Becoming a Pro at Self-Promotion

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

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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)!

 

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Get a mentor, be a mentor – enrollment opening soon!

New semester, new challenges. Don’t face them alone! Mentors can be great sounding boards, helpful guides, and lifelong friends as you navigate grad school and your career. But how do you find a mentor?

There are several ways to find mentors. They can be peers, family members, colleagues, friends, or people further down your career path than you are. You can meet them by chance, be introduced by a common friend, or network your way to the conversation.

GradSWE offers a mentoring program where graduate students can be matched with mentors or guided to reach out to their perfect match. GradSWE members can enroll to get a mentor through the protege enrollment survey, available soon in the GradSWE newsletter. Mentors in graduate school, academia, industry, and government who have graduate degrees and engineering backgrounds can enroll to mentor graduate students through the mentor enrollment survey, also available soon in the GradSWE newsletter.

New this year, GradSWE is adding an undergraduate component to the mentoring program. Undergraduates interested in graduate school can sign up for a mentor as well, and graduate students can enlist to mentor their younger selves.

Keep an eye out in the newsletter for your opportunity to become a mentor and inspire and guide undergraduates and graduates interested in your career, or to find a new mentor!

Not yet receiving GradSWE news? Join the listserv here: https://goo.gl/forms/2vrHPI7gScjLtc3s1 

Will we see you at WE18? Check out these sessions for graduate students!

The SWE Annual Conference, WE18, is fast approaching, and we are pleased to share some of the sessions BY graduate students FOR graduate students:

(FULL CONFERENCE SCHEDULE)

Thursday, October 18th

  • 12:45-1:45 PM | Big Step for Me, Giant Leap for SWE-Kind: Staying Involved in SWE After College
  • 2:00-3:00 PM | Life after Grad School: Transitioning from Graduate Student to Professional
  • 4:30-5:30 PM | Preparing Powerful Application Essays

Friday, October 19th

  • 10:15-11:30 AM | Rapid Fire 1: Graduate Students
  • 3:30-5:00 PM | Graduate Member Meeting
  • 5:00-6:30 PM | Graduate Student Reception (Sponsors: Autodesk, Lockeed Martin, and Praxair)

Saturday, October 20th

  • 1:30-1:50 PM | Utilizing Online Platforms for Self-Promotion: Personal Websites and Social Media
  • 2:00-3:00 PM | Embracing Failures in Academia to Break Personal Boundaries
  • 3:15-4:15 PM | A Tale of Two PhDs and the Value of Diversity

We highly encourage participation in these sessions led by your fellow peers and academics. It can be an impactful learning experience, and high attendance numbers demonstrate that the graduate population in SWE continues to grow!

Are you still looking to coordinate travel/accommodations for WE18? Fill out this form, and we will try to get you connected to other graduate students traveling to the conference.

If you cannot attend WE18, watch for graduate programming at 2019 WE Locals or at WE19. Want to get more involved in the programming that is offered at WE Locals? The deadline to submit an abstract for 2019 WE Locals has been extended to Monday, August 20th.

Any questions about programming at WE18 can be emailed to gradsweprogramming@gmail.com

The Importance of Celebrating the Little Victories

Hello SWE Grad Community!

Can you believe it’s August already? I feel like it was just yesterday I was wrapping up a busy spring semester and looking forward to using the summer change of pace as an opportunity to get plenty of reading, research, and writing done!

If you read Amy’s blog post about making the most of summer in grad school, maybe you kicked off your summer by creating a list of goals to guide your summer trajectory. Have you checked your progress recently? I’m a very goal-oriented person and about this time in the summer I check up on my goals and often start freaking out about all the things I set out to do but haven’t done yet. Maybe you’re in the same situation! Instead of feeling guilty about all the things you haven’t accomplished, I want to encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the things that you have accomplished. Also, consider all of the extra tasks and projects that may have come up this summer, and how those may have influenced your ability to accomplish your original summer goals – these small, unexpected tasks that were completed are wins too! On the other hand, maybe you have had a very productive summer and are totally on track to reach all your goals…great! You too should take a moment and celebrate your victories!

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(http://phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1520)

It is well documented on the individual and organizational levels that engaging in meaningful progress can drive motivation, satisfaction, and creativity. Teresa Amabile from the The Harvard Business School designed a study which collected 12,000 diary entries from 238 employees across 7 companies and found that the daily habit of noting small victories increases appreciation of even incremental progress which in turn increases sense of confidence. The reward centers in the brain can be activated by even small accomplishments, inducing the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine which reinforces and encourages productive behaviors to continue the feelings of pride and accomplishment. Taking the time to reflect on and celebrate the small wins can be a powerful tool to increase motivation and sense of satisfaction- things that are extremely valuable through the ups and down of graduate school!

Why is it so hard to celebrate the small wins?

Maybe it feels silly to pat yourself on the back for something that is not a major milestone or project. Maybe self-critique, not self-appreciation, comes naturally to you. Maybe in the busyness and stress of life and grad school you haven’t had a chance to realize the victories along the journey. Graduate school is full of highs and lows, and don’t underestimate the power of taking a moment to reflect and enjoy when something good happens!

What does celebrating even look like?

Celebrating your victories doesn’t have to look like treating yourself to a fancy dinner when you update your CV or throwing a party when you finish a chapter of your dissertation; the key is taking a moment to acknowledge and appreciate your meaningful progress and good performance! Maybe it looks like keeping some fun snacks in your desk or taking a coffee break with a labmate. Maybe it looks like simply giving yourself a mental high five or sharing a small win with a mentor or colleague. There is power in sharing your good news as well – labmates, friends, and family members can help you celebrate when you share your wins in everyday conversation. Find what feels rewarding to you!

Here are some last tips for celebrating the little wins:

  • Make celebration a habit

Like muscles and working out, recognizing the small achievements can be difficult or awkward at first, but with practice and dedication those abilities can be strengthened. Set a daily reminder or calendar appointment to stop and reflect on the progress you have made that day. Or use a habit tracking app like coach.me to help build a routine.

  • Create a culture of celebration

Share your victories with labmates and friends and celebrate with them when they share their small wins. By fostering an environment where even incremental progress is valued, group morale is grown, not only individual confidence. Friends and mentors can be your cheerleaders when times are tough and hold you accountable as you build your habit. And you can help your coworkers form similar habits by celebrating their small victories as well.

Personally, I keep a small notebook in my desk where I keep track of breakthroughs I’ve had and small victories I’ve won. I call it my “Little Book of Little Wins.” Sometimes when I’m stuck or very discouraged about my work and progress, I flip through my little book and I’m given perspective on the progress I have made in my graduate career!

 

How do you maintain your perspective and motivation? How do you remember and celebrate your small victories?

What have you accomplished this summer- big or small? Share in the comments so we can celebrate with you!

 

Cecilia Klauber
FY19 Graduate Member Coordinator Elect
grad-coordinator-elect@swe.org

 

Recruiting and retaining minority students: How current graduate students can help

As graduate students, it can feel as though we have little power to change institutional practices that would increase diversity in a meaningful way. However, my own experience has shown that current graduate students can take action to encourage their university to add or improve diversity initiatives. I wanted to take this blog post as an opportunity to highlight some successful initiatives being implemented by universities across the country and then to suggest some ways that we, as students, can help enact change. It is my hope that by sharing these ideas, they can be adopted in more places and further improved.

Recruitment

Many universities are beginning to recognize that an effective way to attract talented minority applicants is to simply make the effort to recruit at conferences and universities with many minority undergrads. Universities already send representatives to conferences, and by choosing to recruit at new places, they are able to diversify their applicant pool and make a PhD seem attainable.

In a similar vein, some universities have begun hosting diversity preview weekends for minority students. I know that such a weekend was key in my decision of where to go to undergrad; thus, I am hopeful that such programs will similarly help convince more minority students to pursue a graduate degree. Yale University recently started a pilot program of this sort after a couple of students decided to meet with the graduate school’s diversity office to suggest it. Many other universities are also looking for ways to increase diversity on campus and may similarly be open to such a program. If you are mentoring any minority undergrads, then I would highly encourage you to direct them to Científico Latino, which lists many more programs of this sort, including ones at Georgia Tech, Ohio State, and MIT.

Retention

One of the frequent comments I have received from administrators when trying to increase diversity and inclusion on campus has been that it is “impossible” to get faculty to do anything. Therefore, I am always incredibly inspired (and heartened) by programs that have successfully motivated faculty to support diversity initiatives. A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Sherilynn Black, the Associate Vice President of Faculty Development at Duke University, when she came to campus to speak about her success increasing the acceptance and inclusion of minority graduate students at Duke. (If you’d like to hear Dr. Black speak about persisting in STEM as a minority, then check out her inspiring talk from the 2016 SACNAS Conference.)

I was particularly impressed by her continual insistence that faculty members should be taking a larger role in creating a supportive environment for minority students and that the burden of diversity work should not be placed on the students themselves. This was particularly inspiring, as she has actually managed to increase faculty buy-in through “culturally-aware mentoring” workshops that faculty are required to attend if their graduate students are on certain grants.

These trainings are successful, in part, because they make faculty members aware of their own culture and background, and thus more accepting of where their student’s background might be different. Furthermore, they assume that most faculty members do want to be effective mentors and frame the trainings through this lens. Duke has also put together an extensive site devoted to mentoring, if you’d like to check out more resources on this topic.

Suggestions for making these a reality

If you’d like to increase minority graduate student recruitment and retention at your university, here are some tips from my own experiences to get you started.

  1. Collaborate with the other diversity groups on campus: As my mom used to say, “many hands make light work;” besides, many voices raised together are harder to ignore. To that end, my gradSWE section increases our reach by collaborating with other diversity groups. These groups have connections with administrators beyond the ones we normally interact with, who can help provide funding or institutional support for our ideas. Furthermore, these groups intimately know the problems facing their own members; together we can craft solutions that support all under-represented groups.
  2. Start at the department level: I have found it much easier to encourage faculty who I already have a relationship with to come to diversity events. Additionally, I have found that trainings at the department level can increase buy-in, particularly when the department chair is supportive of the events.
  3. Find sponsors and advocates: Finding the administrators or professors who care about these issues–and are willing to champion them–can make all the difference in turning your recruitment and retention ideas into reality. In addition to providing funding, they can also encourage their colleagues to support your initiatives and attend trainings.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask: If you have ideas of how you can improve your department or school, schedule a meeting with administrators to share them. From my work on our university’s Title IX board, I learned that oftentimes, administrators don’t realize something is a problem for graduate students because no one has spoken up. Even if you are unsuccessful in pitching your idea, you may find some other program that you can help implement or lay the groundwork for the next person who makes a similar request.
  5. Don’t give up: While many schools profess a commitment to increasing diversity, it is an uphill battle to realize change. Administrators will often be unwilling to make large changes, but keep advocating for and supporting your fellow graduate students. Together, we will be able to realize more inclusive graduate programs.

Other ideas?

I’ll end this blog post by inviting you to share with me any additional programs that you know of that have been successful in increasing the recruitment or retention of minority students. If you email these stories to me at gradswe.dil@gmail.com, I would love to feature them in further blog posts. Whether it is something your university’s diversity office has implemented or a program run by your SWE section, please send it my way.

 

 

Call for Abstracts: Poster and Rapid Fire Research Competitions at We18

Call for Abstracts – We18
Poster and Rapid Fire Research Competitions
 
Deadline: June 15, 2018
 
For more details on the application process: Submission Information
 
These competitions are open to all SWE collegiate undergraduate and graduate members. Top 10 finalists in each category (Undergraduate Poster, Graduate Poster, Undergraduate Rapid Fire, Graduate Rapid Fire) will present at WE18, October 18-20 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Subject matter is to be related to original research or work with an application in engineering. Winners for each category will receive cash prizes (1st place $300; 2nd place $200; 3rd place $100). Questions can be sent to emilyhoffman18 [at] gmail [dot] com.
 
If you’re not a SWE member, colliegates can join for $50! The C2C membership lasts through your first year after graduating.