But how, exactly, can you get yourself an award? Katy Dickinson (Sun Microsystems), Chandra Krintz (UC Santa Barbara), and Robert Walker (Kent State University) discussed the ins and outs of this sometimes mysterious process in a panel entitled The Value of Awards and How To Get Them. Here are 5 helpful tips from the panel.
1. Where can I find out about awards available to people in my field?
One great resource is http://www.raiseproject.org, which allows you to search hundreds of awards in science, engineering, medicine, and technology.
2. How do I know if a particular award is appropriate for someone at my career stage?
The panel recommended that you take a look at the winner lists from previous years. Then, once you have the list of winners, look up information on them online. In particular, check out their CVs. If their CV (ignoring all the stuff added after the award) somewhat resembles yours, you probably stand a good chance.
3. Am I good enough to get an award?
Awards are only given to those who apply for them. So take a chance, and send in your application. You never know what will happen...
4. Many awards require recommendations/endorsements. What should I know about getting a recommendation?
Did you know that many people who write recommendations endorsing award applications don't know how to write compelling letters? The best recommendations are not ones that say a candidate is a great; rather, they are the ones that say why the candidate is great, and include specific examples. If at all possible, have a discussion with the people writing your recommendations about areas they should emphasize in their letters.
5. What if I don't win? Isn't that a sign that I'm not good enough?
If the awards don’t come your way initially, keep on trying. Often people need to apply multiple times before receiving an award. If you don't get an award, ask the award committee for feedback on what you could improve about your application. If you know someone who has insight into the selection process, ask them if they can get you some insider information. It’s possible that you might have been a closer contender for an award than you previously thought.
So in summary:
1. Apply for awards!
2. Help your recommenders by providing them with specific examples of your awesomeness!
3. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.
Erika Shehan Poole, PhD Candidate, Georgia Tech