Think Next Stage

To succeed in your next position, determine the skills needed in that position and then minimize any difference between your skills and the needed skills. Start to behave as if you are in the next position. Dr. David G. Payne Associate Vice President, Higher Education Division, Educational Testing Service

The “Next Stage” approach (Reis, 1997) to professional preparation requires you to “think ahead, look ahead, and…act ahead” of the stage you currently occupy. Begin by assessing your current skills and abilities. One way to gauge professional development needs is to develop a draft of your curriculum vitae. As you categorize your accomplishments (awards) and experiences (teaching, research, publications, presentations), look at the gaps. In which areas do you need to strengthen your skills?

Dr. Reis provides the following suggestions for developing the competencies (and confidence) needed to advance you to the next stage.

Research. Look for ways to engage in activities with faculty and students from other disciplines or departments. Seek advice from your adviser on collaborative research opportunities.

Review Papers, Proposals, or Research Presentations. Find opportunities to review papers, grants and proposals written by others. Start by talking to your adviser or checking out volunteer opportunities with your disciplinary association.

Teach. Develop your teaching skills by leading a recitation or taking full responsibility for a course. Document your work in the classroom by participating in UNL’s Teaching Documentation Program.

Write a Proposal. Write a grant application for research or a fellowship. Attend the Office of Research grantwriting seminar, offered annually in October and/or March.

Publish. Co-authorship is fine, but make sure you publish at least one article in which you are the first author.

Present at Conferences. Establish a record of giving research presentations at conferences in which faculty and/or industrial researchers are present.

Be a Mentor. As you advance in your graduate career, find ways to play a more formal role in the supervision of students, both undergraduate and graduate. If you’d like to mentor a UNL undergraduate researcher preparing for graduate school, contact the Program Coordinator of the McNair Scholars Program.

Reis notes you should ask yourself the following question at each stage of your graduate career: Am I likely to encounter this situation as a professor or future industrial scientist or engineer, and, if so, what can I learn from it that will help to better prepare me for such a role?

By asking questions (thinking ahead), observing others (looking ahead) and acquiring experiences (acting ahead), you’ll be better prepared to assume that “next position” in your professional career.

Professional Development Services

Campuswide Workshops for Graduate TAs
Summer Institute for International Teaching Assistants (ITA)
Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) Program 
Professional development workshops 
Professional development courses 
Teaching Documentation Program (TDP)
Individual consultation on teaching, careers, job searches…
Advice on creating an academic portfolio