Becoming a Pro at Self-Promotion

“Look at the tower I built!”  “Wanna hear me count to 50?”  “Watch me ride my bike!”


If you’ve spent time around kids, you know that they are often uninhibited in sharing about their recent accomplishments and abilities. Maybe you’ve babysat or have nieces, nephews or kids of your own, but you know about the persistent and passionate pleas of a child to pay attention to them!

But somewhere along the way, many of us were told, overtly or subliminally, that bragging and being ostentatious is not ladylike. This culture that encourages female modesty fosters a workplace where women are less likely to talk about their achievements than men.

Advocating for oneself in the academy and industry is key for demonstrating leadership skills and therefore achieving upward advancement, but for many of us, it is also risky. When we go against the norm of humility and brag about our accomplishments, we may be perceived as too strong, pushy, and less likeable, even by other women. For introverts and anxious types it can be especially uncomfortable to bring attention to oneself. It’s not always easy, but tasteful self-promotion is something we should all practice.

Here are some tips to become a pro at self-promotion!

  1. Be proud of your successes! You worked hard for them and the world deserves to celebrate with you.
  2. Reclassify the task. Terms like “bragging” can carry a negative connotation. Consider your self-promotion “networking” or “increasing visibility.” It’s just like any other leadership skill!
  3. Be yourself. Find ways to authentically promote yourself in ways that make sense for your personality and your industry.
  4. If not your own, then promote the work of others. Women are generally more comfortable with advocating for others than for themselves and maybe with some practice you’ll feel empowered to promote yourself. Alternatively, create safe spaces for self-promotion in your lab or community!

Ready to give it a shot? Check out Carolyn’s post about developing a personal website, nominate yourself to be considered for a GradSWE Spotlight or WE Local award and be sure to share with us how you are promoting your amazing accomplishments in the comments or on social media (@SWE_grad)!



PostDoc Opportunities through PathwaysToScience has 167 different postdoc and early career opportunities posted on the site, including postdoctoral fellowships, grants, travel awards, mentoring opportunities, and more.

Browse the full list of opportunities here:

Or use our advanced search page to narrow your results:

Apply for the Academic Leadership for Women in Engineering (ALWE) Program


Interested in a career in academia?  Consider applying for WE16’s ALWE program!

SWE is pleased to offer the Academic Leadership for Women in Engineering (ALWE) program at WE16. ALWE is geared toward existing faculty members and graduate students, giving them an introduction to the tangible skills and knowledge needed to pursue and gainfully acquire institutional leadership positions at a university.

Participants who qualify will receive travel assistance to attend the program at WE16 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Applications of due August 15th.

Click here for more details about the program.

Newsletter – 12 July 2016

Newsletter – 12 July 2016

Hello Grad Community!
Welcome to FY17. My name is Liz Dreyer and I am taking over as the new Graduate Member Coordinator. I look forward to serving all of you this year and seeing the SWE Grad Community continue to grow. If you ever have any comments or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact myself and the rest of the SWE Grad Community Leadership team by emailing
I’d like to also introduce the rest of the Grad Community Leadership team. Our team for FY17 is:
  • Graduate Member Coordinator (GMC): Liz Dreyer – University of Michigan
  • GMC-Elect: Genevieve Kane – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Graduate Programming Coordinator (GPC): Rachel Unruh – Texas A&M
  • GPC-Elect: Emily Hoffman – Northwestern University
  • Social Media Coordinator (SMC): Allie Anderson – Colorado School of Mines
  • Webinar Coordinator (WC): Celine Liong – Stanford University
You can read a short bio about each person on the blog: Please join me in welcoming everyone aboard for a great year.
Please be sure to forward this to other graduate students, or those who are supportive of women getting advanced STEM degrees!

In this newsletter:

  1. Academic Leadership for Women in Engineering (ALWE)
  2. Grad Community Spotlights
  3. Book your WE16 room now!
  4. Follow us on Social Media!

(1) Academic Leadership for Women in Engineering (ALWE)

The overarching purpose of ALWE is to give female academics in engineering departments an introduction to the tangible skills and knowledge needed to pursue and gainfully acquire institutional leadership positions at a university.

Participants in the program will experience two-full days and six interactive sessions that will provide best practices to advance in academia while creating opportunities and mechanisms to network across institutions. To that end, the objectives of ALWE are as follows:

Recognize the various roles associated with holding leadership positions within academia.

Learn strategies and tools to advance in leadership roles within academia.
Learn negotiation skills to use in pursuing institutional leadership positions.
Expand an existing network of women in academia.
Support a community of practice focused on similar goals and faced with similar challenges.

Dates:  October 28 – 29, 2016
Time:  8:30 a.m.– 5:00 p.m.
Location:  WE16 – Philadelphia, PA
Check out the tentative agenda.

Check out more information and apply for the program at

(2) Grad Community Spotlights

Did you see the most recent Spotlight?

Stanford Grad SWE (27 June 2016):

Do you know someone (or yourself) or a Grad Group who deserves recognition? Submit their name here:

(3) Book your WE16 room now!

Now is the time to start thinking about your plans for WE16.  You can book your hotel, sign up to be notified when conference registration is live, and more at

Sign up to volunteer for WE16! It’s a great way to give back to the conference that gives so much, and you get a discounted registration rate!  More at

(4) Follow us on social media!


Facebook page:



As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at!

Grad Member Spotlight – Stephanie Moffitt

4 April 2016

SteStephanieMoffittphanie Moffitt


PhD Student, Materials Science and Engineering, expected graduation spring 2017

Northwestern University


Stephanie has been an active SWE member at Northwestern since 2012. She served on the planning committee for NU SWE’s biggest outreach event, Career Day for Girls, in 2013 and 2014. Starting in the fall of 2014, she began serving on NU SWE’s executive board as the first graduate student liaison (at least in recent memory). At this time, Stephanie also began to lead and further develop GradSWE at Northwestern. This has included obtaining a university grant, increasing membership, and developing programs.  This past fall, Stephanie was excited to attend her first SWE conference, WE15. At the conference she co-presented the talk “Preparing Powerful Application Essays”.

Stephanie currently holds a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. In 2014 she was selected to attend the International Center for Materials Research Summer Mini-School and Workshop on Advances in Oxide Materials at the University of California at Santa Barbara. This winter Stephanie was invited as a round table speaker to SWE in the City, NU SWE’s first daylong professional development event in downtown Chicago.

Congratulations, Stephanie, on all that you’ve accomplished! Keep up the great work!


What is your degree program (MS/PhD, department)? When do you expect to graduate?

I am a 4th year Materials Science and Engineering PhD student. I expect to graduate in spring of 2017.


Give a brief explanation of your research.

The unique combination of optical transparency and electrical conductivity is required by many applications. Large-area flexible displays are the current driver of the field of transparent conducting oxides. In my research I study the distinct property changes that evolve in transparent conducting oxides when they are deposited under conditions compatible with flexible plastic. Specifically I am interested in how the arrangement and composition of atoms informs their performance. Oxides compatible with plastic present a significant challenge to study because they lack long-range order. This precludes the use X-ray diffraction and computer simulations that rely on periodic boundary conditions. To overcome this challenge I use element-specific local structure X-ray measurements combined with electrical measurements to gain an understanding of how these materials function on a fundamental level.


What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?

After completing my PhD, I hope continue developing my skills as an independent researcher through a post-doctoral position at a national laboratory. This position will prime me to achieve my ultimate goal of becoming a tenured professor at an R1 research institution. I aspire to act as a role model and mentor to women pursuing careers in science and engineering. As a professor I will interact with students at the undergraduate and graduate level; I will have the status to inspire even more students.


What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?

I’ve been a dancer all my life. As a graduate student I still find time to take class at Foster Dance, a local studio. Next year I plan to enter the “Dance Your PhD” contest. I also really enjoy playing intramural flag football on my department’s team. This year we won the Corec division!


What’s a fun fact about you?   

I grew up flying airplanes. My grandfather help found a recreational airport in California. I spent much of my time growing up at that airport helping my dad fix small airplanes and flying around the western United States.


The Happy PhD Zone: How To Maintain A Work-Life Balance In Academia

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Today I wanted to share an article from the Next Scientist called “The Happy PhD Zone: How To Maintain A Work-Life Balance In Academia.”  Click here for the full blog post.  It is an interesting post on the myth of work – life balance in academia and some ideas on how to maintain your sanity in graduate school.

Academic Job Searches: Tips from SWE-WIA

Today I am excited to share a guest blog post about searching for a job in academia by Diane Peters, the Women in Academia (WIA) Committee Chair!

While many of you in the graduate student community are planning on a career in industry, there may be others who want to pursue an academic path – or who are still trying to decide what path to take. If you’re graduating this year and are interested in academia, you’ve probably already sent out some applications, and perhaps already had a phone interview. If all goes well, soon you’ll be hearing from some of these schools about scheduling an on-site interview! If you haven’t applied yet, there may still be good opportunities that are open, so keep your eyes open for job postings that might interest you.

All of us in faculty positions have gone through the job search process ourselves, and many of us have been on the other side of the table, serving on search committees and interviewing candidates. The advice here is distilled from quite a few of the WIA members, and we hope it’s of some help to you.

  • Think a lot about what type of positions suit you. There are a lot of different positions, both tenure-track and non-tenure-track, and they vary in teaching load, salary, advancement opportunities, job security, and other expectations; know what’s important to you, and what types of positions offer that at the colleges and universities you’re interested in. You’ll want to make sure you convey this throughout the process.


  • Customize your application materials to the position and the institution. You’ll want to write a very different type of cover letter for a community college teaching position versus a large research university. Make sure that you’re emphasizing the aspects of your work and background that apply specifically to them. This goes all the way through the process as well, including the interview. If someone is interviewing at a community college, for example, and all they can talk about is their research, while someone else is able to explain why teaching at a community college fits into their own goals as a faculty member, who would you hire?


  • Get feedback on your application materials. Ask people to proofread them for you, both for content and for grammar/spelling. You want to make sure that they’re well written and that they really contain the most important things, and you don’t want people to be distracted by awkward prose or poor spelling.


  • In the same vein, make sure your application materials are easy to read. Members of a search committee have to read a LOT of applications. One of our members mentioned 50-100 as the number of packages she’s had to read; I’ve been on a search with over 40. At large universities, there may even be hundreds of applications. With limited time to review applications, you need to catch people’s attention quickly and convince them that they want to read more about you. Use descriptive titles and headings so that the reader can find key information. But what’s key information? That brings us to the next point…


  • Do your homework on the institution and the department. Make sure you know basic facts about the school, as well as anything that makes them unique. Don’t make the mistake of talking about how you’d love to teach doctoral students at an exclusively undergraduate or master’s granting institution, or refer to the department by the wrong name, or anything else that indicates you don’t know much about them. If the school is on a quarter or trimester system, you’ll want to know that; for example, at my own university, Kettering University, we have an unusual academic calendar. If someone starts talking about the “summer break” as though they expect everyone has summers off, it’s clear they don’t understand us! (Oh, and one personal annoyance: when the cover letter says “Dear Sir”, that gets to me, personally. If you don’t have a name and all your homework can’t find out who the chair is, use something that doesn’t presuppose that the reader is male, like “Dear Sir or Madam”, or perhaps “Dear Search Committee Members”.) This is important through all phases of the process, both the written documents and the interview. If you’ve done your homework, then you’ll connect much better with potential colleagues in the interview, know what questions you want to ask, and be able to better absorb information. If you know that the college just opened a new computer lab with 3D printers, you can be prepared to ask questions about it when you see it, which shows both your preparation and your interest in what they’re doing.


  • Part of your homework should be seeking connections in your network who know the university, and who work there, if possible. Before one interview, I was able to talk to a former faculty member from the university, and was able to get a good idea of the culture. Another of our SWE-WIA members was fortunate that a fellow SWE member was on the search committee for the position she applied to. These people can help you with your homework, and point out things about the institution that are unique – exactly the kinds of things that you need to know about.


  • As part of your homework, look at the courses taught in the department. You should know which ones you’d be comfortable teaching, particularly if your degree is from a different but related field. This may be something you include in the application materials, depending on what you learn about the institution; it will definitely be something that comes up during the interview process. If you’re interested in course development, you can also discuss this in the interview.


  • If you’ll be doing research at all, think about what you can reasonably do at the institution. Do they have equipment that you would need, or do you have a way to get access to it? How does your research fit into what others are doing? You want to have your work fit into the institution – it should complement what’s already being done, but not be exactly what someone else there is already doing. When you’re interviewing, you’ll want to be alert to potential collaborators, and spend some time talking with them, if possible.


  • You also need to consider funding, particularly as you get farther into the search process. This has two sides to it: first, what kind of startup funding do you need to launch your work, and can the institution provide it? Second, what sources of external funding do you intend to pursue for your work? If you can specifically point out companies, foundations, or governmental agencies that fund your type of work and explain why you think you can get funding, you’ll look good. Regarding startup funding, you’ll want to try to find out what the range is for the institution. If you ask for too little, you jeopardize your ability to successfully launch your career, but if you ask for too much – well, some universities simply don’t have as many resources as others.


  • Know what type of support is available to you; this can include both equipment and money, as stated, but also may include mentoring, some kind of a teaching center to support efforts to improve teaching, and other university resources that will enhance your teaching and research. Ideally, the school’s expectations will be in line with what they provide to you – if not, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Do be careful how you ask about expectations, though; if you ask about teaching load in a way that implies you don’t want to teach, you’ll hurt yourself. You could, instead, ask a potential colleague what classes he or she is teaching right now, and that would give you an idea of what their load is.


  • Practice your job talk. Then practice it again. Then practice it again. Then… you get the idea. Your job talk will let people know what research you’re doing, and also indicate how well you can communicate it. I’ve seen some good talks and some disappointing ones, and a lot of the difference is in preparation. Some people have too many slides, and skip around, which looks sloppy; others look like they’ve never seen their slides before, or like they’ve forgotten what they had there; others are unable to explain their highly specialized research in a way that people can understand. One piece of advice I was given was that everyone should understand the basic idea of what you’re trying to accomplish, but there should be at least one brief time when only the expert in the room knows what you’re talking about; the idea behind that advice was to demonstrate both breadth and depth, and to show the ability to communicate. That’s a tall order for a single seminar, so practice a lot. If possible, you may also want to go to job talks while you’re in grad school, if your university is interviewing potential faculty members. Evaluate their talks, and ask yourself what they did well, and what you might want to do differently.


  • On a broad level, throughout your written materials, phone interviews, and how you present yourself at a campus interview, don’t be afraid to “brag” just a little. You don’t want to be obnoxious or pretentious, but don’t downplay the very real and awesome things you’ve done. You are good at what you do, and it’s important, and it’s OK to say so.

Good luck to all of you who are searching for academic jobs! Those of us in SWE-WIA look forward to having some of you joining us.