Notes on What to Learn During Graduate School

Whether I do a 2nd master’s or a PhD is still currently up in the air. I have yet to hear back from the PhD program. In the meantime, I wanted to make a list of things that I am working on in graduate school.

I will divide my notes up into more academic slanted versus more industry and freelance slanted. Regardless of what program I am getting into, I want to do some of both on each list. The lists are not exhaustive or mutually exclusive, but more to get my thoughts in order.

Professor Slanted List

  • Knowing statistics. Both on a high level and the specifics. Given that I will also literally be specializing in statistics, I better learn this! Also that every position in quantitative psychology lists knowing statistics, so not knowing this would make me fail out of the program and even if I did somehow manage to pull that off, I would immediately sink in interviews.
  • Knowing programming languages. I mean, I already know a few, but I need to be more proficient with them and write more efficient code. The main languages I would be focusing on honing is R and Python. I should also continue to pick up SPSS since a lot of psych departments use it and I might have to help out colleagues with it. I might also pick up Mplus, Matlab, and some other relevant things.
  • Learn how to actually teach. Maybe connect with other teachers, practice mock lessons, actually get experience teaching a few courses, etc. Knowing how to teach will help me stand out during interviews.
  • Learn how to do a workshop. Also practice giving a presentation to an academic audience. This will help for both academic and industry interviews, though this will help out academia more.
  • Learn Grant Writing. Imperative to become a professor that is research based.
  • Learn how to mentor and manage.
  • Continue to learn how to use email filters for managing my emails. Professors do get a lot of emails, but a lot of them are very email poor. Some say they get over 100+ emails a day with most of them being spam. Have they considered actually filtering out those senders? According to most professors that I have talked to, no. So I’m going to be different in that regard by actually using that and making it easier to respond to others.
  • Connect with Black professors. In undergraduate, they showed me the most support.
  • Connect with a wide range of disciplines. My highest focus will be on quantitative psychology, mathematics, interdisciplinary studies, computer science, and statistics. My 2nd highest focus will be on education, history, disability studies, linguistics, library science, and anti-racist folks in English or those who focus on technical writing. If I can show that I can adapt to a wide range of disciplines, maybe I’ll get to do more interdisciplinary research.
  • Learn how to do event planning. Professors do this all the time, so learning how to do this myself will give a leg up.
  • Learning how to evaluate and review papers! This is very important because professors are expected to be able to do this!
  • Learn other things that may come up for specifically professors (managing student conflict, how to navigate academia, knowing how academic advisors work, etc.)
  • Have a CV dedicated for academia. Academics want to see that curriculum vitae have length!

Industry Slanted List

  • Learn how to sell stuff. Especially important for freelancing.
  • Learn who is actually interested in services you offer. Avoid pitching to uninterested folks.
  • Learn how to minimize rude customers. Important for everything, but especially for freelancing.
  • Learn skills especially relevant to industry (Tableau, PowerBI, SQL, etc.)
  • Know how databases work. Especially for small companies as you might have to build a significant part of that or fix it.
  • Be able to demonstrate skills without my lack of confidence sinking the interview. That has costed me a job before.
  • Have a separate resume specifically for each type of position that I am interested in (Data Analyst, Data Scientist, Applied Statistician, etc.). Makes it easier to apply and highlights specific strengths.
  • Learn the basics of taxes, contracts, etc.
  • Learn who to avoid due to history of anti-blackness, ableism, etc.
  • Learn how to tailor my resume to contract work. I do not mind contract work, though it tends to be less stable.
  • Learn how visas work for being fired in case that happens and I am working overseas. This also applies to academia too, but academia tends to give you more of a heads up than industry.
  • Avoid places that will make me do a lot of LeetCode for the interviews. Those also tend to be very anti-black places too. This is strictly for industry since freelancing nor academia require this.

What’s next?

Mostly what’s next is finishing what I am behind on and waiting to hear back from the PhD program. Maybe also making a list of software to download that would be useful for academia and maybe other programming languages to check out that doesn’t come up in my field too often (like Rust). If I did the 2nd master’s, I would do a 50% focus on industry and a 50% focus on academia. For the PhD, I would do an 80% focus on academia and a 20% focus on industry. The reason for the differences is that if you don’t strongly focus on academia, you will not get into academia. As far as thinking into the future with academia, would limit myself to 1 postdoc and make myself a solid plan on that being the deciding factor of sticking to academia versus freelancing. If I did a postdoc, I don’t think for now that I would be interested in working for another company and would instead focus on working for myself.

Essentially, my current slant is Academia /Freelance helping other academics/ Freelance industry (no government)/ Work for a small business/ If all else fails, go be a math and psychology tutor. Anyways, this is my current plan!

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