Professionalism

Cultivate your professional network and demonstrate abilities effectively as a student and professional. 

One of the most important factors that contribute to your success in graduate school is the relationship with your advisor. As the mentee, it is your responsibility to be the driver of this relationship, and to engage with your mentor to establish mutual expectations for your graduate training. The Individual Development Plan is a very effective tool to start these conversations with your advisor.

The following are core skills for being an activate participant in your mentoring relationship with your advisor (also known as "mentoring up", reproduced with permission, full article found here:Mentoring Up: Learning to Manage Your Mentoring Relationships).

1. Maintaining Effective Communication

  • Determine your mentor’s preferred medium of communication (face-to-face, phone, or email) and acknowledge if it differs from your own personal preference.
  • Schedule a regular time to meet or check in with your mentor.
  • Keep track and share progress toward project and professional goals, both verbally and in writing.
  • Identify challenges and request your mentor’s advice/intervention when appropriate.
  • Prepare for meetings with your mentor by articulating specifically what you want to get out of the meeting and how you will follow up after the meeting.

2. Aligning Expectations

  • Ask your mentor for their expectations regarding
    • mentees at your stage of career generally
    • you as an individual scholar
    • the research project
  • Share your expectations regarding
    • your career as a scholar and professional.
    • the research project
  • Ask others in the research group, who know your mentor better, about the mentor’s explicit and implicit expectations.
  • Write down the expectations you agree to and revisit them often with your mentor. Use a mentor-mentee contract to formalize the expectations.

3. Assessing Understanding

  • Ask questions when you do not understand something.
  • If you are afraid to ask your mentor directly, start by asking your peers.
  • Talk and write about your project, asking peers and mentors who know the field for feedback.
  • Ask peers and mentors to share their perspectives on your work and its meaning in the context of the field more broadly.
  • Explain your project to someone who is new to the field and help them to understand your project and its significance.

4. Addressing Equity and Inclusion

  • Be open to seeking out and valuing different perspectives.
  • Engage in honest conversation about individual differences with your mentor and co-workers.
  • Contribute positively to shared understandings and solutions to problems.
  • Talk to peers and mentors when you feel conflicted about the ways in which your personal identity intersects with your academic identity.

5. Fostering Independence

  • With your mentor, define what it takes to do independent work in your field.
  • Define a series of milestones to independence with your mentor and set goals for meeting these milestones as part of your research plan.
  • Ask peers and mentors to share with you their strategies for achieving independence.

6. Promoting Professional Development

  • Create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) to set goals and guide your professional development.
  • Seek out and engage multiple mentors to help you achieve your professional goals.
  • Ask peers and mentors to discuss with you the fears and reservations you may have about pursuing a certain career path.

7. Ethics

  • Take responsibility for your own behavior.
  • Seek out formal and informal ways to understand the accepted norms of practice in your field.
  • Learn about ethical issues associated with your work

Resource:

Mentoring Up: Learning to Manage Your Mentoring Relationships

Building a network of local, national, and international mentors and peers will aid in your professional development and open doors to diverse opportunities for collaborations and future careers. There are many ways you can increase your network, including by joining student groups, departmental or university committees, and professional societies. If possible, try to attend conferences appropriate for those in your field, and seek out collaborations.

The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD) hosts this webinar for more networking information:

Informational interviews are an excellent way to explore diverse career paths. These outlines and guides may be helpful:

Graduate students interested in international networking, research, and/or engagement may find helpful resources through UF’s International Center (UFIC).

  • UFIC hosts an international research workshop series to aid graduate students and faculty in planning and performing international research.
  • UFIC also provides some travel funding for international research through their Research Abroad for Doctoral Students (RAD) program.
    • The RAD program’s goal is to enable doctoral students to expand their network of potential collaborators while also helping to build bridges between UF and international partners.
    • Two tracks of the RAD program exist- one for STEM students and another for students in the humanities and social sciences.

Attending and participating in conferences, seminars, and department events is an important part of  your training in graduate school. Your advisor, mentor(s), or graduate coordinator can help you identify upcoming conferences and opportunities. Other resources exist to help you in developing professional etiquette:

Adhering to social norms and/or professional conduct in your department, university, and professional field will help build a positive professional reputation. Several resources exist to help you identify and adhere to academic social norms and professional conduct.

Additional Resources

Social media has revolutionized academia as much as any industry. In a recent study conducted by Luc et al. (2020), it was found that journal articles that were discussed on Twitter had, on average, three times the number of citations than journal articles not discussed on Twitter. Developing a social media presence as an emerging scholar helps individuals to network, create collaborations, and bring attention to their research and publications. Resources include:

Here’s a guide on how to follow professional behavior (adapted from Practicing Professionalism: A Graduate Student Guide):

Email and Communication

  • Check your university email regularly for announcements related to class and professional opportunities, as well as for essential university communication.
  • Use your personal email on your resume, linkedin, internship/job applications, website, or any other professional materials you create. Check this email regularly. This email address should be professional (first & last name, not a hobby or a silly nickname).
  • Reply promptly to any emails requiring response. Use proper email etiquette.
  • Proofread emails, blogs, & other public materials online. These represent you and your brand.
  • It’s okay to send a follow-up email as a polite nudge if the person has not replied. The length of time varies based on circumstance, but two business days for faculty, longer for professional contacts. Be patient: remember that your supervisor and coworkers have multiple duties.

Technology Use

  • You may use technology in the classroom [except when expressly prohibited] to take notes, refer to e-readings, look up references, and work on tasks as directed. You should, however, create a plan to limit distractions (close tabs with social media, email, news sites, and off-task items, or install a Web Blocker (e.g. Freedom) if you struggle with self-control in this area).
  • Be mindful of your use of cell phones, mobile devices, and other distractions.

Respect

  • Please respect your peers and other professionals in-person and online. No bullying or disrespect will be tolerated. If you are experiencing any problems, please speak with a faculty member or supervisor immediately.
  • All students have a right to an education free of harassment. Each of us also carries the responsibility of ensuring our peers are experiencing a harassment-free education. (Resources: UF Title IX)
  • Be an active listener. (Resource: What Great Listeners Actually Do). Be respectful of different points of views. Be calm and judicious in your responses.
  • As you create a professional presence online (resumes, portfolios, linkedin, etc.), remember, nothing you post online is truly private and anything could be viewed by future employers. Consider the image you are cultivating before posting.
  • On all social media accounts, including personal accounts and those in your classes, you are expected to uphold professional standards that meet university and professional codes of conduct.

Academic Honesty & Plagiarism

  • As a graduate student, you should take the university Honor Code very seriously. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines for policies including academic honesty, plagiarism, and cheating. The work you do must be your own.
  • Be sure to cite your sources to avoid issues of plagiarism and dishonesty.
  • When collaborating with other students, fairly attribute their contributions. Respect others’ opinions, fairly divide work, and communicate regularly with your team.
  • Talk to your professors or supervisors immediately if you have questions or doubts about what constitutes academic dishonesty. Plagiarism carries serious consequences that could jeopardize your graduate education and future career.

Professional Conduct

  • Be humble. Know what you know, but listen to learn more. If you leave your program with the understanding that there’s lots more to learn, and that you can learn from people who aren’t like you, you’ll have made the most of your time in graduate school.
  • Show up prepared: read for class and prepare for presentations or your work at an internship/job.
  • Networking is a great way to develop contacts; it engages you in a professional community. Networking can happen digitally via twitter, email, etc. Networking also gives you facetime with the people who are actually hiring.
  • Keep in touch with your professors, your peers, and other professional contacts from your time in graduate school. These people can bolster your professional success.
  • Have a positive attitude. People will respond to your attitude. Practice being interested in other people by asking them questions about their work. Always be courteous.
  • Follow through if you say you’ll do something. Don’t promise more than you can deliver, but also don’t sell yourself short.
  • Don’t submit assignments late. If it is impossible to be on time with something, communication is key. Let the person know as soon as possible and propose an alternative (“I could submit this on Thursday.”). If it is a classroom assignment/project, communicate with your team members, if relevant, and talk with the professor before the due date to ask if an extension is possible.
  • Attend class. Don’t be late to class, internships, and jobs. If you’re going to be late, communicate with your supervisor ASAP before you’re due to arrive.
  • Own your mistakes. Learn from them. Take criticism for your mistakes in stride.
  • Advice specific to internships and jobs:
    • Ask for a list of responsibilities & expectations in writing.
    • Ask about communication norms at the organization.
    • Go to your supervisor with solutions instead of problems (X Problem + Y Solution. What do you think?)

Tips for Getting the Most out of your Graduate Program

  • Make a calendar with important tasks + deadlines. Set alerts for approaching deadlines. Plan ahead – don’t procrastinate! And then, check your calendar regularly to see what is coming.
  • Start building yourself a “brand” by wearing your passion on your sleeve. Standing out helps you get ahead in this field and helps you surround yourself with other passionate people.
  • Be kind and gracious to the librarians, archivists, and others who support your research. Treat them as professionals. Express your gratitude to them, and remember that some may become potential bosses, colleagues, and mentors.
  • Similarly, be kind and gracious to community members and others you involve in your research and projects. They are sharing their time, their memories, and their lives with you – be sure to thank them and respect them.
  • Embrace opportunities for further professional development — conferences, an additional internship, volunteering at local institutions. All of these things will help you network and build a diverse range of experiences.
  • Be ambitious. Take on opportunities where you’ll meet new people and try new things outside of your comfort zone.
  • Independent scholars and members of the community are doing interesting and valuable research. Be open to these folks without academic credentials.
  • Attend departmental events and take advantage of university resources. Take the lead in figuring out what you want or need from graduate school, internships, and new jobs, and take advantage of the resources and opportunities available to you.
  • Support your colleagues: take the time to listen to them, go to coffee or a happy hour with them, and attend events or presentations they organize. Discuss your successes and failures. They are your support network through grad school and beyond.
  • Self-Care: Maintain your friendships, outside hobbies and routines, and your health. Graduate school is overwhelming, and can quickly take over your life. Get a good night’s sleep. Your health and well-being still should be TOP priority.
  • Be attuned to your mental health. Anxiety and stress can creep up on students and even exacerbate mental and physical health challenges/disabilities that some experience. Please reach out if you’re overwhelmed or need assistance. (Resources: Disability Resource Center, Counseling and Wellness Center, Gator Well, U Matter We Care, local provider search)
  • Don’t undervalue what you’ve learned here. (e.g. “I’ve only taken one class in this subfield.”) Sell your strengths and keep a running list of your strengths & experiences on your portfolio/resume/linkedin.
  • Ask questions ASAP when you get stuck or you’re confused. It’s better to ask early on, rather than staying stuck and not being able to continue on.

Course TitleCourse NumberDepartmentCourse DescriptionInstructor
Leadership Development for Extension and Community Nonprofit Organizations AEC 5454 Agricultural Education & Communication Application of concepts related to developing leaders for organizing and maintaining extension and community nonprofit organizations.  
Development of a Volunteer Leadership Program AEC 6426 Agricultural Education & Communication Identification, recruitment, training, retention, and supervision of volunteer leaders.  
Graduate Student Professional Development  ALS 5934 Environmental Horticulture Presentations and group discussion of topics essential to enhance awareness, personal satisfaction, and professional success of graduate students Hector Perez
International Research Immersion course  ALS 5905 Agroecology    
Mentoring for Career Development EDA 6370 Education Assists graduate students in their careers in any field through the discovery of how mentoring, a commonly accepted support structure in business, industry, medicine, and academia, can enhance their professional development. In addition, students will gain knowledge to become mentors or lead mentoring programs. Linda Searby