Throughout your years in graduate school, you must always be mindful of your ultimate goal: to parlay your education into a career. Mathematical prowess alone is rarely enough to accomplish this. The best jobs are only accessible to those who have developed themselves both mathematically and professionally.
Professional Development comes in two forms. First, you must build your mathematical maturity by learning important skills such as how to give a good talk and how to network at conferences. Second, you must learn to present yourself to your future employers in a manner which best represents you and your strengths.
You should attend your first conference early in your graduate career. You should not wait for your advisor to tell you to go to a conference; you should actively seek out conferences which relate to your interests. It is sometimes difficult to find conferences; here, your advisor (or other professors) may be able to provide guidance. You also should be able to find lists of conferences maintained by professors at other institutions. If you have yet to decide on a research area, you may choose to attend conferences focused on your potential candidates. Seeing talks given by active researchers in a field may help you decide whether or not that field is right for you. Additionally, as a mathematician, you will be expected to collaborate with other researchers in your field. Attending conferences is a great way to meet potential collaborators. You should be willing to speak and network with other attendees. If possible, attempt to give a talk or present a poster at the conference. This will allow other attendees to alert you if their research is relevant to your own. Lastly, do not be afraid to attend non-mathematical conferences hosted at UF. It is not uncommon to find researchers in other fields (for example: biology, sociology, medicine) who are looking for mathematicians to help formalize their results.
Whether you pursue a career in industry or academia, you will be expected to have the ability to present complex ideas clearly and efficiently. This skill comes naturally to very few; it is usually honed through practice. Our Math Department holds weekly seminars in many research areas: Algebra, Analysis, Applied Math, Biomath, Combinatorics, Logic, Number Theory, Topology, among others. These present a great opportunity for you to give your first talk without the necessity of having produced original research. If you’d like to give a talk, just speak to the seminar organizer! Also, the undergraduate math club occasionally invites graduate students to give talks at their meetings. Once you have produced original research, you have even more options. The Graduate Mathematics Association (GMA) sponsors a biweekly colloquium at which both students and professors speak about their research. If you are interested in speaking at a GMA Colloquium, speak to the current Vice President (GMA officer information can be found at the GMA Website. Once you’ve had some practice giving talks within the department, you should try to speak at conferences. This is a more formal setting than the types of talks mentioned earlier, but they will look great when you apply for jobs. If you are not selected to give a talk, consider presenting a poster, so that you at least have the chance to practice talking about your research.
There are many opportunities to contribute to your department. This allows you to see and participate in the inner workings of the committees and administration that keeps everything running. The easiest way to get involved is to join a student organization. The Graduate Mathematics Association has five officers which are elected at the end of each Fall semester. Our SIAM (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics) chapter also has five officers. If you’d like to get involved, speak to the current officers. These organizations are always looking to get new students involved. In addition, one graduate student each semester acts as the department representative to the Graduate Student Council (GSC) of UF. Attendance at the GSC meetings is required in order for our department to be eligible for Travel Support grants offered by GSC. Lastly, if you have expertise in any particular subject (for example, LaTeX, Programming, or Applying for Jobs), you can work with GMA or SIAM to host a special seminar on this topic.
Utilizing CRC Resources
The Career Resource Center (CRC) is a great resource available to all UF students. Located in the Reitz Union, they can provide advice, guidance, and feedback about every step in the job application process. They will read your application material (cover letter, resume, etc.) and help you fine-tune the way in which you present yourself. They will also conduct mock interviews to help you prepare for the entire interview process. It is common for graduate students from all departments to think, “The CRC doesn’t know how things work in my field.” This isn’t true! They work with professionals in many fields so that they can accurately advise all students. In addition to the resources described above, the CRC also offers a regular series of workshops, which can be found on their Workshop Schedule.
The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Teaching Center offers a series of Teaching Workshops for graduate students. These are free to attend. After you’ve attended a certain number of seminars, you will receive certificates of participation. These can look good on resumes, especially when applying for jobs at teaching schools.
The University occasionally offers other workshops relating to applying for grants, writing, presenting, etc. These are offered through various organizations: the Graduate School, I-Cubed, various departments, etc. Information about these workshops will be distributed by email, so make sure to read all messages coming from the Graduate School!
Possessing technical skills may not be necessary in order to be a good mathematician. However, proficiency in LaTeX will help you present yourself and your work to others in a more professional manner. The ability to program in one or more languages may also be useful depending on your area of study. In an environment where jobs are hard to find, any little skill can put you ahead of some other candidate.
When applying for jobs, you can be sure that your potential employers will search for information about you online. They will likely find your UF website. Make sure that your website is professional (for example, is not cluttered and has a reasonable color scheme). Your website should information about you, including your CV, in an easy to find place. A good-looking website can leave a lasting impression.