Self-Promotion and the Job Search


Whether you’ve just begun your graduate school career or are in your final semester coursework, odds are you’ve been thinking about your professional future and the impending job search. Your first step in preparing for the job market (and promoting yourself) should be to view every seminar you attend, every class that you teach, and every project you undertake as an opportunity for professional advancement. Sandra L. Barnes, author of On the Market: Strategies for a Successful Academic Job Search, writes, “This means that activities such as courses, qualifying exams, research projects, and presentations should be considered building blocks toward a successful dissertation, vita, and, ultimately, employment search rather than merely hoops through which you must jump” (p. 12). You are no longer just a student, but also, as Barnes puts it, a “burgeoning scholar,” with new priorities and motivations. Keeping this insight in mind will prepare you to make the most of each opportunity that becomes available throughout your time at UNL.

Once fully immersed in graduate school, consider the following ways to continue your self-promotion:

Build your professional network. Interacting with faculty members, including those outside your department, is key to expanding your professional network. Seek advice from and develop relationships with both senior and junior faculty and take advantage of any existing networks your professors may have.

Gain teaching experience and improve your teaching skills. If you are preparing for a teaching career, taking advantage of opportunities to teach and hone your skills now will increase your competitiveness on the job market. Build a teaching portfolio to showcase your experiences and skills, and consider taking advantage of the Teaching Documentation Program, one of the professional development services offered through the Office of Graduate Studies.

Attend professional conferences and deliver papers. Don’t hesitate to view yourself as a true member of your profession. Though you may not be ready to deliver a paper in your first semester of graduate school, you can still join the professional organization(s) in your field and attend as many meetings (national or regional) as possible. When you receive positive feedback on a paper, consult with faculty and get advice on revising the paper for presentation and submission to a journal.

Apply for fellowships, grants, awards, and recognitions. In Karen Kelsey’s March 27 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, she writes, “Do not forget the law of increasing returns: Success breeds success and large follows small. A $500 book scholarship makes you more competitive for a $1,000 conference grant, which situates you for a $3,000 summer-research fellowship, which puts you in the running for a $10,000 fieldwork grant, which then makes you competitive for a $30,000 dissertation writing grant.”

On that note, we encourage you to seek nomination for the annual Graduate Recognition Awards and Folsom Distinguished Master's Thesis and Doctoral Awards offered by the Office of Graduate Studies. The nomination deadlines traditionally fall in October, so take advantage of the coming summer to organize and prepare the materials required by nominees. You can view all the nominee requirements on our website now to give you an idea of the materials that will be expected.

Whether you plan to continue your career in academia or elsewhere, learning how to be your own best advocate and how to promote your work will prove invaluable. Self-promotion throughout graduate school will provide you with the confidence, skills, and experience that you’ll need to succeed in the evercompetitive job market.


Barnes, S.L. (2007). On the Market: Strategies for a Successful Academic Job Search. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Kelsky, K. (2012). Graduate School is a Means to a Job. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved March 28, 2012.

Verba, C. (2004). Scholarly Pursuits: A Guide to Professional Development During the Graduate Years, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. Retrieved March 23, 2012.