Be Resourceful

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Learning Objectives

  • Learn to be proactive in finding the opportunities, resources, and advice that will help you to succeed during graduate school.


“I need help with the statistics for my thesis, but no one on my committee seems to have the time. Isn’t that what a committee is for?”

“It seems like the men on my research team get invited to collaborate on projects more than I do.”

“How was I supposed to know that the deadline for declaring my candidacy was last week? Aren’t we supposed to be alerted to these things? Now I am going to be an out-of-state student for another year!”

“I don’t understand how other people in my cohort are getting such great assistantships. I never see anything posted. Where do they find out about these jobs?”

Being Resourceful

Do you often feel lost in graduate school? Do you think the rules and procedures are often not very clear? Do you see yourself not always getting the help and support that you need? You are not alone.

You must already know something about resourcefulness to have gotten to where you are now, but it is essential to build upon this skill to become successful in graduate school and in your career. This module will help you to do just that.

As you probably know by now, graduate school is much trickier than simply following a course of study. Expectations can be ambiguous and help can be hard to find. In graduate school, as in life, the more resourceful you are in working toward your goals, the more successful you will be.

Resourcefulness is defined as being proactive and taking control of the outcomes you desire.[1] Resourcefulness involves taking initiative, being creative, and remaining flexible and open-minded about working toward your goals. This module will help you sharpen your resourcefulness skills needed to accomplish career success. (A different type of resourcefulness, inner resourcefulness, has to do with resiliency. See Resilience to learn more about this important learned ability.)

Reflections: Different Types of Resources

  • There are different types of resources, both inner and outer. Often people get caught up in focusing on what they don’t have versus what they do have. Once you focus on what you do have, you can build off those resources and find more assistance and support to get your goal accomplished.
  • Inner resources cannot be depleted. They are YOURS. The more you use them, the stronger they get. You can use your inner resources to create, attain, or assist with your outer resources.
  • Outer resources can be transferred between people, you can earn them, or easily change them. Inner resources are more closely tied to the individual.
  • Check off what resources you have and add the ones you don’t see. Get a good list going, as that affirms your ability to tackle your challenges.

Inner Resources

Creativity __








What else?:________________

Outer Resources









What else?:________________

Your Attitude About Resourcefulness

How much do you agree with the quote below?

“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them.”

- George Bernard Shaw

This statement is controversial, but the degree to which you agree with it might reflect your attitude toward the concept of resourcefulness. True, not all people are in the same position to get exactly what they want in life. For example, male-dominated science and engineering fields do in fact present unique challenges to women and minorities. Still, the more resourceful you are, the more likely you will be successful at achieving your goals:

  • Resourceful qualities such as taking initiative, networking, and self-management have been found to be associated with job success more so than IQ.[2]
  • People with proactive personalities tend to have higher salaries, more promotions, and higher career satisfaction.[1]
  • People with resourceful, self-regulating qualities such as personal initiative, perseverance, and adaptation have been found to be better job seekers.[3]

You may be able to get by in graduate school by simply doing the research and coursework required. A resourceful student, on the other hand, is one who tries to make the most out of her experience by pulling together the resources, networks, and opportunities available to her in graduate school.


Which of the following example(s) is/are not resourceful?

Best Answer: C. Putting ALL of your efforts into work is not resourceful. Asking for help, seeking opportunities, and reminding your advisor of your contributions ARE resourceful actions that will help you make the most out of your experience as a graduate student.


Resourcefulness is a skill that you can develop. Using the CareerWISE content and modules to help you learn how to pursue a successful career is an initial step toward becoming more resourceful.


  1. Seibert, S. E., Crant, J. M., & Kraimer, M. L. (1999). Proactive personality and career success. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 416-427. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.84.3.416
  2. Kelley, R. & Caplan, J. (1993). How Bell Labs creates star performers. Harvard Business Review, 71, 128-139.
  3. Brown, D. J., Cober, R. T., Kane, K., Levy, P. E., & Shalhoop, J. (2006). Proactive personality and the successful job search: A field investigation with college graduates. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 717-726. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.91.3.717

Reflecting on "Why" and "How"
The importance of giving yourself credit and remembering why you are doing what you're doing.

Take-Home Words: Dr. Powers
Advice on how to seek out support in graduate school and how to bounce back from setbacks.

To Post-Doc or Not to Post-Doc
When it's time to graduate and when it's important to start learning on the job.

Planning Experiments Around Breast Feeding, Productivity, and Encouragement (Part 1)
Creating a schedule and meeting an advisor's expectations.

Keep Looking for Faculty Support
The importance of finding the right advisor to support your research goals.

Undergrad Science vs. Real Life Science
Highlights the transition into graduate level science where the answers aren't known.

Words of Wisdom: Dr. Houston
The importance of remembering that graduate school is only one part of a larger career.

Making the Decision Later in Life
How to sustain taking time off and pursuing the PhD later in life.


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