Friday, 12 October 2018

How to Give a Career Talk, with Question Prompts!

A few of the people I've asked have been interested in talking in front of seminar class on careers in statistics, but didn't think they could fill a half-hour with their career talk. However, with prompts adapted from this list, external speakers have had no trouble giving such a talk with at most a couple hours of preparation.


 - What does a typical week or month look like to you? What’s the best part of your position? What’s the worst part?

 - How much does your work depend on your location? (e.g. Can you do much of it from home? Can you do it outside of the organisation's main office or headquarters? Does it require living in a large city?)

 - What are some challenges or benefits related with balancing your career with other aspects of your life? (e.g. family, recreation)

 - What do you think the general public doesn't know about how to get into a position like yours? (e.g. Is the application or hiring process unusual? Are there little-known traits that will make you a success in your position?)

Industry / Government life

 - Is there room, or do you anticipate room in your field for new hires in the next couple of years? (e.g. is business growing? are there many people retiring out?)

 - What changes have you seen in the industry in the last five years? What new technologies or skills have gained importance? What is less important than it used to be?

 - What sort of jobs or other experiences have you had before your current position? How useful have these been in your current position?

 - What other fields of work did you consider (or are you still considering) besides the one you're currently in?

Grad student life

 - How did you decide to do a Master’s degree, and then a PhD, in statistics? (For example, what was your undergraduate background in? What did you want to get out of it? Were you always thinking of doing research from the start, or was it something that came up along the way?)

 - Did you consider any other specialities (computer science, mathematics, economics, health science)?

 - Did you consider other options besides graduate school (government work, banking and finance)?

 - What has surprised you about life as a graduate student?

 - Related, what do you wish you had known as an undergrad? As a Master’s student?

 - What sort of things besides coursework have prepared you for your work in academic research?

 - Do you expect or intend to continue publishing research like this in your career after graduate school?

 - What sort of career options are you aiming for when you finish graduate school and get a PhD?


- Considering you publications in sports analytics, insect biology, and in vehicle traffic. What role do you take on these projects? Do you take an active role in the writing? Do you specialise on the statistics and programming?

- How do you find the connections needed to collaborate on all these projects?

- What sort of challenges, complications, or difficulties have you found when collaborating with people from outside of statistics?

- What are some of the differences between what you do now and what you learned to do as an undergrad?

- What other research projects are you working on? What others would you like to work on?

Coming to Canada, getting established

 - How did you choose Canada and this university over all the others available internationally?

 - Did you have any particular challenges with getting established in Canada, or in Vancouver? What resources or strategies helped you out when you got here? What did you wish you had access to?

Special thanks to Pulindu Ratnasekera for speaking to my class about his experiences as a PhD candidate, and for helping me make this list.

Additional resources for questions include

40 Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview Questions (Buffalo School of Management)

Some important things most students never ask about grad school  (Stanford)

Always be on the lookout for opportunities.