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It’s Never Too Early, or Late, to Get Started on Your Career Path

Welcome back!  We hope you made time for yourself to relax and enjoy the break. As you begin the Spring quarter, we know that many of you are thinking, “What next?!,” especially if you’re pursuing work outside of academia (note: For those of you who are interested in pursuing an academic career, we haven’t forgotten about you! Check out these resources.)  We assure you that it’s never too early—or late—to get started on planning your career path.

Here are some tips:

Research.  Conduct an online search about industries you’d like to work in. Take a look at these resources:  Exploring Options, Versatile PhD, or Ph.D. Career Guide.  Also, take your research offline and schedule informational interviews with professionals in fields that interest you.  From these one-on-one meetings, you’ll get a more accurate picture of specific job experiences and work environments.

Identify.  Know your strengths and transferable skills.  Highlight them in application materials and interviews. Earning a graduate degree means you can do a task to completion, meet multiple deadlines, display strong written and verbal communication skills, to name but a few.  More here:  Dependable Strengths, Ph.D. Transferrable Skills, and Transferrable Skills and Qualities.

Network.  Reach out to alums, join professional organizations and social media sites, or attend a campus or niche market career fair to make connections and market yourself as a strong and employable candidate.  A UW Career Center survey found that local employers usually recruit grads through networking referrals.

Practice.  Learning how to present yourself during job interviews takes practice, and one way to build confidence, learn what to expect, and effectively respond to different types of interview questions is to do mock interviews.  As with any actual interview, be prepared for your practice session by knowing the job description well, doing research about the company that’s hiring, tailoring your cover letter and resume, and brushing up on standard interview questions.  Here’s another set of commonly asked interview questions.

We recognize this is a lot of work and you already have a full plate.  As one alum said at a recent panel, treat looking for a job as a job.  If you set aside a little time each week, you can make progress over time.  By developing these habits now, you will set yourself up for success and work that is meaningful for you.

Effective Job Search Tips from Employers

You’re investing time (and money) building your skills, knowledge, and experience in graduate school, and earning that degree is just one piece of the puzzle in your professional development. As you think about future career options (inside or outside of academia), there are a number of things to consider–and work on–to help you be the right match between you and potential employers.

Check out these strategies:

Reflection.  Reflect on what you really want. What are you passionate about? What type of impact do you want to make? What work environment would best suit you? Imagine yourself in different environments and jobs – what draws you in?

Build Relationships.  Networking, meeting people, becoming known, expressing genuine curiosity in others – is absolutely critical. Informational interviews, mixers, conferences, and coffee meetings are all great strategies to build relationships. Be intentional in your approach to networking and always try to walk away with two names of potential contacts. Often times, job candidates who make it through the first round of resume screenings are those who have somebody advocating for their application.

Professionalism.  Evaluate and maintain your brand and professionalism – examples include an intuitive e-mail address, an appropriate voicemail message, a polished and up-to-date LinkedIn profile, and non-embarassing posts/pictures on social media sites.
Translate – Practice internalizing and communicating how aspects of your graduate work translates into a broader skill set – project management, meeting multiple deadlines on time, problem-solving, clear and effective communication, etc.

Communicate.  Practice communicating your work to all different types of audiences, at different levels of detail, in different mediums – academic presentations, posters, concise slide decks, executive summaries, and conversations with your neighbors are some examples.
Intangibles – Be confident about what you bring to the table; passionate about your background and the job opportunity; genuine and true to yourself; steer clear of being presumptuous or full of yourself.

Focus on the Employer.  Convince recruiters that you want to do those tasks, in that job, in that organization, in that sector. Directly state how you will bring value to them, what you can do for their organization, and what you can do to further that company’s goals. This requires that you research employers very carefully–mission, environment, catalysts for change, job description, etc.

Application Materials.  Create targeted, specific, non-generic application packets that convey why you want the position. Use specific words from the job description in your cover letters and resumes. Quantify your contributions when possible and discuss the impact or results of your work. Have somebody proofread your materials; simple things like spelling errors can get your application tossed out. Treat the job search like a job and give it the effort it deserves.

Interviews.  Take the interviewing process seriously and prepare ahead of time. Anticipate what you’ll be asked. Role-play various interview questions. Prepare a few examples in advance that show qualities you wish to highlight. Effective stories will be succinct and include: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Be specific. Focus on your role in projects you’re discussing. Make good eye contact.

Tips gathered by Briana Randall from the Employer Panel at the 11th Annual Career Symposium & Networking Reception–an event co-sponsored by the Graduate School and Career Center in January 2015. Briana is the Associate Director of the Career Center. Check out more academic and non-academic career development resources.