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Intentional Career Planning

No matter what career you plan to pursue after earning your graduate degree, being proactive in the career development process and using your time strategically while enrolled in graduate school will enhance your career success. Getting an early start with the steps outlined below can prove instrumental to success, and can make the difference between falling into a job because it’s available—and finding an intentional match that meets your professional desires.

Orientation (beginning of your program)

Orient yourself to the career and professional development resources offered by:

  • Your department
  • Career Center
  • Alumni Association
  • Graduate School
  • Counseling Center
  • Library system
  • Many other centers, offices, and programs

Self assessment (beginning of your program and beyond)

Learn more about who you are and what you want out of life. It’s important to know your:

  • Strengths
  • Work & life values
  • Decision-making style
  • Interests
  • Sources of motivation
  • Geographic preferences

Career exploration (beginning and middle of your program)

Learn more about the career paths you are considering. Be sure to explore:

  • Different employment sectors that offer careers that interest you (academia, corporate, non-profit, government, self-employment, etc.)
  • A variety of job titles and responsibilities
  • Salary and job outlook information

Try exploring careers using three methods

  • Reading about careers
  • Talking to people in careers that interest you (informational interviews)
  • Experiencing careers (volunteering, internships, etc.)

Focus on the essentials (middle of your program)

Get serious about making yourself marketable for career paths of interest. Secure the necessary:

  • Coursework
  • Experiences
  • Skills
  • Contacts

Job market preparation (middle and end of your program)

Start preparing yourself for the job market. Do what it takes to feel confident about your:

  • Job search plan
  • Cover letter
  • Interviewing skills
  • Résumé or curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Portfolio
  • Negotiating skills

Job search preliminaries (9–12 months prior to degree completion)

Look for employment using a variety of strategies.

  • Asking professors, classmates, alumni, colleagues, and contacts for referrals
  • Connecting with and joining professional organizations
  • Applying to campus, general, and niche job boards
  • Attending career fairs and similar events

Transition to a job/start a career (end of your program)

Prepare to exit the university and start another adventure.

  • Thank those who helped you in your academic success and your job search
  • Read books, attend workshops, and participate in groups related to the transition process
  • Start your new job
  • Reflect on your job responsibilities, work environment, standard of living, relationships, mental and physical health, and leisure activities

References guides.html GetStartedEarly.aspx

by Briana K. Randall, associate director, UW Career Center

Preparing for Your Career

Planning for the right type of job

Start early. Finding time to devote to your career planning is not easy. But early exploration and preparation are crucial for later success.

Think broadly. Explore different ways to use your graduate degree. In addition to teaching and research inside and outside of the academy, consider jobs in government, the non-profit sector, and industry. Informational interviews with people in different jobs and working in different kinds of institutions can help you make the career decisions that are best for you. Following the business press (e.g., The Wall Street Journal) or trade publications specific to your discipline can help you learn about many issues relevant to your chosen field and what trends are shaping that field.

Understand what you want. The best job is one that is right for you. Know what you want out of your career — in academia or elsewhere. Have a career vision and link your goals to the preparation that you will need for being a standout candidate. Having a career plan will help you think about which publications, presentations, and activities you can do to show that you are right for the type of job that you want.

Position yourself for the market. Focus on cultivating professional relationships with your committee members, demonstrating professionalism to them, and doing quality work—regardless of the type of job you want to secure. After all, your committee members and references are asked to comment on multiple facets of you as an applicant, not just your writing, research, teaching, or organizational skills.

Planning for an academic job

The above principles apply especially to academic jobs, the preparation for which involves very long cycles. Decisions about research presentations and publications need to be made years before you go on the market. For example, in order to give a presentation on your dissertation research before you go on the market, you will need to have a paper ready for submission often a full year before job application deadlines. To have an article listed on your vita for the academic job market as “in press,” it should be under review by the January before you go on the market at the very latest. Cultivating a professional reputation in the field, in advance, will help you significantly when you go on the market.

Successful academic searches

Match skills and interests to the position. Early planning will help you get your ideal job. Interested in research-oriented positions? Having a publication record of your own and collaborating with faculty will help you here. Demonstrate distinction in teaching as well as research on your vita. Want to stay open to industry? Working on consulting projects during graduate school will help you build a portfolio of projects and skills that translate easily outside of the academy.

Communicate clearly and effectively. Each advertised academic job can yield more than 100 applications. Help the search committee understand what you might bring to the department, what makes your work interesting, and how you fit the advertised position—don’t make busy people hunt for buried information. Compelling cover letters are crucial! Work with your advisers on the best way to communicate your skills, achievements, and interests in your application materials. Pay particular attention to grammar, style, and formatting in all materials as your attention to details reflects upon your ability to be a professional scholar.

Help your letter writers help you. By communicating your interests clearly, providing copies of materials, and allow- ing ample time, you can help your letter writers write better, more detailed recommendations for you. Remember, we’re all busy—make sure you help your letter writers understand your deadlines and give them ample time to do a good job. Be sure to ask your chair for personal introductions to people at the schools where you are applying.

Remember: It’s about the fit

Hopefully your job search will be successful the first time out. If it isn’t—don’t despair! Use the time to push yourself back into your work and into the preparation for the next cycle of applications. Remember, this is a process that matches your skills and interests with the needs of an organization or department—it might take a while to find the perfect job match for you.

by Gina Neff, associate professor, Communication

Working the Room

At some point in your graduate career, you will have the opportunity to mingle with others informally at conferences, departmental colloquia, social hours, and other events — it’s inevitable. If you find these situations uncomfortable, you’re not alone. Read on to learn how to “work a room” with confidence, poise and style. The result could be identifying contacts and information that can help you reach your goals.

Getting ready

Attend as many receptions and networking events as possible so you can practice working a room before it really counts. Make or order some business cards to distribute at the event. Prior to an event, collect information about it and the venue. Brush up on your current events so you sound intelligent and well-rounded; web surfing can be an easy way to do this. Prepare a short personal script so you can confidently introduce yourself — without sounding “scripted.” Consider writing a 10-second and a 60-second summary of your teaching and/or research so that you can speak about it confidently and consistently.

Looking good

Dress appropriately for the occasion. If you’re not sure what to wear, ask a colleague or check the event website for attire instructions and photos from previous events — or, err on the side of safety by dressing up more rather than less. Try to limit how much stuff you bring. For example, you don’t want your backpack to fall off your shoulder and spill wine all over somebody. Write and display your name tag clearly.

Managing the munchies

Remember, your main goal is to make contacts. Don’t camp out at the refreshment or beverage table. Think small — stick with small foods that are easy to eat, limit your plate to a small amount of food, take small bites and drink alcohol in moderation. Try to leave your right hand free and dry so you can shake hands; you might even consider keeping a napkin in your pocket so you can periodically clean and dry your hands.

Jumping in

If you don’t want to look like a loner, make eye contact with somebody in a group that includes a familiar face or a group with a physical gap. Approach the group and then, as appropriate, shake hands firmly, introduce yourself in one to two sentences at most, and start short conversations about non-controversial topics. If it becomes clear a group doesn’t want to include you, don’t take it personally. Find another group, start your own by finding other individuals who are wandering aimlessly, or make conversation with somebody at the refreshment table. Remember that a positive, confident attitude goes a long way in social situations!

Keeping it going

After introductions and “small talk,” what next? Discuss commonalities you share with other group members. Perhaps you belong to the same organization, went to the same school and so on. Ask others to talk about their research, job, career path, or workplace; most people enjoy talking about themselves. Once a connection has been developed, you can ask for academic advice, career tips or referrals to other contacts. It’s best not to ask directly for jobs because doing so tends to make others uncomfortable. Focus on the conversation, but don’t monopolize it, one-up people or invade others’ personal space. Be sure to welcome and introduce others who approach your group.

Breaking out

When you’re ready to exit a group, ask for business cards and distribute yours, as appropriate. Express appreciation for the conversation, and excuse yourself. Visit the refreshment table, approach another group, or call it a night.

Bringing it home

The event is not over when it’s over! After the event while the experience is still fresh in your mind, jot down informal notes about the people you met so you’ll remember their names, titles, and stories. Follow through with any promises you made to those with whom you interacted. If appropriate, send a thank-you note to the event host.

Last-minute tips

Be sure to silence your cell phone. Take some breath mints. If you make a mistake, don’t get rattled; laugh about it, learn from the situation and move on. Most importantly — be friendly, sincere, genuine, confident and interested in others.


Ryan, R. (2005). Soaring on your strengths. Toronto: Penguin.

Thompson, K., & Wein, T. I. (2005). Speak up, shake hands, and smile. The Chronicle of Higher Education

Zupek, R. (2007). The worst way to shake hands.

by Briana K. Randall, associate director, UW Career Center

Presenting Your Research at Academic Conferences

Academic conferences allow you to:

  • Start developing your research agenda. Get useful feedback on your research as you convert conference papers into journal articles.
  • Gain visibility with future colleagues, employers, and future collaborators.
  • Start networking and meet people (other graduate students, future colleagues and mentors, researchers you admire).
  • Interview for jobs.

Which conferences?

Most UW departments are well-represented at key national academic conferences.

Many professional associations have divisions that may reflect your department’s areas of expertise. Graduate students also find it useful to present their research at topic-specific conferences. Check with faculty to see which organizations hold conferences where it would be appropriate for your research to be presented.

When and how?

Deadlines for conferences are usually noted on academic organizations’ websites. When considering how to submit your research, be sure to check submission requirements. Some conferences require full papers, while others will consider only abstracts. Be sure to adhere to these details and all deadlines, and be sure to submit your work to a relevant division! (What constitutes “relevant?” Check abstracts and programs from previous years’ conferences.)

At the conference…

Some departments provide funds that allow you to travel to conferences to present your research. In addition to talking about your research in a variety of ways, take advantage of being at the conference to learn about the field, meet other people, and participate.

Presenting your research

You will be judged first and foremost on your research, which means that you should strive for a great presentation. In other words:

  • Know what attendees at this particular conference expect, e.g., reading your paper vs. summarizing your paper? PowerPoint slides?
  • Know your research and what it contributes to the larger body of research.
  • Never, ever, exceed the allotted time! Think of your presentation as a headline service. You cannot cover all points, so select the ones you believe are most important.

How to navigate the conference

Read the conference program; attend the sessions that interest you, but don’t plan every hour.

Be ready with a brief “elevator talk” about your research. Conferences are very busy times, and people will not have time to hear a full explication of all your research projects.

Identify the individuals you would like to meet and ask your mentor/adviser to introduce you.

Introduce yourself to people. Many graduate students feel as if they know no one, so you’re not alone. If you are interested in meeting faculty and “big names,” walk up to them when they appear to have a spare moment, and talk about how you are using their research in your own work. Chances are they will want to learn more about you and your work.

Attend graduate forums and receptions.

Socialize at receptions held by various departments and schools.

Regardless of the sessions you attend and the people you meet, always remain professional. You want to be remembered for your research and professional demeanor, not anything else!

Turning Your Dissertation into a Book

Interested in publishing your dissertation as a book? You will likely need to revise it extensively so it will appeal to a wider audience and compete in the literary marketplace. Here are some guidelines to help you in this process.


  • Allow plenty of time!
  • The review process can easily take up to a year, as it entails a peer review of your manuscript, potential revisions, further peer review and then approval.
  • The editing process can easily take a year to a year and a half as it entails copyediting, design, typesetting and proofreading, preparation of the index, printing and binding.

Dissertations differ from books in several ways

  • Dissertations are highly specialized, while books are geared to general readers.
  • Dissertation audiences are usually fewer than 100 readers — books are about 500 or more, in general.
  • In a dissertation, the author’s authority must be proven; in books, it is assumed.
  • Dissertations contain extensive documentation (to prove authority), while books document to credit sources and help the reader.
  • Dissertations can run long; books are often far shorter.

Elements that make a good book

  • A concise, memorable and intriguing title that includes essential key words
  • Clear and effective organization
  • A succinct introduction
  • Illustrations that enhance the text
  • Sections that are meaningful either alone or as part of the total book
  • Navigational aids, such as chapter titles, running heads, subheads, notes, bibliography, index
  • A voice (relationship of author to reader) that functions like an invisible tour guide or creative storyteller, and avoids sounding like a lecturer at a podium

The revision process


  • Forget your dissertation. Forget your committee.
  • Be bold!
  • Clarify your modified topic and audience.
  • Determine how to present it in a dynamic way.


  • Remove unnecessary references to yourself.
  • Delete conspicuous chapter intros and summaries.
  • Make style parallel in chapter titles, captions, chapter openings and closings, subheads.
  • Revisit the introduction and conclusion.
  • Remove unnecessary notes; condense or combine others.
  • Eliminate most cross-references.
  • Cut unnecessary examples and data.
  • Make chapter openings strong, clear, and inviting.
  • Add definitions of jargon, foreign terms, biographical and historical dates.
  • Brainstorm several possible titles and subtitles.
  • Tighten prose.
  • Use active verbs.
  • Begin and end sentences with words you want to emphasize.


The Chicago Manual of Style. 15th ed. (2003). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

German, William. (2005). From dissertation to book. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Harmon, Eleanor, et al., ed. (2003). The thesis and the book: A guide for first-time academic authors. 2nd ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Lucy, Beth, ed. (2004). Revising your dissertation: Advice from leading editors. Berkeley: University of California Press.

by Lorri Hagman, executive editor, University of Washington Press

Collaborating and Co-Authoring

Finding opportunities to collaborate and publish

Many scholars enjoy co-authoring because doing so affords an opportunity to develop new ideas, extend our methodological toolkit, and share the workload. The first step in finding opportunities to co-publish is to let your faculty mentors know that you are available to help if they ever get such invitations. Faculty sometimes receive unsolicited invitations to write an article or contribute a book chapter. Since faculty often plan long-term writing agendas, they may decline an unexpected invitation. They may be more likely to accept such an invitation if they know they can share the research and writing tasks with a co-author.

If you hear of such an opportunity, or see a call for papers that you would like to answer, you may also pitch a co-authorship opportunity to other students or faculty. Whether or not they accept your invitation will depend on how thoroughly you’ve considered the workload, authorship credits, and of course, the intellectual fit.

Many forms of collaborations

Collaborative work with faculty can take many forms: payment in the form of a stipend without additional acknowledgement; a thank-you in the acknowledgments of a book or an article; a footnote in the relevant section of the published work; gradations of co-authorship; or independent access to the data or field notes.

Across the humanities and social sciences, an author is someone who makes a substantive creative contribution to a project. A research assistant makes a minor creative contribution or a mechanical contribution such as collecting data or organizing archives.

For the most part, being paid as a research assistant does not eliminate the obligation to acknowledge the contribution of a minor or mechanical contribution. The benefit of collaborating is that all parties acquire new experience and skills, and have the creative opportunity to generate and test new ideas.

Discussing the workload

There are several good tools that facilitate co-authorship, such as Endnote, Word’s “track changes” tool, and of course, e-mail. Your discussion of workload should not only include the details of which parts of an article you will author, but the process for editing drafts, for backing up drafts and data, for keeping notes on major edits, and for resolving intellectual differences. But co-authoring doesn’t stop there—you should also talk through the likely division of labor for submitting to journals, corresponding with editors, handling revisions and resubmissions, and reviewing page proofs.

Even though many of these tasks seem far in the future and hypothetical — contingent on acceptance — they are a significant part of the work of publishing and it is best to talk through the hypothetical scenarios. The more you clarify the workload and timeline before the writing starts, the more likely you are to have a successful collaboration. Moreover, writing may not even be the most difficult task for authors: conceptualizing the problem, designing the research project, and collecting data are major tasks that need to be made even before writing begins.

Negotiating authorship credit

We are in an unusual profession in that faculty actively work to make students into colleagues. So many project leaders will err on the side of generosity in negotiating an authorship credit, and there are several possible permutations:

  • Listing authors in alphabetical order, which in the social sciences and humanities can indicate equal contributions (if specified in the footnotes);
  • Listing authors in the order of substantive contributions made;
  • Randomizing the order of authors across multiple papers based on the same project;
  • In increasingly rare cases, subdividing authorship, which takes the form of “A with B” or “A and B.”

Journals may also have their own guidelines for how to acknowledge each other’s contribution in a footnote, endnote, or other front matter.

It is best to establish early on—as part of the workload conversation—what the duties and obligations for these credits will be for your particular piece. However, the initially agreed-upon authorship order can change based on the actual contributions realized at the end of the paper.

Personal negotiations

It is best to have face-to-face conversations about the terms of this important relationship, so avoid using e-mail. Unlike writing a paper for a class, collaborating and co-authoring is a long-term personal commitment to being available and amenable to an extended process. This longer-term working relationship means meeting deadlines (and being flexible with them), deferring to your collaborators in the areas in which they have more expertise, and picking up responsibilities when necessary. Ultimately, it can mean celebrating and sharing the reward of successfully publishing and contributing to the advancement of knowledge.

by Philip N. Howard, professor, Communication

A Dozen Sentences that Should Appear in Your Academic Job Application Letter

When you apply for an academic job, your cover letter helps a hiring committee interpret your curriculum vitae and conveys your excitement about and dedication to your work.

Your mission is to land an academic job. The immediate goal is to use the cover letter to get you on two shortlists — the shortlist of a dozen people who will be invited to submit more writing samples and have references checked, followed by the shortlist of three or four people who will be invited to visit the hiring department.

Cover letters should include 12 pieces of information that hiring committees are seeking:

  1. “I would like to be considered for the position of [title copied from job ad] in [exact department name from job ad] at the [exact institution name from job ad]. I am an advanced doctoral candidate in [your department].”
    This opening should be short and can certainly vary. The odds are that you will submit for many jobs, be shortlisted for a few, and be offered one or two. In all the cutting and pasting, make sure these letters are correctly addressed to the chair of the search committee or the chair of the department.
  2. “My doctoral project is a study of [cocktail party description]. Much of the research on this topic suggests that [characterize the literature as woefully inadequate]. But I [demonstrate, reveal, discover] that contrary to received wisdom, [your punch line].”
    This is the key statement about your doctoral project. Demonstrate how you will contribute to an intellectual conversation that is larger than your project – but unable to advance without your findings. The next paragraph should detail your research with one sentence on each chapter in your manuscript.
  3. “To complete this research I have spent [X years] doing [fieldwork / lab work / archival work / statistical analysis]. I have travelled to [these cities or libraries], interviewed [X number of experts], created [original datasets/original compositions/original artwork].”
    This sentence should be followed by a paragraph with the story of your research process. Overwhelm the committee with the volume of artifacts you’ve studied, people you’ve talked to, time you have dedicated or places you’ve been.
  4. “I have completed [X] of [Y] chapters of my dissertation, and I have included two substantive chapters as part of my writing sample.”
    Many hiring committees expect their top candidates to be almost finished with the doctoral project, since the dissertation is a test of commitment to a research trajectory. Ideally, the review committee will be excited by your original research and beg you for more once you are on a short list. Your mentors should confirm this information in their letters.
  5. “I have well-developed drafts of several other chapters, and expect to defend in [month, year]. OR Having defended in [month, year], I plan to [turn it into a book-length manuscript for a major scholarly press / select key chapters for publication in disciplinary journals].”
    Your advisors will also confirm these things. Committees want to know that your defense will not take place while you are working on their coin. If any of your committee members are unwilling to commit to even a season of the year for your defense date, or you don’t have two substantive chapters to submit to the hiring committee, it’s too early for you to be on the academic job market.
  6. “Although my primary area of research is [disciplinary keyword here], I have additional expertise in [another disciplinary keyword here] and am eager to teach in both areas. I have [taught/served as a teaching assistant] in courses about [A, B and C]. In the next few years, I hope to develop courses in [X and Y].”
    Departments love hiring people who can teach several topics. Look up the courses offered in the department to which you are applying, and use their keywords. Although the hiring committee will take research fit as most important, teaching skills and interests will be taken seriously. Specify courses in which you served as a teaching assistant and those in which you were the instructor of record.
  7. “For the most part, my approach to research is through [social science or humanistic method keyword here], and I would be interested in developing a methods class on this approach to research.”
    Many departments struggle to find faculty who will teach methods classes, and signaling your interest likely will put you ahead. Job candidates are particularly valuable if they demonstrate how they cross methodological boundaries, appreciate diverse approaches to inquiry, and can contribute to advancing knowledge with different analytical frames.
  8. “Although I have been focused on my graduate research for several years, I have been actively involved in conversations with [scholars in the department you are applying to, or scholars at other universities/professional associations/conferences/other disciplines].”
    This can be the one paragraph about service, highlighting conferences you’ve attended, workshops you’ve organized, and other ways you’ve supported your discipline. If you are applying for work in a department that is different from the one that trained you, demonstrate how you already have affinities for the new discipline, such as showing that you are familiar with faculty interests.
  9. “In the next few years, I hope to be able to investigate [reasonably related problems or questions].”
    Address your research trajectory over the next five years. The department will be investing in the person they hire, so the hiring committee will look for the direction your research will take. Communicate future research possibilities eloquently; don’t leave the committee to assume you will be doing more of the same.
  10. “I am interested in this post for a variety of reasons: [something about the character of the department/university/community/city].”
    The committee will be happy that you know something about the place you want to work. This may be particularly true for colleges and universities with distinct liberal arts traditions or unique community programs, or are not located in major urban areas. A committee might not interview you if the members believe you would not seriously consider a job offer.
  11. “Because of my graduate training, my doctoral research, and my teaching [experience/interests], I am uniquely qualified for this job.”
    Within a few sentences address your general focus and course work, and point to your experience teaching in the domains mentioned in the job description. Write a brief statement on why you are uniquely qualified for the job.
  12. “In the next few months, I will be attending the [conference A] and [conference B]. If you or your colleagues are also planning to attend, I would be happy to meet for an informal conversation.”
    Many departments make their first short list phone interviews or informal conference visits. Alert the committee if you are giving a paper so they can see you in action.

These sentences are in roughly the order they should appear in for applications to jobs at research schools. Most of the content should be about research, followed by one or two paragraphs about teaching and perhaps one paragraph about service. If the job is mostly about teaching, expand the amount of space dedicated to that topic.

Shoot for two and a half pages of content: less than that and you might not seem like an advanced doctoral candidate well immersed in a project; more than that and committee members may stop reading. As you write, drop in the names of granting agencies that have supported you, or the journals that are publishing or reviewing your work. Ideally several faculty members will write letters on your behalf. If possible, at least one letter writer can come from a university other than yours. Hiring committees love reference letters on different university letterheads; it shows that you have social capital beyond your home department.

Address your letter to the person heading the search or the department head. A greeting such as “Dear Committee Members” shows you haven’t done enough research. Ask a friend proofread your document for grammar and spelling.

Finally, follow up with the department. Hiring committees do not always tell candidates whether they are on the short list. If you finish another dissertation chapter, or get an article published, a few weeks after submitting your letter, submit an update by e-mail and ask that this example be added to your file and where the committee is in the hiring process.

by Philip N. Howard, professor, Communication

Thinking about your own path and preparation

In a typical year, our summer schedules often allow us some space to step back, reflect, and focus on our own professional development. We hope that as we continue to respond to and slowly recover from the current pandemic, you will find a little time to focus on yourself as you prepare for the future. While these are admittedly uncertain times, it’s clear that now more than ever, the world needs well-educated, reasoned and experienced thinkers and innovators to help guide us through the recovery and into the future – this sounds like a description of UW postdocs!

In the past, we’ve shared advice on pursuing your passion projectsidentifying your unique skills, and crafting documents for a successful job application. Here, we’d like to share two exceptional resources which allow you to both explore and enhance your skills and professional development: LinkedIn Learning and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE).

LinkedIn Learning: The UW Career and Internship Center has purchased a license for full access to LinkedIn Learning. LinkedIn Learning is a collection of online videos to help you enhance and develop skills. Importantly, everyone with a UW NetID can access the resources. Spend some time exploring the site to get advice for your next career step, including:

NIH OITE: The NIH OITE has responded to COVID-19 by making much of their internal professional development activities open to the public. While some admittedly have a scientific focus, many workshops on wellness and career and professional development are broadly applicable to the academic community (and beyond). Feel free to register (for free) for one of their upcoming workshops. We were particularly impressed with the following seminars:

As a postdoc, it is imperative that you carve out some time to focus on YOU: assess what skills you have already developed and focus on how best to promote them. Equally as important, take the time to determine which skills and experiences you still need to develop as you prepare for your next career step. We encourage you to explore both LinkedIn Learning and the NIH OITE resources in your own time. And as always, we, the UW Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA), continue to be available for consultation and support as you navigate these difficult times.

Career Advice During COVID-19

As we continue to adjust to Stay Home, Stay Healthy orders for Washington state, the realities of a changed work environment and altered research expectations have clearly hit home. Unfortunately, the financial impact of Stay Home, Stay Healthy won’t be fully realized for a number of months, if not years. More importantly, it will be quite awhile before we return to an environment even remotely resembling our pre-COVID memories.

Also, the COVID-19-related impact on future job prospects is unclear. Recruitment for many positions, both inside and outside of academia, has been put on hold, at least temporarily. In fact, what constitutes a ‘workplace’ (offices, shared spaces, flexible work-from-home policies, etc.), will likely be different in the coming months and years. However, while it’s not comforting at the moment, please trust that not far into the future, the draw for highly trained professionals and researchers will return. Your experience as a UW graduate student will prepare you for these jobs, and you need to make sure that when the time comes, you are ready to be successful.

We encourage you to acknowledge the uncertainty and stress associated with the current situation. However, if you are able, temporarily put these uncomfortable feelings aside and consider the following steps to plan for your professional development this summer.

Reflect. Take a moment to assess where you are and where you want to go in your career trajectory. Review and update your Individualized Development Plan (IDP) — or create one if you don’t already have one (see Imagine PhD, myIDP, and Core Programs’ framing questions). Assess your current skill set and determine how you’re going to fill any gaps as your prepare for your next career stage. Once you’ve updated your IDP, be sure to have a discussion with your mentor team to get support, guidance, and advice.

Prepare. Whether you expect to pursue a non-academic or academic career, you’ll need to prepare a resume or CV (or to turn your CV into a resume). In addition, you may be asked for additional application materials (e.g. a cover letter, portfolio, teaching & research statements, etc. depending on your field). Take the time now to create or revise these materials so you’re ready to simply tailor them for specific job opportunities in the future.

Network. Reach out to your mentors (in and outside of the university), peers, and alumni from your grad department to learn about various career options. Allocate some time to update your LinkedIn profile and then connect with individuals at different companies and employment sectors. Remember, all it takes is one shared experience to be virtually connected (e.g. you both know the same individual in your networks, attended the same graduate institution, have a shared interest in a topic area, etc.). Once virtually connected, start a conversation (an informational interview) to learn more about their career path and their current job. This expanded network will be extremely helpful when you formally enter the job market.

Focus on your development. It’s important to be mindful that professional development is a lifelong practice that involves strategic, intentional planning on your part. Below are some additional resources to support you in your journey.

We understand that now is an unprecedented and difficult time. But if you do have the bandwidth (emotionally and mentally), we encourage you to make time in your weekly schedule to focus on your career development. Start out with dedicating 15 min. per day and add more time when it works for you. Invest in your future now, and your future self will thank you.


Core Programs—Office of Graduate Student Affairs
UW Graduate School

Career advice during COVID-19

As we anxiously await the termination of our current Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, the realities of a changed work environment and altered research expectations have clearly hit home. In recent weeks, we’ve heard of the dire predictions of budget shortfalls – within the School of Medicine, across the UW campus, and within our community. Unfortunately, the financial impact of our Stay Home, Stay Healthy won’t be fully realized for a number of months, if not years. More importantly, it will be quite a while before we return to an environment even remotely resembling our pre-COVID memories, especially as it relates to our research setting and UW in general.

Just as the full budget implications are currently unknown, the COVID-19-related impact upon future job prospects is also unclear. Recruitment for many positions, both inside and outside of academia, has been put on hold, at least temporarily. In fact, even what a ‘workplace’ constitutes (offices, shared spaces, flexible work-from-home policies, etc.), will likely be different in the coming months and years. However, while it’s not comforting at the moment, please trust that not far into the future, the draw for highly trained scientists and researchers will return. Your experience as a UW postdoctoral fellow will prepare you for these jobs. You need to make sure that when the time comes, you are ready to be successful.
We encourage you to acknowledge the uncertainty and stress associated with the current situation. However, if you’re able, temporarily place your negative feelings aside and consider the following steps in planning for your future.

  • Reflect: Take a moment to assess where you are and where you want to go. Review and update your Individualized Development Plan (IDP) – or create one if you don’t already have one (see myIDPImaginePhD, and OPA’s framing questions). Assess your current skill set and determine how you’re going to fill any gaps as you prepare for your next career stage. Once you’ve updated your IDP, be sure to have a discussion with your mentor team to get support, guidance, and advice.
  • Prepare: Whether you expect to pursue a non-academic or academic career, you’ll need to prepare a resume or curriculum vitae. In addition, you may be asked for additional application materials (e.g., a cover letter, writing samples, teaching & research statements, etc.). Take the time now to create or update these documents and ask your peers and mentors for constructive feedback. Also, consider polishing your supporting materials so you’re ready to simply tailor them for specific job opportunities in the future.
  • Network: Reach out to your mentors and peers to learn about different career options. Allocate some time to update your LinkedIn profile, and then connect with peers at different companies and employment sectors. Remember, all it takes is a shared experience to be virtually connected (e.g., connected to a common person, attended the same graduate institution, have a shared interest in a topic area, etc.) – then it’s up to you to make the first request to connect. Once virtually connected, start a conversation to learn more about their career path and their current job (e.g., an informational interview). This expanded network will be extremely helpful when you formally enter the job market.
  • Focus on your development: In addition to resources listed on the UW Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, many of our peers have made their career and professional development resources available to the broader postdoc community. We will be highlighting some of these in the coming months. In the meantime, feel free to explore:

We understand that now is an unprecedented and difficult time. But, if you do have the bandwidth (both emotionally and mentally), we encourage you to spend some time preparing for a prospective job opportunity. Invest in your future now, and your future self will thank you!