Tag Archives: career

Effective Communication: How to create a working relationship with your advisor

Written by Michael Ruiz, Bioengineering M.S. 2020

We often find ourselves isolated in books and papers while in graduate school. It is easy to forget how to communicate effectively or openly with other people, but the one person you need to communicate effectively with is your advisor. I encourage graduate students to foster a culture of open and effective communication with their advisor. In my experience, communicating effectively with my academic advisor is one of the most important factors which will determine my success and happiness in my graduate education. 

The first step towards developing an effective communication strategy is to define a set of ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ from your program. This may seem like a daunting task, but it will help you later down the road when you want to translate your experience from your coursework, group projects, thesis projects, and experiments into transferrable skills to list on your resume. 

Ask yourself questions like: “After I graduate, what is my ideal job?” and “What skills will I need to be successful in that role?”. These are difficult questions to ask, but it’s important to take the time and think it out. As a result of this practice, I was able to adopt more open and effective communication methods with not only myself, but with my advisor. These methods have contributed to success within my graduate program. The more independent you become, and the easier you make it for your advisor to support you by communicating your wants and needs, the better your relationship will be. By becoming more self-sufficient in your graduate program, you will become more prepared for your future career.

In a culture of effective communication, it is important to be direct. It is essential to focus on work-related issues and state the objective realities that concerns you. Clarify your thoughts about the situation, and why it bothers you. Are you concerned that your project is not being completed properly?  Is it taking too long?  Is it too expensive?  Is it difficult to get along with someone else on the project? Explain what your goals are and how you would like the situation to be resolved. Before the meeting, plan out your thoughts and ideas to make the most of your time.

As students, we can sometimes forget that professors are busy people. Most of them teach, serve on committees, write grant requests, travel to conferences, and mentor graduate students. While problems with your research and coursework are central to you, they are only one of the many items on your professor’s radar. This makes effective communication central to a working relationship with them. If you feel stuck in your research or academic work or the writing of a paper or manuscript, then it is time to utilize your effective communication skills and schedule a meeting with your advisor.

So you’re ready for a job: Resources to take your employment search to the next level

Written by Michael Ruiz, Bioengineering M.S. 2020

This week I want to address a different aspect of life here at Tufts: that period when you are preparing to finish your program and enter the work force. That’s why we came to graduate school right? To graduate. As a graduate student currently applying for post-graduation positions, I want to share my experiences and the resources at Tufts that will bring your job search to the next level.

When reviewing resumes of potential employees, approximately 98% of companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS) and/or some form of a cognitive aptitude tests. I have found that the ATS can be both interesting and frustrating. It’s meant to streamline leading talent to the top of an application pile, but may make it difficult for companies to locate diversely qualified candidates without proper user input specifications on the front end. In other words, the potential to screen out qualified candidates can be high without proper ATS software training. 

When I first started my job search, prior to studying the ATS and utilizing my resources at Tufts, I sent out countless resumes with little to no response, and did a few first-round interviews with companies that didn’t go any further. Follow up emails didn’t produce results and employers didn’t provide feedback. In short, it’s a tough time to be on the job market, and I wondered what I was doing wrong. 

I visited Tufts Career Center and, with help from the staff there, spruced up my resume and cover letter template. I used Big Interview to practice my responses for job interview questions, and I also learned how to use LinkedIn to conduct informational interviews. On my own, I also decided to utilize a different, experimental approach to finding a job. In one week, I carefully crafted a handful of job applications with custom resumes, cover letters, and a few short essay prompts for four categories of jobs in which I am currently seeking employment. I used a word cloud search approach to scan job descriptions and found commonly used words in the different categories and made sure to strategically integrate those words (where appropriate) into active and achievement-oriented highlights of my career experience. 

Within the first week, I received seven invitations to interview. After another week and going to those initial seven interviews, I was called back for several second- and third–round interviews. 

As new graduates, we can find ourselves facing more barriers to entry than previous generations. Therefore, it is very important to be creative and utilize as many resources as you have available to you, and Tufts provides those resources for graduate students. While I’m currently continuing to send applications and waiting for the right offer, I am working with a Tufts professor of the practice (professors of the practice are faculty members from non-traditional academic backgrounds, often senior-level executives from top companies across a number of industries in the Boston area, who teach at Tufts) to improve my resume and interview skills. Wish me luck! And good luck to all fellow job seekers. 

Graduate Certificates: How I boosted my career to the next level

Written by Penelope Seagrave, Human Factors M.S. 2018

Finishing my graduate certificate gave me the boost I needed to make a difference in my company. Now, equipped with certification, my suggestions hold more weight, and working with a few other colleagues, I was able to form a UX Guild. We have biweekly meetings where we cover UX opportunities within cross functional departments. I have been able to knock down feedback silos and have further strengthened interdepartmental communication channels.

Throughout my career, there have been many times when I have been dying to fix problems in design. I have always had an immutable urge to improve designs to optimize efficiency, enjoyment, and overall flow. Countless times I have brought my concerns and ideas to team leads, project managers, and designers. Sometimes they would consider my suggestions and implement them, other times they would state that there were other matters of higher priority. Whatever the excuse, and all too often, my ideas and suggestions were ignored.

Completing the certificate in Human-Computer Interaction at Tufts finally gave my suggestions the weight necessary to be taken seriously. Not only was I viewed as more credible, I now had lessons and fundamentals to corroborate that credibility.

Additionally, the certificate route enabled me to concretely affirm my interest and excitement about my field. I am now enrolled in the master’s program for Human Factors Engineering, and I am on the board for THFES (Tufts Human Factors and Ergonomics Society). If you see any cute flyers/ Facebook posts for THFES, I designed those! I am utterly obsessed and indefatigably fascinated with learning as much as I can in my field.

Beyond the professional and academical growth my certificate has allowed me, I am so proud of myself for following my dreams and working hard to fulfill them. Balancing work, school, and being a kitty-mommy is no lazy Sunday. I am constantly on the go or working on a project or assignment. But I have sincerely never been prouder of myself. And it has been so worth it.