“Creativity” is not the sole purview of the artistically inclined. “Using your imagination to create something new in the world,” is the definition of creativity-evangelists Tom and David Kelley1. Researchers formulate new explanations, invent new products, conceive methods, and originate insights. Unquestionably creative.
Most of us, sadly, don’t see ourselves as creative. The truth is, say the Kelley brothers, “we are ALL creative.” We have deep reservoirs of creative potential waiting to be tapped.
Confidence, the feeling of self-assurance and trust in one’s ability, is a key ingredient. “Creative confidence is like a muscle,” they assert. With effort, experience, and deliberate practice, your confidence can grow. At the same time, your ability to be innovative and take risks will expand. In their book, Creative Confidence, (and a related TED talk) the Kelleys offer encouragement, examples, and practical tips.
Creating her own structures was the critical key to success in grad school for ecologist Sasha Wright. Memories—some of difficult episodes —came rushing back when Wright was formulating her advice. “What helped me to handle those struggles?,” she pondered.
Her three pieces of advice for thriving in grad school are:
- Invest in your grad school community
- Develop close academic relationships with at least three advisors
- Set short term goals and achieve meaningful benchmarks
Perfectionist gridlock is being stuck in place for fear of not doing something at the highest level of excellence. It plagues many grad students, perhaps especially those in the humanities. It is bred by the culture of academia, which places a high value on achievement and critique.
Perfectionist gridlock is particularly debilitating in dissertation writing and career decision making.
Traffic gridlock resolves itself slowly, inch by inch. Likewise, students can come unstuck by moving forward in baby steps.
Providing career counseling and career education for graduate students is an innovation of the last 20 years. Julie Vick Miller is one of the pioneers of the movement. After serving graduate students for three decades she has honed her advice.
Three things she advises graduate students, particularly those pursuing faculty careers:
- Develop your academic persona
- Take advantage of the resources at your university
- Learn how your university works
Should grad students compile their own CV of Failures and what should it include? That was my question when I read about Princeton professor Johannes Haushofer posting his CV of Failures (or Shadow CV).
YES! is my answer. Maybe I love this idea because my career has been littered with job loss, abandoned projects, disappointments, and tears. These days, I am helping teach workshops applying design thinking (“fail early and often”) to grad student’s lives and career planning.
“You need to assume that the demand for you will be less than you like and supply of people like you will be greater than you like. Act accordingly.”
That is the career preparation advice that Professor Rick Reis—known around the world as “Tomorrow’s Professor”—offers to grad students and postdocs.
Reis has a broad overview of graduate students’ professional development, particularly for academic careers. He has published the “Tomorrow’s Professor” e-newsletter for nearly 20 years. He has given a lot of thought to how grad students are prepared for faculty careers, and has a view of what is changing.
During our interview he broke down “Act Accordingly” into three specific pieces of advice:
- Start early and develop multiple options
- Think next stage
- Cultivate breadth-on-top-of-depth