Working as a student researcher at SIPA is a great opportunity to gain practical experience in your field and learn firsthand from SIPA’s world-class faculty members. So how do you get the job and make the most of the experience? Here are 3 tips based on my experience working for Professor Jason Healey.
Since individual faculty members are the hiring managers for these positions, it’s certainly beneficial if they know who you are prior to seeing your application for a position. You should take their classes as early as possible, attend events that they organize, and utilize their office hours. You should also join any relevant student groups. For example, Professor Healey often prefers his student researchers to be active members of the student Digital and Cyber Group (DCG) because he works closely with DCG to organize cyber policy-related events. I was a DCG board member and had worked with Professor Healey in this capacity prior to being hired as a research associate. The key thing is to demonstrate your interest in the topic by being involved!
2. Look for both formal and ad-hoc opportunities.
There are two primary ways in which student researchers are hired.
First, a few research assistant positions are usually included in the formal assistantship application process for second-year students. SIPA students apply for these positions in the spring semester of their first year.
Second, faculty members hire student researchers on an as-needed basis. The majority of student researchers are hired this way, and both first and second-year students are usually eligible. Many of these positions are advertised via your concentration, in the Professor’s classes, or through the relevant student group. So again, it’s vital that you stay involved!
3. Understand your strengths.
When applying for a position, discuss the specific requirements for the position with the professor. Faculty members hire students to assist with a wide variety of tasks including archival research, online research, coding, quantitative analysis, writing, event planning, or helping manage various programs. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and what you want to do. In my role, I mainly focus on writing for publication because I’m able to write in a style consistent with Professor Healey, which makes the co-authoring process much smoother.
Working directly with a faculty member is one of the best things you can do at SIPA. If you keep an eye out for opportunities and follow these tips you’ll be well on your way to a great learning experience!