Tag: Career Development (page 1 of 2)

Tips: How to find a Graduate Assistantship

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

Graduate school is an amazing time to learn new skills, take thought provoking classes and meet fascinating people both on campus and off. I was so excited to get to Heller and get to experience all this, but amongst the excitement, one worry kept popping up in my brain: money. While a wonderful experience, graduate school is definitely also a financial investment, and I was really concerned about earning money while I was in school.

One great way to offset the financial costs of graduate school is to get a graduate assistantship! What exactly is a graduate assistantship (GA)? It is an on-campus job specifically set aside for graduate students, and that generally pays a bit more than the undergraduate jobs. There are GAs in almost every department you can think of: admissions, the career center, the gender and sexuality center and more! GAs also help you to gain some experience in an area you’re interested in, such as research, programming, fundraising etc.

Here are some tips to securing a graduate assistant position!

  • Identify a department you are interested in working with

When thinking about graduate assistantships, it helps to have a specific department in mind you want to work with. I would suggest the summer before you enter school looking up the different departments at Brandeis and figuring out where your passions lie. Once you’ve figured out where you want to work, go ahead and reach out to the department heads on the Brandeis website and see if anything is available! 

 

  • Search for interesting positions on Workday

Workday is the Brandeis jobs website (which you’ll have access to once you enroll) and lists all the available student jobs on campus. Look around the postings and see which ones appeal to you.

 

  • Apply to multiple positions on Workday

You can also apply to the GAs on Workday. It’s a very easy process, but make sure to always include a cover letter that mentions the job you want! Even if it does not require it, it helps you stand out. 

 

  • Prep for your interview

Once you get an interview request, make sure to prep ahead of time by looking at the work the department does that you’re curious about. Also, look at the responsibilities and determine where your experience shows you can do these tasks and what you want to learn more about.

With any luck, after you interview, you’ll hear back from the department! If you don’t get an offer on the first one, try not to get too discouraged — there’s a lot of jobs you can keep applying to. I hope these tips helped and good luck on the job search!

The Art of People Collecting

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

Those who know me know: I am a busy person. I thrive when my agenda is packed full. When people ask me how/why I am so busy I love to refer back to Newton’s First Law of Motion,  AKA the Law of Inertia (with a few small edits): 

 “a Hannah at rest stays at rest and a Hannah in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force (ie. my laptop breaks and I have to buy a new one which happened last night, RIP my laptop).” 

People collecting – or ‘networking’, as some fancy folks may call it – has increasingly been my focus during my last year here at Heller. Yes, I am busy, but I am busy with purpose. What does that mean? It means I have been very calculated in choosing which jobs/roles to take on outside of my classes while wrapping up my final year. When I boiled down my goals and desires for this year it pointed me to three major aspirations:

  1. Collect people, both within Heller and within Boston as a larger community, who can help pour into me and build links to finding a career upon graduation
  2. Make enough money to survive (hey, Boston ain’t cheap)
  3. Do well in classes and get to know my classmates

So, I started with evaluating the types of jobs I would like to pursue this year and landed on these four (yes I did say four, but they are all only a few hours each week):

Graduate Assistant (job 1): Naturally, as a Graduate Assistant at Heller Admissions, I get to connect with many folks who come and go (both students, professors and staff). Plus, I enjoy this role and am learning and growing with each shift. I have also worked in this role since last January so it was easy for me to continue in this position, checks all three boxes! 

Babysitter (job 2): At this point, my mind started running… how can I find another job that allows for schedule flexibility but also pays decently and allows me to collect people? My research led me to: babysitting! Shout-out to Care.com. At first I thought, well, it’s pretty easy money. Then I realized, you never know what kind of connections individuals have, and by babysitting for various individuals across Boston I am building my people collection up outside of my direct network within Heller. Checks 2 out of 3 boxes!

Digital Assistant (job 3): An opportunity arose to be a “Digital Assistant” in a few of my classes. This role piqued my interest because it checked box 2 and 3, and arguably 1 as well. This has allowed me to build deeper relationships with some of my professors as I help them navigate Zoom during class. 

Health Systems Education (job 4): As things started ramping up, a job in health systems education I had applied for in the summer (and was told I did not get) arose yet again. Through connections made here at Heller, I have been able to secure another part-time job that is in the field of my interests. Working in health systems education is a great way for me to continue to learn and contribute to class (checks box 3), make some money (box 2), and build a strong network of connections across Boston (box 1). 

So, it may sound like I am overworked (or just crazy), but let me assure you – I am doing okay! People collecting can look different for each person. For some it is in attending various career networking events, for others it is through informational interviews, but for me I have made it a point to work with and for those who I want to maintain connections with. I do make it a point to slow down and enjoy rest and hobbies (as my Macaron post can attest to), but “a Hannah in motion stays in motion!” and intentional people collecting has been increasingly important as I plan to stumble onto my career path.

Things to think about when choosing a graduate program (that might not be immediately obvious)

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Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

As I near the end of my time at Heller, I’ve reflected a bit on the criteria I had when I was applying to and choosing graduate programs, and on how my impressions of Heller have played out during my time here. I wanted to share a few criteria that I considered and discuss in a bit more detail how these factored into my search.

Faculty background

I was drawn to the fact that many Heller faculty serve as researchers in various centers and institutes here on campus, while many also have experience working in federal or state agencies related to health, labor, education, and other social policy areas. Knowing that core courses would be taught by faculty with backgrounds specific to social policy, and with policy-relevant work and research experience regardless of their formal academic training, was a big priority for me, and made Heller a compelling option. My primary interests are education and workforce development, and I’ve gotten to work with faculty who have served in the Department of Labor and managed national job training non-profit organizations. Heller has enabled me to delve deeply into topics of interest in both required classes and electives.

Geography and professional connections

My sense is that many policy schools excel at connecting students to jobs in Washington, DC, as well as in the area where they are located. This motivated me to consider Heller, since I am from the Boston area and interested in opportunities here, as well as DC, where there are of course more jobs in the federal government and in national-level policy organizations. That said, Heller places students around the country and abroad, which I viewed as an additional advantage to attending graduate school here – I’ve made connections with peers and with faculty who themselves have connections in many different locations.

Peer interests

In addition to faculty at Heller tending to have direct professional and research experience in social policy fields, the fact that my peers are passionate about social justice and social policy has been a big advantage of attending Heller as well. While Heller is not homogenous, there is definitely a sense of shared values and a commitment to social change. This was a powerful motivator in my decision to attend Heller, and the experience that students have in non-profit, government, and social impact settings has really enriched class discussions.

Flexibility and options

While I entered Heller in the MPP program, I was interested in adding a dual MBA, and knew that doing so would only add about 6 months to my time in graduate school due to the accelerated schedule of the MBA program. Knowing that there were options like this available also informed my decision to attend Heller. In general, the culture here is to help students figure out how to accomplish what it is they want to do. I am glad that my impressions of this culture when I decided on Heller have been proven correct by my 2.5 years here!

Keeping Up with the… Current Affairs

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

I’ve recently been thinking more about my go-to sources of information about current affairs and policy, in part because I have a new job responsibility in which I have to compile interesting items related to data and higher education on a weekly basis. One of the great things about attending Heller has been discovering new sources of information and learning how to better use both popular press and more wonky, research-based sources to keep abreast of developments in the policy and non-profit spaces. I thought I’d share some of my favorites in this blog post.

One of my top recommended sources is probably already familiar to many prospective Heller students – the NY Times. I find that their coverage of national politics, the pandemic, and the economic recovery is some of the best out there, and they also are a resource to find examples of great data journalism. In courses at Heller in which I’ve had to do data visualizations, maps, or dashboards, I’ve turned to the NYT for inspiration on how to design an effective graphic. The Times is pay-walled, unfortunately, but you can get a subscription through Brandeis for free!

I’d be remiss not to recommend a publication co-founded by Heller Professor Robert Kuttner and former professor Robert Reich – The American Prospect. This is a great magazine with free online access to articles and blog posts. It’s a great source for in depth analysis of public policy developments and the legislative process in Washington, particularly if you are interested in issues related to the economy and workforce.

If you are looking for more local news, I find the Politico MA Playbook to be a great resource. I subscribe to their email list so that I get a brief update almost every day. Politico provides quick, succinct updates on legislative and policy happenings on Beacon Hill, and is great to follow if you are interested in Massachusetts or Boston politics.

An invaluable resource for MPP and other Heller students are think tanks which research domestic public policy issues. Some of the think tanks whose reports have been regularly assigned in my courses include EPI, Brookings, and Demos. While these offer more of a specific perspective, rather than objective news reporting or analysis, they also tend to produce reports with more extensive research and detail than what you would find in a journalistic source. While you have to be careful to balance these with more academic sources in papers, reports from these types of organizations can be great options for citations.

Last, but certainly not least, is less a particular source than a chaotic, unregulated mix of hot takes: Twitter. Still, despite the fact that many Twitter accounts possess no particular expertise in the topic area they post about (and although it can be a time waster and procrastination tool), Twitter is also heavily used by journalists, policy analysts and researchers, and academics. Some of my favorite sources for policy perspectives are NYT Opinion columnists Jamelle Bouie and Ezra Klein; economists Arindrajit Dube and Branko Milanovic; and the climate reporter Kate Aronoff.

Reading strong policy analysis in many forms, whether columns, reports, or tweets, is a big part of learning to write stronger policy analysis. The emphasis on writing has been one of my favorite parts of my Heller experience, and I appreciate the many recommendations I’ve gotten from faculty and classmates of smart commentators to follow (and imitate!)

Matching Heller Classes to Skills

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

As my own job search begins to get underway in earnest, I have been thinking more about my own skills and those that I have developed at Heller specifically. I’m also thinking about the skills demanded by employers, and the degree to which Heller coursework aligns with these. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the way in which skills I’ve gained or strengthened at Heller translate to the requirements included in job listings, and I thought I would share a few examples to help make the utility of specific Heller courses seem a bit more concrete.

Skill/experience: experience with statistics and statistical packages such as STATA, SPSS, R, etc.

Countless job listings include some version of the above preferred qualification. In Heller’s statistics courses like “Data, Models and Decisions,” students learn how to construct regression models and run various statistical tests using STATA, one of the more commonly used stats software packages. Additional courses such as “Working with National Datasets” and “Evaluating Survey Data Using Stata” expand upon fundamental skills and introduce students to other software platforms such as SPSS.

Skill/experience: experience conducting qualitative research including surveys, focus groups, interviews

Many research-oriented jobs, as well as jobs in consulting, program management, or international development, will require some amount of qualitative data collection and analysis. Core courses in Heller degree programs, such as “Research Methods and Evaluation” in the MPP program, introduce best practices in qualitative research and enable students to practice designing study proposals. Many classes include experiential components in which students have the option to interview external stakeholders. One example is the Team Consulting Project, the MBA capstone project in which students typically conduct research to inform recommendations to a real world client organization.

Skill/experience: experience managing a budget and performing financial analysis

One of my primary motivations to add a dual MBA to my MPP course of study was wanting to take accounting and corporate finance courses. Even non-MBAs, however, will have the chance to take coursework in economics, cost-benefit analysis, and program management. In addition, students who choose to participate in the Heller Student Association or a Heller working group can gain experience managing an organizational budget. Many students will develop these skills in internships, as well. Not to mention having a crash course in personal finance during grad school!

Skill/experience: teamwork, leadership, project management

While these are skills that can be learned in many types of settings, even as someone who worked for years in very collaborative office environments, I found that my efficacy and communication abilities working in groups improved during graduate school. All degree programs will include at least some group projects, and these are a great way to strengthen teamwork, listening, and interpersonal skills. While these may be difficult to capture on a resume, the Heller degree itself conveys that you have experience working in a close-knit, collaborative environment.

As I prepare to re-enter the working world, I feel grateful for the varied practical skills I have learned at Heller. Visiting the Career Center here is a great way to figure out how to effectively communicate my strengths in resumes and cover letters. While learning for its own sake is important, and highly valued here, it’s great to know that Heller is preparing students to work in settings where we can take on challenging, real world issues.

Looking ahead to your Capstone with Sami Rovins

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Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

Let’s be honest, the process of planning, completing, and presenting your Capstone and Master’s Thesis can be completely overwhelming! To make things a little easier for you, I’ll outline the steps I took to complete my Thesis and present it to the school.

  1. The first step is the planning process. Ask yourself: what do you want to research? What type of work would you like to do? Which organizations could you see yourself working with? If you’re going with the Summer internship option, be sure to ask your Practicum Program Manager for a list of organizations where Heller students have interned in the past. This will help you narrow your search and will also help you make connections. Your internship experience will likely determine the course of your Capstone paper. In my case, working on educational programs for girls in India revealed a gap in teaching sex education to young people. This led me to my final Thesis topic, the need for Comprehensive Sex Education for Indian youth.
  2. Writing a 40-70 page paper may feel totally impossible at first glance. I found it helpful to break my paper into chunks, and only think about one section or subject at a time. Breaking a large paper down into smaller parts is a simple tool that can make a big difference in the writing process. Be sure to conduct thorough research and take thoughtful notes while you do. Staying organized is half the battle!
  3. As someone who often feels uncomfortable with public speaking, the notion of presenting my research and findings to the entire COEX cohort was definitely intimidating. As a result, I tend to over-prepare, but this amplifies my confidence leading up to a presentation. Be sure to practice your presentation and run it by a friend or family member for a fresh pair of ears and eyes. I found it so helpful to practice my presentation in front of both Heller and non-Heller friends. Their varying perspectives gave me insight into ways I could improve my Capstone presentation.

Completing my Master’s Thesis and presenting my work during the Capstone presentations was a fulfilling and meaningful way to finish up my time at Heller. Beginning the process can be so overwhelming! But in the end, you’ll feel so proud of your accomplishments and all the hard work you’ve put in here at Heller.

Back to School Planning with Doug

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

One month to go!

As I write this blog post, less than a month remains before classes start at Heller. For admitted students, I imagine the next month will be filled with excitement, anticipation, and impatience. If you are planning to begin classes at Heller this fall, I hope you have the chance to take a break from work and other obligations and relax, travel, and see family, as well as apartment hunt and begin preparing for classes. Here’s my advice for preparing for the academic and professional side of things, so that you can hit the ground running once classes begin.

At this point, you should be able to view the schedule of classes either on Workday or on the Registrar’s website. You can get a sense of what classes you are required to take this fall, as well as what electives are suggested, by looking at either the website of your academic program or the Individualized Learning Plan forms available for most programs on the “for students” section of the Heller website. These forms can help you to outline your schedule for the next couple semesters. While it’s not necessary to have everything planned out before you start, I found it helpful to peruse these materials before the semester began.

Some additional cheat codes regarding class registration: you can view previous semesters on the Registrar’s site to get a sense of what electives are available in the spring, and once you have access to Workday, our course administration site, you can “browse syllabi” from previous semesters to learn more about courses you might take in the future (with the caveat in both cases that it’s subject to change).

Now is also a great time to review the list of faculty in your program and see who shares your interests and chairs your concentration (if applicable for your program). You might consider reaching out during orientation to a professor with whom you aren’t taking a class this fall – that way you can meet them a bit sooner and hear their perspective in addition to that of your adviser and first-semester professors.

I’d also encourage you to view the career center website and get set up on Handshake as soon as it is possible to do so. Fall information sessions with employers will be available to register soon. I’d definitely recommend scheduling a career advising appointment early in the semester and introduce yourself to the staff.

Lastly, once you have access to Workday, you can view jobs for students and apply for an on-campus job. You can also join career-focused Heller groups on Facebook and LinkedIn (there is also a Brandeis graduate student housing group on Facebook).

While you’ll be provided with the info you need by email and once you arrive on campus, spending some time perusing the website and finding information specific to your own interests and goals doesn’t hurt. Good luck as you gear up for the fall semester!

Life After Heller: Sami’s Job Hunting!

Woman in glasses smiling at the camera

Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

Heller’s 2021 graduation ceremony was such a blast to participate in, and I can’t believe it was just a few weeks ago! Now that final projects and papers are all turned in, it’s time for me to begin the job hunt. Searching for a new job can be very exciting, but it can also be totally terrifying. Here are a few tips and resources that I’ve found helpful to make your search for a job less overwhelming and much less scary.

Perhaps the hardest step in finding a new job is knowing where to start. Luckily, there’s a number of sites that list jobs relevant to many Heller students’ interests. I love the website Idealist.com because they have opportunities both within the United States and internationally. Their site makes it easy to search by location, job type, or subject matter. ReliefWeb and GlobalJobs.org are two other excellent sites for job hunting in our fields. These sites also list opportunities abroad as well as domestic positions.

The Career Development Center at Heller is an amazing resource that you should absolutely take advantage of during your time in grad school. From helping you write a cover letter, to providing interview tips, to posting available jobs and internships, Heller’s Career Center staff are available to answer all sorts of questions you may have. Every year, the Career Development Center also hosts treks to New York City and Washington, D.C. These treks are excellent opportunities to connect with individuals working at the organizations you may want to work with after graduation. I attended the NYC Career Trek during my first year at Heller, and was thrilled to meet with Program Directors at the National Institute for Reproductive Health.

Making connections is one of the most important aspects of landing the job that you want. Be sure to network among your Heller peers and maintain connections with your professors. This is another reason why the Career Treks are so meaningful. They provide a valuable opportunity to personally connect with the people you actually aim to work with in the future. Heller professors and staff also have a lot of connections, so it’s important to network with them as well. Of course, networking can feel awkward at times. But you can leave an enormous impression on someone by simply conveying your passion, knowledge, and ability!

Most importantly, keep a positive outlook! The job hunt can sometimes feel exhausting. But your hard work writing cover letters and resumes will certainly pay off. Don’t let yourself feel discouraged! You made it to Heller, and you’ve done all the hard work of graduate school. You’ve come this far, and you deserve to feel excited about taking the next step towards your career.

Persistence is Key: How to Unlock your Summer Experience

Finding the right internship or summer opportunity can be challenging. There are so many great choices and it may be difficult to know where to start. Here are some useful tips that helped me during my search.

Connect with the Career Center:

Each program at Heller has designated staff who are primed in your program and ready to help you. They will start running information sessions during the spring semester. I highly recommend you attend at least one. It could be helpful to hear what questions or issues your classmates may have and get up to date tips and tricks from the staff. If you feel comfortable, I recommend also scheduling a one-on-one meeting as well. Whether it’s for resume building or search suggestions, you will not regret it.

Check Handshake and other search engines:

While search engines can be daunting for some (me), they are a great tool. It’s all about finding the right search words. Utilize the advanced search options to help narrow down the available jobs and internships. Identify the region, time of year, pay preference right off from the start. Make sure to include key words to ensure you’re receiving the right responses. For example, I made sure to always have the words “policy” “gender” or “women” included in all my searches, as my studies focus on gender policy.

And don’t get discouraged if the search doesn’t produce too many options at the beginning. While government agencies seem to have earlier deadlines, many agencies do not post their summer internships until March and April! So, make sure to save your search criteria and refresh often.

Network:

Yes, I know “network” can be seen as a dirty word. But if I have learned anything during my own process, it is to not shy away from your connections. And it’s okay if you are new in the field/may not have a strong network yet – that’s what being at Heller is all about. Make sure to connect with old colleagues, new professors, friends in the field. Word of mouth and peer recommendations go a long way! Heller’s network is far-reaching. Connect with professors and faculty in your field. If they do not have immediate connections, I ensure you their networks do. Heller alumni love to help, so set up that informational interview, ask that professor out to coffee, or ping that guest lecturer.

Once you’ve found an opportunity that interests you – make sure to check LinkedIn and see who you may know at the organization or what mutual connections you share. Similarly, let your advisor or professors know, chances are, they know someone.

General:

This process is your own so take it at your own pace. Do not compare your progress with your classmates and peers. Make sure to stick to deadlines and do not be afraid to ask for help. Everyone in the Heller community is here to help you succeed!

Facing Your Fears at Heller

Woman in glasses smiling at the camera

Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

Over the last two years at the Heller School, I found myself face to face with one of my biggest fears: public speaking. I’ve given many presentations during my time at Heller, but I’ve always been a ball of nerves in the days leading up to each one. Yet I’ve challenged myself to tackle my fear of public speaking, and I have also found useful ways to cope with the anxiety. As I approach my final presentation, the presentation when I present my thesis, I can’t help but think of how proud I feel to engage in public speaking despite my discomfort with it.

Whenever I give a presentation, I always make sure to do my “power pose” right beforehand. This helps me to feel more assertive and strong. It might even seem silly, but from my experience, striking a “power pose” can help improve confidence. It’s a small act, but it makes a difference for me when I am delivering a presentation. In fact, many social psychologists describe the benefits of striking a powerful stance, and emphasize that it can be a helpful “life hack”.

I’m also preparing to present my thesis with lots (and lots and lots) of practice. It may also sound simple, but it is very true that “practice makes perfect”. It is important to feel comfortable with the material I’m presenting and feel comfortable and confident in the way I want to convey my findings and analysis. This, of course, helps cut down on my anxiety, as I grow more and more comfortable telling my story. Practicing my presentation with a friend also provides me with useful and helpful feedback. It is so helpful to do a test run (or two) before the big day! That way, you have some time to iron out any wrinkles that might pop up in your practice presentations.

It is also so important to remember that Heller is an environment in which your thoughts, ideas, and experiences are welcome. Your professors and classmates you are presenting to are eager to hear from you. They are listening with interest, openness, and curiosity. You will simply not find a hostile audience at the Heller School. Instead, you’ll be met with an audience who want you to succeed.

These are the practices I am keeping in mind as I approach my final presentation at Heller. Relatively simple acts, like striking a “power pose”, can make a world of difference. A healthy amount of practice is always my best route. And lastly, I am keeping in mind how receptive, curious, and interested my Heller audience will be to hear about my thesis.

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