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Graduating soon, and what next?

“I am a fifth-year doctoral student and will be graduating soon. I’m at the point in my graduate education where I am thinking about possible careers. What are some simple steps I can take to start my career planning?” –Anonymous

Lucky you, grad student, you get two answers to your question! One is from Catherine Basl, career counselor with Career & Internship Services. Catherine manages the center’s programming for graduate students. Another is from the Core Programs team, who support personal and professional development of grad students at the UW. You know what they say, two heads are better than one!

Catherine Basl, career counselor, Career & Internship Services:

Leverage your research skills for career planning! Aim for a mix of independent reading about options and connecting with professionals in coffee chats or at events.

A few ideas for getting started:

  • Talk to one alum of your graduate program who works outside of academia in an area of possible interest. Graduate Program Advisers could be a good resource for finding alumni.
  • Attend an event on campus (Core Programs and the Career & Internship Center host many) that is focused on employer connections or exploring options.
  • Reflect on your time here at UW. Consider all of the roles you have held as a graduate student (TA, research assistant, mentor, tutor, lab manager, writer, coder, etc.). Looking at each role, what were the tasks and activities you enjoyed most? Least? See if patterns emerge across roles. For an example of this activity, see pages 8-10 in the Career Guide.
  • Paula Di Rita Wishart’s article on Career Callings also provides some great activities for reflecting on your graduate school experience and next steps.
  • LinkedIn’s Alumni tool shows you where actual UW alumni work and you can sort by location, employer, and field of study to see possible career paths.

Some notes:

  • Looking at job postings when you aren’t sure what you want to do can be overwhelming. Job boards become much more navigable when you have established criteria for what you want in a position. The same goes for large career fairs.
  • Gather multiple data points. That means talking to more than one person, reading about career options on more than one website, and testing out the information you hear.
  • Realize career planning is like all research projects—sometimes things fall into place quickly and sometimes you encounter roadblocks along the way. If you feel stuck or would like someone to brainstorm with, consider booking an appointment with a career counselor and checking in with mentors.

A few more resources for exploring:

Core Programs Team:

Dear UW Grad Student,

Thank you for reaching out! This is a great question, and one we hear frequently from graduate students who are further along in their degree programs and thinking through different career paths. Whether you are thinking about working in industry, non-profits, government, or academia, there are several resources that can help you do intentional career planning (many of which we’ve learned through collaborations with partners at the Career & Internship Center).

First step: do some self-assessment work. Where are you with your skills, strengths, interests, passions? Then, use a planning tool like an Individual Development Plan (link) to start to map out possible goals and steps you can take toward them in the next few months. You can also utilize this helpful career planning guide from the Career & Internship Center that provides several clear, proactive steps you can take towards finding that job you’re passionate about.

To explore and open your possibilities, do LinkedIn searches for professionals with jobs you’re interested in learning more about and set up informational interviews to hear more about their unique career trajectories.

Explore different career options within academia and/or job sectors outside of academia with the amazing resources on the Career Center website.

We totally get that you are 100% focused on your dissertation work and graduation – it’s a lot! And, we know that setting aside 1-2 hours per week (starting right now) to explore, research, draft, attend something that helps you refine your career search will really help you identify career options and opportunities for your next steps. It’s worth it – give it a try!


Core Programs Team