Tips for Grads: Building leadership skills in graduate school

By Olivia Gacka, PhD Student

One of the phrases often used to describe graduate students and our role on this campus is that we are ‘leaders’. But being a graduate student doesn’t automatically make you feel like a leader. In fact, I’d argue that the pervasiveness of imposter syndrome among graduate students makes it even harder to recognize our own potential in this area. Whether you feel like you have a handle on your leadership role on campus, or are looking for ways to improve, here are some tips:

  • Read up on the UW­–Madison Leadership Framework: An excellent, self-paced way to start is a framework developed right here at UW–Madison that offers universal advice and guidance on improving leadership skills. The UW–Madison Leadership Framework offers various pathways to address the different aspects and requirements of leadership and key steps to establishing and developing your leadership skills.
  • Reflect on what’s available to you: Take some time to think about the areas and activities already built into your life where you might take on additional responsibility. Ask your boss if there are any projects you can head up, or see if you can identify an area within your academic department where you can take the initiative. The opportunity to challenge yourself and expand your leadership experience might be right under your nose!
  • Pursue a leadership certificate: If you’re looking for a more formalized opportunity to expand and demonstrate your skills as a leader, UW–Madison offers a leadership certificate. It’s an excellent option for students that allows us to incorporate this essential area of professional development into our degree plan.

If leadership is an area you’re looking to learn more about, I hope to see you at the Office of Professional Development’s upcoming workshop, “Leading from Where You Are: a Workshop for Graduate Students” on Thursday, October 27.

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.