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)!



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: 

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!



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 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


Plan Ahead for the Spring Semester

Hi everyone! Happy holidays!

If you’re an international student, this is probably the month that you travel back home for some much needed R&R. While I encourage you to spend this time with family and friends, here are a few things to think about before the start of the Spring semester to help you be more productive once you’re back:

  • Plan Your Classes: This is a no-brainer, but be as proactive as you can about planning what classes you want to take during the Spring and ask former students for advice on whether those classes are appropriate for your career path
  • Establish Your Minor: If you’re a new international student and you’ve successfully completed one semester at grad school, you probably have a much better idea about your interests now as opposed to when you first signed up for classes in the Fall. Use this experience to branch out and take classes outside your major area of study if possible. For eg: I was in the construction & project management program but I took a couple classes from the MBA & BBA programs that added value to my areas of interest
  • It’s Never Too Late to Find Funding: If you weren’t lucky finding a teaching / research assistantship during your first semester, stay proactive, positive and alert – email the network you build during your first semester and show them your interest in seeking funding opportunities for the Spring
  • Get Involved: The first semester as an international student can be tricky in terms of finding your bearings, managing classes and cultural differences. But now that you’ve had some time to straighten things out on that front, get involved with organizations within your University – be it sports, cultural, educational, GradSWE, etc. Not only does it add bonus points to your resume, but in my experience, building leadership skills in a new country will also build self-confidence and help you perform better during interviews
  • Lessons Learned Checklist: This is something I wish I’d kept track of, but make a note of all the things you wish you’d done differently during your first semester (if you’d known better – which you do now!) – and actively CHANGE once Spring rolls around!

Have a wonderful holiday season and a successful Spring semester! Feel free to email the GradSWE international team at with any questions you might have 🙂

– Akshaya

Graduate Community Events at WE16!

Mark your calendars for these events hosted by the SWE Graduate Community! We have grad student sessions each day. Also monitor our social media pages for real-time updates about the sessions and other social events! See the image below for links to our various social media pages, and talk up these sessions at the conference!



WE16: Opportunities for Involvement!

We are only TWO months (plus a few days) away from the WE16 national conference in Philadelphia, PA! Participating in a conference session is a great way to justify attending the conference and network with fellow SWE grads. Here are TWO ways to become involved in WE16 as a grad student! These opportunities include:

  1. Rapid Fire sessions – call for applications
  2. GradSWE member survey/option to participate in a panel at the GradSWE Meet & Greet

Rapid Fire Sessions: Year after year, Rapid Fire presentation prove to be a very beneficial way for SWE grads to practice presenting their research in front of their peers and a panel of judges. The call for applications is officially open and due on Monday, September 26th at 11:59 pm EST. Please fill out the application here. Master’s and PhD students are highly encouraged to apply.

GradSWE Member Survey: Does your university have a GradSWE committee? If so, we would love to have your input! Each GradSWE committee arranges their funding and committee structures in a slightly different way. We are planning to devote time to discussing this at WE16. Ultimately, these efforts will create a reference of “best practices” as GradSWE committees become more prevalent across the country. We greatly appreciate your input! Please fill our the survey here.

For questions about either of these opportunities, Please email Rachel at with any questions.

Announcing the WE16 GPC-Elect: Emily Hoffman!

Hello Graduate Community! It is my pleasure to announce Emily Hoffman, the Graduate Programming Coordinator-Elect for WE16!  Emily is a PhD candidate in Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University researching the nanoscale properties of metal hip implants using transmission electron microscopy. Emily has attended WE13 in Baltimore, WE14 in Los Angeles, and WE15 in Nashville. She also delivered talks at WE14 and WE15 about opportunities for engineers in policy for students and professionals. Emily will also serve as Graduate Programming Coordinator for WE17.

Welcome, Emily, to the Graduate Committee!

Do you have an idea or vision for conference sessions for graduate students at WE16? If so, stay tuned for more details regarding a teleconference regarding session planning for WE16 very soon!