The Advantage is a regular series examining the benefits of undergraduate research and creative scholarship.  Each edition will explore one of the benefits of conducting research as an undergraduate student.

Vol. I – Career Pathways

Vol. II – Professional Advancement and Development

When you are conducting research it is easy to become focused on the tasks at hand. And if I asked you to describe the activities you were performing and the knowledge, skills and abilities involved, you could probably do it fairly easily.  But what if I asked you to tell me about the professional development and advancement opportunities you were experiencing?  It may take you a little longer to come up with a list and require some brainstorming on your part, but it shouldn’t. When conducting research you are learning a wide array of work place knowledge, skills, and abilities that you will want to be able to list and articulate very clearly and quickly. Being able to do so is a useful exercise that will assist you when applying for research assistantships, internships, jobs, graduate programs, scholarships and fellowships.

What do we mean by professional advancement?

Professional advancement includes opportunities for publications and presentations of your work, the enhancement of your professional credentials (i.e., resume building), and the development of relationship with your mentor(s), peers and other professionals you connect with.

What do we mean by professional development?

Professional development focuses on understanding what it means to be a professional, including general behavior, the ability to appreciate the demands of a career, and understanding how to collaborate, communicate and troubleshoot problems.

Communicating your new knowledge, skills and abilities

You will want to be able to explain your professional advancement and development experiences in writing and orally. Writing about your growth in these areas is more complicated than just simply writing that you got published and had opportunities for professional development.  You will want to use real examples that demonstrate your growth without explicitly stating that it was a professional development opportunity.  It may be a good idea to write down one or two examples for each area of advancement and development that you want to highlight. This way you have multiple examples to choose from that can be used for a variety of purposes.

Speaking about your growth requires tweaking your written statements and making them more conversational.  From there, you should rehearse your statements and practice with anyone that is willing to listen. Being familiar with your general statements – almost to the point of memorization – will allow you to quickly call upon them when a question is asked that involves a relevant experience.