Be Your Own Professional Coach: New Course Helps Grad Students Upgrade Image

Graduate students dedicate anywhere from 2 to 7 years to getting their diplomas, spending hundreds, even thousands, of hours in libraries and labs. They may even develop alter egos jokingly referred to as lab rats, computer geeks, and math nerds. In today’s hotly competitive job market, however, these same students know that they must project a consistently professional image to compete and succeed. This transition from grad student to career professional is not as simple as trading in T-shirts for a navy blazer, or Steve Jobs-style black turtleneck, but a new UAB course can help students develop their professional personas, says Alan D. Corbin, who will teach the new course Jan. 23 to April 2 as part of the Professional Development Program at the UAB Graduate School. Offered on Monday nights from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., GRD 730, Developing Your Professional Image, is a multi-theme, for-credit elective that offers students a chance to become aware of the image they project in a professional setting.

“This means wherever they are, whether in the office, the clinic or the research laboratory, in a departmental meeting, at a business luncheon or other social event, at a conference, or in a job interview,” says Corbin, who has worked in international banking and consulting and taught across cultures.  “The challenge for graduate students is to come to terms with the fact that their days of being a student with a backpack are over, and to view this transition as an opportunity to reinvent themselves as a professional ready to make an impact – and to be noticed favorably while doing so.”

 Through a series of guided discussions, readings, interactive classroom activities, and off-campus events, students will learn to analyze how others perceive them. This analysis will help them develop and polish their professional image accordingly, from how they dress, to how they communicate with others (spoken and written, formally and informally), to how they conduct themselves. 

Finally, they will learn to take control of their image and to protect it in a rapidly changing world of new opportunities and potential pitfalls, such as social networking and virtual office solutions.

 There is no prerequisite. The course is open to all graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and employees. It’s worth 3 credit hours, on a pass/no pass basis, and will be offered in the spring and summer of 2012. For more information, contact Corbin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .