I am currently the Associate Director for Student Success with University Life at George Mason University. I implement and create the student success and retention initiatives of the division and support undergraduate students to degree completion.
I find it rewarding to work on programs that help support student transition and completion. I have the opportunity to work with students and colleagues that are passionate about the success of college students. I am honored to work on initiatives that help set national models for supporting student success.
The work that I did in the PhD program directly relates to my current position. In class I researched trends and issues concerning transfer students, retention, and general college student development, which are all integrated into my current position. I was able to develop expertise on the transfer student experience through my dissertation, which is an important part of my job responsibilities. And I have been asked to present to my colleagues on national trends and issues with transfer students. I also used findings from my research to help develop the new undergraduate retention survey at Mason.
My first piece of advice is to research or study an area of your field where you see yourself working after graduation. You can utilize class assignments to gain knowledge around that topic. Then you can showcase your expertise in job interviews or while networking when job searching. I would come to the interview with an understanding of how your experiences in class help set you apart from other candidates.
My next piece of advice is to use your graduate student status as much as possible when trying to gain new experiences. People generally love helping grad students, especially if you are willing to do a practicum without pay to gain more experience. Set informational meetings with staff that you are interested in meeting or learning about their job responsibilities. It is a lot easier to set these meetings as a grad student than as a professional. You can learn more about their position and develop a new contact at the same time. The person might be able to access or create opportunities for you that you wouldn’t know about otherwise, and that will help you land your next job.