Here are some words of advice that really helped me through my 8 years of graduate studies:
- Wisest Advice: The wisest single best piece of advice I ever received was from Alberto: “You do your phd for you.”. Read that sentence again. This is the single most important sentence you’ll ever hear in grad school. How well you do during your graduate studies benefits you the most. Your advisor and colleagues stand to benefit, but you are the one with the most to gain. Do it for yourself, do it well, and you'll hopefully get far!
- Criticism: People generally suck at giving and taking criticism. The most practical skill is learning to take criticism no matter how badly it’s provided as long as it is legitimate. This skill will be far more used than learning to give criticism well, even though they are both equally important.
- Imposter Syndrome: This is a very real thing we all go through. It sucks. We all need to figure out how to deal with it. The best piece of advice is: don’t compare yourself to anyone! Unfortunately it’s also the hardest piece of advice to follow. The most practical piece of advice is to find ways in which you can build self-confidence and self-esteem. This will depend on who you are as a person but good friends are a universally good source of free confidence. Building real friendships helps a lot here.
- Advisor Relationship: Your relationship with your advisor is extremely important. Often just as important, if not more than, the kind of research that you do. Your choice of advisor has a profound impact on the quality of life you will have during your education. You should pick someone who you actually like and you enjoy talking to.
- Internships: Only do high value internships. Do not do an internship at a place that will hire you anyway unless there is a very very good reason. Only internship at companies that require personal connections or networking to get hired at. Your time is extremely valuable, especially summer time where you do not have course obligation and can focus on research productivity.
- Networking: Networking is the single most practical thing you can do to find a job. Going to conferences and giving talks are very effective approaches to let people know about all the great work you do. If people recognize you for doing great work, they are much more likely to offer you internships or encourage you to apply for jobs. Networking is hard, it requires talking to people! But take the leap, do it, and you just might enjoy the conversations that can happen.