Happy Thanksgiving!

Staying in Chicago over Thanksgiving Break? Check out these free activities across the city.

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5 Ways To Use Thanksgiving Break For Career Development

Whether you are traveling to visit friends and family, or taking a break in Chicago, these strategies can help you reach your career goals.



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1. Build Local Connections

If you’re visiting an area that you might call home after UChicago, take advantage of being physically present by connecting with local professionals. Reach out to an interesting person at a local organization, and schedule a time to meet with them to chat about their career path. If you are actively applying to positions, you can also let potential employers know that you’ll be in town. You could include this information in the final paragraph of your cover letter or in an email to someone at the organization. Use language like “I will be visiting [CITY] on [DATE], and I would love to stop in and discuss this opportunity further.” Capitalize on your visit by intentionally building local connections.

2. Practice Your Elevator Pitch on Friends and Family

Have you ever faced a holiday party with dread because you know you’ll get questions like “So what are you doing at UChicago?” or “What exactlyare you studying again?” Whether you’re talking with a family member, old friend, or someone you’re meeting for the first time, these questions can be tough to answer. Why? Because we’re often thinking too much about ourselves and not enough about our audience. Tailoring your message to your audience is one of the key principles of preparing a good elevator pitch, which is a short, 30-60 second self-introduction to who you are or what you do. Preparing a good elevator pitch is essential for job fairs, networking, and interviews. Next time you’re at a holiday party, think of it as a chance to practice a few different versions of your self-introduction. But remember, always keep your audience in mind!

3. Talk to Friends and Family to Learn About Your Strengths

Knowing your strengths can help you figure out which careers may be a good fit. Often, people who know you well—family and friends—recognize and appreciate certain things about you. They may rely on you to organize get-togethers, or they may acknowledge you for your ability to help resolve disagreements. These and other qualities can translate into professional competencies, such as organization and communication skills. If you’re spending time with family and friends over the holidays, ask them, “What do you think my strengths are?” or “Which of my qualities stand out to you?” Use the insights they provide when you’re exploring careers. For example, when reading a job ad, ask yourself whether your strengths are a good fit for the position. Or, if you are conducting informational interviews, listen closely to what skills are needed to be effective in a role, and then consider whether those skills coincide with your strengths. Knowing your strengths is the foundation of career exploration and development.

4. Spend Some Time in Quiet Self-Reflection

One perk of the Thanksgiving break is the opportunity for quiet time—a chance to step off the graduate school or postdoctoral treadmill and just be. If you find yourself with a few spare minutes, consider using that time to engage in some quiet self-reflection related to your career goals. Grab a pen and paper and spend some time writing about what has made you happy or unhappy during your graduate or postdoctoral studies. Which problems, tasks, or assignments do you most enjoy? When do you feel energized? Alternatively, which problems, tasks, or assignments leave you feeling depleted or bored? Ask these same questions of your previous jobs, internships, or voluntary positions. Once you’ve finished writing, reread your work and see if any patterns emerge. Perhaps you notice that you seem to feel most engaged whenever you are working with undergraduates. This is good information to have—it points to interests and values that can guide your career search.

5. Chat with Fellow Travelers—or Just Relax!

If you’re traveling for the holidays, why not consider chatting with your fellow passengers? Networking with strangers may seem daunting—especially if you’re shy—but think of it as a way to spread holiday cheer. When you reach your designated seat on an airplane, for instance, try employing simple gestures like smiling and saying “hi” to your neighbor. If your neighbor doesn’t acknowledge you, don’t worry; they’re someone you wouldn’t want to talk to anyway!  If your neighbor says “hello” and then puts on headphones or buries their nose in a book, then hey, at least you tried. It’s likely, though, that your neighbor will be up for a few pleasantries. There’s always a chance that a wildly wonderful scenario will unfold in which the two of you really hit it off. You may spend the flight conducting a career-related informational interview or gaining a new friend. If all else fails, you can press the eject button—mentally, that is—and simply focus on recharging yourself. Look forward to all of the love, wine, and merrymaking that the holidays are, after all, traditionally about.

Finding the Perfect Fellowship

The Fellowships advising team in UChicago GRAD starts the academic year promoting a variety of fellowship deadlines, disseminating information about searching and applying for fellowships, and advising students on the AAUW, DAAD, SSRC IDRF, NSF GRFP, NDSEG, CLS and myriad other awards with and without confusing acronyms attached.

When the dust settles in mid-November, there is a lull before the next series of deadlines picks up. This is the perfect time to find your perfect fellowship!

How to find your PERFECT fellowships:

  • Prepare your mind by adding an ‘s’- “Fellowships.” You should be seeking more than one fellowship because there are likely a variety of awards that will help you reach your goals, and you enhance your chances for funding with more than one targeted, strong application.
  • Explore ALL of the resources you can find that might offer fellowship information:
    • Departmental bulletin boards
    • Professional organization websites -these groups often have their own fellowships and may compile lists for students in the field.
    • University and other listservs:
  • Research the awards that look like a good fit. What are the eligibility requirements? The deadline? The materials needed for submission? Also recognize as you search that it will take time to find fellowships that fit you and set aside several hours -all at once, or at several sittings -to thoroughly explore the listservs, organizations, and websites that detail the awards that look interesting to you. When you find them, become an expert on what they are seeking.
  • Find a calendar and write down the deadline(s). Work backward from the deadlines to give yourself adequate time to prepare. Aim to start 3-6 months in advance of the deadline depending on the requirements of the award and your schedule. Reach out to us at UChicago GRAD and see if we have worked with past candidates for the award. Set up a time to meet if you would like to talk through applying.  (Use the Gargoyle:  https://grad-uchicago-csm.symplicity.com/)
  • Edit…well, first you have to write a draft, but give yourself time to go through several drafts with the Fellowships staff, your mentors and others who know you and give good advice. No one gets it perfect with a first draft, NO ONE!
  • Contact your recommenders and request transcripts and test scores early, at least 6 weeks before the deadline. These are things that involve someone else’s behavior and calendar and to be sure that you don’t end up missing critical application pieces, start early and send polite reminders closer to the date.
  • Take time to put together a strong application! UChicago graduate students have a great history of success with fellowships and with time and effort you can be a strong candidate for fellowships!

UChicago GRAD Fellowships Access:

For general questions about Fellowships, contact Beth Powers at bpowers@uchicago.edu

Sounding Board

Optimize your work/life balance with GRAD Sounding Board

Feeling overwhelmed by grad school?

Perhaps you need to address relationship issues in your department, lab or life?

Maybe you want to prepare for a tough conversation with your advisor?

Suppose you are struggling to balance the many demands of your program with your own exceedingly high expectations and want some support?

UChicagoGRAD Sounding Board advising provides a trained counseling professional with whom you can unload some stress, address concerns or conflicts, explore options for solving your problem and will also connect you with appropriate resources.

Make a Sounding Board appointment here