In this episode, Emily opens up the audio diary she recorded while attending the 2023 annual meeting of the Graduate Career Consortium (GCC) as a sponsor. GCC is attended by university staff members who provide career and professional development services and programming to master’s students, PhD students, and postdocs. Emily shares the insights she gleaned from the keynote and member-generated sessions and the casual conversations around the meal tables and in the hallways. If you’ve ever wondered about the business side of Personal Finance for PhDs, this episode will give you some insight!
Links mentioned in the Episode
- Graduate Career Consortium
- PF for PhDs Podcast Volunteer Form
- Dr. Katy Peplin, Thrive PhD
- Simone Stolzoff, The Good Enough Job, Reclaiming Life from Work
- Dr. Sasha Goldman
- Host a PF for PhDs Seminar at Your Institution
- Emily’s E-mail Address
- Dr. Katie Kearns
- Archer Career
- PF for PhDs Subscribe to Mailing List
- PF for PhDs Podcast Hub
00:00 Emily: The basic like, sort of thesis of his book/talk is that white collar workers in America today are attempting to self-actualize through their careers and their jobs. And that’s not good for them personally, and it’s actually also not good for them in terms of their careers. He said a couple of times through the talk that putting all this, uh, pressure and expectation on our jobs is not something that they were designed to bear and they’re not bearing it. I actually found some pretty strong like personal finance themes, uh, peeking into this talk.
00:45 Emily: Welcome to the Personal Finance for PhDs Podcast: A Higher Education in Personal Finance. I’m your host, Dr. Emily Roberts, a financial educator specializing in early-career PhDs and founder of Personal Finance for PhDs. This podcast is for PhDs and PhDs-to-be who want to explore the hidden curriculum of finances to learn the best practices for money management, career advancement, and advocacy for yourself and others.
01:14 Emily: This is Season 15, Episode 3, and today I’m opening up the audio diary I recorded while attending the 2023 annual meeting of the Graduate Career Consortium as a sponsor. GCC is attended by university staff members who provide career and professional development services and programming to master’s students, PhD students, and postdocs. I share the insights I gleaned from the keynotes and member-generated sessions and the casual conversations around the meal tables and in the hallways. If you’ve ever wondered about the business side of Personal Finance for PhDs, this episode will give you some insight!
01:52 Emily: I’m looking ahead to Season 16 of this podcast, in which we’ll return to our typical long-form interviews. This is your official invitation to please volunteer as a guest for one of the upcoming episodes! Please go to PFforPhDs.com/podcastvolunteer/ and fill out the quick form, and I’ll be in touch over email. I look forward to interviewing you soon! You can find the show notes for this episode at PFforPhDs.com/s15e3/.
02:25 Emily: Without further ado, here’s my audio diary from the 2023 Annual Meeting of the Graduate Career Consortium. I want to give you a tiny bit of background information before jumping into the audio diary. The Graduate Career Consortium is a decades-old volunteer-run organization of about 450 members, and it’s for university staff members who work in career and professional development. It started with a narrow focus on PhD students and postdocs and has more recently opened up to people who serve master’s students as well. 2023 is my third year sponsoring the GCC Annual Meeting but only my second year attending the in-person annual meeting. I planned for about 200 people to be in attendance, but I think the actual numbers were somewhat lower, in part due to flight delays and cancellations in that particular week.
03:19 Emily: In my business, almost all of the revenue comes from my work with universities, and very little comes from the products I sell to individuals. I vastly prefer for graduate students and postdocs to access my content at no cost to them because the university is picking up the bill. Therefore, when you hear me refer to ‘clients’ in this audio diary, I’m referring to the staff members who contract with me to provide financial education programming.
03:44 Emily: One of my objectives in attending this meeting was actually to collect audio for two podcast episodes that I’m planning to publish in August 2023. I wrote two prompts and asked meeting attendees to respond to either or both in a short sound bit, approximately 30 seconds. In the audio diary, I call these microinterviews. Let’s jump in!
Travel Day: Monday, June 26, 2023
04:09 Emily: I am recording this about midday on Tuesday, July 27th, 2023. Yesterday, Monday was my long travel day from San Diego to Indianapolis. I decided to have a more relaxed morning in San Diego, so I booked a noon flight out of there. This is because it’s a Monday, which means that it’s the beginning of the week and my kids were both in summer camps for, uh, the first time this summer. We were on vacation prior to this point, so I wanted to help my husband get them out the door without also trying to get myself out the door simultaneously. So I left my house a little bit after 9:00 AM and got to the airport. In fact, got all the way through security and to my gate by 10:00 AM which was awesome. I set up at one of those little charging workstation kind of areas and I worked on a couple of final things for this conference.
05:03 Emily: Actually, I had one more final flyer that I wanted to print, uh, once I got to Indianapolis. So during that time I kind of tweaked and finished up the design of that flyer, and then I also started getting on the hova app and being active there and messaging people and welcoming people and posting things. I had two flights, one hop from San Diego to Denver, and then from Denver into Indianapolis. Sometimes I really am inspired and love to work on planes. Um, I never pay for wifi, so it’s kind of a good time to process my thoughts without getting distracted by anything on the internet, but Monday was not one of those days. I just took the time to like relax and rest and I did a lot of reading. The book I’m reading right now is Love Lettering by Kate Clayborne was a recommendation. I’m enjoying that.
05:50 Emily: So I basically just took some me time to relax and get my energy ready for the mad dash that is gonna happen, you know, between Tuesday evening and midday on Friday, we landed in Indianapolis at around 9:00 PM and I noticed, you know, in my Uber from the airport to the conference center, even at 9:30 PM in the summer, it is late in Indianapolis because we are in the bleeding edge of eastern time zone. So that was pretty interesting. All the travel on Monday went really smoothly. I got to my hotel around 10 and I tried to drop off the swag I brought with me. I brought pens and a little tiny flyer to go into the swag bags, but, um, the people who were doing that had left for the day. So I just went back to my room, said goodnight to my kids over FaceTime and read more on my book. Went to sleep around midnight with my alarm set for 7:00 AM for Tuesday.
GCC Pre-Conference Day: Tuesday, June 27, 2023
06:50 Emily: Tuesday morning. I woke up before my alarm at about 6:30 AM I guess I’m just so excited to be at GCC. Um, so I didn’t have to rush of a morning, just got ready and then at about 7:45 went off to find, uh, the person that I needed to deliver that swag to, which thankfully I was able to do immediately. They took it off my hands, they got it into the swag bags right away. Even the registration, um, for the early bird attendees was opening at eight. So I’m really grateful that they were able to do that so quickly. I also took that time to get my booth set up, so I brought with me like a brightly colored tablecloth and a table runner and a little sign that goes on my table. And so I set all that stuff up and while I was setting up, two really good things happened. The very first conference attendee that I saw, uh, we both did a, Hey, you look familiar, where have we met before thing? And it turns out we actually worked together, um, a couple of years ago, but it was all virtual. So of course it’s different seeing someone in person. So it was really great to see that person and I am excited to maybe renew my work, um, without office. And the second person I saw was not someone I had met before, but she works for an office that I have worked for virtually in the past. And when she, you know, figured out who I was, she said, we love you . And it was so great to hear that I thanked her so much. She was so sweet. And yeah, I hope to be working with that office in the coming year as well. Now that I know I have a couple different, uh, champions over there.
08:21 Emily: By the time I got my table set up, it was about 8:15 and I went to check in at the registration desk. They didn’t have my name badge ready yet, but the conference organizer just said I should grab some breakfast and go on in and eat, even though technically I wasn’t like registered for that session. This is again, sort of the early bird, um, first day attendees, they were having a breakfast together, but I took advantage. I crashed the breakfast, grabbed a plate of food, sat down at a table, you know, introduced myself all around, met some interesting people. One person was a wealth manager before starting graduate school. You’re gonna hear from that person on the sister podcast. This one that I’m recording as we go through. In fact, I was really regretting not bringing my recorder with me to breakfast. I wasn’t expecting necessarily right away to be interacting with trainees, so I didn’t have it on me, but I was telling people about the micro interviews for the podcast and several people on the table really interested in it.
09:12 Emily: Um, so yeah, met a wealth manager, um, met a couple other people. I had some things in common with, had a really interesting, although brief conversation with someone about postdoctoral training. And of course the differences between being an employee and being not an employee. They’re especially amplified in your postdoc. So I love talking about that kind of stuff here at gcc and I’m hoping for more conversations like that. After I finished up breakfast at about 8 45, I went back to my room and did a couple of errands. So I went and picked up the flyers that I had ordered for printing to have at my table. So walked over to the u p s store to get those. And then I walked in the other direction to go to CVS to get some supplies for my table. So I got a couple of bowls and some candy just to make people, you know, entice them over and make them feel welcome and maybe talk to me or check out my stuff.
10:00 Emily: Um, so I got that all set up. So all in all, I probably walked about a mile and a half and the air quality today is no good. I think there’s like smoke from a fire or something. Um, so the air quality’s pretty rough. I probably should not have been outside for that long, but yeah, needed to do those errands on foot. So I’m glad that was over. By the time I go back to my hotel, I was really like sweaty and feeling kind of grimy, not so great. So I decided it was a good time for a workout today, Tuesday is definitely my day with the most free time. So I knew if I didn’t take advantage of workout today, I was never gonna work out the rest of the time here. So I did a little workout in my hotel room, took a shower, feel really good and refreshed. And that brings you up to the present. I am recording this right before heading out to have lunch with Katy Peplin from Thrive PhD.
10:52 Emily: It’s 1:30 PM on Tuesday. I just got back to my hotel room after a great lunch with Katy Peplin of Thrive PhD. We have known each other for many, many, many years online only, but this is the first time that we’re meeting in person. I consider her sort of my colleague as like a fellow solopreneur who serves graduate students and postdocs, albeit in a very different way and on a very different subject. But anyway, it was great to meet her and catch up with her. And we had some great conversations about kind of the state of graduate education from our perspectives as sort of like, you know, people used to be in it and now we are outside, but we talked to a lot of people inside of it. And by the time you hear this, you either have already heard a couple of contributions Katy made to existing podcast episodes or maybe they’re coming up. But yeah, we did a couple of recordings. She was my first test case in terms of recording a micro interview at this conference. So really glad to have that done with. I am taking a break in my room right now. I’m gonna do a little bit of light emailing and get back to my booth a little later this afternoon.
11:58 Emily: All right, it is now 8:15 PM on Tuesday, and I’m back in my hotel room for the night. Uh, let’s see. So I was down in the kind of main conference area all through the registration period, which is three to 6:00 PM Um, it was a little slow, but there were, you know, a handful of people who stopped by my booth and introduced themselves. And I recorded a couple of micro podcast interviews during that time. So that was all good. And then things really picked up between six and 8:00 PM which was during the reception. And, um, I did a lot of mingling and networking. Basically my, uh, stance when I come to conferences like this, my attitude is that everybody here wants to meet me and I just need to give them the opportunity by walking up and introducing myself. So as a naturally shy person, this is not at all, uh, comfortable for me, but I push myself outta that comfort zone for the sake of my business.
12:59 Emily: And it’s actually, it can be really fun when it works out. So yeah, I met, um, a couple dozen people maybe this evening, you know, caught up with some old clients or maybe, you know, colleagues of people that I’ve worked with in the past. Certainly met a lot of new people, some of whom are interested in working with me, some of whom are not. And yeah, just got to talk about financial stuff with them. Some of them had really good, um, financial insights from their either time in graduate school or, you know, their current life. Some of ’em had questions, some of ’em had ideas about policy changes, which is the subject of one of the micro interviews. So yeah, recorded a bunch more micro interviews at that time. I think I’m up to 13 for the day. Pretty good for the first day. So yeah, today was a lot of unstructured time, but tomorrow we’re really getting into the meat of the conference and I’m looking forward to learning a lot and getting some new insights and sharing them here in this audio diary. I know I need a lot of rest and a good night’s sleep to be on my game for tomorrow. So yeah, I’m gonna stay in the rest of the night, uh, get ready for bed, do some reading, call my family and go to sleep early, I hope.
GCC Conference Day 1: Wednesday, June 28, 2023
14:14 Emily: Okay, wow, here I am on Wednesday evening at almost 9:30 PM and yeah, I recently finished my first long, long day at the conference, so I will try to do a recap for you now. It’s been a really great day. I woke up at six, managed to get in about 20 minutes of yoga before I needed to shower and get ready for the day. And, uh, breakfast opened at seven 30. It was from seven 30 to eight 30. And as a sponsor, my objective is to be at breakfast the whole time and sit at least a couple different tables and just meet and talk with as many people as I can. So I did manage that. Um, was at breakfast for an hour, I believe I sat at two different tables. Um, I made some like pretty decent connections at one of them in particular, some people I’m gonna follow up with.
15:10 Emily: And that was really exciting immediately after breakfast was the welcome to the conference. Um, and also the Wednesday keynote, the keynote speaker was Simone Stolzoff, I hope I’m pronouncing that close to correctly. And he recently published his first book called The Good Enough Job, Reclaiming Life from Work. And that was kind of the subject of his talk. I thought the keynote was really great. It’s always exciting for me to see, uh, other professional speakers engaging in their craft and try to take some, you know, tips away from what they’re doing. And yeah, I thought he had a good, really good mix of, um, speaking about personal stories from his life, drawing in stories from his book, um, relating to the audience, like the specific, um, subject of this conference was definitely tied in with like all of his themes and giving us some exercises and time to talk and reflect with one another.
16:09 Emily: So from what I could understand, the basic like, sort of thesis of his book/talk is that white collar workers in America today are a attempting to self-actualize through their careers and their jobs. And that’s not good for them personally, and it’s actually also not good for them in terms of their careers. He said a couple of times through the talk that putting all this, uh, pressure and expectation on our jobs is not something that they were designed to bear, and they’re not bearing it. I actually found some pretty strong like personal finance themes, uh, peeking into this talk. Probably not that surprising. Apparently the author has an undergraduate degree, dual degrees in economics and poetry, and then he has a graduate degree, I believe in journalism, and he also worked in tech and has lived in San Francisco. So yeah, not that surprised to see that theme coming through, like pretty strongly.
17:12 Emily: But his talk definitely reminded me of the aspect of the fire movement, the financial independence and retire early movement that is, uh, emphasizing that when you want to retire early or retire at all, um, you really have to prepare during your working career and separate your identity as a person from your job, your identity as a worker, um, in preparation for that retirement date. Because if you go into your retirement still with your identity really wrapped up in your career and your job, you’re gonna be very lost and probably very unsatisfied, um, until you can get that sorted out in your retirement. And so it’s much better to do that ahead of time, maybe even find more satisfaction in your job when you’re not putting all that pressure on it, um, before you actually retire early. And then you’re not, they say a lot in the fire community.
18:01 Emily: You’re not supposed to be retiring from something like a job you really hate. You’re supposed to be retiring to something, something you’re really looking forward to doing, uh, once you’re no longer working your job. But what Simone was talking about today was more a a little bit more about people who see their profession as their calling and maybe some people who hate their jobs and wanna get outta that, you know, previously saw their careers, their calling. But yeah, more of the danger of identifying too closely with your career and even potentially being exploited by your, um, employer or by your industry more at large, because you’re in one of those professions where it’s assumed that you’re, you know, getting all this satisfaction out of your work. So of course you don’t have to be paid that well. So nonprofit work education, of course, government work, these kinds of areas.
18:50 Emily: So Simone ended the keynote with like five really good takeaways that are both for, you know, all of us in the audience personally as well as, you know, those vast majority of people in the audience unlike me, who are career advising professionals, you know, to help advise their students in postdocs. And one of them that I really liked was actually the last one, and it was to diversify your identity. So diversify, like add to the number of areas of your life from which you can draw meaning. And I’m definitely going to reflect further on, you know, the messages from this book and this talk and how they apply to me personally as a self-employed person who has, um, you know, chosen my business and chosen my profession. And I definitely feel like it’s a calling and just how all of this, all of these concepts get wrapped up for me and how they’re maybe a little bit different or a little bit similar with me being my own employer.
19:49 Emily: So that’s my homework following this keynote, and it was really enjoyable. And yeah, I’m really glad to have been introduced to this author and, uh, his take on this topic after the keynote and a break in which, you know, I’m, again, always trying to be networking during these free times. Uh, we went into the first two concurrent sessions, so they’re called the member generated sessions. So basically you have a choice among, you know, four or five different, um, sessions that you might attend at a given block of time. So we got two in the morning. So the first session I attended was titled Strengthening Networks and Career Readiness Post Documenting Committees. And the second one was charting Our Path at the Crossroads of Career Readiness Support. And I won’t go into all my takeaways from the sessions that I went to, but in general, the things that I’m listening for during this conference are, you know, to try to gain some insights into the, the format of programming that, you know, they seem to, you know, think is successful in their, um, career services kinds of jobs, because I would like to take those best practices into my business and of course suggest them to my clients. So the three formats for financial education that I’m currently offering my clients are live in person, live remote. Those are both for like seminars and workshops and stuff. And then I also have a variety of workshops that have been pre-recorded, so it’s more of a flipped classroom model. And so I’m trying to glean, uh, what other people are doing, whether are they going back in person, you know, are they seeing engagement? Are people really using pre-recorded resources? And this past year has been a really hard one, it seems for everyone in terms of levels of engagement for, you know, this type of programming and also for my programming. So yeah, we’re all trying to sort through it together, but it seems like the time and everybody is tired and everybody is burned out after the pandemic and everybody’s, you know, sick of whatever. And so, uh, it’s difficult for everyone, certainly.
21:41 Emily: Something I’m also looking for in taking note of are resources that I can use, like I wrote down, uh, like a report from the National Postdoctoral Association that I should read, and one from the National Academies of Science, engineering and Medicine. So resources like that that I can go to utilize on my own afterwards that are gonna give me more insights into the communities that I serve and today’s trends. Next on the schedule was lunch. And it was thankfully a very long lunch period. It was like almost two hours long, so we had box lunches, so I grabbed a box lunch, sat down at a table, uh, they were really heavy into their career conversation, so I did not actually get a word in and a little bit awkward. But yeah, I didn’t contribute to that conversation at all. Just really enjoyed listening to it. And after I was done eating my lunch, I just excused myself and said I had enjoy listening to everyone. And yeah, I was a bit awkward, but I headed back up to my hotel room to charge my devices. And then once they had charged a bit, I took a, you know, a small break, went back down to the lunch area, and then the second table I sat at, I was really able to engage with the couple of people there. In fact, when I sat down, they were talking about home ownership and the rising cost of rent and how the faculty and staff at universities just do not, uh, get how difficult it is living on a grad student or a postdoc type income with these rising cost of living and, you know, housing crisis kinds of costs. And so that was a really interesting conversation to step into. And I ended up talking with both of those people for, um, quite a while about various topics. And I recorded some more micro interviews. So I felt like that was a really nice way to spend the end of my lunch. Oh, and at the end of that lunch, I found out after that whole conversation that one of the people at the table had already knew who I was because she had seen me speak at MSU like 7, 6, 7, something like that years ago, um, when she was a postdoc there.
23:35 Emily: In the third member generated session in the afternoon, I listened to, uh, three Lightning talks, so like three eight minute talks in a row. And the fourth session I attended that afternoon was titled PhD Progression Micro-Credentialing for Navigating the PhD and Beyond. And this was actually presented by Dr. Sasha Goldman from Boston University. And I had the pleasure of working with Sasha a couple of times. Her office hosted webinars with me during the pandemic. And so we had a little bit of a relationship and I was so excited to see what she was presenting that she’s been developing over the past. She and her office had been developing over the past several years, which is this micro-credentialing program. And she really took us behind the scenes and how she made it. And again, this is all in like the career development area. Um, and it just was so inspirational. Well, first of all, it’s very impressive , and if you are a graduate student at bu, I really hope you are gonna take advantage of this because it seems like an amazing resource, um, to yeah, to help you get ready for your future career. And Sasha also said that, you know, this is free and she wants it to be open to lots of other universities. So I don’t know how fast that rollout is going to be, but, uh, if you have the opportunity to take this, um, I’m gonna go ahead and highly recommend it. And actually, Sasha told me later that they have a badge on personal finance inside the program from which they link to some of my like free resources, like podcast episodes and stuff I believe that I’ve produced in the past that was nice and flattering that they had done that. And they also have a badge for financial literacy with like, sort of a, a business twist on that business, financial literacy. So again, if you’re at BU and you’re a grad student or you’re at one of the institutions that this is gonna come to in the near future, wow, I really hope you take advantage of this. And it was really inspiring to me as well, and thinking about, oh, would like a micro-credentialing program potentially be a good fit for me when I’m doing this financial education stuff, um, versus like an online course. And so it really got my brain percolating about like a different way to help people, uh, master, you know, the skills within, within personal finance. So anyway, I was really excited to have attended that session, um, and really proud that my resources, a couple of them are, you know, being included in this awesome, awesome program.
25:55 Emily: One other note about, again, how I approach, uh, networking is like, I’m just always introduce myself to people. Like if we have a minute or two before a session starts, like I’m introducing myself to the person next to me, if I’ve met them before, I’m saying hi to them, um, you know, checking in. Of course, sometimes these things turn into pitches. It’s pretty naturally, um, for, you know, for working with me. And, and sometimes they don’t, and either way is fine. Um, but yeah, I’m just, it’s just such a great place to meet people because just about everybody here is like a past client or a potential client of mine, and I just have such good connections with them.
26:31 Emily: Late in the afternoon about 4:15 PM they went into what they called their regional meetings and gatherings. Now these are for GCC members, and I am not a member , but they’re, they have the country divided into like seven, um, regions. And so I just decided to go into the southwest region, including Southern California, which is where I live, and just, uh, you know, check with the organizer, was it okay if I attended? And they said yes. And it was really just a social hour. And for the Southwest region, um, pretty much most of the time was taken up playing this game. And the game was that, uh, the organizers had come up with some, uh, questions, questions about what is your preference and, you know, is your preference A or B? And we would, um, move to different parts of the room depending on if our preference was A or B. And then, uh, within that group we would decide what was our best argument for A or for B, and then tell that argument to the other group. And nothing got resolved after, it was not like a debate, it was just, uh, here’s our argument, here’s our argument. But it started off pretty light. So the first question was, is your preference to eat ice cream or is your preference to eat cake and moved through some other areas? One really kind of funny one was, would you rather camp in a beautiful location or would you rather stay in a luxury hotel? And the one that got a little contentious was, would you rather drive everywhere or would you rather walk or bike everywhere? And some of these questions were like, the answers were really obvious to me, but there was always a debate around it. And anyway, it was kind of a fun way to, you know, meet and interact with some other people who live, you know, in California and Arizona and, uh, nearby states So that was cool.
28:20 Emily: Next we had a block of free time. I used it for more networking, again, some more recording of micro interviews. And then I took like a five minute break in my hotel room to change out of my dress shoes into sneakers, um, to go to the evening reception, which started at 6:00 PM And the evening reception, which included dinner and drinks, was in this place called the Punchbowl, which was really fun, I guess was kind of like a bar atmosphere, but there were all kinds of games there. There was a bowling alley as well as a karaoke room, ping pong tables, and a bunch of smaller games as well. And they put out a lovely dinner for us. It was, um, like, make your own tacos. So I mostly just got food and sat and ate and, you know, talked with people. Um, and I talked with a few different groups over the course of my time there. Met some really, uh, interesting people, had some good conversations, recorded a couple more micro interviews, uh, made some good connections. People I’m gonna follow up with, not just about like work, but about like future collaborations. And I met another person who has recently gone full-time into self-employment like I am, uh, but you know, was a, a longtime member of GCC and it was really exciting to meet her. Oh, and I met a legend in the field who I’d never met or spoken with before and who is retiring. So I guess this was my last opportunity. So that was really cool. Oh, and I was also really surprised and flattered. Um, one of the people I met at the Punchbowl, um, I’ve only maybe exchanged an email or or two with her, but she is very aware of my work apparently, and, um, congratulated me on the success I’ve had with my business in, you know, the last few years and asked how it was going and everything. And even said that she points people to my website as an example of, um, you know, a self-employed person’s website, which, ugh, I’m so like, kind of embarrassed by my website. Sorry, y’all. Uh, I was considering a revamp of the website for this summer, but I kind of decided in the late spring that I had spent enough money already this year on professional development and didn’t really want to make an additional financial investment, at least not yet. So anyway, uh, kind of embarrassed by that, but also just really pleased again, and, and flattered that, um, you know, she has been following what I’ve been doing and, and, and thinks highly of it. So yeah, that was really great to hear. Um, stayed there for about two hours and then walked back to the hotel with a group, um, around 8:00 PM back in my room, like eight 15. And my evening since then has been a little more yoga, uh, downloading these micro interviews to my computer so I can save them recording this audio diary. And pretty soon I’m gonna be saying goodnight to my kids and reading and turning in because I have another early day tomorrow.
31:14 Emily: Emily here for a brief interlude. Would you like to learn directly from me on a personal finance topic, such as taxes, goal-setting, investing, frugality, increasing income, or student loans, each tailored specifically for graduate students and postdocs? I offer seminars and workshops on these topics and more in a variety of formats, and I’m now booking for the 2023-2024 academic year. If you would like to bring my content to your institution, would you please recommend me as a speaker or facilitator to your university, graduate school, graduate student association, or postdoc office? My seminars are usually slated as professional development or personal wellness. Ask the potential host to go to PFforPhDs.com/speaking/ or simply email me at emily@PFforPhDs.com to start the process. I really appreciate these recommendations, which are the best way for me to start a conversation with a potential host. The paid work I do with universities and institutions enables me to keep producing this podcast and all my other free resources. Thank you in advance if you decide to issue a recommendation! Now back to our interview.
GCC Conference Day 2: Thursday, June 29, 2023
32:32 Emily: All right, it is about 6:20 PM on Thursday. I’m back in my hotel room for a break after a pretty long day, but there’s still more day left as iI’ll tell you about in a few minutes. Today was another really successful day, and I’m so glad I decided to sponsor this conference again. So my alarm went off at 5 45 today, which is like no mean feat for someone who normally lives on Pacific time. Uh, and I actually went to the hotel gym for about a half an hour workout, saw some other people from the conference there and back to my room, got ready. And of course, like I told you yesterday, I was at breakfast by seven 30 when it opened and just, you know, talked to the people for the next hour. I sat at two different tables at breakfast today, and one of the tables in particular, we had such a great conversation. One person at the table asked me my origin story for how, you know, I I got into this area and started this business and everything, which I’m always happy to share. So then the conversation led into, well, what is the, you know, biggest issue or obstacle that graduate students have with their finances? And of course, I said, and other people around the table said, well, they’re just not paid enough. I mean, that’s the first thing, uh, which yes, agree. And, but then actually someone else brought up something that I very often talk about in my seminars for prospective graduate students, and she said this was her personal experience as an entering graduate student. Just the idea of being paid to get a PhD is so flattering that you don’t really consider to carefully whether it’s a living wage or enough money to be comfortable. Um, and this person’s PhD is in the humanities. And so, you know, we talked about that idea for a while as well, and that led into, you know, negotiating and advocating for your worth and all that good stuff.
34:40 Emily: After another, welcome to the conference. We had our Thursday morning keynote, which is by Dr. Katie Kearns, titled Not just Career Crossroads Social and Emotional Aspects of Grad and Postdoc Development. And Dr. Kearns was speaking from her, um, experiences more in like the teaching and learning area. I didn’t connect with this keynote as much to be honest, but she said one thing that kind of stuck with me, which she was saying this in relationship to, um, her experience teaching. It sounded like first year undergraduate students, uh, year after year after year. And, uh, having the experience of, you know, answering the same, uh, types of questions and, and having to do the same kinds of trainings over and over again. And, and personally having the realization that, oh, right, like, I’m getting older every year, but they’re always 18 years old. Uh, but anyway, what she said about that was maybe, you know, the, the problems that they’re having and the training that they need that they’re experiencing at that time in their lives, maybe that is developmentally appropriate. And so I, I’m gonna chew over that a little bit, like how I can apply that to like the financial realm and, um, not that I really like get frustrated or anything with like, repeat questions, but like, I want to think about what is developmentally appropriate for a graduate student to go through, especially one who’s entering right out of college and what kinds of, um, what kinds of skills they perhaps already have by then, and which of the skills that they should be working on.
35:56 Emily: After another slight break, we got into the next member generated session and the one I attended was called Pathways and Crossroads at the intersection of events, equity and engagement. And this group of presenters was out of Harvard Medical School, and they’re actually more former clients of mine, hopefully future clients as well. And they described, I might not be using the right words for this, but the way that they organize and advertise their programming and they put on a lot of events. Um, so the way they organize their events and also their resources so that it’s easily accessible by the people that they serve in the medical school. And it was really quite impressive to me to hear about the development of like the web-based tool that they’re using so that people can again, find these resources and events and then also how diligent they are in collecting evaluations and standardizing those across all the programs. Cuz that’s something I’m really thinking about right now is how do I, um, improve what I offer and understand whether people are getting out of it, what I hope that they’re getting out of it, um, and how I can kind of do better in that evaluation realm. And again, like I said yesterday, I’m listening for do people have best practices around attendance and engagement, um, in terms of the events that they’re putting on. And a again, still hearing, nobody has a magic formula to, um, get through to students and postdocs right now. And it’s difficult kind of, uh, across the board.
37:24 Emily: The next session I attended was, uh, revolutionizing career services in the digital age, engaging students for 21st century success, more on the same theme. And this, um, session was actually done by Archer Career, which is one of the other sponsors of this event. And, um, specifically their co-founder and CEO Pam Schilling was the one doing most of the presenting. And it was a nice session because it was a balance of, you know, hearing from Pam about her insights, especially in the ed tech space, and also doing some exercises, uh, personally and then also with, you know, my, my neighbor who I, I got to know through the exercises, which was really nice. Um, and so it, it allowed me to do some reflection even though I’m a little bit, you know, to the side of, of Pam’s intended audience. It allowed me to do some reflection on the formats that I’m offering. And I really meeting the needs of, um, you know, the people I’m working with and what, what could I do? This is called ideation. Like what could I do if there were no constraints? Like budget was no constraint, time cons was no constraint. Uh, what would I do? So I was specifically thinking about my, uh, tax education work when I was going through these exercises, and it’s definitely given me some food for thought that I’m going to continue to think about over the course of the next few months because I’m already reevaluating, uh, these programs actually. So really good timing for this session for me.
38:40 Emily: After that, we had a lovely buffet lunch, um, actually a very long lunch, and I took advantage of this because while people were waiting, um, in line to get their food at the buffet, I kind of went down the line and asked a few different people if they would go ahead and record their micro interview with me right then, which a few people took me up on and I had some good conversations. So that was actually a good strategy, although of course I ended up at the end of line and got my food last. But it was really delicious. And again, a long lunch. We had some time for conversation around the table, and then they did a recognition, um, session. So recognizing all the members of the graduate career consortium who have served in the past year, especially those who are, um, coming off of leadership roles and sometimes going on to other leadership roles, and also honoring two people who have contributed a lot to GCC over sounded like about the past 15 years. As a non-member of this organization, it was great for me to get some more insight into what exactly all is going on here. Like, what are all the things that GCC does because I’m not, uh, you know, I, I see a very narrow slice of it. So this was a really good time for me to just learn more about the organization.
39:47 Emily: And after lunch, I had a very lovely conversation with, um, someone about postdoc benefits and the lack thereof and how postdocs should be considered employees. This is a theme. Many people talk to me about this over the course of this conference. The last member generated session that I attended in the early afternoon was a really special one because it’s actually the one that I as a sponsor got to introduce. So the session was titled at the crossroads of parallel planning, integrating fellowship applications into graduate and postdoc career advising. And when I, as a sponsor, I was given a list of, uh, sessions that I could sponsor in advance, and this was my number one choice, and I’m so glad I got it because to me, the the connection is, is very clear. So what I basically said at the beginning of the session was, you know, we’re gonna learn, hopefully some best practices throughout the course of this session on how, um, you could help your graduate students and postdocs apply for fellowship funding. And hopefully as a result of you implementing this at your campuses, there will be much more fellowship money flowing to your institution, and specifically a lot more people being funded on fellowships for the first time. And, uh, when that happens, there are tax implications. And so then I got to kind of pitch my tax education stuff. I have a new seminar that I’ve developed and I also have, um, my ongoing, um, deep dive workshops that are in the flip classroom model. So I gotta say a little bit about that and then introduce the speakers. And the session was incredible. It was wonderful to learn what they’re doing over at Vanderbilt, um, to help, uh, prepare people for, for example, I think they’re doing, they’re doing a lot more than this, but for just one example, help prepare, uh, graduate students to apply for the NSF G R F P. And so they are doing boot camps and the whole process starts in like the May before, um, the application is due, you know, the following October-ish. And it’s a very long cycle of working with the applicants and also working with their letter writers, and they, they, they’re doing what they call bootcamps over the summer. So it’s like cohort groups where you have that like accountability, um, and peer mentoring and also expert mentoring to, uh, yeah, get these applications into tip chop shape. And, and based on the data they showed, these bootcamps seem to be very effective in getting the applications, you know, up higher percentage of them towards the funded stage. But another thing they emphasized, which I really liked was how really applying for fellowships is a professional development exercise. It’s not merely about winning the fellowship or not winning, winning the fellowship. It’s a huge accomplishment just to apply. Um, and you learn so much and it’s so applicable, transferable skills, et cetera. Um, just from doing the application process alone, and especially an intensive one, like the one that they’re describing and that they actually celebrate at an event at the end of the year, everybody who applied for fellowships, um, and they don’t frame it in terms of, you know, you got it, you didn’t, it’s just everybody who applied, you know, accomplished this amazing thing. And I, I actually participated in a little bit something like this when I first applied for the NSF G F P back when I was at the NIH for my Postback irta. Um, but I definitely did not utilize this kind of resource when I was a first year graduate student. And I certainly wish that I had, I don’t know if it was available to me, um, if it was, I, I didn’t access it, but it seems like an awesome idea that, uh, many universities should be following suit. I’m really glad that they presented this, um, information in the session and that I got to sponsor it.
43:17 Emily: The last event of the afternoon today was what they called a showcase session. So it was, um, posters from various people and also, um, posters from each GCC committee to show what they’ve been doing over the course of the year. And I basically use this as another kind of networking opportunity and also opportunity to record my micro interviews, kind of doing both. So it was really, um, it was a really good time for me and I got to talk with a lot more people during that period. And yeah, that was great. I even hung around for quite a while after that session, kind of officially ended to talk to the last like few stragglers and again, get a couple more interviews. I did have someone have a, not totally unexpected, but fairly strong and interesting, uh, reaction to one of my prompts. Um, it’s the one talking about what policy would you change? And so this person, and very kindly by the way that this person was warning, um, her colleague maybe don’t answer that question, like, go for the other prompts, like, maybe don’t answer this prompt because, you know, if anything is construed as like criticizing this colleague’s, uh, current employer, um, you know, that could be bad. She could ha face repercussions or even lose her job. I don’t know if that, that might be a little, little bit extreme. But, um, basically just, you know, you’re saying who you are and who you work for maybe don’t be critical of the university that you work for in terms of their policies. So they had a little kind of debate about that. Ultimately, the person, um, did not contribute to that particular question. Um, I definitely think it’s a legitimate concern, but it was just a little, you know, a little disappointing to me that people don’t think they can speak freely to criticize even legitimately, even, even gently, even nicely, um, criticize a policy of their employer, not even like a person, but a policy. And by the way, that the policy this person was, um, going to put on record but didn’t, was like very reasonable. totally, totally reasonable change that I’ve said this one many times myself. Of course, I’m my own employer and I’m not gonna fire myself for saying that sort of thing. But anyway, that was a pretty, um, interesting reaction and I certainly hope that no one participating in that episode gets any blow back. I don’t think they will. But anyway, I, I really hope it doesn’t happen and I’m really grateful to people who were willing to answer that question and kind of stand, uh, behind their opinion. Um, I’m glad that they either think their employer is reasonable or they, um, at least think their position is strong enough that they wouldn’t be kind of threatened by that. So that was an interesting interaction regarding these micro interviews. Okay, I’m gonna wrap up because I am heading out to dinner in a few minutes. I’m going to NADA here in Indianapolis, which was highly recommended. So I’m going with, um, nine other people from the conference and yeah, hope to do more of the same, of talking with people and maybe getting more of micro interviews and we’ll see just doing more of the same through this conference, which has been again, so, so enjoyable.
46:19 Emily: Oh man, it’s now 10:40 PM , uh, let’s see. I went out to dinner with a group of people from the conference. There were nine of us in total. I left at about 5 45, got back well to the hotel, maybe nine 15 or so. Stayed around chatting for a few minutes. Uh, probably got back to my hotel room about an hour ago. Uh, dinner was really, really lovely. Um, you know, talked with people walking over to the restaurant and walking back, uh, more networking and so forth. But, uh, we were at the restaurant for about two hours, so we really had a nice long dinner and I got to talk quite a bit with all the people, um, sitting around me. We talked about it, it was a little bit more, uh, relaxed and less sort of professionally oriented than the rest of the conference. So we definitely talked about some personal stuff like, uh, the vacations were going on this year and, uh, uh, parenting. And I talked with this one person about this, um, science fantasy trilogy I read recently by NK Jemison. Turns out he’s really into, uh, that other, and we chatted about it quite a bit and it was, that was pretty fun. And uh, I made him promise to bring his, uh, tabletop role playing game based on, uh, this certain trilogy series, which that’s, I asked him to bring it to GCC next year. Maybe we’ll play, it’s not my kind of game, but I’m willing to give it a shot cause I really did like this trilogy. Um, anyway, and, uh, some people sitting around me also definitely asked me about work and, and also just more about like my business, you know, not just what I could do sort of in partnership with them, but how I do what I do. And, um, yeah, that was really nice to have those kinds of conversations as well. Um, yeah, this is definitely a nice relaxed, um, atmosphere and element of, uh, this conference. And of course I recorded a few more, more micro interviews for my collection and, uh, yeah, it was a really, really good, although long and it’s certainly late now, good long, um, nice evening out and I’ve already said goodnight to my kids. So I am just going to read a bit, uh, actually finished Love Letters yesterday and today I’m starting the Southern Book Club Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. Kind of another random recommendation I found online somewhere, but, uh, we’ll see how it goes. I’m definitely into the, uh, lighter reads at the moment after reading that NK Jemison Trilogy. Um, yeah, so I’m gonna just read a tiny bit and go to sleep cuz I have to be up relatively early again tomorrow morning to pack and check out before the final half day of the conference.
GCC Conference Day 3/Travel Day: Friday June 30, 2023
49:09 Emily: Okay, , this is my final, um, live entry of the audio diary of my conference. It is about 11:00 PM Pacific on Friday, June 30th. So this was the last day of the conference and I was surprised that it has ended up being the longest day, I think. Um, so I’ll go through it pretty briefly cuz I’m awfully tired at this point. Uh, my day started at 7:00 AM Eastern and I let myself not work out and sleep in a little bit this last morning because I knew it was a travel day. And so got up at seven, got ready and got down to breakfast at eight. And similar to other days between eight and nine, it was basically a networking breakfast. I believe I only sat at one table this time. Um, but I had some really nice conversations with the people there, some people who I hadn’t yet met at the conference, which is great. I was of course trying to meet everyone, but, um, didn’t quite get there, but I certainly got to, I would say at least over 50% if not 75% of the people. Um, yeah, so I got some final conversations in over breakfast and then there was between nine and about 1130. Um, a few different activities went on, but I would say the one that was of most note, um, was the panel on. Um, I don’t have the title in front of me, but it was basically a keynote panel, uh, with four panelists on how to, uh, better support the international graduate students and postdocs, um, you know, in this career services area that the conference was themed around. Um, and so of course I didn’t get, you know, the, the some of the specifics and technicalities that were discussed and that are not totally relevant to what I do, but certainly it was a great reminder to me on the importance of inclusion of those international graduate students and postdocs and the importance of, um, calling out, um, specifically when there’s content that’s, um, just for them that’s been placed in there that is specific to their experience. So I thought of a few examples with my content, um, of when I talk about, um, how international students with postdocs can get started with investing, um, while they’re living in the US of course, regarding my tax programming, um, what is specific to non-residents is solely for non-residents. But I’m sure if I thought about a bit more, I could come up with a few other examples and I wanna incorporate those into my, um, into my talks to just make sure that international students and postdocs know that they are yeah, being taken into consideration that I am, uh, speaking to them as best as I can. So that to me was like the biggest kind of takeaway of the morning. Oh, and by the way, not just for international students and postdocs, but all kinds of different, um, you know, let’s say underrepresented groups or first generation, um, grad students and so forth.
52:00 Emily: Um, okay. And then the other kind of fun announcement from this last little segment of the conference was that next year’s conference is going to take place in Philadelphia. So you can’t probably hear it in my voice right now cause I’m awfully tired, but I’m very excited about going, uh, back again and sponsoring again next year in 2024. Okay, so the conference kind of officially wrapped up, um, around 1130 and between about 11:30 AM and 1:00 PM I was, um, just sort of having my last like, conversations with people. There were a few people who I wanted to catch, um, before we all went our separate raise. Some people that I’ve known from previous work and some, um, who I just met this time around. So, for instance, I had an old mentor at Duke, I wanted to say hi to, um, it turned, I, I learned during that, um, international student postdoc panel that one person at the conference was on the board of the National Postdoctoral Association. So I grabbed him and wanted to talk with him about some maybe ways that I could work with the npa, which had been brought up to me by multiple times throughout the conference by other people of that possibility. Um, and of course I wanted to thank Annie Maxfield once again for kind of orchestrating the sponsorship, uh, my sponsorship of this conference and telling her that once again, just like last year I was so happy with how things went and that I definitely wanna sponsor again next year. So, you know, keep me on list, keep me informed, um, and all of that.
53:23 Emily: And then between about one and 3:00 PM I got really lucky. I thought I was gonna be spending that time pretty much on my own, just, you know, packing up my booth and going to the airport and I did pack up my booth, but I went and sat down with someone who I saw sitting on her own, um, who I hadn’t met yet. And it turned out that she was another sponsor of the conference. Um, and that we had some things in common. So we were just having lovely time chatting and getting to show one another. She’s also a solopreneur like I am, although she’s been in business a lot longer than I have been. Um, and in a different area. Um, and then, uh, we were also joined by Katy Peplin Thrive PhD. So my conference kind of book ended by, uh, spending time with Katy, both at the beginning and the end. So it was lovely. We spent a couple hours together. We had lunch, we chatted about business. And yeah, that was a really, really nice, um, session as well. And it turns out that, um, myself and this one other person who I’d recently met, we were on the same flight from Indianapolis to Las Vegas. So we actually headed to the airport together, got to continue talking. That was all lovely, um, and just spent time together and actually ended up sitting next to each other, uh, on the flight. And so we had a wonderful conversation, but during the flight I was telling her that I was quite tired already and needed a rest, but I couldn’t quite fall asleep on the plane. So I ended up reading, um, the book that I picked up. Uh, I think I have the title to write the Southern Book Club’s Guide to Vampire Slang. Um, so I was really into that book, so I wanted to continue reading it, um, while on the plane. And then when we got off the plane in Las Vegas, it turns out that my next flight from Vegas to San Diego also had two other people from the conference on it. Um, both of whom were from U C S D. And so we, and our flight was delayed also, uh, by about an hour and a half or two hours. And so we had dinner together, got to talk so much, um, about what they do and what I do and just getting to know each other and continue that conversation at the gate. And again, lovely, lovely time and really nice to decompress in a more like social and informal way at the end of the conference. Um, and then during my last little hop from Vegas to San Diego, I continue to read my book. I think I’m like 75% of the way through it, and it’s only been two days. This is a very fast read, um, very enjoyable and uh, that brings me just about up to now. So yeah, except for that slight delay in my second flight, um, the travel has been pretty smooth, although again, it has been a long day. And this is definitely a note to myself. Um, I do often try to justify based on flight times, um, staying after conferences and events like these until the next day. Like, I don’t like to have my travel day be the same as the last day of the conference because I like to take time to decompress and rest and maybe even get started on the massive to-do list I have, uh, based on the events of the conference. But I just couldn’t justify it to myself for this particular one, given that it ended by noon on a Friday and it was on Eastern time and I was going back to Pacific, blah, blah, blah. So I decided to travel home this day, but really, really note to myself. Give myself that extra time, uh, just spend the extra money and stay the extra night in the hotel and, um, really be able to come back like kind of better rested and stronger, um, from the conference in this date I’m in currently. So thank you all for listening to this audio diary. I hope it gave you some insight into this really special time in my life and my business, which is when I get to attend these conferences. And, um, yeah, my experiences as a sponsor and what I learned and what I’m taking away from the conference and uh, yeah. Yeah. Thanks for listen. Bye.
57:01 Emily: That is the end of my conference audio diary. I would say this conference was very successful for me. In the end, I noted about three dozen potential clients to follow up with. I recorded 54 microinterviews, well exceeding my goal of 40, and invited one person on the podcast for a full interview. I also gleaned many ideas for organizations to partner with, resources to access, and formats for my financial education. And I had a great time! So I will definitely be back again as a sponsor next year in Philadelphia. On the date that this podcast episode will publish, I’ll actually be at another conference as a sponsor, the Higher Education Financial Wellness Summit. That conference is more about my own professional development and keeping up with my field and less about networking in comparison with the GCC Annual Meeting, though I’m still planning to record microinterviews and follow up with potential clients. If you are interested in hearing more about what I learn from the conferences I attend, please let me know! I may share in a future podcast episode or email if it’s of interest.
58:13 Emily: Listeners, thank you for joining me for this episode! I have a gift for you! You know that final question I ask of all my guests regarding their best financial advice? My team has collected short summaries of all the answers ever given on the podcast into a document that is updated with each new episode release. You can gain access to it by registering for my mailing list at PFforPhDs.com/advice/. Would you like to access transcripts or videos of each episode? I link the show notes for each episode from PFforPhDs.com/podcast/. See you in the next episode, and remember: You don’t have to have a PhD to succeed with personal finance… but it helps! The music is “Stages of Awakening” by Podington Bear from the Free Music Archive and is shared under CC by NC. Podcast editing by Dr. Lourdes Bobbio and show notes creation by Dr. Jill Hoffman.
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