UW Graduate School

July 2, 2020

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.

Best,

Core Programs—Office of Graduate Student Affairs
UW Graduate School