3 Skills Undergraduate Research Can Improve

By: Glen

I recently posted a piece extrapolating on how to get involved in research as an undergraduate, but what is the fuss about undergraduate research? Is that not what graduate school is designed for, practical experiences to fully certify the student? This may be true, but research at the undergraduate level can give you much needed experience earlier in your career. Here are some skills that (in my experience) undergraduate research can improve.

Critical Thinking Skills

Here is a truth that conducting undergraduate research has driven home: If you are going to make a claim, you need to be able to back it up. Research experience can teach you how to ask questions about the world, and search for good answers to those questions.

For example, the internet is filled with posts filled with information that may or may not be true. When you find yourself reading some of these reports, your research experience will have taught you the correct way of being skeptical. You will find yourself asking instinctive questions such as: who conducted the research, what methods were used to make this judgment, can I see the actual data? Heck, maybe you are reading this post right now, and asking questions like: why should I listen to you, what are your qualifications, what proof of these claims do you have? All I can say is this is my personal experience, but I digress. Point is researchers are trained in the importance of hard facts. This is a great skill to have in the workplace.

3 Skills Research

Creative Problem Solving

I have found that the development of my critical thinking skills has led to an increased ability of solving problems in the work place. In the past, I was someone who could solve problems that I had faced before with ease, yet I would struggle with new problems I encountered. I am finding that pattern to be changing as I become more educated. If I were to point toward a cause of this growth, I would point toward my experience conducting research and time spent in my research-oriented classes. Discussing the methodological construction of research studies has opened my eyes to the many ways questions can be answered. Do NOT underestimate this skill.

Lab Skills

This might seem pretty obvious. “You gained lab skills by doing research? No way!” The important fact is that gaining lab skills as an undergraduate can look fantastic on your resume. I am very glad to have my own research experience, because if I decide to go to graduate school, I will be prepared! A number of my professors have told us students stories from former students explaining how grateful they were to have research experience. Apparently, the students with lab practice were much more comfortable with their graduate programs, due to training with statistics and methodological design.

In conclusion, I figure research experience just makes for better people and better employees. Having technical experience looks good, and will make you a more efficient thinker. Now, this is not to say that every person needs to have research experience, but if the opportunity arises, try it out. Perhaps your career path is taking you in a different direction. Maybe you feel like you would be better served with on the job training, internships, or some similar method of gaining experience. Even then, I would highly encourage any student to conduct research if they have the opportunity. It will diversify your skillset, and that looks mighty impressive.

Read Glen’s other posts

160 Characters to Tell Your Story

Guest Post By: Ellen (Career Counselor & overseer of all social media for UMD Career & Internship Services)

I am a huge fan of social media. Then again, I have an undergrad degree in Communication and love everything about the process of how individuals communicate with one another. Of all the social media platforms available to us in this era of instant communication, my favorite is Twitter. As one of my favorite higher education social media people noted while he was visiting UMD this past Winter, Twitter is 140 characters of awesome.

Personally, I love Twitter because the information is quick and easy to digest. I organize all the people I follow into lists. I have lists like: Student Affairs, Twin Ports, Career-Related, and Travel. The lists are great because all the tweets I’m reading are about the same general subject. I’ve used to Twitter to connect with professionals in field, to live-tweet from events and conferences, follow conferences from afar, share my life, and much more. It was the easiest way for me to connect with other professionals in Higher Education from around the United States while I was in graduate school. Now that I’m in my professional career, it’s still the easiest way for me to do that networking and connecting.

Twitter Bio

Okay, now on to the real reason for today’s post about Twitter.

Your Twitter bio.

You have 160 characters to tell the story of who you are, what you do, and anything else you want to share. Sounds impossible, right? Fear not, here are a couple of tips to help you be on your way to crafting an awesome Twitter bio.

  • Include information about your major and/or your intended field. I have that I am a career counselor at UMD. For the UMDCareers account I manage, the bio is a condensed version of our mission statement.
  • Include relevant hashtags or Twitter handles. In the UMDCareers bio, I’ve included my own Twitter handle so that our followers can see that the UMDCareers account is managed by a real person. A possible hashtag we could use (if we had more characters) would be #UMDProud since it is widely used on the UMD campus. Another example is the UMD Admissions office. They use #futurebulldog in their bio as another way to tie with all of their online and print branding. That’s right, hashtags and handles can help with your personal branding!
  • Have a professional profile photo. Using the same photo as you have on LinkedIn will help with branding across your social media platforms.
  • Use the header photo to show off your personality, hobbies, and/or interests. Mine has a photo of a sunrise that I took. It conveys that I have an interest in photography and I enjoy the outdoors. For UMDCareers, we have a photo of Aerial Lift bridge, which is an icon in Duluth.
  • Update your profile as things change. This could include your major, intended field, finally graduating, or when you’ve gotten a full-time position.

Here are some snapshots from bios of people I follow. Great examples of how to tell your story and show your personality.

  • Career Counselor at UMD Duluth, traveler…photographer, & loves working in Student Affairs.
  • Higher ed geek who thinks new year always refers to August…Accidental techie, bookworm, hiker, and traveler.
  • Advocate for Awesome…Dislikes standing still.
  • Leadership Educator. Runner. Yogi. Speaker. Delta Zeta Alumna.
  • Aspiring archivist, lover of history.

Now it’s your turn. If you’d like help with writing your bio, make an appointment with one of our counselors today!

If you’d like, you can follow @UMDCareers or myself @Ellen_Hatfield.

2012-2013 Graduate Follow-up Report

In the past month, we released the newest edition of the Graduate Follow-up Report. We’re excited, as this is one of the major reports we produce each year. We use the report almost daily in our office as a way to show off what UMD grads have accomplished and also to help current students brainstorm jobs, internships, and graduate/professional schools they could pursue with their majors.

GFUR Infographic (half)

You can view the full report in all its glory on our main website.

UMD Homepage story written by External Affairs can be found here.

Previous blog posts we’ve written about the Grad Follow-up Report

Thanks to UMD External Affairs for creating the awesome infographic shown above!

3 Steps to Get Involved in Research as an Undergraduate

By: Glen

Some of you may have heard that doing research is a great way to get experience and to build your resume. There is truth in those statements! I would definitely advise all students to conduct undergraduate research if you have the opportunity. The first step is where I usually get the question, “How do I get that opportunity?” Depending on your department and where you go to school, the methods can differ. Fortunately, there is an underlying theme for which to approach the situation.

Research as an undergrad

Be Proactive With Academics

My advisor was thoughtful enough to share with me why he allowed me to join his research team sooner than I probably should have. Even as a first semester sophomore without having took the recommended classes yet, my resume showed that I had the potential to be successful. If you are invited to join honor societies, take that invitation. In my personal situation, being in an honors program may have been the key to the gate. My advisor was impressed to see that I was maintaining high grades while being active in other facets of the university.

If the whole honor society thing is not your gig, do not worry, there are other ways to show your professors that you are a fully capable student. One option is to be involved in an academic club or clubs. For me, that was the Psychology Club. Another option would be to participate in some sort of organization that serves the community. This could be the city community or the university community, it does not matter. If your grades are good and you can show that you are being active with your life, you have a much better chance of being accepted into research opportunities.

Find the Opportunities Available to You

While you are maintaining your grades and being active on campus, it is important to think about what you want to research and why. Find some question that you honestly care about answering. Research is a big commitment of time and energy. You are going to need to care about the subject.

There can be multiple ways to get into research once you have a research idea. Here at the University of Minnesota Duluth, we have a number of labs who hire students as paid research assistants. Do not forget to look at the student employment website to check if there are positions open in your research area of interest. In addition, we have the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) for students who have the yearning to write a competitive grant to research their own ideas. Wherever you are, do not hesitate to find what is available to you.

Talk to Your Professors

Once you know what is available to you as a student, you need to make a connection in order to get into a lab. Whether the first contact is an interview or an email, you are going to want to have discussions with the person you are going to be working with. Personally, I started my research experience with a professor because I was interested in the linking of personality and behavior research. The semester in the lab taught me a number of things about the research process, which I enjoyed greatly. Later, I returned to the same professor with my own research idea that was sparked from a class I was taking at the time.

Glen research

Look where I ended up! It was pretty fun.

A great way to find research opportunities on campus is to check what the faculty members in your department are studying. Your faculty members are highly trained, and will definitely know more about current research than you do.

So, there you have it! Maintain your grades, see what is available, and dive in to the research. If you get enough experience, you may find it will get easier and easier. It is never a bad thing to get that first time experience out of the way early, especially if you are going to graduate or professional school.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Glen’s other posts

What Can I do with an Undergraduate Major in Communication Sciences & Disorders?

Guest Post By: Sue Holm & Janet Pribyl (2 of our fabulous Career Counselors)

Most people majoring in Communication Sciences & Disorders (CSD) figure they’ll go to graduate school to become speech pathologists or audiologists. So, what do you do if you weren’t accepted to a graduate program in CSD or if you decide you don’t want to go to graduate school, or at least not right away? You might be surprised to learn there are lots of options! See what recent UMD CSD graduates are doing.

WCYDWAMI CSD

You applied to graduate school and weren’t accepted

If you applied and weren’t accepted, contact the schools to find out why. CSD programs are highly competitive so it might be there were too many applicants for a select few spots. Inform the schools that you plan to apply again (conventional wisdom is to try 3 times) and you want to know what would make your application stronger. Different programs place different emphases on parts of the application so find out what pieces of your application could be improved upon. Once you have more information you can work on making the changes. Additionally, consider applying to more or different schools.

Sometimes you may need more experience. If you’re interested in working in schools, some districts may hire you as a speech therapist on a variance. This will enable you to gain experience before graduate school. If your personal statement needs work, see Career & Internship Services to help revise it for the next application cycle. If you need additional coursework or a stronger grade point average, consider taking a course at the graduate level as a non-degree seeking student to prove your ability to be a successful graduate student. Check with the schools to which you are applying to determine if this is an option.

You’ve decided not to go to graduate school, at least not yet

If you don’t want to go to graduate school, or at least not right away, it could be a good time for self-assessment and exploration. Take the Strong Interest Inventory, Myers Briggs Type Indicator, and/or StrengthsQuest to explore other directions, options, and possibilities. Learning more might lead you to consider applying to other types of graduate programs (i.e. social work, counseling, communication, special education) or other health or medical related programs (i.e. occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, nursing). Your major in CSD is attractive to other types of programs to which you can apply!

Explore what drew you to CSD in the first place. Is it a desire to help people? There are lots of other ways to do this. Look at what people with psychology, sociology, education, or other majors are doing. With your CSD major you can do many of the things students with other majors do. To see where other UMD graduates are working check out the Graduate Follow-up Report. You could also help people through joining the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. Explore all these options while you determine your next steps.

If you decide to go straight into a job search, examine what skills you have. Communication, problem solving, teamwork, managing, planning, organizing, and analyzing, to name just a few, are all skills you developed during your undergraduate education and are skills that employers in all fields desire. Learn to communicate you have these skills, and others, and a wide variety of occupations with a wide variety of employers may be open to you.

Most importantly – know there ARE options and possibilities. Talk to a counselor in Career & Internship Services to discuss your situation and brainstorm ideas. We are here to help!

6 Steps to an “In” for Your Next Job Application

By: Glen

This discussion started from a question I heard asked, “Why did someone less qualified land the job I applied for?” This is a tough question that most of us will probably ask at some point in our lives. Before answering, I want to get something out there: It is nearly impossible to land every job that you apply for. To not have an offer extended to you for a job you tried hard to get is not the end of the world. Keep your chin up, and use the opportunity to learn! Since nobody is perfect, it is always important to try and understand what you can do better to land the next job you apply for. There could be many reasons for not landing a job, but out of the many things that people can do to improve, there is only one fact I want to talk about today.

There is a saying that you may have heard at one time or another: It is not what you know, it’s who you know. Often, employees are hired because they have had experience with the employer, or with the people making the hire. In fact, a large portion of people still say networking is how they landed their job.

I raise this point because it may be that a job offer was not extended your way because someone else had an “in.” Having an “in” can put your resume and your interview on the top of the list. Luckily, there are things you can do to try and get that “in.”

  1. If there is a networking event that you think an employer you are interested in working for is attending, go attend that event.
  2. Have a nice conversation with the employer.
  3. Find more employers and have nice conversations with them as well. If you leave the networking event having got to know 3-4 employers, you are doing really well! You never know when an opportunity will open with those employers, even if you are not looking there just yet.
  4. Connect with these employers on LinkedIn. (Not just the companies, but the people you talked to!)
  5. If you end up wishing to apply for a position in one of these companies, contact the people you connected with on LinkedIn and ask about the position.
  6. Bingo, you have your “in.”

There are other things you can do to build your network, like talking to friends of friends, but the instructions above focus on opportunities that are open to quite a number of people, especially college students and recent graduates. Always stay on the lookout, or the opportunities may just pass by you!

Of Possible Interest:

Read more of Glen’s posts

TED Talks For Your Career

In our office, we are huge fans of watching and listening to TED Talks! Here’s a little bit about TED (Technology Education Design) from their About page:

TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.

TED Talks are a maximum of 18 minutes. You can watch videos of TED Talks on the TED website. You can also listen to them by podcast (which can be fabulous to do while you’re working – if you’re able to). Ultimately, we like the Talks because they are short pieces of information and grand ideas. They challenge us think about our work a little bit differently. Here are a couple of our favorite TED Talks (and a couple playlists) to get you started.