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Investing in Career Exploration

Happy New Year, and welcome to the start of winter quarter! We hope you set aside time during the break to relax, to have fun, and to acknowledge the milestones you’ve achieved in grad school thus far, no matter how big or small. We know that the first week of the quarter can feel overwhelming. Even so, we encourage you to be proactive about career exploration and carve out just one hour (or even 30 minutes) per week to invest in your future.

Explore your options. Whether you’re just beginning to think about a career path, committed to landing that ultimate dream job, or considering a few professions — taking a step back to assess your professional skills and interests will help you affirm or concretely identify your options. Assessments can help you reflect on questions like, “Does the mission of the organization I would like to work for resonate with my values?,” “What am I looking for in a job or career?,” or “What skills do I bring to the job I am applying to, and what competencies would I like to gain if I were hired?” Below are just a few career assessments and resources to get you started.

– Self-Assessment: Values
– Identify Your Strengths
– Graduate Student Professional Skills and Competencies Checklist
– Career Preparation Toolkit for Grad Students and Postdocs

Expand your connections. One of the most important aspects of successful career planning is building your professional network. You can grow your network by meeting individuals at conferences, joining professional associations and attending social and community events. Individuals in your network are invaluable for a number of reasons. They can share first-hand information about what it’s like to work in their professions and industries. They can impart job search insights (e.g. You could ask them, “If you were entering the field now, what would you do differently to prepare for your career?”). They can refer you to potential employment opportunities that you can apply to now or in the future (note: Did you know that 70–80 percent of jobs are not officially posted anywhere?). Check out these informational resources on networking.

– Career Conversations (aka “informational interviews”)
– An Introvert’s Guide to Networking
– How to Network at Events

Embark on identifying and building your skills. Career exploration also entails being able to identify and develop your professional skills whether you are master’s or doctoral student. As outstanding UW graduate students, you are already honing a range of transferable skills that you can utilize in future careers. Take an inventory of the skills you have gained from past and current jobs and volunteer experiences so you can tailor your resume or CV for specific job applications. If there are skills you’d like to develop, and you can dedicate the time, consider being a volunteer or intern at organizations that pique your interests. If you haven’t done so already, join Handshake, the UW’s online job and internship database.
We hope these career exploration strategies work for you — and don’t forget to connect with your campus’ career center for additional support and resources.


Core Programs—Office of Graduate Student Affairs
UW Graduate School