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Responsibilities May Include

Responsibilities May Include is a column published in University Affairs, which is published monthly and provides news about policies, programs and issues of relevance to Canadian higher education, as well as career advice, award-winning editorial content and job listings for academics at all levels.  

Responsibilities May Include offers practical professional and career advice for graduate students and postdocs. 
Most articles in the series will be written by members of the GPDN. There are also articles written for faculty and staff who work with graduate students and postdocs to explore employment options after graduation.

Specific topics will include (but are not limited to) strategies for success in graduate school, professional development, academic integrity, networking and leadership skills.

We are actively seeking authors who would be interested in contributing an article for Fall 2022 or Winter 2023. Articles may be written in English or French and are usually around 800-words long. If you are interested in contributing a piece, please fill out one of the forms below by June 24, 2022.

Call for Authors                                                
Appel à propositions

If you have any questions, please reach out to the Responsibilities May Include editor, Gina Beltran, at


Responsabilités potentielles est une chronique publiée dans Affaires universitaires, qui est publié mensuellement et fournit des nouvelles sur les politiques, les programmes et les questions pertinentes pour l'enseignement supérieur canadien, ainsi que des conseils de carrière, un contenu éditorial primé et des listes d'emplois pour les universitaires de tous les niveaux.

Responsabilités potentielles offre des conseils pratiques sur la profession et la carrière des étudiants supérieures et des chercheurs postdoctoraux. 
La plupart des articles de cette série seront rédigés par des membres du le RPESP. Certains articles sont également rédigés à l'intention des membres du corps enseignant et du personnel qui travaillent avec des étudiants supérieures et des chercheurs postdoctoraux pour explorer les possibilités d'emploi après l'obtention du diplôme.

Les sujets spécifiques incluront (mais ne sont pas limités à) les stratégies pour réussir dans les études supérieures, le développement professionnel, l'intégrité académique, le réseautage et les compétences de leadership.

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  • 2 Jun 2021 5:27 PM | Manager GPDN (Administrator)

    You still need compelling content while also giving extra focus to your voice and visual elements of your presentation.

    Imagine you walk into an auditorium for a keynote and there are two screens instead of one. On the right is a smaller screen with a picture of the speaker. On the left is a larger screen featuring a beautiful scientific illustration with a title. Where does your attention go? Where does it linger?

    This is what our new online reality is like. In order to give effective online presentations, we need to be able to understand the differences between presenting in person and presenting virtually.  And presenting well everywhere is a critical skill for all graduate students to develop.

    What's similar?

    First of all, content principles haven’t changed, but it’s even more important to understand them when presenting online. Without being able to see an audience and gauge reaction, presenters cannot recognize missteps and self correct nor identify when the audience is distracted and tuning out. These challenges mean content trajectory is more important than ever. Here are three good concepts to keep in mind.

    Start with why. Begin with your research knowledge gap or research question and ask “so what?” three or four times. You’ll be surprised how effectively this exercise can take you from a research hypothesis of “produce more evenly distributed material coatings” to “charge a car in less time than filling a tank of gas.” The first leaves people guessing at importance, the second gets people motivated to learn. For more about “start with why,” watch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk.

    Pare back content. The rule of three works well. Most people can process three things without feeling overwhelmed, and most people can remember three things. For longer talks, scaffold patterns of three: three main ideas, three sections, three points within a section, etc. Just remember to summarize and foreshadow between sections. Keep the audience grounded. Exceed three cautiously; it’s usually not worth it.

    Use patterns that work. One good strategy is to start with something familiar and tangible, preferably in story form. Then use this form as a bridge to a general understanding. For the rest of the talk, work in reverse: general to specific as you dive deeper and deeper into the less familiar and challenging details. Then circle back and finish where you started. This pattern mimics an hourglass. Other patterns work too, but be sure to keep the flow simple and logical.

    What's different?

    Presenters are now two dimensional and restricted to one spot. Visuals are brighter and higher resolution. These changes cause people’s visual focus to shift to the slide deck, and then potentially to their phone or second monitor. Your body language impact will fade, and your voice will become more important. Applying these three tips will increase your impact:

    1. Reconsider your setup

    We used to travel to a classroom or auditorium to present. Now most people present seated at their work desk, with no through about transition. Consider making three changes.

    • Establish a pre-talk routine. You need transition time to warm up and get ready. Leave yourself 15 minutes before presentations and experiment a bit to see what works for you.

    • Don’t present from your desk chair. Stand up, and, if possible, move to a different location. If you can’t move, stand at your desk. Get the camera on your laptop at eye height by placing your computer on a stable stack of books, a stool or a chair on top of your desk. Standing will serve as reminder you are presenting, not writing a journal article.
    • Find a decent wired mic. A lot of cellphone microphones work fine but test yours with a friend. Your voice is now critical; your mic needs to be clear.

    For more on how set up shifts can help combat Zoom fatigue see this recent article.

    2. Be more vocally dynamic

    Your voice has now become your most important tool for being dynamic – use it! Extending your vocal range is achieved by shifting attitudes, because, as attitudes shift, our pitch, tone and volume do as well. But this attitude shift comes with a disclaimer: it needs to be authentic. Your goal is to simply allow attitudinal shifts to occur that are genuine reflections of how you feel about various content. Does your opening problem make you sad, angry or curious? Is your methodology relatively straightforward? Was your result expected or surprising? Allowing yourself to feel will trigger a dynamic vocal presence that will keep your audience engaged. Standing will help here too as our voice follows body language. Michael Grinder explains this relationship nicely on Floor 2 of his House of Communication.

    3. Develop better visuals

    Visuals matter more and serve a different purpose. Here are three keys to consider.

    • You need high resolution photography that will help increase emotional impact and memory. Look in PowerPoint, which now has royalty free images as well as icons and illustrations (go to “insert,” “pictures” and then click on “stock images”). Also, take pictures in your lab with your smartphone. The impact of your own pictures can be powerful.

    • You need well-developed illustrations (likely animated) that will increase comprehension and decrease audience processing time (double bonus!). For general phenomena, look for professional infographics you can then cite. For specifics to your research, build them yourself. Try using Canva.
    • Activate your visuals. Use animation, morphing and annotation to keep the visual stream dynamic. The goal is to create slide deck visuals that scaffold and shift in real time alongside your voice. Done well, this movement aids comprehension and discourages people from looking at their phone for fear of missing out.

    Notice nothing here says more visuals, and certainly don’t add more text! Visuals just need to be better developed and more dynamic.

    Learn and practice

    Like everyone else, I’m looking forward to presenting again in person. But even when we do, online presenting is not going to disappear; the convenience and increased reach of virtual presenting are too valuable. Understand the differences between in-person and online presenting, seek opportunities to practice and learn to do both well.

    This article was first published in University Affairs  

    About the Author:

    Andrew Churchill is the presentation skills training manager at teaching and learning services at McGill University, where he has been helping researchers present better since 2015. He also works with emerging start-ups competing for non-dilutive funding.

  • 14 May 2021 5:20 PM | Manager GPDN (Administrator)

    Can an in-person job shadow program be adapted to an online environment?

    When you hear the phrase “job shadowing,” what comes to mind? If you’re like me, you might picture visiting a professional’s workplace and learning from observing, experiencing the environment, and asking questions. This is how our Job Shadow Experience at the University of Windsor worked; until, of course, the pandemic forced a change.

    Don't panic, plan

    Before the pandemic, our in-person Job Shadow Experience was new, but solid. Learning from the University of Alberta’s job shadow program, we started ours by recruiting hosts (professionals) who registered via a Qualtrics survey. On our website, we posted hosts’ information and availability. 

    Students then completed online applications for the program, choosing their preferred hosts from the website list. We matched students with the appropriate hosts according to career goals, application quality, and availability.

    Before their experiences, students attended orientation sessions to discuss the program process, professional etiquette, and how to ask valuable questions. Then they ventured out for their day or half daylong experiences and participated in informational interviews, observation, and tours. A week later, they returned to us for sessions to debrief and reflect on their experiences.

    But how is this done online?

    That question plagued us. The recruitment, orientation/reflection sessions, and interviewing components of the program could be easily replicated online but emulating the valuable experience of observing a host at work was challenging. After brainstorming and speaking with colleagues from other institutions, we came up with the Virtual Job Shadow Experience.

    We wanted the program to be flexible and better fit the diversity of work situations and environments our hosts were experiencing. So in this version, hosts and students decided how much time they wanted to spend together, generally ranging from a couple of hours to a half day.

    Hosts could use any online meeting platform they liked, but for those who didn’t have a preferred platform, we set up Blackboard Collaborate sessions and offered brief training on how to use the screen sharing function, etc.

    We structured the experience into two parts: an informational interview and an additional learning activity. The learning activity was flexible and allowed students to observe parts of the hosts’ careers. We provided hosts with activity options and some contributed their own ideas. Knowing this might be intimidating for some, we also helped hosts plan their own activity options.

    In response, our hosts were awesome and arranged a variety of learning activities. Some students sat in on professional virtual meetings or experienced mock interviews. Others experienced virtual workplace tours. Many hosts shared their screens to show work examples. Some had students participate in professional development sessions and then do mock work assignments based on their learning.

    So, how did it go?

    Over the past two semesters, we facilitated 69 Virtual Job Shadow Experiences. The feedback from students and hosts was overwhelmingly positive, with 100 per cent of students reporting the experience to be beneficial and responding hosts agreeing that the experience was positive.

    We asked hosts if they found the online format to be as effective as being in-person. Seventy-nine per cent reported it being as effective. Twenty-one per cent reported that the online format was as effective as in-person, stating they were unable to show off their space as well as fully demonstrate different aspects of their work.

    Some hosts preferred the online format. One said, “With the type of job I have, I would not be able to sign up for a full-day, in-person experience…The virtual experience was perfect.”

    Others mentioned advantages like flexible scheduling, not having to worry about visitor security clearances, and limited distractions that allowed for meaningful dialogue.

    “I was very pleased and excited about this program,” reported one host. “I can definitely say this is something that I wish to continue moving forward!”

    Student reactions

    That students were unable to visit the hosts’ workplaces was a common theme in their reflections. Despite this limitation, they also expressed that the experience was incredibly valuable.

    Participants recognized the benefits of the virtual aspect, in particular the fact that the program was open to a wider variety of hosts from any location. Not only did this allow for more diverse hosts, but it also made the program accessible for students facing transportation barriers.

    Students’ feedback was positive. One said, “I don’t think I have ever had such great return on time spent than through this experience.” Others echoed similar positive reactions as they recalled their learning.

    “It was incredibly eye-opening to see how a seemingly theoretical degree can be applied to solve real-life situations and problems,” reflected one student. “This experience helped me confirm my career goals.”

    We asked students about the next steps they would take with their newly acquired information. The actions students discussed included learning new skills, gaining volunteering experiences, obtaining specific certifications, joining professional associations, and more. One even clarified the direction of their thesis after learning about industry trends!

    Lessons learned

    The biggest lesson we learned during this online adaptation: clear, frequent communication is key. In this remote world, people receive so many emails (I know you can all relate) and can experience attention difficulties.

    Stephanie Dupley is a career advisor - international and graduate students with career development and experiential learning at the University of Windsor. 

    In the fall term, we noticed something we had not seen before with our communications with both students and hosts: they were missing things. There were missed details, missed emails, and misread information.

    In the winter term, we remedied this by formatting our communications in clear bullet points with important information bolded and sent follow-up information in case things were missed. This helped significantly.

    Next time, we'll do both

    The pandemic prompted us to change the structure of this program, but we adapted and provided more options for our students. Once we’re back on campus, we plan on offering this program with both online and in-person options so we can still attract diverse hosts, still make the program accessible for more students, and still offer in-person and online learning options.

    This article was first published in University Affairs

    About the Author:

    Stephanie Dupley is a career advisor - international and graduate students with career development and experiential learning at the University of Windsor.

  • 25 Mar 2021 5:00 PM | Manager GPDN (Administrator)

    Don’t worry, there is still time to set yourself up for success.

    Whether you are a master’s student about to enter the job market or a PhD candidate thinking of paths outside the professoriate, graduation can be a time of not only great satisfaction but also great concern. A common observation among career educators is that students do not think about life after graduation until their studies are coming to an end. While it is always better to consider your career path sooner rather than later, it is never too late, and if this is your situation, there are some concrete actions you can take now.

    Don't panic, plan

    It is important to note that panic and stress can undermine decision making and act as a barrier to your  next steps. If this applies to you, there are strategies that can be used to respond to career anxiety and allow you to move forward with confidence. A key element is to take ownership of what you do have control over, and a great way to start is to develop a plan. Some initial elements of that plan may incorporate self-reflection, information gathering and leveraging available resources and supports.

    Take stock of your skills and experience

    The ability to understand and articulate one’s unique set of skills and qualifications is an integral part of career exploration and action. Take some time to think about all the work and volunteer roles you have held up to now. Your current resume or CV can (and should) be a solid base from which to build upon. The initial instinct for many in this exercise is to simply list their responsibilities. Listing duties or responsibilities is a good start, but you can make it even better by applying a lens of accomplishment. For instance, “responsible for” becomes “contributed to,” “managed,” “provided,” and so on; rather than tasks being imposed upon you, you were an active participant.

    By using action verbs, as well as quantifying and applying details, will allow you to fully embrace the scope and impact of your experiences. This is a great way to build confidence, because you will most likely discover that you already possess a full, proven array of transferrable skills that are in universal demand. This exercise also helps provide clarity in identifying any gaps in skills or knowledge that may need to be addressed for you to reach your goals.

    Apply those research skills

    As a trained researcher, you are well-versed in accessing information. Your expertise is especially helpful under these circumstances, for at its most essential nature, career exploration is engaging in research. This is an excellent opportunity to apply your skills in a new, exciting manner; and there are a variety of means in which you can collect relevant information in your search. LinkedIn is a great way to see the types of roles within organizations, and by exploring the platform’s alumni feature, you can learn about the often-winding career journeys of people with graduate degrees from your institution. Allow yourself to investigate further and look beyond job titles, focusing instead on the activities being performed.

    Networking and informational interviews are also powerful forms of research that allow you to gain direct insights from the lived experiences of others. It is also your way of learning how to access the “hidden job market,” which is underpinned by professional relationships and referrals. As you conduct this research, continue reflecting upon your own interests and challenges you would like to address in your work, as this will help guide future directions.

    Use available resources

    Do not hesitate to reach out to others when you need assistance. From the support of friends and family to available on-campus resources, your career journey does not have to be a solitary endeavour. Whether you are a current student or a recent graduate, career services professionals at your institution can provide guidance and constructive feedback to help you refine your plan.

    Keep the future in mind

    Your current situation may very well dictate your immediate plans. With student loan payments, rent, and other expenses looming, it may be necessary to simply gain employment rather than identify and act upon an intended career path. If that is the case, you can still achieve meaningful progress taking a job en route to the job. Keep taking stock of the skills and experience you want to continue to develop. You may even discover exciting new interests and paths as you move forward in your career journey.

    This article was first published in University Affairs  

    About the Author:

    Kris Gies is a career advisor at the University of Guelph’s experiential learning hub, focusing on students in Ontario Veterinary College programs. He completed a PhD at the University of Guelph in 2010.
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