Friday, January 12, 2007

Six Traits of a Successful Graduate Student

1 [Initiative]
"The difference between people who exercise initiative and those who don't is literally the difference between night and day. I'm not talking about a 25 to 50 percent difference in effectiveness; I'm talking about a 5000-plus percent difference, particularly if they are smart, aware, and sensitive to others."
- Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Foster a "can do" attitude

2 [Tenacity]
"Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity."
- Louis Pasteur

Stick with things even when you get depressed or when things aren't going well.

3 [Flexibility]
"Back in graduate school, I'd learned how to survive without funding, power, or even office space. Grad students are lowest in the academic hierarchy, and so they have to squeeze resources from between the cracks. When you're last on the list for telescope time, you make your observations by hanging around the mountaintop, waiting for a slice of time between other observers. When you need an electronic gizmo in the lab, you borrow it in the evening, use it all night, and return it before anyone notices. I didn't learn much about planetary physics, but weaseling came naturally."
- Clifford Stoll, The Cuckoo's Egg

"The Chinese call luck opportunity and they say it knocks every day on your door. Some people hear it; some do not. It's not enough to hear opportunity knock. You must let him in, greet him, make friends and work together."
- Bernard Gittelson

Take advantage of opportunities and synergies, working around problems, and be willing to change plans as required.

4 [Interpersonal skills]
"For humans, honesty is a matter of degree. Engineers are always honest in matters of technology and human relationships. That's why it's a good idea to keep engineers away from customers, romantic interests, and other people who can't handle the truth."
- Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle

"I can calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people."
- Isaac Newton

Treat people with respect and determining their different working styles. Give credit where credit is due. Acknowledge and thank them for their help. Return favors. Respect their expertise, advice and time. Apologize if you are at fault. Realize that different people work in different ways and are motivated by different things

5 [Organizational skills]
"Failing to plan is planning to fail."

Organize your tasks as if you were juggling them.

6 [Communications skills]
"What is written without effort is, in general, read without pleasure."
- Samuel Johnson

"Present to inform, not to impress; if you inform, you will impress. "
- Fred Brooks

Confidence is the key.


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