Advice for Grad Students | Professional Development Strategies

While most graduate programs provide useful professional development workshops for academic-track careers, many students have less guidance in preparing for careers outside of  academia. Here are some suggestions for how to think about and act on your professional development throughout your grad studies.


Professional development in the context of your studies:

  • Choosing your supervisor is really important to your experience during your studies in so many ways, including your growth as a research/ higher education/ communications/ ... professional. In "10 truths a PhD supervisor will never tell you" (Times Higher Education) Tara Brabazon offers advice based own her own negative experiences with advisors during her graduate school career and as a tenured faculty member. This advice is also useful for potential students looking at institutions and potential advisors for future studies.
  • University service: GradHacker is an important resource for grad students. For instance, "Research, Teaching, and That Other Thing" (2016, DeWitt Scott) highlights the value of voluntary service work as a way to network and gain/ apply new skills.

As this piece in University Affairs argues, it is important to think about and prepare for your future beyond the university by engaging in alternative, non-academic career activities during grad school:
  • Informational interviewing: Conducting informational interviews with people working in fields or positions that might be of interest to you is a useful way to start thinking about your own possibilities after your studies. These interviews are a way to network, to get a better idea of the kinds of skills a particular type of employer will be looking for, and think about whether a particular type of career would appeal to your interests and use your skills. Writing for Gradhacker, Katie Shives has great step-by-step advice for conducting The Informational Interview
  • Volunteering: Just like university service, volunteering can provide a way to network with people working in fields you might be interested in working in, and can help you build and apply skills/ expertise outside of the university. Volunteering can also be good for your mental health by connecting you with people/ causes that you find meaningful and drawing you out of what can often be the isolation of graduate studies.
  • Skills training courses: You may also decide that you want to complement the skills you develop through your graduate training with other professional development classes, for instance in communications, project management, or entrepreneurship (which may be easier for potential employers to recognize than the experience and skills we develop throughout our education). 


Explore  Job Market: Realities & Opportunities
Writing Tips
Grad Student Wellness


If you have any resources for graduate students that would add to this page, we would love to hear from you. Contact the team at anthro everywhere! by email or tweet us @anthrolens

Last updated: 22 May 2017