Here are three books you should read before your start your PhD.

Congratulations! You’re about to start grad school! 

These books will help to prepare your mind for PhD work and inspire you to continue when things get tough.

Grit by Angela Duckworth

Angela Duckworth is a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania.  She has done a lot of work around grit, or determination, through difficult situations in your life. Starting your PhD is a difficult situation. Angela gives you a lot of research-backed data and stories that demonstrate how it is not necessarily people who have the most “natural talent” that are successful, but those with the most grit.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

James Clear has been writing about habits and the science of habits for a really long time.  This book talks about building habits that will be lifelong habits. A habit is something that you do involuntarily.  For instance, brushing your teeth.  No one tells you to do it or how to do it. These are habits tend to be automatic. James Clear gives you researched based methods for building habits and turning something you want to do into a habit. 

I particularly enjoyed the chapter about writing habits. I am a writer, therefore, found this especially intriguing. In the book, he talks about having daily devoted writing time and leaving everything that would distract him outside of the room. As a writer, he would also go to a place everyday to set the intention and set himself up for success instead of lounging on the couch or in his bed. 

All through grad school you will be building habits that will help you get to the end goal of graduating and landing a job you enjoy. Reading this book will set you up for success as you build those new habits.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

A really REALLY important part of your PhD education, which is not emphasized as much as I would like it to be, is networking.

As PhDs, we tend to think that because we’ve gone from college into grad school that the next automatic step is getting a job.  The reality is that once you finish your PhD, you’ll have to go through a rigorous process of applying for jobs, interviewing, and negotiating employment.  This work is made less rigorous when you have built a network within the academic or industry sphere that you would like to work in.  Building relationships with people is the best way to get in the door at many places.

I wondered how valuable relationships were to the hiring process, so I spoke with an HR representative at UC San Diego where I used to work. One of the things that she told me was that new hires were not only based on resumes or applications.  There was almost always a referral or word-of-mouth referral.  I didn’t only hear this about academia, but also from a biotech company. They mostly hire based on referrals.  So, if you don’t have these industry relationships built, there will be no referrals, and finding a job becomes more difficult.

Reading these three books will put you ahead of the curve when it comes to your mindset in graduate school.

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