How to Build Professional Development into your Grad School Coursework

By: Rebecca Aman

Never let a paper be just a paper. Let it be a reason to…

1. Connect with your professor during his or her office hours This one-on-one face time with a professor is invaluable. There you can seek his/her insight on your paper topic, and he/she can connect you with resources and contacts that may prove helpful.

2. Interview an alum/expert and ask about the challenges/ current debates that would make your work even more timely (and immediately useful) Connect with an expert and ask them what issues they would research if they were back in graduate school, and then write that paper! Many busy, working professionals would love the opportunity to outsource their research interests to eager and enthusiastic young researchers like yourself! Think of it as a mini-consultancy– and offer to help when and where you can. (If you’re struggling to find alumni to connect to reach out to me, I’ll show you some tips and tricks).

3. Reach out to an alum/expert working in that industry, and interview them on their subject matter expertise Instead of reaching out to alumni for traditional (‘can you tell me about your career’) informational interviews, why not reach out to them about the experts they are in their respective industries. They’ll appreciate the chance to talk to you about subjects they care about, and you’ll be able to show them what you’ve learned thus far on the topic.

4. Get your work published by a graduate school or external publication Having published works is always a good thing. Beyond the exposure, getting your work published often means you have a chance to get several pairs of eyes looking at your work (including professional editors), and improving it along the way. SAISers here is a list of a few in-house publications

  1. SAIS Review and Looking Glass podcast
  2. SAIS Observer
  3. SAIS Perspectives
  4. SAIS China Studies Review
  5. SAIS Europe Journal of Global Affairs
  6. International Finance and Economics Review (InFER)

5. Identify 2-3 people who would immediately benefit from reading your paper, and send it to them after completion As you’re writing your paper, think about who would benefit from reading it. Use this as a reason to expand or enter new networks, and promote your ideas and research more widely. Consider hosting your papers on an online blog, or simply writing a LinkedIn article like this one.

6. Promote your work by using the paper as a writing sample as you apply to jobs Having one or two strong writing samples ready to send out is a good idea. Now, imagine using a paper like this one. One that received constructive feedback from your professor, focuses on a timely topic, includes insight from industry experts, connects you with new networks, and which you can send to the hiring manager using a link to a respected publication. Now that’s a paper!

By contributor Bah Diane
contributor Bah Diane