel overwhelmed by the search or at your new job, forcing yourself to smile can tangibly affect your mood and boost your confidence.

38. Help Someone

This is important at work, but also offers to reframe the networking process. When attending a networking event, don’t look for people who can help you achieve your goals. Instead, try to identify opportunities to help others achieve their goals. In return, they will gratefully try to help you achieve yours.

40. Create a “Jar of Awesome”

Whenever someone sends me an e-mail complimenting my work or expressing their sincere appreciation for my efforts, I save it in my “kudos” folder. I know a colleague who keeps a “smile file.” Reviewing these e-mails and notes comes in handy when I need a boost of confidence or morale.

43. Practice Self-Compassion

Slogging through the job search is hard, as is transitioning to a new role and identity. Give yourself a break, and don’t feel guilty about not reaching every goal. Do the best you can, and know that we are here to help along the way.


Do you have other habits that have helped you become #IrishReady for success? Add them in the comments, tweet them to us @ndgradcareers, or post them on our Facebook page.

May 04

Listology for Graduate Students

[This guest blog post comes from fellow Graduate Career Consultant, Cindi Fuja]

I love making lists. Strike that. I love crossing things off my lists. Whether it’s my shopping list, keeping track of how much water I’ve managed to down, or simply working on my daily calendar–I get a feeling of forward motion; of control, of staying on track when I’ve done some thoughtful planning of what tasks I need to accomplish.

Fellow list maker, Moorea Seal has recently published an entire book, The 52 List Project, to inspire her followers to keep lists as inspiration for personal journaling. The Muse re-posted from a professional perspective. I loved the idea immediately–and since I’m in the business of graduate career consulting, my brain started thinking about how that concept could be modified to reveal workable career strategies. And the more I thought about it, the more ideas I developed.

Let’s join forces in a Career List Project for the coming year! You’ll learn more about yourself; you’ll explore various career trajectories, and you’ll develop a personal career strategy along the way. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

For job seekers

  1. List 3-5 Industries To Learn More About This Summer
  2. List 20 Companies (or Organizations or Universities) that You’d Like to Work For
  3. List the 10 Accomplishments You’re the Most Proud Of
  4. List 7 Things that You Do Better Than Most People
  5. List What You Most Admire About Your Advisor

For upcoming graduates (and alumni) who have accepted employment

  1. List 5-8 People at Your New or Current Organization You Will Have Coffee With This Summer
  2. List 5 Ways You Will Act Differently as a Professional Colleague Than as a Student
  3. List 7 People Who Helped You Achieve Your Goals (and Then Thank Them)
  4. List 5-10 Special Graduate School Colleagues or Classmates to Remain Connected With
  5. Pick a “For job seekers” list above and begin plotting the next step in your career

For everyone

  1. List 25 of Your Favorite Inspirational Quotes
  2. List 12 Things that Motivate You
  3. List the Next 10 Books You Want to Read
  4. List 5 People You Want to Build A Professional Relationship With This Summer
  5. List 6 Current Events (Political or Otherwise) You Will Follow To Stay Informed

Feel free to suggest more lists in the comments below.

I am challenging each one of you to post one of YOUR summer career lists on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #IrishReady and keep us updated as to your progress (e.g. what topics you chose, what worked for you, what didn’t work for you, what you’ve already crossed off). Current ND grad students (and grad alumni) from Engineering, Science, and Arts & Letters: I’ll be treating my favorite five posters to a copy of Moorea Seal’s “The 52 Lists Project”! Ready? Go…!

Apr 20

Trust the Process

Last week during a physical activity, I sprained my neck. I’ll be fine, but I needed to visit the chiropractor and physical therapist. Hoping that the combination of treatments would magically lift away the pain and stiffness, I was dismayed to leave the first appointment without noticing significant improvement. Same for the second appointment. I’m scheduled for five more. While I’m not seeing results right away, I need to trust the process, knowing that the prescribed course of treatment will help achieve my goals for recovery.

Can you guess where I’m going with this? There is a direct connection to the job search and career development process.

Early stage (Engage): One of the first steps in the process is learning about your unique set of skills, interests, and motivations. We have assessments for that. Over time, you must then begin to build your network and cultivate your professional presence. Informational interviews can help you explore career paths and discover nuanced insights that lead to success. During this stage, there are no quick results, but trust the process.

Middle stage (Develop): Writing application documents, such as resumes, CVs, or cover letters, is often an iterative process that begins with a first draft, continues through initial revisions, and ends with customized versions for each application. Building interview skills does not happen overnight, either. It involves reflection to develop sufficiently detailed and viable stories you can share, and one or more mock interviews for practice. Trust the process and your applications will be successful.

Late stage (Empower): Receiving a job offer is often seen by applicants as the end of the cycle, but indeed it begins the negotiation period as well as the transition from graduate student to professional colleague. The transition can be difficult as you adjust to new routines and locations, make new friends and colleagues, and tackle projects that stretch your skillset. Don’t view the final stages of the job search as the culmination of your efforts, but as an ongoing experience where you continue to grow as an individual, professional, researcher, and scholar. It takes time, but trust the process.

Our current culture of instant gratification limits our patience for awaiting results, but if we trust the process we can be confident success will come our way. Where are you in your job search process? How have you seen your trust pay off in other areas? Please don’t hesitate to contact us for help along the way.

Apr 06

Job Offers and Negotiations

Congratulations, you’ve received a job offer! But now what? Is the salary competitive? Do any benefits seem to be missing? Should you try to negotiate? The answers to these questions do not come naturally to most people, and graduate students often lack experience interpreting the terms of a job offer and recognizing the strength of a benefits package. Fortunately, Graduate Career Services is here to help, and a number of students have stopped by the last two weeks to review their offers and develop a strategy for following up and/or negotiating. We also have resources on our website to help get you started.

From the moment you receive a job offer, there are generally three stages until you accept or decline it:

  1. Understand the terms of the offer. For many graduate students, this may be the first professional job offer you have received. Therefore, you may not be familiar with what is typically included. In addition to the starting salary, offers can involve items like a signing bonus, relocation assistance, profit sharing, and performance bonuses, as well as fringe benefits including insurance (medical, dental, vision, disability, life, etc.), retirement savings (401k), tuition assistance, vacation, holidays, mileage reimbursement, memberships in professional organizations, professional development funds, gym memberships, and more. Academic offers may also include lab start-up funding, technology, graduate student support, travel for research, and more. Do you know what “vesting” is? Do you know the difference between co-payments and co-insurance? We can help you understand what is actually included in the offer and what items you might need the employer to clarify.
  2. Determine your market value and evaluate the strength of the compensation package. In most cases, you will have already used tools like Glassdoor to figure out your salary expectations during the interview process or even submitted them on the initial application. However, now that you have received an offer, you will need to determine if it aligns with those expectations, especially in light of the “total compensation” being offered. The total compensation includes all of the benefits mentioned above. When evaluating the strength of the package, take into account the costs associated with healthcare premiums, for example, as well as how much the employer will contribute to your retirement and how long you have to wait before they start matching. Lower insurance costs or a greater retirement contribution will yield a larger net income in the long run, and might mitigate the negative effects of a lower annual salary. We can help you evaluate the strength of the benefits to determine your total compensation and compare it with your expected market value.
  3. Negotiate. The stage that gives most people (not just graduate students) the greatest amount of anxiety is the negotiation process. Should you ask for more money? Will the employer rescind the offer if you do? Aren’t you just being greedy? The answers all depend on the offer itself and the way you present the counter-offer or request. It is important to be gracious and professional throughout the process. We provide many resources and tips for negotiating on this page of our website as well as through this board on our Pinterest page.

GCS can help you become #IrishReady for every step of this process. Contact us at gradcareers@nd.edu to review your offer, evaluate its strengths and deficiencies, and plan a negotiation strategy. In the meantime, please share your favorite tips and resources in the comments section below.

Mar 23

Why Get a Professional Headshot?

Graduate Career Services and the Graduate School are once again offering FREE professional headshots on Tuesday, March 28th, 9am-1pm, at the north entrance of Jordan Hall of Science. No appointment required, and we encourage you to dress for success in professional attire. To kick off this opportunity, check out this guest blog post by GCS Career Consultant Lisa Michaels

Note: A version of this post first appeared on OMG Photography.


As a consultant in the Graduate Career Services office at the University of Notre Dame, I’m often asked about what an individual can do to stay competitive in today’s job market.  My answer is quite simple:  Give yourself an edge.

One way to do that is by creating a professional brand—and that includes your visual image.  A headshot says something about you—whether or not it was taken by a professional photographer.  Your brand is continually reinforced by what people see, hear and read.  In today’s world of social media, you can’t afford NOT to use every advantage available.  A professional photographer understands the nuances of lighting, posing and editing giving you an immediate competitive edge—and one that has a proven return on investment.  Here’s why:


  • People want to put a face with a name. Your headshot should encourage people to want to reach out to you.

Headshot male B

  • When an employer looks at your profile, he/she is not only looking at education and experience, but they are also looking at who you are and how you portray yourself. They want to make sure that you are serious about professional quality and digital communications  And if you don’t care about our own professional image, then why should a potential employer think that you will use any higher standards for their organizational image?

Headshot female A

  • Students need to be perceived as COLLEAGUES and specialists–and not as STUDENTS–as they enter the professional world; a professional headshot accomplishes the goal. How do you want to be seen? Do you want employers to see you as a real professional with high standards, or are you satisfied with showing them your ‘selfie mug-shot’?!

Headshot male C

  • A good headshot will promote greater trust, interest and authenticity in your brand. When you consider that a LinkedIn profile with a professional headshot is 7x more likely to be viewed than those without, you begin to understand the importance of that first impression.

Headshot female D

  • A professional photo is one of the most powerful aspects of your personal brand. It’s a visual representation of your readiness to add immediate value to an organization.  While some undergraduate students may be able to “get by” with a cell phone selfie, it is social media suicide for a serious professional.

Headshot male A

  • A professional photographer has a trained artistic eye for posing their subjects in order to achieve the best image—you don’t. Knowing what lighting looks best for a certain skin tone or face shape makes all the difference in the final product.

Headshot female C

  • Our general advice, when it comes to LinkedIn and other social media platforms, is to get a headshot taken by a professional photographer. It conveys a level of confidence and sends the message that you’ve INVESTED in yourself because you know you’re worth it.

Headshot male D

  • Employers want know the face behind the name. They want to hire people they trust; you need to make sure that you look like someone they want to interview, work and represent them in the world at large.

Headshot female B

Bottom line?  Don’t underestimate the importance of a professional headshot.  You want a picture to match your brand, keep your image consistent, engaging, but more importantly professional.  Hiring a professional photographer will ensure that your headshot enhances rather than devalues your brand.


Want to know more about how a headshot can enhance your professional reputation? Check out this article.

Leave us a comment about how you plan to use your headshot. We hope to see you on the 28th!

Mar 09

Turn Spring Break Into Your Lucky Break

Spring Break is next week, and while many undergrads will be traveling to faraway lands of sunshine and sand, the graduate students who are taking or teaching classes will enjoy having additional time to focus on other initiatives. In fact, next week can be one of the most productive job search opportunities, even if it’s structurally no different from any other week this semester. At this midpoint between January and May, take advantage of the chance to energize your job search by stepping away from your normal routines. We recommend a combination of the following in order to become #IrishReady.

  • Informational Interviews. Set them up now for next week. Reconnect with old colleagues, or meet with someone new to learn about their current career. While you should “always be networking (ABN)” every day anyway, use Spring Break to be inspired by these conversations. Can you set a goal to have two cups of coffee next week, one with someone new and one with someone from your past or present?
  • Spring clean your social media. If you are currently or soon to be on the job market, use Spring Break to review your social media profiles. Clean up any outdated information and remove anything that would convey an unprofessional or unfavorable image of yourself. Employers will check these platforms to learn about their interview candidates, do you really want those old party pictures from college influencing your current aspirations? Finally, if you haven’t already done so, start developing your LinkedIn profile. It’s the best overall platform for cultivating an online reputation as a professional and scholar.
  • Conduct career research. Use sites like VersatilePhD and the many others linked on our list of online Career Resources. Online research can be done at your convenience, and Spring Break offers additional time and convenience. Learn about the skills and backgrounds sought by employers in different sectors, gain insights into recommended ways to promote those skills on application documents, and discover growth industries that you can target for efficiency and success.
  • Ramp up your writing. While it is likely too late to register for next week’s Dissertation Boot Camp, Spring Break does offer the chance to renew your focus on finishing that chapter or turning last semester’s conference paper into a published article. Make it your goal to submit something by next Friday.
  • Attend local events. Staying in South Bend over Spring Break? Get out into the community and make connections that could help with #1 above. One such event is a lunch with Mayor Pete Buttigieg, hosted by the South Bend Young Professionals Network. YPN is the premier young professionals group in the region, providing professional development and networking opportunities for 21-39 year olds. If the busy schedule of the semester usually prevents you from getting involved, take advantage of break and check it out. Early bird registration discount ends March 11th.

Whether Spring Break is a chance for you to put your classes aside or simply a week like any other, these five activities can help you be #IrishReady in your job search. What are other ways you plan to turn Spring Break into your lucky break?


Feb 23

Always Stay Ready

One of our keynote speakers at the National Career Development Day campus conference was Gabrielle Edwards from The Infinity, LLC. Gabrielle has over 18 years of experience in human resources and employee relations. In addition to offering comments and relevant advice on career development from her professional career and experience, she passed along some wisdom from her family.

“Always stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.”

This is not about getting dressed and brushing your teeth in the morning. It is a state of mind related to career readiness and preparation so you can take advantage of opportunities that come your way. It allows you to stay nimble in your career and avoid delays when unforeseen events occur (both positive and negative).

Here are some things you can do to stay ready:

  • Keep your resume and CV updated. If you have a great conversation with someone who wants to forward your resume to a colleague who is seeking someone with your area of specialty, you want the ability to send it right away without having to spend hours creating or updating it.
  • Build your network on LinkedIn. The standard recommendation for number of contacts on LinkedIn is to start with ten times your age. Having a robust network on LinkedIn can grow your opportunities exponentially, and there are plenty of success stories for the power of LinkedIn. In addition to my own personal success story, an ND graduate student was recently recruited by Amazon through LinkedIn due to her foreign language proficiencies listed on her profile.
  • Have a mentor. No one needs to pursue career success on their own. In addition to the assistance provided by your advisor and Graduate Career Services, seek out a mentor, confidant, sounding board, or supporter who will tell you the truth about your skills and value, help you learn from your past experiences, and use insights from their past experiences to help you navigate future situations.
  • Continually develop new skills. You have many skills. Anyone pursuing a graduate degree will develop and apply skills that are both related to their specific field and also transferable to any position. By continually adding to your skillset you will be ready to take on new opportunities and grow your career over time. Want to find a competitive advantage on the job market? Find experiences that will give you these increasingly important skillsets.
  • Attend Professional Development workshops. The graduate school offers professional development workshops throughout the school year to help you develop competencies related to research, teaching, your career, and ethics. Find one that fits your needs here.

A DGS recently identified a secret to success: students should have options “in mind and in motion.” It takes time to build your network, develop strong application documents, learn about interesting career pathways, and launch a career. Graduate Career Services helps you be #IrishReady for success. What are some of the ways you “always stay ready”?

Feb 09

Graduate Career Services: A Student Perspective

Periodically, we will have guest blog posts to provide different and unique perspectives. Today, first-year English PhD student, Trish Bredar, describes her experience meeting with a Graduate Career Consultant.


Graduate Career Services: A Student Perspective

By Trish Bredar

It’s never too early to meet with a Graduate Career Consultant. As a first-year doctoral student, I’m years away from entering the job market and tend to focus on more immediate concerns: seminar papers, comprehensive exams, publishing, etc. Nevertheless, that future career search is always in the back of my mind. Like most PhD students, my goal is to secure a tenure track position at a university. And, like many PhDs, I’m also aware that the job market looks pretty grim. So even though I have a nice four-year cushion, I believe it’s important to keep my options open as I plan and prepare for my future career.

That’s where Graduate Career Services comes in. Even at the earliest, exploratory stages of career planning, their consultants can provide resources and services to help you on your way. I walked into my first appointment with only a vague idea of what I wanted to talk about and I walked out with a new set of resources and a few action-oriented goals for my first year. Based on my experience, I’ve compiled a brief rundown of some topics you might cover in an initial GCS visit:

  • Career-assessments: If you’re not quite sure what your ideal career looks like, or if you want to explore a few career alternatives, GCS has both formal and informal assessments to help you hone in on the industries, positions, and work environments best suited to your values, interests, and skills.
  • Web presence: Learn how to cultivate your professional identity online and get the most out of networking sites like LinkedIn. Building your network is a gradual process with a small time commitment, so it’s a perfect project to work on over the course of your graduate career.
  • Resume and CV review: This is another task that you shouldn’t leave until the last minute. Have a professional look over your materials; they can help you revise your current documents and provide tips for keeping your resume and CV streamlined and up-to-date as you add new experience.

Of course, these are just a few starting points. Your needs will be different depending on your program and your unique career path. Take the time to sit down with a graduate career consultant and discover the GCS resources that make sense for you. Get started by e-mailing gradcareers@nd.edu

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