Several years ago while I was a graduate student trying to finish my Ph.D., I knew that there was a real world beyond the exams and research. I was working on a dissertation and trying to finish a degree, but very few professors had time to advise their graduate students let alone mentor them in the next steps of their professional career. There were no courses or specific guidelines that taught graduate students how to navigate life in and beyond graduate school.
Years later when I became an assistant professor, I was determined to develop a course that would help guide a graduate student through the numerous hurdles of graduate life and provide help for their upcoming career. I was and still am fully convinced that we need to provide students with the necessary tools to become successful in our respective disciplines and not lose them to disillusionment. Advisors have a professional obligation to empower students beyond just the classes and research.
I began teaching Professional Development, a one-credit hour course initially designed to teach students how to write proposals. Since then, I have continued to talk with my colleagues in and outside my department, and I have listened carefully to the students regarding what they might like to learn in a course like this. Still called Professional Development, the current course has a wide variety of topics including managing time and stress, presenting effective talks at conferences and, managing your advisor!
I believe that you the student have an excellent seed within you called potential. Through hard work and the right preparation, you can succeed at whatever you put your mind to. I have seen students who, through sheer determination and hard work, outshine some who were “talented.” Preparation and hard work seems to be the greatest equalizer.