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10 Questions to Ask Your Table Talk Guest

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Spring semester applications close January 28!

Duke’s Table Talk program is an unparalleled opportunity for graduate and professional students to have meaningful conversations with faculty, gain insights into their fields, and build lasting professional relationships.

Graduate and Professional Student Services (GPSS) provides funds for you to grab a meal with a Duke faculty or staff member. Apply for Table Talk by January 28, and we’ll take care of the funding. You just have to bring the conversation.

Not sure where to start? Here are 10 questions guaranteed to spark conversation with your Table Talk guest.

1. How did you first get interested in your field?

This question is an easy opener. Did they always see themselves going into this focus, or was it more a process of discovery? Asking about their initial interest not only serves as a great ice-breaker, but it also provides a deeper understanding of the questions and passions that drive your guest’s work.

2. What brought you to Duke?

Everyone has a unique career path. Where had they been working or researching previously? What did they see at Duke that made them excited to say yes to the opportunity? By asking your Table Talk guest about the journey that led them to Durham, you’ll learn more about the types of career decisions you’ll have to make down the line. 

3. What are you working on right now? What excites you about it?

Your Table Talk guest likely has a project or research question that has captured their attention lately. Ask them about it! You’ll open up a great conversation while learning what present-day work in your field can look like. Who knows? There may even be an opportunity for collaboration.

4. In your career, how have you seen our field change?

No academic discipline is static. Table Talk gives you a chance to learn more about the factors shaping the field you hope to enter. By listening to the perspective of a seasoned professional, you can get a better sense of the shifts in ideas, methodologies, and technologies you’ll encounter outside Duke.

5. Where do you see our field heading in the next few years? What about the next decade?

By asking about the future trajectory of your field, you’ll find out what you need to consider when planning for long-term success. What new skills should you develop to stay ahead in a changing industry? What ethical considerations have been brought to the forefront by new discoveries or technologies?

Your Table Talk guest may not have all the answers – they’re professors, not psychics! – but they can point you in the right direction.

6. What do you wish you had known at the start of your career?

This question helps you gather valuable lessons that aren’t found in textbooks. For example, what’s a common pitfall that traps people early in their careers? Which part of the job takes a few years to fully appreciate? You don’t know what you don’t know. But your Table Talk guest does!

7. What’s your favorite best-kept secret at Duke?

Maybe it’s a funding opportunity that never gets many applicants. Maybe it’s a coffee shop that hasn’t overcrowded yet, or a gathering where you can meet other graduate students.

Every faculty and staff member at Duke has their own favorite corners of campus. Ask them about what opportunities, resources, or experiences might not be widely known, and see what you discover!

8. What are good ways to meet other people in our field?

Focusing on networking and mentorship, this question aims for advice on building professional relationships. Whether you’re looking for peers at a similar career stage, or you’re hoping to find a long-term mentor, you can learn from your professor’s experience building relationships in the field..

Pro tip: Ask about any conferences, workshops, or professional groups they might recommend!

9. How have you found work-life balance in academia?

Your to-do list might seem endless, but a well-rounded life outside the classroom is key to caring for your mental and physical health. Take this opportunity to learn practical tips for avoiding burnout.

10. What’s a book that you love?

It doesn’t have to be related to the field. Honestly, it doesn’t even have to be a book! You and your Table Talk guest might be interested in the same movies, shows, or music. Plus, their recommendations might give you the perfect idea for your next study break.

Apply by January 28!

You’ve got the questions – the only thing left to do is book the conversation! Apply for Table Talk funds by January 28, and we’ll make sure you and your guest have a great meal together.

What are you waiting for?