Graduate school is the stepping stone to your professional future. It provides the knowledge and skills that will launch your career. Where do you think you are going?
You may have a very clear idea of what you want to do and how to get there. Or you may be considering a number of options. Or you might not have given the matter much consideration.
Whatever the case, talking with a career counselor can help you turn your dreams into reality.
An immunologist and science policy analyst, Dr. Kenneth (Kenny) Gibbs offers three pieces of advice for graduate students. These are his views alone and do not represent official views of the NIH or National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), where he is currently working as a Program Analyst in the Office of Program Planning, Analysis and Evaluation. His opinions were shaped in grad school and by his research on STEM Ph.D. and postdoc career decisions.
Kenny offers three pieces of advice.
- Remember that Ph.Ds. are beginnings not endings.
- Go to a school and work with an advisor where you can see yourself doing well as a person.
- Manuscripts (and theses) only get written when you write them.
A grad student’s best resource, outside of your department, might be the Career Development Center. You may be unfamiliar with the resources available to you, because you don’t think that they are for you.
Common misconceptions include:
- The Career Center is exclusively for undergrads on your campus.
- Your future is mapped out: grad school to post doc to faculty. So you don’t need any of the services of a Career Center.
- Services are only for those who are actively on the job market.
My goal with this post is to convince you to reach out to the career center on your campus soon. There is so much to take advantage of. Their services complement what is available in your department.
“I don’t want to be a faculty member.” This realization dawned during the first two years of Stacy Hartman’s PhD program. Forthrightly, she told one of her faculty advisors, who encouraged her to explore other options. Today, after finishing her PhD in German Studies in five years, she is leading the Connected Academics program for the Modern Language Association. Located in New York City, the MLA is the professional association for scholars in English studies and modern languages. But bear in mind that the advice Stacy offers is her own, not the MLA’s.
Stacy offers three pieces of advice for graduate students:
- Manage your time. Your day-to-day time, but also your time in graduate school.
- Talk to people. Lots of people. Lots of different kinds of people.
- Do what you need to do to feel positively about yourself. A positive attitude toward your job search is not only helpful but necessary.