When I was in graduate school, I was fortunate to have incredible mentors – a team of mentors – with varied backgrounds, training, and experiences to enrich my graduate program and provide me with fertile opportunities to grow and develop as a professional. I also was able to tap into the resources of the University of South Carolina and the greater Columbia area. In other words, I was in a safe space for me to ask questions, practice, and make mistakes. This is why I believe that during a graduate program is the perfect time to invest in yourself, to take advantage of what you can learn outside of the classroom as much as in one, and to prepare you for your career after you receive a degree. Professional development is a deliberate step as much as your matriculation into your graduate program.
There has been a lot written about what you should do, what skills you should develop, and how to enhance your “soft skills.” Graduate school is a chance to learn new skills while gaining mastery in your field. Here are my top three tips.
- Take advantage of professional development resources: Take advantage of professional development resources available in your department or college and at the University.
- Set professional goals: Whether you are a new graduate student or finishing up your degree program, now is the time to set professional goals. How will you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been? Reflect on your progress and challenge yourself.
- Build your network: Network with faculty, staff, and your peers, and spread your network to include those from other institutions and in the greater Columbia community. Once you make connections, stay connected. Build your network.
I hope that you will take advantage of Professional Development Fridays and other resources available at the University of South Carolina because now is the time for you to work on professional development. In my role as associate dean for professional development in The Graduate School, I am working to “pay it forward” in appreciation for the excellent training that I received during my graduate program.
Dr. Heather Brandt is associate dean for professional development in The Graduate School and associate professor in the department of health promotion, education, and behavior in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.
Questions? Comments? Ideas? Contact Dr. Heather Brandt at firstname.lastname@example.org.