Four Steps for Career Development During Grad School

While many PhD students may know whether they will ultimately pursue an academic research or tenure track position after their degree, these simple steps represent good practices that will focus and enhance your career development efforts in ways that are beneficial for academic and non-academic job search candidates alike.

ONE. Think of yourself as a professional, and treat your time at Brown accordingly.

In they eyes of a potential employer, your graduate position is a job, and your education and graduate activities are job experience. Through every course, committee, and project you are developing and demonstrating important career skills. Making an effort to understand what these skills are in terms that are broadly applicable can pay enormous dividends in the long run. For more on framing and understanding your marketable skills, click here.

Ask yourself where your strengths and interests lie – you may lean more toward teaching/instruction, writing, research, service and community building, or any combination of interests and skills. This sense of self-awareness can guide and enhance your career development during your graduate studies.

TWO. Invest some time in service, and in developing skills, interests, and professional relationships beyond your courses and, if possible, beyond your department.

Committee and service work shows that you are an engaged and active member of your community, and that demonstrates experience as a leader and/or team member – desirable assets on the job market. Hosting conferences, events or symposia develops skills in communication, planning, organization, and marketing. Whatever your interests are – management, writing, mentorship, community engagement, advocacy, the list goes on and on –   you will find countless opportunities to expand your professional experience throughout your studies; be open to them and pursue them strategically.

THREE. Stay open to possibilities and avoid career blind spots.

Stay open to the realities and possibilities of potential career paths by allowing yourself to consider what you want. The career exploration resources curated on this site can help you maintain a perspective on your skills, interests, and priorities. We suggest that you occasionally consult them, and us, as a way to stay in touch with the greater world of career possibilities out there for you.  An occasional run through the assessment and networking tools on ImaginePhD or MyIDP, or a quick look at job postings in interesting career fields to see what employers are looking for can useful activities for cultivating an openness and knowledge that will help you approach graduate life, and the realities of the academic job market, in an intentional way ––  a valuable asset for career development wherever your career path takes you.

FOUR. Make extensive use of CareerLAB, including this Website and its collection of resources.

There is a fulfilling career out there for you beyond academia if you want it, but chances are that a good job that will allow you to thrive is not just going to happen without preparation and planning.  You will need to know what you bring to the table and, even more importantly, what you want. Luckily, there are excellent resources available that can streamline and demystify the non-academic job search process so that your thought and effort can pay enormous dividends. We have already briefly mentioned two important and useful resources (ImaginePHD and MyIDP) –– you will find a longer discussion of them on the Explore Career Options page of this site, along with other information about finding your career path and the right position for you. In a similar vein, the Developing Essential Job Search Skills page breaks a successful non-academic job search down into specific skills to help demystify the job search process and help you find important information on this site.