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New DVD helps doctoral students in job search

by Richard Veilleux - January 28, 2008

It may sound surprising, says Larry Druckenbrod, assistant director of the Department of Career Services, but students who are closing in on their doctoral degree sometimes need as much help as undergraduates when it comes to finding a job.

“They’re often working so hard on their research that they may not have given it much thought,” Druckenbrod says.

Hoping to make the job search easier for graduate students, Druckenbrod led a team that has produced a well received new DVD, “Ph.D. and the Job Search.”

The DVD consists of a roughly 45-minute video workshop that features UConn professors and an industry official explaining key aspects of the curriculum vitae, the job search process, and the interview.

“I found it very helpful,” says Jessica Chau, an environmental engineering student with about a year left in her studies.

“It gives perspectives on hiring Ph.D.’s in both academic and industry settings. The presenters give very specific tips on how to prepare for interviews, such as rehearsing answers to typical questions and memorizing a 30-second summary of your dissertation. I would recommend the DVD for all Ph.D. students.”

Druckenbrod is working hard to get the video into the hands of doctoral students.

He and Michael Illuzzi, a video design technician in the Institute for Teaching and Learning who shot and edited the disc, made 300 copies of the DVD.

They have distributed about 130 so far, giving them to doctoral students who attend Career Services’ in-person workshops, and delivering a couple of dozen to deans and department heads.

Druckenbrod also has sent a copy to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the national organization for career services professionals.

The DVD is being peer reviewed and he hopes the Association will give him the green light to market the DVD to other universities.

That would allow him to help graduate students elsewhere too, and to recoup some of the $6,000 or so the product cost to make.

After a brief orientation, the workshop opens with a segment on CV’s that includes tips on length, what to include, what to highlight, and the difference between a CV and a resume, each of which requires different material and points of emphasis.

Featured in the various sections are Ernesto Callegari, director of Pfizer Global Research and Development; Rachel O’Neill, associate professor of molecular and cell biology; Richard Schwab, dean of the Neag School of Education; and Gregory Semenza, associate professor of English.

They discuss what they look for when reviewing a CV, conducting a job search, or interviewing a candidate.

For Bo Dai, a Ph.D. student in animal sciences, several comments stood out. Semenza’s point, for example, that besides seeing how you conduct yourself during a seminar or during formal questioning, members of the department you’re seeking to join are also wondering whether they can socialize with you and what kind of colleague you’ll be.

“I also was interested in their comments about how to prepare a resume,” Dai says.

“I didn’t realize I should list my mentorships, for instance. It’s very useful.”

The DVD is a handy reference for students.

“We wanted something that used the current technology, that we could hand out and the students could refer back to when they had a question,” says Druckenbrod.

Druckenbrod will speak about the DVD at the National Career Development Association conference in Washington, D.C., in July.

He hopes to create a similar DVD for liberal arts students, bringing employers to the screen to discuss what they can do with a liberal arts degree.

“It would fill a need,” he says, “for the students who see business majors and engineers moving on, who are saying ‘What about me? What about my degree?’ The employers can answer that.”

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