We will share tips in the "Career Corner" section of our month emails and on social media. These tips will be aggregated on this page so you can review our career tips anytime!

How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”

One of the first questions you’re likely to get in an interview is, “Tell me about yourself.” Now, this is not an invitation to recite your entire life story or even to go bullet by bullet through your resume. Instead, it’s probably your first and best chance to pitch the hiring manager on why you’re the right one for the job.

A useful formula for answering this is the Present-Past-Future formula:

  1.     First you start with the present—where you are right now.

  2.     Then, segue into the past—a little bit about the experiences you’ve had and the skills you gained at the previous position.

  3.     Finally, finish with the future—why you are really excited for this particular opportunity.

Example:  If someone asked, “tell me about yourself,” you could say:

I’m currently a doctoral student in neuroscience at Brandeis, where I am researching XXXX.  Before that, I worked for the Michael J Fox Foundation where I was a Research Partnerships Intern and conducted industry research on companies involved in Parkinson’s disease research and therapeutic development.  I also assisted the Clinical Operations team on projects aimed at increasing best practices for Parkinson’s disease clinical research. Now that I’m finishing my PhD, I’d love the chance to focus on researching Parkinson’s full time, which is why I’m so excited about the Associate Scientist position at Biogen.

Remember throughout your answer to focus on the experiences and skills that are going to be most relevant for the hiring manager when they’re thinking about this particular position and this company.

Source, Adapted from: www.themuse.com/advice/a-simple-formula-for-answering-tell-me-about-yourself

Benefits Count!

As you look for a job, you’re may not be thinking about retiring, becoming ill, or looking for tax breaks. However, you should consider benefits to be an important part of your compensation package. A good benefits package can add as much as 30 percent to your overall compensation and may make a huge difference in your work/life quality!

Here are some commonly offered benefits:

Health Insurance

This is an important benefit for three financial reasons:

  1. It’s cheaper to get insurance through an employer at group rates than to purchase it on your own.

  2. Health insurance is comparable to nontaxable income—providing health insurance could cost your employer upwards of $4,000 per year per employee—and you don’t pay tax on it. If you were to purchase health insurance, it might take more than $5,000 per year out of your pocket—after taxes.

  3. The third advantage, of course, is, if you need medical treatment, it is paid for (in part or in full, depending on your policy).

401(k) Plan

A 401(k) is a retirement plan that allows you to put a percentage of your gross (pre-tax) income into a qualified investment fund. In some cases, employers will match your contribution up to a certain percentage—this is “free” money that can add to your overall compensation package. Why is this important to you since retirement may be years away? According to The Motley Fool, a multimedia financial-services company, someone saving $5,000 a year beginning at age 25 will have $787,176 at age 65 (assuming an 11 percent annual return on savings). Waiting until age 35 cuts your investment earnings in half, to a total of $364,615. Wait until age 45 to start your retirement fund and you’ll have only $168,887—not much to live on in retirement. Typically, you can direct your contributions and the matching funds into investments offered through your employer. And your 401(k) is portable—you can take it with you if you change jobs.

Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

These plans let you put aside money (via a deduction from each pay) before taxes to cover various types of costs such as payment of health insurance and life insurance premiums, and vision care, dental care, or child- or dependent-care costs. By using money held out before taxes, you’ll spend pre-tax dollars on necessities and you’ll show less earned income on your federal tax return—so you will pay a lower percentage of your income in taxes.

Paid Time Off

Paid time off (PTO) may include vacation, holiday, sick, and personal days allotted to you. Employers have different paid time off policies, but 1 week versus 3 weeks of vacation time can make a big difference in quality of life. Sometimes you may be able to negotiate for more time off if the employer can't increase the salary.

Other Benefits

  • Flextime allows you to vary your workday start and stop times, within limits.

  • Telecommuting allows you to work from home or at an alternative work site for part of the week. Some employers provide office equipment for home use; in other cases, you cover the costs associated with telecommuting.

  • Transportation costs: Some employers allow you to purchase public transit passes through pretax payroll deduction. That means a portion or all of the monthly cost is excluded from state and federal taxable income. Other employers may offer free or reduced parking costs.

  • Mobile phone discount: Many employers may have discounted rates through certain cellular service providers

  • Pet friendly workplace: If you don't need to pay for doggie day care or a dog walker for Fido - that is money saved.

Be sure to ask for and get the specifics of all the company benefits when deciding whether to accept a job offer. For assistance in understanding this process and things you should consider, schedule an appointment with a GSAS Career Coach via Handshake.

Adapted from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The Why, When, Who and What of Reference Letters: Advice for Graduate Students

Letters of reference are an aspect of your application that you might consider beyond your control. But by being prepared, thinking strategically about your requests and providing strong background information to your letter writers, you will end up with the best possible endorsement of your potential for the role in question.

  • Why: You will need reference letters, written in advance, when you apply for an academic or academic-related job, as well as for fellowships, grants or awards. 

  • When: If you know you'll be going on the job market for any type of position, get organized and ask people to write your letters as early as you can.

  • Who: Depending on what the letter is for, your choice of reference writer will vary. The general rule is to ask people to write your reference letters who really know you and can say honest and specific things about your skills, abilities and suitability for the role.

  • What: When asking someone to write a letter for you or to be expecting a reference phone call, be strategic and provide as much information to them as possible. 

Read full article 

Here's the URL for this:  (https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2018/12/17/advice-securing-good-reference-letters-opinion)

Written for Inside Higher Ed by Natalie Lundsteen, Assistant Dean for Career and Professional Development at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Video: Careers Beyond the Academy

Rona Sheramy, PhD '00, discusses the opportunities that PhD graduates have beyond careers in academia. She discusses why they should extend their job search beyond the academy, what skills PhD recipients can use to market themselves, and how to look for and apply for relevant jobs. Watch the video.

Three Quick Career Activities to Squeeze in During the Holiday Break

1.  Update Your Resume, Cv And/Or Linkedin Profile
Include relevant research, project management, leadership or volunteer activities from the fall semester. Need help with your resume or CV? View resources in Handshake or schedule an appointment with a GSAS Career Coach.  The CCPD is closed December 24, 2018 — January 1, 2019,  but otherwise we are available for appointments even if classes are not in session.

2.  Reconnect
Reconnect with former colleagues/managers you previously worked or went to school with. Send an email to let them know you are exploring career options or getting ready to job search.  Ask if they would be willing answer a few questions about their career experience. Use LinkedIn to search for alums from your undergraduate institution or Brandeis by using the LinkedIn Alumni Insights tool.

3. Think of your career exploration and job search as a research project and document your data
Search job titles and organizations and keep a list of those that seem interesting. Read through the qualifications for each job and try to identify relevant skill sets. Understanding job titles and skills is important to effective career decision making and job search.  Keeping a record of your career research on a spreadsheet.

Giving Thanks: Writing Job Search Thank You Notes

One of the most common missed opportunities in job search or networking is neglecting to send a thank you note. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few tips to help you write a professional thank you note to an interviewer or to someone who provided career advice to you.

  1. Send the thank you within 24-48 hours. Show your appreciation while information is still top of mind and relevant.

  2. It is appropriate to send an email thank you. If you are inclined to give the personal touch of a handwritten note, send both. Email provides for more immediate communication.

  3. Write in a professional manner. This is not the place for emojis, excessive punctuation, or colloquialisms.

Thank you note basics:

  • Write a thank you note to each person who interviewed you.

  • Thank them for their time and consideration, and reiterate your interest.

  • Take the opportunity to tell them anything you forgot during the interview or something you’d like to reemphasize.

Sample Thank You Email

To: Smith@hope.k12.edu

Subject: Thank you

Dear Ms. Smith:

Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview for the 4th grade teaching position at Hope Elementary School. After meeting with you, I am even more excited about this potential opportunity.

In addition to my enthusiasm, I will bring to this position my ability to quickly establish rapport with students, well-built classroom management, bilingual skills in English and Spanish, and a strong work ethic. Through my experience student teaching in the Boston Public Schools I gained an appreciation of diversity, which I hope to instill in my students. As we discussed, I am also interested in being an advisor for extracurricular activities.

Thank you again for taking the time to interview me. I would welcome the opportunity to become a staff member at Hope Elementary School and believe I would be a powerful addition to your staff. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Brandon Deis