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A Key to Career Competency: Professionalism

29 September 2016

Happy Thursday, y’all,

This week I felt was the perfect time to have an important discussion with everyone about a concept, while widely known, can be seriously undervalued and over-looked while preparing for the work force: professionalism. You may be thinking: “Austin, you’re crazy. I know what professionalism is.” And you may be right, a portion of Mason’s graduate students have worked and continue to work in the professional world, while pursuing an advanced degree; however, there is also a significant portion of our graduate population that has gone straight through college into graduate school without professional work experience So, I think it’s important to clear up any misconceptions.

Let’s start with a definition of professionalism: The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) did research on Career Readiness and they defined professionalism as the demonstration of “personal accountability and effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, and time workload management, and understanding the impact of non-verbal communication on professional work image. [It is an] individual [who] demonstrates integrity and ethical behavior, acts responsibly with the interest of the larger community in mind, and is able to learn from his/her mistakes” (Career Readiness Defined).

Let’s take a moment and decompact NACE’s understanding of professionalism. College students, whether graduate or undergraduate, who are entering the work force need to be punctual, dressed appropriately for your field or profession, able to work well with others, think long term and for the collective, not just the individual, and behave in an ethical manner. Basically, don’t show up late, wrinkled, with a bad attitude and only looking out for yourself.

You might say, “This isn’t new to me” and “I already know all this.” And again, you may be right. Some of y’all have worked in the “real world” for years and are now going back to school, or some of y’all have had internships. But I ask you then, why did Hart Research relate that “two in three employers (67%) believe most college graduates have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in entry-level positions, but only 44% think they have what is required for advancement and promotion to higher levels” (Hart Research Associates)? This study looked at both graduate and undergraduate success rates in the work setting, after completing their degree and (re)joining the work force. To me, this implies that while students are getting jobs after graduation, they’re not prepared to progress quickly.

When I asked Raechel Timbers, Associate Director of Student Professional Development at Mason’s Career Services, why she thought this was, her response was a lack of professional development: “Those soft skills are what is needed for career management” (soft skills meaning punctuality, attire, manners, work ethic). Timbers continued, “Students need to find a mentor, whether academic or professional, who can help them with the learning gaps and acting as a sort of sponsor who can help them network in both formal and informal settings.” This mentor can be someone you shadow and learn from, emulate, be the standard you compare yourself to — not that I’m saying you have to be exactly like them, do and think what they think. However, they can be the resource to help you gain what is needed to succeed professionally in your given area or field. See how they carry themselves, how they dress, behave, brand themselves. A mentor can be especially helpful when you are using graduate school as an entry point into a new career or field – a mentor can help you learn about the professional norms in your new industry. Speaking from personal experience, this was major drive in my academic career. One of the readers on my thesis had been my mentor for two years, taking me to conferences where I would eventually present, finding me guest lecturing opportunities, helping my find my first lectureship as a professor, and then my main reference for getting into my PhD program.

A discussion of soft versus hard skills will further our look into professionalism. Hard skills are the tools, knowledge, and practices learned in the classroom and internships. Soft skills are the practical skills supposedly developed along the way; again, they are the idea of punctuality, appropriate work attire, the ability to finish tasks in a timely manner, civility… let’s be honest the list is never ending. Hopefully by graduate school, students have realized that showing up 40 minutes late to class, wearing wrinkled clothes/workout/revealing clothes (I am speaking to both men and women here, if you can tell if a quarter is heads or tails in jeans… it’s too tight), popping your gum and disrupting class is a bad idea; a no-no, if you will. But let’s make it clear, this behavior will not be accepted by your future employers. If you walk in late to work or can never make a meeting on time, you will be fired. If your clothes are wrinkled, not appropriate, or revealing, you will be sent to HR and eventually could be fired for repeated offenses. How you interact and communicate will be of the utmost importance. The people you interact with will not be your classmates or teachers, who may be more accepting of outlandish, personal, off-topic, and/or inappropriate communication and interactions; they will be your colleagues and bosses. If your communication and interaction skills are not on point, you will find yourself not being taken seriously and possibly looking for a new job.

You may ask: What’s my next step? Well, I have the answer: Mason’s Career Fair and preparation events. Next week, October 5th and 6th, Career Services is hosting the Fall 2016 Career Fair at Dewberry Hall in the Johnson Center, where 224 employers are coming to Mason, 139 of which are only looking for graduate students (list can be found here). Ahead of the Career Fair, you can attend the Prepare for the Fair Workshop on Monday, October 3rd at 5:00pm and/or get your résumé reviewed at the Résumé Clinics on Monday, Oct. 3, 11am-5pm and Tuesday, Oct. 4, 1-7pm. Visit the Career Fair webpage for more details. All events are open to all Mason students and the Prepare for the Fair Workshop will be a great crash course in professionalism.

I hope y’all can make it to the Career Fair; however, if you can’t, let me leave you with these final thoughts. Find a mentor; let them help shape your professional trajectory. Don’t become one of Hart’s 44% — focus on acquiring all the professional skills and tools you can while at Mason. Take advantage of professional development opportunities designed specifically for graduate students hosted by your graduate program, Graduate Student Life, University Life Arlington, and the Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence. And please join us here every Thursday at Mason Grad Insider, for a new blog!


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Gateway to Success: A Guide to Mason’s Resources

12 September 2016

By Austin A. Deray

At Mason Grad Insider, we are dedicated to making your transition to Mason, or back to Mason, as easy as possible. To continue our welcome theme, this week’s blog focuses on a multitude of resources and support services available to you on all Mason’s Northern Virginia campuses: Fairfax, Arlington, and SciTech.

University Career Services:

University Career Services (UCS) is a unit within the Division of University Life and while the main office is on the Fairfax Campus, they have a presence on the SciTech Campus and can support students across campuses. From job searches to résumé and curriculum vitae (CV) prep, to interviewing, Career Services is there for Mason students at every step of the career development process. University Career Services emphasizes professionalism which is a subject that should be important to every graduate student.

“Professionalism is the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior expected from a person who is trained to do a job well. University Career Services is committed to raising the baseline of professionalism of Mason students through mutually beneficial partnerships with employers, faculty, staff, alumni, student organizations, and Mason families.”

— University Career Services

In addition to University Career Services, various academic units house their own Career Services offices. To schedule an appointment with University Career Services or with the career services offices within the School of Business, the Law School, or the Schar School of Policy and Government, visit the Make an Appointment page on the UCS website.

Office of Graduate Fellowships:

The Office of Graduate Fellowships is a vital partner in every graduate student’s academic journey. The office helps us find funding and it’s never too early to start looking. The Office of Graduate Fellowships works to increase awareness, participation, and success in extramural fellowship competitions among Mason’s graduate students, with an emphasis on nationally competitive awards. With offices at Fairfax and Arlington campuses, the Office of Graduate Fellowships offers:

  • Info sessions and announcements for fellowship competitions
  • Workshops on how to find funding opportunities and craft strong applications
  • One-on-one coaching and feedback during the application process
  • General fellowship advising for graduate students
  • Support for faculty mentoring graduate students through the fellowship application process

Office of Student Financial Aid:

The Office of Student Financial Aid is available to speak with students about a myriad of financial issues including applying for aid, scholarships, grants, loans, federal work study programs, and military/veterans issues. The best place to start for information about financial aid is on their website.

The Writing Center:

As a former Graduate Assistant at Armstrong State University’s Writing Center, I know how important the Writing Center is to graduate students’ academic success. Mason’s Writing Center is committed to supporting writers in the Mason community as they work to construct and share knowledge through writing. With locations at both Fairfax and Arlington, they strive to provide writers with the opportunity to test out ideas, while under the tutelage of their tutorial staff. The Center supports writers from the exploratory stages of the writing process to the final phases of polishing the final version.

In service of these ideals, the Writing Center provides:

  • Supportive and well-trained graduate and undergraduate tutors who are invested in the writing process, as they are experienced writers themselves
  • ESL specialist tutors with a linguistics background
  • An administrative staff well versed in current teaching and tutoring writing research and practice
  • The opportunity to meet with tutors face-to-face or to receive email-based tutoring through the Online Writing Lab
  • Weekly graduate student write-ins at both the Fairfax and Arlington Campuses
  • A collaborative relationship with Mason Libraries to support writers in their research and research integration
  • Writing workshops designed to address the needs of student writers

Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning

The newly formed Stearns Center comes from the merging of the Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence and the Office of Digital Learning. They have moved into their new offices on Innovation Hall Fourth Floor, which include several new collaborative spaces where we can work with Mason faculty. The Stearns Center encourages graduate student to take advantage of professional development opportunities offered by their office. Just as we keep up to date with the latest developments in our disciplines and fields of study, it is important to stay abreast of the newest discoveries about what makes a difference in enhancing student learning. The resources on this page are intended for new incoming faculty, experienced faculty members, and graduate students alike. Check out their programming and conferences here!

Mason Recreation:

Mason Recreation’s main facilities can be found at the Fairfax campus; however, the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center is located at the SciTech Campus. The Arlington Campus does have a deal with the local YMCA for Arlington students’ recreational needs; for more information contact University Life Arlington. The purpose of these recreation centers is to enrich the physical and holistic well-being of a diverse student body by providing quality facilities, programs, and services. Mason Recreation endeavors to be at the forefront of the Mason community’s well-being. They promote:

  • Community– We value our effect on a strong community by being responsive and building diverse and inclusive relationships.
  • Growth & Positive Impact– We value growth and vitality through experiential learning supported in a caring environment to enhance well-being.
  • Respect & Integrity– The Mason recreation family values respect and integrity through honesty, civility and the free exchange of ideas.
  • Safety– We place personal and physical safety as a priority.
  • Fun– We have fun in everything we do.
  • Teamwork– We support teamwork through leadership, cohesion and resilience.

Student Health Services:

With locations on all three campuses, Student Health Services provides physicians and nurses who can diagnose and treat many common injuries and illnesses. They also can provide immunizations, fill prescriptions, and address women’s and men’s health issues. There is no charge to speak with a health care provider; however, there are nominal fees for lab work, medications, dressings, etc. If you require care that is out of our clinics’ realm, an outside physician or facility can be recommended.

Counseling and Psychological Services:

Like Student Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can be found on all three campuses and provides confidential personal and academic services to students. Individual and group therapy, crisis intervention, consultations to students, faculty and staff, and community education programs are offered.

Student Support and Advocacy Center:

The Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC) believes that students are most successful when they are healthy and happy and we strive to help students find that balance for themselves. SSAC staff offer students one-on-one support, interactive programming and on and off campus resources. Some of the topic areas we address are healthy relationships, stress management, nutrition, sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, stalking, drug and alcohol use and sexual health.

Office of International Programs and Services:

Mason has been host and home to thousands of students, researchers, and faculty members from around the world. The Office of International Programs and Services (OIPS) educates, celebrates and serves the Mason community, including international and domestic students, faculty and exchange visitors, by helping them reach their highest academic and personal goals. OIPS advises non-immigrant students, scholars, faculty, and staff at George Mason University.  If you have questions or concerns related to your immigration status, we are here to help. The office offers the opportunity to meet with an advisor, help with document processing, and cultural, social, and educational programs. The OIPS office is located in Fairfax but international student advisors have a regular in-person and virtual presence in Arlington.

Office of Disability Services

As part of George Mason University’s continuing commitment to upholding the letter and spirit of the laws that ensure equal treatment of people with disabilities, the university established and maintains Disability Services. Under the administration of University Life, the center implements and coordinates reasonable accommodations and disability-related services that afford equal access to university programs and activities. Disability Services is available to serve all students with disabilities, including those with cognitive (e.g., learning, psychological, and closed head injury), sensory, mobility, and other physical impairments, and is available as a resource across Mason’s campuses.

Y’all, this is by no means the end-all list of resources at Mason. These resources are by no means an exhaustive list; however, they are a good place to start: departments, units, and offices that I think would be most helpful for our graduate community to know about. If you have any questions or think others should be added, please email me or call me at 703-993-5582.

Have a great week,

The proceeding blog has been edited and updated to showcase the most current information about Mason’s resources for graduate and professional students. Changes and edits were made by the author. 

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Welcome to the Mason Grad Insider!

September 7, 2016

By Katrina Dunlap and Austin Deray

Greetings, Mason graduate and professional students, and welcome to the Mason Grad Insider blog! The purpose of this blog, sponsored by Graduate Student Life and University Life Arlington, is to connect with graduate-level students across the Mason campuses to communicate useful information and resources that will support success and well-being.

Check back each week for blogs that will cover various topics ranging from academic and professional tips and strategies to resources on well-being and financial health. We encourage new ideas! If you have any topic suggestions you’d like to submit, please send them our way to gradlife@gmu.edu. Occasionally, Mason Grad Insider will feature posts by guest bloggers from around the Mason community. If you are interested in this unique opportunity, let us know!

Who We Are

Katrina Dunlap is the Graduate Professional Assistant for University Life Arlington. Working closely with Assistant Dean Lori Cohen Scher, she supports program planning and coordination for University Life Arlington’s offerings, includingKatrina-profile-pic-1-e1472141990404 signature programs such as Pizza & Perspectives and Coffee & Conversation. Katrina regularly engages and partners with Mason student leaders on various student-led initiatives, enhancing academic life both socially and intellectually at the Arlington campus. Additionally, Katrina serves as the Community Outreach Chair for the Association of Public Policy PhD Students. She is currently a second–year doctoral student in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.  Katrina’s research interests include examining the social and financial impacts of extreme events, in particular terrorism and natural disasters. She received an M.A. in Public Policy at George Mason University after completing a B.A. in Political Science at North Carolina Central University. Previously, she worked as a Senior Consultant providing analytical support, program performance evaluation, and technical writing expertise for the intelligence community and homeland security mission in previous employment opportunities.

Austin Deray is the Graduate Professional Assistant for Graduate Student Life. He assists with program planning and coordination in support of co-curricular experiences of graduate students and helps with maintaining and enhancing Deray_Austin_1the Graduate Student Life website. Austin assists in building a strong graduate community by overseeing communication about programs and services using web, social media, listservs, and other outlets, and works closely with Julie Choe Kim, the Director of Graduate Student Life. Austin is a first–year doctoral student in Cultural Studies at George Mason University. His research interests include the historical construct of gender and heteronormative masculinity, all male institutions and how they fit into larger social institutions, and the roles privilege and regionalism play in gendered social institutions. Austin has a B.A. in European History, minoring in Religious Studies and Medieval Literature, a M.A. in Medieval History, concentration in Norman and Plantagenet England and Capetian France, and a G.C. in Gender Studies, concentration in heteronormative masculinity in collegiate males and women in medieval French and English literature. Prior to coming to Mason, he was a Professor of Gender Studies at Armstrong State University, faculty adviser to Armstrong’s Feminist United undergraduate club and The Graduate Coordinating Student Council, the Chapter Advisory Board Chairman to the Georgia Epsilon Chapter of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, and a Court Appointed Special Advocate with Savannah/Chatham County Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Grad Student Welcome Days

As the year kicks into full swing, several Mason offices and departments have come together to provide resources to help graduate students get acclimated. During the first six weeks of the semester, as part of a series called Grad Student Welcome Days, several events will be held across the Mason campuses, ranging from educational and career workshops to networking events for graduate students of diverse identities. Check out the line-up for Grad Student Welcome Days here.

We would also like to take this opportunity to highlight one of the major fall events for Graduate Student Life: Gradstravaganza. All new and continuing Mason graduate students are invited to the 4th annual Gradstravaganza, Mason’s graduate student welcome event! Mini-workshops for graduate student success will be held 3:30-5:00pm in the Johnson Center, 3rd Floor. The picnic will be held 5:30-7:30pm at The Hub, including the Lawn, Patio and indoor spaces.  Join fellow Mason grad students for FREE food, mini-workshops highlighting strategies for success in graduate school, connections with campus resources, door prizes, and giveaways, including t-shirts! Families are welcome! Remember to bring your Mason student ID with you and for full details, visit Gradstravaganza.


Gradstravaganza 2016 Web Banner



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