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Alumni Answers: How do I know when a grad school is right for me?

Alumni Answers: How do I know when a grad school is right for me?

Dear Alumni, How do I know when a grad school is right for me? Francis, Physics, 2018.

Kevin M. (BS CHemistry, 1997), Medical Science Liaison at Genentech

Dear Francis, Hello. I was a Chemistry major and went on to graduate school so I have been there! There are a few things to think about when considering a scientific graduate program. First off ask yourself if you want to pursue a MS or PhD as your final degree? Beyond that, consider what specific discipline appeals most to you; some graduate programs excel at geophysics while others are better with astrophysics. If you aren’t sure what discipline you want in your next step, look for programs that are strong in most types of physics with strong publications from multiple faculty members. Those schools will get you a better chance at finding a good graduate advisor that really knows their science. When choosing a lab, look for where the recent graduates have gone on to. Did they go on to a great job or postdoc? If so, what is the percentage? This should tell you how good your potential advisor is at placing their students and how invested they are in developing those in their lab. This will be very important when looking for future positions once you graduate. Start reaching out now to schools on your short list. Try to make a connection to determine if the environment is one you think you’ll flourish in. Speak to current graduate students and/or recent graduates to get their take on things there. Their emails are fairly easy to find on either the department website or their lab’s homepage. It’s a big decision and your time in graduate school can be much longer than your time at UD, between 5-10 years if you’re considering a PhD. I hope this helps and I wish you the best with your current studies at UD and hope you find a fulfilling graduate program. Best Regards, Kevin

Joseph H. (BA English, 2000), Leadership Program Officer at Southern Methodist University

Well, first of all, get all the advice you an from your teachers at UD. Conditions can vary a _lot_ by both field and sub-specialty. So, for instance, when I was in grad school in English a department I was with had three open positions, one in Renaissance Lit and the other two in Rhetoric. 400 applications came in for the one position in Ren Lit, 8 applications came in for the 2 positions in Rhetoric. That said I think you want to look at at least three factors: 1. Prestige of the school and the program 2. Support 3. Local culture 4. Is the specific opportunity being offered to you a trap Prestige is important because it does a lot to dictate the types of opportunities available to you afterwards. There are a lot of factors to consider in terms of prestige, but baseline it says a lot about what the obvious routes forward are going to be for you afterwards. So you should always be aware of the reality of prestige even as you are aware that making a decision based on prestige alone probably isn’t the wisest thing to do. As a side note on prestige, you wanna be someplace where you will do well in the program. Someone who is bottom third at a great school will have tremendous advantages versus someone who is bottom third at a terrible school, but top third anywhere gets lots more of the options the institution actually has to give. Frequently, a top third two tiers down might end up someplace less prestigious, but a bottom third even from the same program will end up doing different work altogether. Support can take a lot of forms. There are three you always need to consider – (A) is the program itself stable and supported (B) will I be given sufficient work and/or benefits – will the department actually invest in me (C) is the infrastructure – libraries, labs, lectures, etc – here able to support my studies Local culture – two things here: first you’re going to need faculty who will actually work with you and have your back, and you’d like a department with a diversity of views where people can actually work together; second, you’re gonna be there for a while you don’t need to find a place that makes you feel like you’re in heaven, but you’re gonna need a place where you can find easy ways to feel at peace. Is it a trap? I did a lot of my research in grad school on people who didn’t finish grad school, three stories: (A) the special scholarship – friend who came from a great undergrad program went to an Ivy for grad school. They gave her an amazing fellowship. End of her first year they revealed – Oh, well, we wanted someone from Texas to demonstrate diversity, but we thought you wouldn’t make it a year since you were from Texas and therefore probably dumb so our plan is to give it to someone else – and then made her jump through hoops to keep any support at all. She made it out and is now a tenured professor, but, oh, she had a miserable time. (B) the program that makes so many patents – friend got to work in a lab that generated all of these patents and great stuff in material sciences, turns out that’s all the faculty cared about – they rarely actually graduated grad students and instead ran them into the ground and made them sign off all of their rights to their work. He’s now an IT guy with a PhD (a super advanced IT guy, but still not the science he’d thought he’d be doing). (C) the amazing new approach – I myself started out in a program that was trying something very new on the teaching end. A completely paradigm shattering program – which meant, of course, that there were tons of hiccoughs and misconceptions and the faculty had no time to actually do anything but teach and work the program. I taught in that program for two years and not once did I ever have a faculty member evaluate my work – which was not… ideal when the time for recommendations came around.

John L. (BA Business, 2016), General Ledger Accountant I at Associa

Hi Francis, One of the first things I would think about is the field you are interested in entering. Some fields require/advise a graduate degree more than others. If yours is one of those, then I would definitely want to pick a graduate school. I would also look at the financial viability of going to one school or another. You don’t want to saddle yourself with debt forever, so if one school is offering you a great opportunity with scholarships, fellowships, etc., I would strongly consider that school. When I was deciding whether to go to grad school or not, I was blessed to receive a very generous fellowship which made it a no-brainer for me to go to grad school. I know it may not always be that clear, but just like any decision, sometimes one path just makes the most sense. I would also go to your professors. Perhaps there is someone in the Physics department who specializes in something you’re interested in for grad school. They would know if you need to continue your education, and what schools would be good for your specialty. I’m sure they’ve seen and advised other students and they themselves had to make that decision at some point, so if you can give them a good idea of the pros and cons you’re weighing, they’re a great resource to lean on when deciding if to go and where. Hope that helps. Best of luck in your search.

John P. (BA Politics, 1987), Senior Analyst at Legislative Budget Board, State of Texas

Get to know the professors. Make sure you can get along with them. Make sure they like the type of work you’re doing and you like the type of work they are doing. Otherwise you are going to have a very unpleasant experience. See what happens if you disagree with them on something. How do they take it? Can you feel comfortable disagreeing with them on certain things and not feel like you’re getting yourself in trouble?

 

Dean C. (BA Mathematics 1994), Senior Consulting Actuary at Willis Towers Watson

Graduate school is a very personal thing. I visited Rice for a Master’s in Mathematics and was a bit overwhelmed at the size and formality after studying math at UD for 4 years. I settled on UTD because it is local, they offered me a TA opportunity and it felt like a personal approach to me. You have to visit a couple schools, talk to faculty and current graduate students and discern what the best fit is for your state in life. Sometimes you go to a school because it is close and feels right and other times you might choose a place because it can challenge you in new directions. Congratulations on your Physics degree – not an easy path at UD!

Randy B. (BA English, 1995), Life Coach/Tutor/Faculty at The Bearded Buddha

Hi, Francis! Many blessings to you as you study Physics! Given that major, you have two reasons to pursue grad school (presuming that you want to do grad work in Physics): Professional and Academic. – You pursue a Doctorate for almost exclusively Academic reasons (i.e., you KNOW you want to teach Physics in a college/university setting). While, yes, the aerospace industry does provide some applications for which a Doctorate is required/desirable, a Ph.D is exclusively the doorway to teach/research in an academic setting. – However, a Masters degree has both academic AND work-force/career utility. For one thing, you’ll have to get an MS in the course of obtaining a Ph.D. But, more importantly, MSes have routinely been a means of getting better entry-level positions in a given field and/or getting higher pay for a given position than you would if you had only a BS. Further, the wider array of Masters options open to you as a Physics major means that you can find more Masters programs offering an applied/practice-based pursuit of Physics, versus a theoretical/academic one. Furthermore, your Physics BS will empower you to entertain more than just Physics grad programs. TL;DR—Do you want to be a professor? Or are you looking to specialize your Physics knowledge in a way that will also make you more readily employable in a particular field(s)/career(s)? Answering those two questions will help you better know whether grad school is right for you. SOME CAVEATS— (1) Do NOT go to grad school unless THEY pay for it via fellowship/scholarship. Remember: you are delaying your entry into a paying work field. You have to count in the cost of grad school the fact that, while you’re not in the workforce, you’re not realizing the income you otherwise would be earning. (2) PREP for the GRE. Do NOT take it blind. Don’t just buy a book and scan over it. Instead, take a free practice test online to see where you stack up (Kaplan’s the best—https://www.kaptest.com/gre/free/instant-practice/free-gre-practice-test>). By looking at the web pages of the grad programs in which you’re interested, you’ll see the kind of scores that they’re expecting of viable applicants. The higher your score (and your GPA) is above what they’re expecting, the better chance you have of getting a free ride to grad school. Hope this helps! If you have further questions, just email me at randybeeler@thebeardedbuddha.com; Randy

Victoria W. (BA Psychology, 2013), Scrum Master at Southwest Airlines

Hi Francis, I’m sure you’ve received this answer before and it may drive you crazy, but it depends. Personally, I say start with what career path you want and decide from there. Does your field require an advanced degree, or does nearly everyone have at least a masters? Would obtaining a certain degree make you more marketable or open certain opportunities? If so, go to graduate school as soon as you are able. However, if very few people in your field have an advanced degree, do not waste your time or money. Some people say it’s best to go to grad school if you don’t know what you want to do. I strongly disagree with that. The purpose of grad school much more so than undergrad, is to prepare you for your career. If you do not know what you want to do, look at what jobs you might be interested in (that aren’t necessarily related to your field) and apply. Reach out to the alumni community or other people with a job you’re interested in. You can always go back to school later. Some degree programs actually require job experience (like MBAs). In short, do your research and see what jobs you’re interested in and go from there.

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

Hi Francis, It took me 10 years after getting my Bachelor’s degree too seriously to pursue and apply to grad school. I think there are a few factors/questions that should go into your decision. 1 – Why do you want/need an advanced degree? Are you unable to work in the field you want without one? What is the competitive advantage? Can you still get a good job without one? Do you want to go to grad school in the same area as your undergrad Degree or another area (MBA, IT, etc)? 2 – Will gaining work experience help you in completing your advanced degree? What are the advantages and disadvantages of getting another degree now versus later? Are there people in your field you know who have a grad degree and others who don’t and can help you understand why they did or did not pursue an advanced education? 3 – Are you ready and motivated to spend more time pursuing your formal education or is there a possibility you may burn out? Are there other ways (certificates, licenses, etc) that you can pursue instead of or before applying for grad school? Are you financially prepared to have additional loans or pay for the degree? Those are a few things I considered before going back for my MBA. I hope this helps…and GOOD LUCK!!

How To Avoid These Common New Hire Pitfalls

How To Avoid These Common New Hire Pitfalls

New Hire PitfallsThe interviews are over, the W4 is filled out and it’s your first day on a new job. Now’s the time to shine.

Your early days at a company set the tone for how your boss and coworkers perceive you and can have a lasting impact on your ability to advance.  

Unfortunately, many new hires fall into traps that can hurt their credibility and even jeopardize their prospects at the company. So what can you do to start off strong and gain the respect of your manager and coworkers? Here are some pitfalls to avoid.

Not asking for help

If you put on quite a show during the interview process, you probably feel like you need to prove to your manager that she made the right choice in picking you over other candidates. And in proving your worth, you might avoid asking for help to demonstrate your effectiveness.

This is common: many new hires are afraid to ask for help when facing a problem. Asking for help might reveal that they don’t (gasp!) know everything.

Newsflash—your boss doesn’t expect you to know everything from day one. Asking for help isn’t a display of weakness. It shows your new employer that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to become a valuable part of the team.

Asking for too much help

Although getting help when you really need it is a must, asking questions that you could’ve answered with independent research is lazy.

Companies need employees with critical thinking skills: people who, when faced with a problem, try to arrive at a solution by mapping their current knowledge onto new situations.

Of course, there are some processes or systems that you won’t be able to figure out on your own. Others you can look up on the company website or in training manuals. The trick is in knowing where that line falls in your company or on your particular project.

Before going to a coworker or supervisor with a question, try to find the answer on your own. If you still need to ask for help, explain what steps you took to solve the problem independently. That way the person helping you knows that you’re trying to work through the issue with minimal assistance.

Missing the big picture

In some companies, it can be hard to know how your specific role fits into the overall mission, especially when you’re at the bottom of the org chart. Ideally, you’d learn this during the onboarding process. Regardless, not knowing how your role benefits the bottom line can make your day to day activities seem pointless.

To remedy this, become familiar with your company’s mission and vision statements. Understand their products or services, even if selling or promoting them isn’t your direct responsibility. Whether you’re in accounting or customer service, understanding how you’re specifically making a difference can help you see the big picture and improve your performance.

Getting caught up in office drama

All offices have moods—some are positive and some are negative. And often, one or two people can set the tone for an entire department. If you find that you’ve been hired into a negative office environment, you must do everything you can to avoid the coworkers who are creating that negativity.

In order to make it through the day with your sanity intact, you must focus on doing your job and achieving your performance goals. If a few people continually spew negative comments or gossip about others, avoid them. If you can’t, try to steer conversations toward more positive subjects and avoid topics that tend to drift into negative territory. Do whatever it takes to remain positive. You don’t want to be associated with the office’s negative person or group. It not only hurts your prospects at the company, but it also makes each day a drag.

The first 90 days at a new job are a continuation of the interview process. Your manager and coworkers are still evaluating whether you’re a good fit for the position and the company. With a desire to learn and a willingness to work both independently and as part of the team, you can demonstrate to them that you were and are the right choice.

To make an appointment with an OPCD career advisor, click here.

 

Follow These 4 Steps to Up Your Interview Game

Follow These 4 Steps to Up Your Interview Game

Let’s face it: interviews are tough. Even seasoned professionals get sweaty palms at the thought of being evaluated on every word that comes out of their mouths. But, like it or not, interviews are an unavoidable part of the hiring process.

So what can you do to up your interviewing game? Here are 4 things to work on:

Take company research to the next level

There was a time when looking up a company’s website and memorizing their mission statement would’ve been called deep research. Not anymore. Before your interview read all of the company’s social media platforms. Check in on its stock performance. Set up alerts for any news about the company and its upper management.

Some hiring managers will test how much research you’ve done by asking questions like, “What did you think of our last social media campaign?” You don’t want to have to answer with, “I haven’t seen it.”

Here’s why: you want your interviewer to know that you want this job, not just any job. By researching the company and its approach to business, you can position yourself as a good fit for the position. This shows your interviewer that you’re sincerely interested in being part of the team.

Be honest about your weaknesses—and then follow up with a plan

When an interviewer asks you, “What’s your greatest weakness?” your tendency might be to couch your answer as a veiled strength: “Sometimes I take my job too seriously” or “People tell me I work too hard.” That’s a mistake because seasoned managers and recruiters can see right through that ploy.

A better answer is an honest one followed by how you’re already addressing that weakness.

Here are some examples:

“I sometimes get caught up in the details of a project and have trouble seeing the big picture. I’m working on that by setting intermediate goals so I can make sure my work is on track.”

“I get nervous in public speaking situations. I’m trying to improve my skills by working with a mentor who’s really good at it. I’ve started speaking up in small group meetings, and I make sure I’m always well-prepared in case the opportunity to speak arises.”

One weakness that doesn’t go over well with hiring managers is tardiness. Don’t bother saying “I’m always late” and following up with how you have a new alarm that requires you to jump up and down to make your phone stop chirping. Work on that weakness, but discuss a different one in the interview.

Be prepared for tricky questions

People tend to prep for interviews by looking up “interview questions” and then practicing their answers in front of the mirror and with friends. They walk into the interview confident that they’re ready for any “tell me about a time” questions the interviewer throws at them.

That’s a good practice, but to take your interviewing skills to the next level you should expect the unexpected. The only way to prep for a question you don’t know is coming is to be very comfortable verbalizing your resume and your accomplishments. Know your story by heart. Get comfortable talking about challenges you faced and how you overcame them.

Before the interview read over the job posting again. Make sure you really understand the job you’re applying for and be prepared to explain—convincingly—how your particular experience and achievements make you the best candidate for the position. Time spent studying what the interviewer is looking for (at least according to the job posting) will prepare you for any oddball questions that might come up.

And watch out for “Why do you want this job?” Answering with “the commute is shorter” or “I liked your website” is a red flag that signals you want a job but maybe not this particular job.

Ask relevant questions

Most interviews wrap up with this: “So do you have any questions for me?” The worst possible answer is, “No, I think you covered it all.”

The second worst answer is, “So how many days of vacation do I get and when can I start taking them?” Not that those are invalid questions—just don’t ask them in the first interview.

The best questions are questions that answer what you need to know to know to be successful: How will my performance be measured? Is there a typical career path that someone in this position might follow? Would there be the possibility of relocating in the future? How often would I be working on a team and how often alone?

And don’t ask questions that you could’ve googled before the interview. The answers to “Where are your headquarters located?” or “How many employees do you have at this location?” can be found online and don’t sound as though you put much thought into them.

It’s OK to be nervous in an interview. But the more you prepare, the better you’ll be able to be yourself. Your goal should be to come across as confident (but not cocky), relaxed (but not indifferent) and personable (but not insincere).

Oh, and keep a tissue handy for those sweaty palms.

5 Resume Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

5 Resume Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

You say you’ve applied to tons of jobs and you’re not getting any interviews. You’ve posted online, you’ve sent resumes through email and snail mail and nothing’s happening. You meet the basic qualifications for these positions, but hiring managers aren’t calling you back for an in-person meeting or even a phone interview.

Someone’s getting these jobs. Why not you?

If you’ve applied to multiple positions you’re qualified for but aren’t getting interviews, there’s most likely a problem with your resume.

Here are five resume mistakes that could cost you an interview. Luckily, they’re easy to fix.

You didn’t proofread your resume

This might be the worst mistake you can make when submitting your resume. Proofreading is more than a quick spell check–you’re looking for grammar mistakes as well as words that spell check won’t catch (their and there, it’s and its). And always make sure you’ve used the right company name in a cover letter or job objective. Use the wrong one and your resume will end up in the trash.

This may sound a little harsh. But think of it this way: your lack of proofreading shows the hiring manager that you weren’t interested enough in the position or the company to put in extra work. What does that tell them about the kind of employee you’d be?

Do whatever it takes to get grammar and spelling right. Read it out loud. Have a friend read it. Read it backward. Your resume should be absolutely error-free.

Your formatting is all over the place

Headings, job titles, bullets, fonts, indentions–these should be consistent throughout your resume. Anything less makes a recruiter have to work harder to figure out if you’re right fit for the position. Make sure your name is in a larger font size and then use boldface, underline and italics (consistently!) to distinguish each section.

You copied your current and previous job descriptions and pasted them into your Experience section

Each job title should include a short description of your position and bullet points that detail what you accomplished while you were there. A job description has too much detail–your resume doesn’t need it. Plus, job descriptions read like corporate-speak and sound awkward when used out of context.

You listed your job tasks instead of your accomplishments

Unless you have an unusual job or were assigned tasks that are not the norm for that kind of position, you don’t need to rehash your daily job duties. Most employers already know what a customer service rep does. Instead, you should include a list of accomplishments for each job. Here’s what that looks like:

Customer Service Representative, ABC Company

Task-focused: Answered phones, routed calls to other employees, handled customer complaints, filled out customer complaint forms.

Results-focused: Increased customer retention by 15% in one year by promptly addressing customer complaints and taking steps to resolve them. Decreased time to resolve customer complaints by 25% by developing a strategy designed to streamline inbound calls and emails.

 

You’re using the same resume for every job posting

Customer Service Rep. Marketing Assistant. Event Coordinator. The same resume should work for all entry-level positions, right? Wrong. Each resume you write should be tailored specifically to the job you’re applying for, even if it’s the same type of position at two different companies.

Go through the job description and notice words the employer uses in the Tasks Required and Skills sections. Do they want someone who’s fluent in Microsoft Excel? List it in your Skills section (if you have that skill–don’t lie). Are they looking for a candidate with the ability to analyze complex data? Make sure one of your bullets lists a time when you analyzed data and what results you achieved.

Time to clean it up…

Don’t let a sloppy resume be the reason recruiters and hiring managers are passing on you. A great resume will improve your chances of making it through to the first round of interviews. Follow these steps to get the basics down and the interviews will come.

For more information on resumes or interviewing or to make an appointment with an OPCD advisor, click here.

 

Getting Started in DC: A Beginner’s Guide

Getting Started in DC: A Beginner’s Guide

Working or interning in Washington, DC, may seem like a stretch goal for many students. But according to Dr. Yuval Levin, Vice President and Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington is an exceptionally open place for people who are willing to work hard. Dr. Levin spoke recently to a group of University of Dallas students about securing work and internships in the nation’s capital.

Dr. Yuval Levin

“The world of congressional staffers is quite young,” Levin said. “The typical congressional staff will consist of 7 or 8 people in their twenties who are each assigned a specific set of issues. They’re very involved in the work of legislation.” According to Levin, working on a congressional staff is the best way to learn how Washington really works. “Congress is driven by process,” he said. “Working on a congressional staff teaches you about powerful personalities and about the scheduling and tempo of legislation.”

Working for a congressional committee or for a senior member of a committee is another way to get solid policy experience. “The substantive policy work is done in committee,” he said. Many staffers working on these committees are very young as well. Levin recalled his own experience as a young staffer: “I remember sitting on the budget committee and negotiating health care issues and thinking, ‘Do they realize I’m 21?’”

Levin said that although Executive Branch staffers are generally more experienced than Hill staffers, there are many lower-level departmental positions that offer a good start for young staffers. He emphasized that a recent graduate’s willingness to work is the most important factor in securing work in Washington. “Don’t limit yourself to one office or one area of government. If you’re willing to be paid pretty poorly, there’s work out there,” he said. Outside of working on the Hill or in the Executive Branch, Levin said that the organizations that support the policy apparatus–think tanks, party committees, and PACs–are also great places for recent college graduates to gain experience that could lead to other positions.

Levin recommends that interns or recent grads think first about working as a congressional staffer. First, it’s the easiest way to get in, and, second, working on the Hill provides the kind of experience that students can use as leverage to get other positions. “You can’t pretend to understand how government works if you haven’t seen it first hand,” Levin said.

The first step to getting a job on the Hill is to contact your local congressional representatives. “Call the offices of your two state senators and your local congressional representative,” Levin said, “and offer yourself up to opening letters, doing research, whatever they need.” This approach can work whether you’re looking for an internship or a job after graduation. “DC has a low barrier to entry,” he said, “if you’re willing to do the work.”

For more information about internships and employment in Washington, DC, or anywhere else, contact the Office of Personal Career Development for an appointment.

Perseverance is more important than brilliance: Dr. Sherry Yennello from the Cyclotron Institute

Perseverance is more important than brilliance: Dr. Sherry Yennello from the Cyclotron Institute

Not that long ago, the only women’s restroom at Texas A&M’s Cyclotron Institute was in the administrative area, far from where the science was done. “There are more women now,” said Dr. Sherry Yennello, Chemistry Professor and Cyclotron Institute Bright Chair in Nuclear Science at Texas A&M University. “And I think more women have the mindset that they can be scientists. They know it’s possible.”

Dr. Sherry Yennello

Dr. Yennello spoke recently to a group of UD students following her lecture, “Stellar Secrets: Earth Bound Insights into Elements Through Heavy-ion Reactions.” Her visit was part of the Clare Booth Luce Speaker Series, a program designed to attract women into physical science, engineering, and mathematical areas and to support them once there.

Dr. Yennello told students that research experiences are invaluable on a number of levels. “You’ll learn what it’s like to really do research every day,” she said. “And you’ll learn how you function best, whether in a structured environment where a professor gives you explicit instructions, or in an environment like mine, where I give you the big picture, show you the resources, and you have to step up and ask questions.”

Dr. Yennello encouraged students to attend regional and national meetings of groups associated with their majors (like American Chemical Society and American Physical Society) in order to network with their peers. “Students that attend these meetings will tell you what their lives are really like at their REUs and give you a good feel for the way an institution or a department works.” She added that networking at these events creates relationships that can form the basis of not only lifelong scientific collaborations, but also true friendships. “Science is done in groups,” she said. “And you need networks of people to get it done.”

In describing which characteristics students need to be successful, Dr. Yennello emphasized perseverance above any other trait. “Not giving up far outweighs brilliance,” she said. According to Dr. Yennello, high achieving students often get frustrated when their experiments don’t go the way they think they will. “When I’m looking at potential students for REUs, I’m looking for someone who wants to learn, someone who wants to figure out how to overcome errors and mistakes and understands that there isn’t always a straight path to the answer,” she said. Dr. Yennello recommended that students use the personal statements and cover letters with their REU applications to talk about their resilience, curiosity and perseverance when they don’t get an answer on the first try.

Dr. Yennello closed by saying that conducting research is only part of the benefit of an REU: “The real questions are: did you learn something and did you meet people?”

For more information on applying for REUs or other internships, contact OPCD or your department chair.

Alumni Answers: Should I get an engineering license?

Alumni Answers: Should I get an engineering license?

Dear Michael,

Did you obtain engineering license, and if so, did you find it necessary? Did you join any engineering clubs? (Maurice)

Michael H. (BS Physics, 2015), Research Engineer at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories

The specific field of engineering you decide to pursue will play a significant role in determining whether professional licensure is necessary or even useful. I will admit up front that I am a fairly green professional, and that any more senior advisory panel member who says differently from me should probably be given more credence; but as I understand it, an engineering license is only required if you wish to be the “final authority” to sign and certify the design and plans for any project funded for the use of the public – buildings and bridges, for instance. For this reason, civil engineers are usually the ones who find it useful to hold an engineering license. (You can still work as a civil engineer without holding an engineering license, you just can’t be the final authority to sign off on any plans that fall into the “for public use/benefit” category. I do not completely understand the delineation for “public use,” but it is not just as simple as “will a lot of people use it.” I expect that further investigation beyond that which I can provide will be helpful here.)

I am in electrical engineering, and I do not hold a license nor do I anticipate pursuing one. It is true that an EE who works on, say, a city’s power supply grid would likely benefit from having a license, but my work is at the microchip scale and therefore does not fall within that scope.
So, the simplified answer is: if you are not a civil engineer and do not wish to work on city-scale projects, very likely will not find an engineering license to be useful. If you do become a civil engineer, you *may* need one, and the it would be worthwhile to consult a professional in that engineering sub-field specifically.

 

Cheers to you, your continuing education, and your success in the field of your chosen profession!
Vocations, Volunteer & Post-grad Fair:
Wednesday, October 11

Vocations, Volunteer & Post-grad Fair:
Wednesday, October 11

Are you looking for ways you can serve the local community? Would you like to intern or possibly work for a non-profit organization? To help you find meaningful volunteer and service work as well as internships at nonprofit organizations, the Office of Personal Career Development and UD Campus Ministry are sponsoring a Vocations, Volunteer & Post-Grad Fair on Wednesday, October 11, from 1:30-4:30pm on the University Mall. Dozens of service  and nonprofit organizations and religious orders will  have representatives on hand to talk about the opportunities they have available. For a complete list of organizations participating, click here.

You may be able to earn course credit for service work or an internship, depending on the kind of work you do and the number of of hours you work. Contact OPCD for more details or ask an OPCD staff member at the fair.

Since many organizations are highly selective when choosing volunteers and interns, we asked representatives from a few of the participating groups to tell us what they’re hoping to see from students attending the fair. Here are their responses.

How can students best present themselves to you at the volunteer fair?

Jennifer Abdallah, Program Manager, AmeriCorps: Research our organization to see if AmeriCorps service is something they would be interested in (non-religious community service with children, paid with a living allowance and education award).

Lindsay Penn, Director of Volunteer Service, Make-A-Wish Foundation: We know that their class schedule and other activities determine their presentations, so any way that they feel comfortable. However, I would appreciate the students who choose to dress appropriately  to meet with potential internship employers (does not have to be “professional”).

Cindy Dale, Talent Acquisition Specialist, American Heart Association: Dressing business casual is fine. We understand that some students may be coming from class, etc. We want this event to be interactive and fun!

What would you like to hear in an “elevator” pitch?

Abdallah, AmeriCorps: Name, major, type of experience they are looking for.

Penn, Make-A-Wish Foundation: I would just like to have a candid conversation about the student’s interests in internship opportunities and how that opportunity might benefit him or her in the future based on course of study. What can he or she really bring to the table?

Dale, American Heart Association: We are happy to discuss what AHA does if no prior research has been done. They should be able to discuss why they want to be part of a non-profit organization.

Should students bring their resumes or anything else?

Abdallah, AmeriCorps: No resumes needed!

Penn, Make-A-Wish Foundation: Resumes would be great!

Dale, American Heart Association: Please no resumes. We will provide students information on how to join our talent community or how to apply for a job.

 

Alumni Answers: How can I explain my major?

Alumni Answers: How can I explain my major?

Have you ever had a negative reaction to your choice of study, or felt the need to defend it? I am an art major (business concentration) and often have to let comments roll of my back or explain myself for choosing a major that is not widely considered “useful.” Any suggestions for how to tactfully and briefly explain why my liberal arts degree is useful, but in a way that makes a lasting impression with the person questioning it? (Mary Kate, Art 2018)

 

John P. (BA Politics, 1987), Senior Analyst at Legislative Budget Board, State of Texas

A liberal arts education is useful because it teaches you how to write and how to think about very difficult questions. That carries over to any profession. Internships are useful because they can teach you to work on the exact same things with the exact same software you might use in your first full time job. Almost every undergraduate major is going to cover a wide variety of topics at a high level. Graduate degrees tend to get more specialized.

Wendy R. (BA English, 2007), Self-employed writer

Mary Kate, this happens every day of my life as a creative writer and literature major. I receive three responses to my chosen major and field. 1. So you are going to teach then? 2. What are you going to do with that? 3. Can you actually earn money writing? All of these questions suggest that my major exists inside of a box. No major exists inside of box. The person wielding the major is where the value lies. I know plenty of post MBA, PhD, MD, and JD candidates who have failed at their professions or ended up profoundly miserable in their chosen fields. I know an equal number of philosophy, art, history, and literature majors who have done the same. My point is, you are the value, you can do what you please with your education regardless of what university you attended and what major you chose. You define success and create your own path in the workforce. I speak from experience as a resume writer who has coached hundreds of job seekers; there is no single path to success in this life. It is often a combination of knowledge, luck, and hard work. I never change my response to these questions. I always answer that I am grateful for the depth and breadth of the knowledge I received during my undergraduate years, and that no degree could ever stop me from achieving my goals, and in fact, I am blessed that my degree has made me a more diverse and desirable candidate in every work environment I have ever been in. Hold your head, be proud of your major, and own your education. Best of luck to you.

Matthew C. (BA English, 1992), Structures Technician at SpaceX

Explain to them that everything they use in their day to day life – clothing, car, kitchenware, decorative items, cell phone – begins as an idea, then becomes an art project also known as a product design prototype. I was an English major. If someone criticizes my choice of study, I just correct their grammar and go about my day.

Joseph H. (BA English, 2000), Leadership Program Officer at Southern Methodist University

Certainly! I also find myself defending other people’s majors as well. In the case of art majors, I find I usually start with the fact that they are among the few majors on campus who actually work for their degrees. They’re out long hours, face serious review by faculty far earlier and more frequently than other majors, are forced to learn project management and presentation skills long before other students and rely on them in the public square, and at the end they have actually built things and have real accomplishments in their portfolio. That’s before you even get into broader applications like the importance of design and salesmanship in the marketplace.

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

Yes, sometimes there are people who question the value of certain degrees/majors. If you are learning about something you are passionate and can relate what you have learned to how you would (or have) applied that in a work setting, you will get less negativity. Also, as you get a few years out of school, the specific major holds less and less importance…unless something very technical (IT, accounting ,etc.).

John P. (BA Fine Art, 1968; MA Fine Art, 1972), Self-employed Fine Artist

Dear Mary Kate, Well, how “useful” are any of the arts: music, literature, sculpture, ceramics, painting? If we imagine that our existence has a transcendent purpose and meaning and is more than just a utilitarian exercise, then let’s acknowledge that the arts help us to express the transcendent in human nature. A worthy occupation. And, under certain circumstances, a master plumber’s license is more useful and valuable than many kinds of advanced degrees. Consider that you will always have more to learn in this life and that a liberal arts degree is an excellent preparation for that Please don’t worry about defending your choice of study. If you are committed to it, the negative reaction of others will fade in importance. Associate with those who will inspire, challenge and encourage. Best wishes to you, John P., B.A. Fine Arts ’68, M.A. Fine Arts ’72

Rachel L. (BS Biology, 2011), Certified Physician Assistant (PA-C)  at Children’s Medical Center

Hi Mary Kate, This is a great question. When I chose my major, I chose the major that had the subject matter I was the most interested in learning. This subject happened to be biology, which was instrumental in my education to become a physician assistant. However, when choosing a major, I think pursuing a subject you are passionate about is more important than choosing a “useful” major. While some jobs may require specific skills, most likely you will learn a lot on-the-job in your first job out of college. Being a more well-rounded individual who studied a subject they are passionate about will be more useful to you in the long term! Best, Rachel L.

 

 

Alumni Answers: Getting a job with a History major

Alumni Answers: Getting a job with a History major

For the people who have History and majors that seem to not be so helpful when trying to get a job such as Art or Philosophy majors, how easy or applicable was your major to getting a job? Did it make it difficult to get a good job? (Gihad, History 2020)

John P. (BA Politics, 1987), Senior Analyst at Legislative Budget Board, State of Texas

It’s easy to get a good job with a history degree as long as you go to graduate school afterwards. My manager has a history degree from Columbia. She now manages a team that analyzes criminal justice data for the Texas legislature. She has a graduate degree in public affairs. My advice is get an undergraduate in something that you like, that is interesting to you. Many jobs prefer a masters degree. When that is the case, many times the focus will be on what your masters degree is in.

Matthew C. (BA English, 1992), Structures Technician at SpaceX

What you choose to study could be a hindrance should you choose to work outside that particular career field. Government service is always an option – and an especially good one for History majors. Pick an alphabet agency (CIA, FBI, NSA, etc.) where knowledge of history is an asset and do research on possible careers.

Joseph H. (BA English, 2000), Leadership Program Officer at Southern Methodist University

Some of that depends on what you mean by good job. My own major is in English and it has certainly proven to be an asset. The key aspect, in my experience and this was true for my friends in STEM as well, is that you need to be able to articulate and demonstrate specific competencies and accomplishments. In my case that involved setting up a portfolio and having a list of accomplishments beyond my major (working in the residence hall association, having various projects to my name, racking up a few awards, building professional experience, etc). I highly recommend getting the best advice you can on putting together a portfolio and on building your writing and project credits as broadly as you can – write for student publications where you can, build up some websites, etc. Eventually I went to graduate school in a more job specialized field – technical communication and rhetoric which I would readily recommend to communication and writing focused history majors as well – and while that was helpful in a great many ways, I found that unless you were very dedicated to following one of a couple of fairly lock step paths towards employment the issues weren’t much different. Similarly, I would not neglect at least considering what credentialing or helpful supplements to your major you can acquire at UD while it is convenient. A teaching certificate, for example, does not equal destiny but it can be an edifying experience to pursue that or a similar credential and it’s certainly more convenient getting it sooner rather than later. Plus that (or prelaw and premed) get you on the radar of some of the more employment oriented professors and professionals on campus and that’s no bad thing.

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

I think that your specific degree/major is helpful in finding the career that you want to get into, however it is becoming increasingly less important. Companies want to know that you fit culturally, share similar values to the organization and have experiences and skills that directly relate to what you want to do. Degrees often indicate that you are committed to education and learning. Companies want to see that you have applied your learning and can add value to the organization.

 

Hannah O., (BA History, 2011), Technical Services Librarian at City of Duncanville (Duncanville Public Library)

I ended up becoming a public librarian…for which a history degree works as well as any. For academic librarians, such a degree can be beneficial.