Thursday, August 16, 2018

PhD Defenses around the world: a defense from the University of Charleston

Today, Dr. Philip Shields shares his experience of the PhD defense. Dr. Shields is a scholar-practitioner in the field of Executive Leadership. He currently works as a manager for a General Electric Company and as an Adjunct Professor at two universities. His undergraduate degree was in Chemistry and he holds a Master's degree in Management with a focus in Integrated Logistics. His passions include faith, family, flying, friends, and bridging the gap between public and private organizations so that both may benefit through strategic alliances.

May 16th is a day that I remember fondly and with pride, but like most highly anticipated events it was not quite what I expected. Three and 1/2 years of preparation and hundreds of hours of research/writing on my topic prepared me for the technical aspect of this day, but the psychological component of the day was a different story. Preparation quieted most of my fear of failure, but the prominent question in my mind that day was "am I good enough to be at this level...a Doctor?"

My program was designed for full-time professionals in leadership positions, so that they could also be full-time students. The Cohort model used was designed for the scholar-practitioner, and worked well for me. The University of Charleston, nestled in the hills of West Virginia, designed this program around the findings of a study by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Structure, learning outcomes, and course design were all developed to meet the changing environment of doctoral education. I truly enjoyed my doctorate studies more than any other academic venture in my past, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed instructing at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

After I completed my course work and my program's comps equivalent, I asked one of my mentors at the University to be my dissertation chair. This turned out to be an excellent decision that helped me to complete my dissertation according to my timeline. He and I communicated regularly and we did multiple edits prior to the remainder of the committee seeing each chapter. This relationship gave me confidence as I submitted my dissertation proposal and my final dissertation defense.

Three weeks prior to my formal defense my chair had me defend my dissertation to my committee (no guest were present for this session). It was more intense than the formal defense, lasted three hours, and lead to several small revisions that I made prior to my formal defense. I am very grateful for that exercise because it gave me confidence in my ability to defend my research, especially as the formal defense would be in front of a much larger audience.

I felt prepared and confident, but it is somewhat unsettling when your boss' boss is in the audience and mentors from your academic and professional life are grading your responses. According to my university's defense format, your committee asks the first rounds of questions, and then anyone in the audience is allowed to ask questions. The audience consisted of my immediate family (parents, brother, in-laws), boss' boss, a couple of friends in academia, half of the students in the doctorate program (some from my cohort and many from newer cohorts), and faculty and staff of my university. This large of a group was possible because the defense was broadcast live via WebEx.

My chair and I rehearsed my dissertation's defense PowerPoint a couple of times and adjusted my slides so that my presentation would last forty to forty-five minutes. I practiced presenting my defense with my wife (a Doctor of Physical Therapy) and my older brother (a M.D. and PhD that practices medicine and conducts research), and several other times speaking out-loud by myself. Even with all of the practice and edits the nagging questions of "is my dissertation good enough?" and "am I scholarly enough to join the academic ranks as a Doctor?" remained.

On the evening of May 16th, 2017 I signed on to the WebEx meeting, briefly said hello to my committee, pulled up the slides for my presentation, and waited as more than fifty people joined the meeting. After my chair introduced himself, my committee, and me to the audience, I began. I would be lying if I said that I was not nervous, but just as some of my peers had said, once you get started you forget about your nerves because you are speaking about the topic that you have lived with for the last couple of years. Forty-two minutes passed like it was only five minutes and then the question began. To my surprise I enjoyed fielding each question and hearing reflection about my topic from the committee, and from the audience. An hour and forty-five minutes after I started my defense everything was concluded by my chair when he thanked everyone for supporting me through the journey and for joining in the defense process. He asked everyone to leave the meeting and told me that after the committee discussed the defense they would contact me. About thirty minutes later I received a call from my chair that opened with "Dr. Shields, good job on your defense..."

As with most dissertation defenses, thesis, etc., the committee wanted a few final tweaks to be made prior to signing their names to it. I took the remainder of May to make the corrections and have my editor take one last look at the document. The completed dissertation was submitted prior to June and then a slight depression came over me. I had been warned about this happening, but I did not think that it would actually happen to me. I am a generally happy person and know that I am very blessed, but the realization that a four-year relationship had ended hit me harder than I expected. "What do I do with all of the free time?" and "Why do I feel guilty about not researching, studying, or writing?"

It took me about a month to get over it as I began helping my peers complete their dissertations. I am the peer member on three committees and help several others from my program as they push forward to the finish line. After more than a year I am comfortable with "Dr. Shields" and remember the doctoral journey with fondness. As I continue to help grad students finish their dissertation/thesis my reflections lead me to the same conclusion, I would do it all over again.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

I am Tammy Evans Yonce, and This is How I Work

Today, I am inviting Dr. Tammy Evans Yonce. Dr. Yonce, an Atlanta native, is a flutist, collaborative musician, writer, and professor. She is a dedicated new music performer who is particularly interested in the commissioning and teaching of new music. Dr. Yonce has commissioned over a dozen works involving flute, many with a specific focus on creating new music for the Glissando Headjoint. Dr. Yonce is Assistant Professor of Music at South Dakota State University, where she teaches applied flute, woodwind pedagogy, and courses in musicology. She recently designed and taught an interdisciplinary Honors colloquium, which explored music in connection with neurology, therapy, global studies, technology, politics, and the arts. A first-prize winner of the Atlanta Flute Club Young Artist Competition, she holds degrees in flute performance from Kennesaw State University (BM), Indiana University (MM), and the University of Georgia (DMA). Dr. Yonce can be found on Twitter @TammyEvansYonce and at her website:

Current Job
: Assistant Professor of Music, South Dakota State University
Current Location: Brookings, SD
Current mobile device: iPhone 8, iPad for scores
Current computer: MacBook Air

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
I’m an assistant professor of music. My teaching load consists of applied flute lessons, world music, early music history, woodwind pedagogy, music appreciation, an honors colloquium on interdisciplinary topics in music, and a continuing education course for music teachers. My research is better described as “creative activity,” which consists of me performing on campus and around the world. I primarily focus on the performance of new music and often work with composers on the commissioning of new music for flute. I also specialize in the Glissando Headjoint, which is a relatively new piece of equipment that allow for unusual, unexpected sounds on flute. Secondarily, I write on the topic of flute pedagogy.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
My flutes, tuner and metronome apps, Skype for meeting with people who are not local.

What does your workspace setup look like?
I have an office at the university where I teach, do admin work, and practice. I often work at the local coffee shop downtown for a change in my environment. When I’m performing, these events happen at different locations around the country and world. I’m currently working on an album, so my workplace also includes the Performing Arts Center here on campus where the recording is being done.

What is your best advice for productive academic work?
By setting lots of small goals that lead to the larger ones. I set 6-month goals, which helps me manage my day-to-day decisions. I’ve recently established longer-term goals and make sure that everything I do leads to those bigger goals. I feel like I’m still refining those long term goals.

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?

I use a white board in my office to keep a quick overview of a performance calendar. I also list big projects there but keep track of the smaller steps involved in those projects on separate lists. I also list potential collaborators there. The white board is just a quick at-a-glance reminder of what I have going on.

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?
I use a pedal and iPad to display my music scores. I also use tuners and metronomes, which are now apps on my phone. I also use MailChimp to manage my newsletter. My website ( provides a centrally-located description of my projects, which allows me to promote the music of the composers I work with and advertise performances of that music.

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?
The number of high-quality projects I’ve been able to produce in the past few years. I work fairly efficiently, even though there is definitely room to refine that skill. I’m also good at connecting music to other seemingly-unrelated subjects.

What do you listen to when you work?
Nothing. As a musician, I cannot concentrate on other tasks if I’m listening to music.

What are you currently reading? How do you find time for reading?

I just finished a book about Theodore Roosevelt’s time in the Dakota Territory, working as a ranch owner. I found it interesting because I live in that general area of the country. I’m in the middle of a book called The Israelis: Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land because I recently returned from a fellowship to Israel. I tend to read a few books at a time and generally focus on non-fiction. In terms of finding time, I set a reading goal each year and am fairly consistent about reading a little every day. This year I will read at least 35 books.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?

Introvert for sure. It works out really well when I need to practice because that is essentially a solitary activity. I do a lot of networking and communication online because I am geographically isolated; as an introvert, this also works well. I’m still able to make the fantastic connections but can do so on my own time instead of as a forced social interaction.

What's your sleep routine like?

I have very young twins, so my sleep schedule leaves much to be desired. On the days I teach early classes I probably get 6 hours of sleep at the most, with a couple of wake ups during the night. When I have a later class, I probably get 7 hours. I sleep as much as I can on the weekends. I look forward to healthier sleep as the babies grow a bit.

What's your work routine like?

Every day is different, which I enjoy. It keeps me energized. My teaching is generally done in the morning most days. Admin and service work seem to be crammed in wherever they fit. My practice schedule is somewhat different and depends on what performances I have scheduled. I prioritize those pieces of music usually by performance date but sometimes by difficulty if it’s a piece that I know will take longer than usual to learn. On a macro level, I usually give a recital tour in the fall and attend a variety of conferences in the spring and summer. Most of the summer is spent planning the next academic year in terms of performances and big projects. I also get some writing done in the summer.

What's the best advice you ever received?
Two things come to mind. One was to teach whatever classes I had the opportunity to teach as an adjunct, even if they didn’t line up exactly with what I had learned or taught before. This advice helped me develop the skills required to do my current full time job. (I have a DMA [Doctor of Musical Arts] in flute performance, but I teach much more than this.) The second piece of advice was to think big. Really, truly big. Plan projects on a large scale. Broaden your impact and scope.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

PhD Defenses around the world: a defense at Ohio State

Cindy Lee studied linguistics and microbial biology at UC Berkeley, where she researched genetic engineering in sorghum. She then did her PhD at The Ohio State University, where she researched DNA repair in the context of breast cancer, but she would have graduated much sooner if her dissertation focused on cake. Now, she works as a science writer and editor. You can find her Tweeting @geneandtonic and blogging at Genes and Tonic.

The ball was in the red zone, and the crowd was chanting, "DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!" Well, not quite. These are some ways my PhD defense differed from an American football game:
  • There was no whistle for time outs: When I wasn't in the lab, I was supposed to be thinking about my research. If I procrastinated by baking cheesecake or watching sports, then I probably wasn't trying hard enough to be a Real Scientist (hello, imposter syndrome). If I took a 20-minute nap, then I probably delayed my graduation by 20 years (there's always that fear). For the record, I took innumerous naps, ate copious amounts of baked goods, and cheered for my team when they won the national championship in the first college playoff. My PhD took six years.
  • There were no commentators: Some of the people who attended my defense were colleagues who could understand the experiments I did, while others joined for moral support. One friend brought her nine-year-old daughter, who made a few notes. They weren't watching on TV, listening to commentators explain the technicalities. So, at the beginning of my talk, I followed my advisor's guidance and told the story "so that grandma can understand."
  • There was no tackling: Most people in my program agreed that the candidacy exam (writing a project proposal, then presenting it to your faculty advisory committee) was harder than the defense. I would agree (though there is always that fear that something will go wrong). For my program, if your advisor and the committee agreed to let you schedule the defense, they had already heard about your project at yearly meetings and approved your dissertation, so they were most likely going to let you pass. The "hard hits" were more likely to happen during the candidacy exam than the dissertation defense.
Still, there were some similarities between my PhD defense and an American football game:
  • Hefty rule book: There were so many guidelines and forms--for my program, the graduate school, and the university. We typically counted backwards from the deadline to file the paperwork to graduate for a particular semester. I wanted to walk in the May commencement ceremony, so the last day to file was in April, and before I filed, I had to pass my defense. Counting backward from the defense, I had to give myself enough time to send my dissertation to my committee, receive their comments, make revisions, and get final approval. That meant I submitted my dissertation in March. That meant I called a committee meeting about half a year before to make sure my advisor and committee agreed that my project was ready for that timeline. Some of the paperwork and policies included formatting everything correctly (making sure all the references are in the right place and right style takes a lot of time!) and getting your dissertation to an external committee member. To make sure that the advisor and three committee members fairly assessed your qualifications, the graduate school would assign someone from a different department to attend your defense. Because I defended toward the end of the semester, external committee members were in high demand, and I didn't know who mine would be until the day before.
  • Coach and teammates: Ultimately, I was responsible for asking questions, designing experiments to answer those questions, analyzing my data, and telling the story. Throughout this process, it was immensely helpful to have guidance from my advisor, labmates, and classmates.
  • The crowd: Ok, so I scheduled my defense for a room that holds about 40 people, not a stadium that holds 100,000 (but that IS where we have commencement). Still, I knew that everyone in that room was there to support me. So, I tried to put on a good show. This included explaining how my research helped us understand the causes of breast cancer, making a few jokes, and putting up a picture of the day my advisor and I wore the same outfit. He's 6'6". I'm 5'3".
It's been almost three years since my PhD defense, and I still feel really lucky all the pieces came together--lining up a job that fulfilled two of my goals (seeing the world outside the US, working in science communication), finishing up experiments for a journal article right before I left, and hosting my grandparents (who flew to Ohio from Taiwan) and parents and brother (who flew in from California) for graduation/commencement. The PhD journey isn't always fun, and the road isn't always clear, but my family and friends helped me find my way.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

I am Alexandre Pinto, and This is How I Work

Today, I am interviewing Dr. Alexandre H. Pinto. Alex Pinto is currently a Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow and Faculty Member at Ithaca College (Ithaca, NY), where he leads the group for Green Chemical Synthesis of Nanomaterials. Alex was born and raised in Brazil, where he took his undergraduate degree in Chemistry and Master’s degree in Physical Chemistry, both at Universidade Federal de Sao Carlos (UFSCar), advised by Prof. Emerson R. Camargo. After that, Alex moved to USA, where he took his PhD in Chemistry at University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, advised by Prof. R Lee Penn, working on the synthesis of transition metal chalcogenides using microwave assisted reactions. Throughout his career, Alex has worked with the solution chemistry synthesis of transition metal oxides, selenides, and sulfides, and characterization by different techniques, such as X-ray diffraction (XRD), Raman and Infrared Spectroscopies, Scanning and Transmission Electron Microscopy. Since joining Ithaca College, Alex has worked on the application of Green and Materials Chemistry concepts to solve environmental problems, such as remediation of wastewater contaminated by organic pollutants via photocatalysis and solid-liquid adsorption, and development of transition metal oxides for less expensive catalysis of organic reactions.

Current Job: The title of my current position is Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow and Faculty Member, it is a position suited to provide teaching and research advisory experience in an undergraduate institution for recent PhD graduates aiming to pursue a career in undergraduate institutions.
Current Location: I am currently working in the Department of Chemistry at Ithaca College, which is located in the city of Ithaca, in the central part of the New York State.
Current Mobile Device: I own a LG Stylo phone with Android System, I have owned this cell phone since October 2015.
Current Computer: My current computer is a Toshiba Satellite, with an Intel Core I3 processor, 4 GB of RAM memory, and 500 GB hard drive and a Windows 10 operational system. This computer has been with me since Summer 2013. Sometimes it is a little bit slow, mainly when a new update of Microsoft Office or Windows is about to be released, but in overall, it has been fully functional.

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
As previously told, I am currently a Faculty Member at Ithaca College, where I teach generally three courses per semester. Generally, it is a lecture course and two lab courses per semester. Besides that, I manage a research group with undergraduate students. The goal of our research group is to synthesize nanomaterials using more sustainable, less toxic and harmful methods, which complies with a branch of chemistry called Green Chemistry. Then, we use these materials to solve some environmental problems, for instance, wastewater remediation. Talking more in depth, we are interested to study how textile dyes present in simulated wastewater interact with nanomaterials. Currently, we are working with two classes of materials, one of them is the polymer chitosan, which is produced from a material called chitin, found in skeleton of sea animals like crab and shrimp. The second material is the graphene oxide, which is a twodimensional material, very thin and with high surface area, mostly constituted by carbon. Besides our research in nanomaterials and Green Chemistry, we are also starting to do some research in Chemical Education, we are about to submit a paper about this topic, regarding the development and implementation of a course about characterization techniques for solid state materials.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
Besides the regular Microsoft Office package, there are three softwares that I consider essential to perform my job. The first one is called Origin 2017, it is a graphical software, which allows to plot graphs with a publishable quality, and offers more features than Excel. Besides the capability to produce high quality graphs, Origin is essential for my work because it allows me to do curve and linear fitting, as a Materials Physical Chemist, those two features are very necessary to perform my data analysis. The other two essential softwares are used to image treatment, the interesting thing is that both of them are free softwares. One of them is called ImageJ, and the second one is called Gimp. I use ImageJ to adjust contrast, sharpness, and adjust scale bars for electron microscopy images, then, I move to Gimp to increase image resolution and do small adjustments. The great thing about ImageJ and Gimp is that both softwares are free.

What does your workspace setup look like?
The majority of the week I spend in my office at Ithaca College, preparing classes, reading papers, analyzing data and thinking about the next experiments, which you can see some pictures. Then the rest of the time is spent in the classroom, while I am teaching, and in the lab space, where I go few times per
week to perform some experiments by myself.

What is your best advice for productive academic work?
Be self-driven. Science is made of ideas, but ideas themselves do not translate in results. Most people who chose a scientific career, usually have a lot of ideas, either good or bad ones, but, in general, all of them are worthwhile. However, many ideas are never put in practice, and to put an idea in practice, I consider that the researcher needs to be self-driven, because there will be a lot of factors and people trying to demotivate you around this way. So, the researcher needs to find their inner strength, take the ownership of their idea, and do everything that is feasible to make it work.

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?
I do not have any sophisticated device for this purpose. I am still in the phase of my career that I rely a lot on my memory to remind me about appointments. One thing that I do routinely is to take a blank paper sheet when I first arrive in my office in the morning and write as bullet points all the tasks that I have to do for that day. Then, after I have completed a certain task, I cross that off the list. This simple action to cross the task of the list, although simple, gives kind of feeling of accomplishment.

About the research, I rely a lot on the lab notebook, and monthly or every other month, I gather the results obtained by the students or myself in a certain project and write a results outline, where I paste the graphs and briefly write how those results could be interpreted, and which are the remaining questions to be answered in order to make the project as close as possible to be a cohesive story, and hopefully become a paper manuscript. I feel these outlines very helpful when it is time to write a manuscript for a paper.

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?
No, I do not use any other technological tool besides laptop computer and cell phone in work and daily life. Also, by looking at how long I have owned my current laptop and cell phone, you might have noticed that I try to keep my devices for as long as they continue working. I am not the type of person interested to buy immediately the latest model of a computer or cell phone.

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?
I have always worked hard in my academic life, and one thing that I consider that essential is preparation. So, I always have tried to be prepared for when a possible opportunity could show up. Besides that, take the initiative and propose ideas that people probably would not expect from you. In a positive and humble way, I can say that I am proud to be on this point of my career so far. When I look back and see that I was the first person in all sides of my family to obtain a College education, and now I am teaching and researching in the USA, and having my work recognized is something that shows how far education, preparation and dedication led me in my life and career. I think this is one of the reasons I like teaching and academic life in general, because in the academy is where knowledge is seen as worthwhile. And that is the reason why I hope to continue researching, teaching and somehow trying
to be a good example to the student generations that will come.

What do you listen to when you work?
I am the type of person that prefers the complete silence while doing something that requires attention. If I have something to listen, like song or video, I totally lose the concentration. So, when I am seriously studying I do not listen anything.

What are you currently reading? How do you find time for reading?

In this moment, I am not reading any book outside the scientific field, unfortunately. However, this is a habit that I intend to retake in a foreseeable future.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?
For sure I am an introvert, in all fields of my life and relationships, but I see any professional activity as an opportunity to leave my introvert side away. Surprisingly, I have never felt uncomfortable talking to audiences, like classes or conferences, actually, I greatly appreciate talking in public. I think this one of reasons why I like teaching and give oral presentations, it seems that in those situations I am the extrovert person that I think I would like to be in all other fields of my life. In summary, I would say that being an introvert does not influence much in my working habits, despite influencing in most of the other fields in my life.

What is your sleeping routine like?
I sleep about 5 to 6 hours per night, generally from 11 PM to 5:30 or 6:00 AM.

What is your routine work like?
I arrive in my office right before 8 AM, this semester most of classes I teach are in the morning. They start at 8 AM or 11 AM. When the class starts 11 AM, I can work in my research activities for a while. The afternoon is filled with either by class preparation, paper reading, writing, and experiment planning. I generally leave my office around 6 PM. Until last semester, I used to go to my office and work during the weekends. For this semester, I have done the commitment with myself to avoid as much as possible going to the College in the weekends, to spend more time with my family. I am happy that so far, I have accomplished this goal.

What's the best advice you ever received?
This advice it was not given personally to me, but I heard it in a lecture more than 15 years ago, I was still in high-school that time, and to have heard this statement early in life made the difference in my professional career. The statement says: “Things like space, opportunity, and prestige will not be given to you. You have to conquest them.”

Thursday, August 2, 2018

PhD Talk for AcademicTransfer: Drawing your roadmap for life after the PhD

This post is part of the series PhD Talk for AcademicTransfer: posts written for the Dutch academic career network AcademicTransfer, your go-to resource for all research positions in the Netherlands.

These posts are sponsored by AcademicTransfer, and tailored to those of you interested in pursuing a research position in the Netherlands.

If these posts raise your interest in working as a researcher in the Netherlands, even better - and feel free to fire away any questions you might have on this topic!

A topic that we've discussed a number of times on this blog is "life after the PhD." We have discussed career options after the PhD, I've given advice on what a reader should do after the PhD, moving around the world for your career after the PhD, working as a scholar in the gulf region, the job interview, the benefit of your academic skills for future employers, how to frame your mind for a job after the PhD, how to find a job outside of academia, how to plan an academic career, and how to figure out which career path may be good for you.

Today, I am showing you a possible roadmap on how to prepare yourself for your career after your PhD. This roadmap is not set in stone, of course. It is a collection of ideas and questions to help you frame your mind. If early on during your PhD, you feel like you'd like to stay in academia, that doesn't mean that your decision is made and that you can't change your mind. Thinking about your next steps, and exploring options is a better way to prepare yourself than writing your thesis and then waiting for a job to magically be offered to you.

1,5 years into your PhD

It's never too early to start thinking about what you'd like to do after your PhD. After 1,5 years in your program, you probably have a good impression of what working in academia means, and what type of (strange?) beast the academic is. You don't have to decide on anything yet, but you can start thinking about your options after your PhD, and make some choices based on your interests. If you are interested in the industry, plan to attend career fairs in the future to learn about possible employers, and visit the exhibition hall at conferences.

When you start to think about your options, think about what would work for you and your family. Would it work for you and your family to move to the other side of the world for a post-doc position? Are you willing to move away from your home at all? Can you gamble on a short-term contract, perhaps with low pay, or does your family need your income? Consider your ideal conditions first.

If you find it difficult to answer these questions, then write for yourself what your ideal work looks like. Which tasks do you do? Do you travel? Do you commute? How does your ideal day look like? Do you want to work part-time perhaps to spend time with your kids in the afternoon? Define for yourself what you want, and start making it happen.

1,5 years before graduating

Now is a good time to start thinking more seriously about your plans for after your PhD. If you can't define a direction you want to focus on for after your PhD, see if you can get help from a career counselor. Most universities offer some sort of support for their students. If possible, get one-on-one coaching with a career counselor, or stop by to brainstorm with one of them or with a trusted person within HR, so that you can get the ideas from an outsider. If your university offers workshops around the topic of finding employment after the PhD, sign up to such a workshop or series of workshops.

Discuss with your supervisor and colleagues about your options. Catch up with recent graduates from your PhD program to learn from their experience. At conferences, talk to recent PhD graduates. If a conference is organized through a professional organization, they often have a career center (sometimes available as a booth at the conference) - visit them and learn from them.

1 year before graduating

Hopefully, you've been able to do some good thinking for yourself over the past few months, and have been able to exchange ideas with HR professionals as well as with recent PhD graduates in your field. If you've identified for yourself which career paths call your attention, start to work more actively towards getting a job.

Don't just scroll through job openings online. Mention to your friends and colleagues that you will be graduating soon, and that you are exploring options. If you are looking for an opportunity in a certain sector, see if you can meet with an acquaintance from this sector for coffee to learn from his/her/their experience, and ask for advice. Don't list somebody as a reference on your resume unless you have a good working relationship - so don't try to make your contact in this sector your reference right away.

Send your resume to companies and institutions of your interest. See how you can get a foot in the door by volunteering at industry events, going for a short research exchange, or do some case studies for a public institution. Just don't think that, because you've shown your face, you are entitled to a job - but show up, and show what you can bring to the table.

6 months before graduating

Interview time! Have you heard from anybody to whom you sent your resume? If not, don't panic (and don't start stalking people). If necessary, make another appointment with a career counselor to revise your resume and give you extra advice. If you seem to find it hard to get noticed by employers, work with a recruiter.

If you're invited for an interview, go prepared. Do your "homework." Learn about the company,its people, and identify for yourself what you can bring to the table. At the same time, define for yourself what you want. Return to your description of your ideal job: which tasks excite you? What do you expect in return from your employer? What is non-negotiable for you? Would you opt for more salary or for more holidays?

when finishing your dissertation

Time to celebrate! If you finish and publish your dissertation before your defend, and you are looking for a job, then use your dissertation to do a bit of shameless self-promotion. Send your finished dissertation to anybody who may be interested in your work, and who perhaps may be having a job opening. You never know what good it may bring. Take your printed thesis copies to conferences, and mention at the end of your presentation to you can give away a few copies (bring a stack with you).

Upon graduating

If you are graduated and don't have a job yet - don't panic. Decide for yourself if you want more advice from a career counselor and/or recruiter, and see if you can survive financially until you land a job, or if you need to take on some "emergency" employment, or raid your savings.

Don't let the fact that you haven't found a job yet overshadow the success of finishing your PhD. Celebrate in style, take time to appreciate yourself and your effort, and then throw yourself back into the job-seeking activities, now with all your energy. Let your entire network know you are graduated and available. Don't spam the entire world, but send personal emails to possible interesting contacts, and use LinkedIn to your advantage.

After your PhD

If you've taken a first job after your PhD, know that you have your entire career in front of you. If after some time, you find that the job is not what you thought it to be at first, then take that lesson and learn from it: what is good for your? Which new skills did you learn? What did you not like - something related to the contents of the job, or is the commute making your miserable? Go back to the drawing board, reshape your ideal job, and start looking for something that more closely parallels your vision.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

What drives the day of an academic?

I recently ran a poll on Twitter to see what drive the day of academics. Do we mostly plan our days based on a weekly template, based on our to do lists, based on what is in our mailbox, or based on our meeting schedule? The majority is working around to do lists.

I work around a weekly template, but have a daily to do list as well. When my mailbox overflows, I need more time in my weekly template for the "email + admin" category. When I have meetings beyond my weekly meetings with my thesis students, then I have to move boxes around in my template too.

Here's the wake of the poll:

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Stress levels in academia

I recently ran a poll on Twitter to see the stress levels of fellow academics. The results are not pretty, with the majority of the respondents reporting stress beyond what is acceptable.

You can find the wake of this poll here: