There is so much going on during grad school. So many responsibilities, exceptions, and constant work!
But you are still a student! And grad school is a time for you to develop professionally! There are so many opportunities available to you. All you need to do is take them.
Think about what you would want to get out of grad school upon graduating. Do you want to expand your resume and prepare for your future job? Do you want to build a community and give back to younger students? Or do you want to gain valuable friendships and connections?
I have listed out some of my top recommendations how you can make the most of your PhD.
1.Attend events for graduate students. You can find these events hosted by your Graduate Student Association or your department’s affiliated student organization. My engineering school has its own student organization for graduate students that puts on events all the time. All of these organizations host events for you! They are so much fun. I really encourage you to attend whenever possible. It will give you a break in your day to enjoy yourself, meet new people, and build valuable friendships. In the future your peers will become your colleagues in industry or academia and it will be great having your friends as resources.
2.If you love attending these events, then join the organizations and get involved! Joining clubs and taking advantage of leadership opportunities is a great way to build your resume. I joined EGSA in my second year. It was one of the best decisions I have made in grad school, because it allowed me to developed my leadership skills as well as make a positive impact on my peers by bringing them engaging and thoughtful events.
3.There are other ways you can give back such as volunteering! There are so many ways you can help your community and at the same time boost your resume. Win, win! You can find volunteer opportunities through your school or community. For example, I participate in STEM activities with elementary school students twice a year. I work on making the kits and conducting hands-on activities with the kids to teach them about chemical engineering. It is truly fulfilling work to bring opportunities for young students to learn about engineering and sciences.
4.Being a PhD student has many benefits including access to instrumentation courses, shared lab cores, and equipment. Take some time during your PhD to learn how to use some of these instruments. Having knowledge of instruments can open up more job opportunities. A great way to determine which ones you might need is too look at relevant job posting requirements.
5.Attend Conferences! I am so fortunate to have an advisor that sends me to conferences regularly. Presenting your work is very gratifying and it gives you so much confidence. They are also important for professional networking. If your advisor does send you, make an effort to research them yourself and try to persuade your advisor. You can also help finance your trip through travel funding that can be available through your department or the conference organizers.
6.Join professional organizations. These professional organizations will not only give you a discount rate on conference registrations but they have lots of resources. There are events for professional networking as well as job posting in your field.
7.Attend seminars! Don’t just stick to the required weekly seminars for your department. Seek out opportunities to learn more about your research topic. Look for seminars in other departments or even nearby universities.
8.Take professional development classes. You can take classes that can tell you exactly how to get a job for FREE! How crazy! People in the professional work pay a lot of money for similar courses. As a student you can take them as part of your credit load. You can find anything from courses for Preparing Future Faculty that can help you write your teaching statement to courses like Careers in Biotech, where industry professional answer your questions.
9.There are so many free resources available to students, that you can take advantage of as a graduate student! You can find resume builders or mock interview through career services (Yes, they are still available to you as a PhD student). At your gym, you can take free gym classes and cheap equipment rentals such as kayaks! Want to get a new hobby? You can take free workshop for things like metal work or rent camera to learn about photography. Sometimes you can find discounted theater tickets to your local shows. There is so much available to you, you just need to know where to look!
10.Get involved in mentorship. Think of mentoring as a way to develop your project management and leadership skill (transferable skills to industry!). Mentoring younger students in your lab is a great way to gain experience. Each student requires a different style of mentoring and attention. But at the end of the day, your goal is to teach them to be independent, productive, and even great mentors themselves.
11.You are a student, so enjoy your flexible work hours and time off! Based on (most) of your contracts, you are considered a student rather than an employee by the university. Therefore, you don’t have a set number of vacation days or expectations of 9-5 work day. So, take advantage of it! Plan some vacation time, even if you just stay at home to relax and recharge. You totally deserve it!
I hope these have given you some ideas and inspirations for how you can make the most of your time during your PhD or masters program. I have taken advantage of some of these resources throughout my PhD and I found that they have significantly enhanced my experience thus far. Don’t stress out about doing all of these at once. Focus on the ones most important to you. Your priorities will change throughout your time at school and these resources will help. So if there is something you are looking for to help improve experience, all you need to do is ask!
Jumpsuit from Shein. Here are similar ones I love from Shein
I am wearing an off-the-shoulder crop top from Forever 21. Here are some similar version I would pair with these jumpsuits