Tag Archives: Gradhacker

Blogging to Establish Your Digital Identity

With so many people pursuing PhDs today it can be hard to differentiate yourself from other students in your discipline. If you want to stand out professionally and improve your writing skills, try starting a blog! Writing your own blog is an excellent way to engage with your professional field at large or to maintain a side interest or specialty outside of your graduate studies. Even better, having a publicly visible blog gives you the opportunity to craft your own image online and have a degree of control over your digital identity that you just won’t get with most social media platforms. Many available blogging platforms like WordPress, Blogger, and newer platforms like Medium are all designed for people with no coding experience to hop in and starting building ; great for busy grad students who don’t have time to learn how to code.


What Are The Professional Benefits of Blogging?


Show your skills and establish expertise.

In many ways a blog is like having a public archive of your graduate work. With all the effort we put into our graduate studies, show off all that effort and scholarly activity to a wider audience.

Blogging also provides you with a platform to demonstrate that you know where your work fits into the field and how it relates to trends in the field. This is important, as you can use your blog to show, not just tell, potential employers that you have a wider understanding of your dissertation topic and that you can speak to elements outside of your direct area of study. This is an incredibly valuable skill, especially if you intend to pursue


Increased Visibility.

What happens if you do a Google search for you name? Go check. Are all of these results what you want potential employers to see? Even if you don’t have embarrassing photos on social media, having a blog can improve search rankings by tying your name to the content that you create. Having positive results that you can control on the internet is a huge advantage compared to a collection of your Facebook and LinkedIn activity.

It sets you apart from other applicants.

Drs Peppers
What sets you apart from other applicants?

 Having a blog can help when you start looking for employment after graduate school, especially if you are going the non-academic route. Blogging shows that you have taken the time to learn how to write for a wider, non-academic audience and allows you to establish a unique brand that sets you apart from other applicants with a similar education.

So what’s holding you back?

Here are three of the most common objections to starting a blog (hint: none of these should stop you!)


“Writing takes time.”

Do enough scholarly writing and you will begin to feel like every writing project takes weeks of agonizing effort, editing, and revisions. Not so with blog posts! It can be incredibly liberating to write 400 words on a topic that you are interested in and publish it to your blog; no peer review necessary. (Sorry reviewer #3!)

Plus, as you practice writing you will get faster. Articles used to take me days to put together; now I can draft a full post and start in on editing in the same day. Even more important is that my scholarly writing has improved from all the practice I have gotten from blogging.

  “Writing is hard.”

Practice makes it much easier, and the effort you put into writing for your blog will sharpen the writing skills that you use in your graduate degree. Writing blog posts is a different format than writing a peer-reviewed journal article, but both are still writing. Think of blog posts as cross-training exercises for your scholarly writing.

“Doesn’t it cost money to have a website?”

Yes, but it is not prohibitive! I’ve personally used WordPress for over 4 years and pay less than $30 annually to host my own domain using a free template. This means I’ve had to give up a little over $2 a month to maintain my site; that’s a single coffee per month. It is absolutely worth the investment in yourself and your career (and this is coming from someone who LOVES her coffee).


For those of you who want to establish a digital identity and take control of how you present yourself, a blog is a fantastic starting point. There will be more work involved in maintaining a blog, but you only have to take on as much as you want. Once a month is plenty when you’re starting out, there is always the opportunity to do as much or as little as you want. It’s your project after all!

Have any of you started a blog in graduate school? What was your experience like? Share your stories in the comments section below!
[Image from NOGRAN s.r.o., used under Creative Commons license]


The Importance of Asking for Help

One of the most important things that I’ve learned in graduate school is how to ask for help when I need it. Knowing when and how to ask for help can make navigating this unknown terrain much easier and save you time by avoiding the mistakes (or experiments) that others have made. This skill cannot be underrated, as you will encounter the unknown regularly in your studies as a graduate student. Continue reading The Importance of Asking for Help

Combating Cynicism in Graduate School

Almost every department has that person who has elevated cynicism to an art.  You know the one. That person who is always unhappy with and verbally tearing down her project, his program, her advisor, journal club presentations, or pretty much any part of the graduate school experience. Usually this is a senior student or postdoc, but these personalities can be found in any corner of academia if you look hard enough. Unfortunately, this person also has an overall negative effect on the morale of those around him, making the already-difficult graduate school process that much more grueling for those who have to deal with him. Even worse, formerly happy students may begin to mimic these cynical behaviors and perpetuate a negative training environment for both themselves and those around them.

Continue reading Combating Cynicism in Graduate School

Basic Negotiation Tactics for Grad Students

Graduate school is the final stage before entering professional employment; yet many graduates lack the negotiation skills necessary for the impending job search. As a result, many recent graduates take the very first offer they get out of school without negotiating their salary or terms of employment, which can lead to an individual being underpaid for their work. Unfortunately our future pay is often the product of what we are currently paid, so that failing to negotiate for a higher salary initially (even as simple as $5000 more a year) can compound over a lifetime of work to a loss equivalent to $500,000.

With that in mind, here are some basic tactics you should know going into salary negotiations as a recent graduate. Continue reading Basic Negotiation Tactics for Grad Students

The Battle Between Perfectionism and Productivity

The authors at GradHacker have written about the struggle with perfectionism in graduate school before, but there is still much left to say about this issue.

From all the hoops that we have to jump through to get into a program, GPAs to GRE test scores, it’s easy to see how graduate school selects for perfectionists. In graduate school, the pressure experienced during your undergraduate studies doesn’t let up, it only intensifies until you finish your degree. Suddenly, your workload is higher and more intense, the demands from professors (and now students if you’re a TA) are more immediate, and there is no room to do everything perfectly all the time. Left unchecked, struggling with perfectionism and falling short of your self-imposed standards can lead to feelings all too common in graduate school: anxiety, depression, frustration, and even anger. These only compound the issues feeding into perfectionism until finally, you may find yourself unable to deal with any of the work relating to your degree.

This moment is when perfectionists start to slip up in graduate school: when outsized expectations collide with real-world limitations. At this point, the perfectionistic habits that got you this far can start to work against you; it might be time to learn some new ways to work. Following are three common productivity-killers of perfectionism, and how to get past them: Continue reading The Battle Between Perfectionism and Productivity

Guest Post at Gradhacker

Hello readers! I have started contributing articles to the Gradhacker website in order to share some of the things I learned in my first year of graduate school. This month I’ve written an article for those of you about to start graduate programs and how to choose the best laboratory rotations for your personality and interests.

Head over to Gradhacker and check out my new piece: How to Find the Right Lab Rotation