In This Issue:
- Mistake #6: Dismissing the Power of the Administrative Staff
- Email of the Month
- Congratulations TA-DA!™ Graduates
“It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you back.”
-Walter Annenberg (1908-2002), U.S. Media Executive, Publisher and Diplomat
A lot of students, at the start of their graduate careers, are a little confused about the role of the administrative staff. What can the administrative staff do for you that your own advisor cannot? It doesn’t take more than a few weeks on campus to figure out that the administrative staff can be a critical departmental resource, with a broad perspective on funding, program choices, international problem-solving, and much more. From orientation to commencement, they offer professional and experienced support to help you make the most of your graduate years.
Often, the departmental staff is a tightly knit team, whose members have their own specialties but sets the departmental culture, shares an overall philosophy, and a general understanding of departmental and graduate school matters.
Success in graduate school is due to more than just intelligence and raw brain power. It is also strongly affected by dedication, hard work, seriousness of commitment, clarity of goals, a willingness to embrace the values of a program, and develop your interpersonal skills.
One of the most frequent mistakes made by graduate students is underestimating or de-valuing the role of the professional administrative staff in their department. These professionals serve as the “gatekeepers” to faculty, advisors and committee members and, as such, can either hinder or propel your educational progress.
The administrative staff is also responsible for managing students’ records, paperwork and information, and providing timely information on all department deadlines, rules, regulations and eligibility requirements with respect to course requirements, course scheduling, qualifying/preliminary exams, funding opportunities and necessary signatures. The relationship you have built with these staffers may determine whether or not they take the time or effort to remind you of upcoming deadlines and requirements. It is definitely in your best interest to manage these relationships in a positive way.
Your success in graduate school and beyond depends a great deal upon your ability to build and maintain interpersonal relationships with your adviser, your committee, your fellow students, and the administrative staff. This does not mean you must become the “life of the party,” but your visibility in your department is important.
Walter Annenberg says, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you back.” In other words, you can know the names or have the business cards of many important and influential people but if they don’t like you or aren’t motivated to help you–it doesn’t matter who you know.
Even if you are not an extrovert, move beyond your shyness and take full advantage of getting to know the professional staff who share the responsibility of pointing you toward the people and resources that best meet your needs. You have to make a concerted effort to learn and practice your interpersonal skills i.e. learning the names and working styles of the research and support staff who work tirelessly to keep the department functioning.
Your intent is to set up a “win-win” situation where all parties benefit from the exchange, whether immediately or sometime in the future. Why should this matter, you may ask, because success in graduate school is completely different from your undergraduate days. You cannot get through graduate school without help. Your success depends on your relationship with your advisor, your lab mates, your fellow students, experts in your field, you academic committee, and the administrative staff.
Students usually look down on networking, or politicking, “brown nosing,” “kissing up” but networking in its most basic, positive form is simply the art of building and maintaining relationships. Since no one person, such as your advisor, has access to all information and resources in your department, networking provides you with multiple avenues to get the information and resources you might need to get things done. This skill will serve you well in the future.
Ronald T. Azuma concurs when he writes in “So long, and thanks for the Ph.D.!”
“Unlike your advisor, the critical group was the research and support staff. These include the research faculty and all the various support positions (the system administrators, network administrators, audio-visual experts, electronic services, optical and mechanical engineers, and especially the secretaries). I needed their help to get my research done, but they did not directly need me. Consequently, you need to make it a priority to establish and maintain good working relationships with the administrative staff.”
Further, he suggests that “Cultivating interpersonal relationships is mostly about treating people with respect and determining their different working styles. Give credit where credit is due. Acknowledge and thank them for their help. Return favors. Respect their expertise, advice and time. Apologize if you are at fault. Realize that different people work in different ways and are motivated by different things — the more you understand this diversity, the better you will be able to interact and motivate them to help you. “
Treat everyone you meet with respect and courtesy. Networking is a two-way street: the people who help you may later ask you for assistance. Asking if you can provide such assistance after being helped is an effective way of letting people know how much you appreciate their help. Be genuine in finding creative ways to say thank you and return favors when asked.
Email Question of the Month:
TA-DA!™ Graduates —
Congratulations on Your Success
God has truly blessed me up to this point and I know He’s going to carry me through. I have finalized the date for my dissertation defense for June 21,2007 at 9am in ECS 210 Conference room. The first portion of the defense is open to the public. I look forward to completing this chapter of my life and spending time chasing my WALKING baby girls around the house. Take care and be blessed!!!!!
Oliver J. M. UMBC
Lisa M. from Morgan State is ready to defend her dissertation in August 22, 2007.
DeAnna B from Morgan State who will defend her dissertatin proposal.
George from the Dissertation House at UMBC who handed in a first draft of his proposal”It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you back.”
Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D.
About the Author: As a single mother, professor Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D., completed three masters’ degrees and a PhD. Her motto is a Good Thesis/Dissertation is a Done Thesis/Dissertation. She is the creator of a new innovative interactive resource tool on CD—TADA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished. To learn more and sign up for her FREE tips and teleclasses, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Privacy is our policy. TADA™ Finishline does not give out or sell our subscribers’ names or e-mail addresses.