Professional development as a PhD student

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This week I applied for a position in my department as the Graduate Assistant Director of the First Year Writing Program. It’s a great opportunity to pursue my interests in higher education administration, to get some practical experience on the job, and to work with one of the most respected directors in the country. I was so excited when I got the call for applications in my email and started working on it right away.

The call asked for a “letter of interest.” Sitting down to write it, I realized – I’ve never heard of a “letter of interest” before. I’ve certainly never written one. I’ve never attended a workshop on writing them or heard a word about them in any professional development work I’ve done. I’ve heard and seen a lot of information on writing a cover letter and a CV, reading a job call, etc. Because it was an internal call – only PhD students who teach in the program are eligible to apply for the position – I’m assuming that’s why only a letter of interest, and not a complete job application, was necessary. However, if this is a common practice for applying for internal jobs, as a graduate student, I’d certainly welcome some guidance in writing for those.

I worked on some ideas, drafted what I thought I would include to demonstrate my interest in the position, and did what any smart student does – sent it out for peer review! With the help of someone in my cohort, I think I’ve produced a strong letter that demonstrates exactly why I’m not only interested in the job but also highly qualified to take the position.

However, it leaves me wondering if my letter of interest fits the genre. What goes into an internal letter of interest? How common of a practice is that in higher education? For instance, if you’re an associate professor applying to be the director of graduate programs, do you write a letter of interest? Do you complete an application? Or is this the only time in my life I’ll see a job opening that will require (and only require) a letter of interest?

I’m also helping facilitate a series of professional development workshops for PhD students in our program. This reminds me that I need to “think outside of the box” for workshops and ask around for important information that’s not necessarily the standard PD workshop material. Inevitably, there’s always something you haven’t heard of before that you have to work on for your job application that I want to see if we can cover if at all possible. Which reminds me – I’d better start on the first workshop! January has nearly passed us by.


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