This afternoon I had the pleasure of sitting in on the well attended, last session of Career Week called The Employable YOU – Identifying your Program Specific Skills. In this post I am going to provide a brief overview of the session and detail some of the standout aspects of the afternoon.
The first 30 minutes were spent listening to a panel of PhD’s who have found careers outside of academia discussing their (non-linear) paths from the ‘lab’ to industry/business/entrepreneurship. The panel was very diverse and represented a wide array of academic backgrounds. I am certain that each grad student in attendance were represented by at least 1 panellist.
I especially enjoyed a quote by Dr. Chad Gaffield, who succinctly summed up his advice for the audience,
“Find something that you are passionate about, that you are talented in and others will find valuable”
Some of the common themes that emerged from these talks were:
1) Know thyself – continually take stock of your skills, your accomplishments, your weaknesses, and your passions. It is important that you can create a story of who you are when speaking to potential employers. Also, this exercise will help YOU identify what type of work interests you.
2) Network, network, network! – I am sure you’ve heard this before… but it’s true. As a grad student you are (single) smart cookie amongst a bake sale of smart, competitive cookies. Get out there and make those connections; you never know where they’ll lead.
3) Learn the vernacular of your target industry – sometimes the biggest barrier for a student transitioning out of academia is learning the language of business. Become acquainted with your prospective job’s dialect and you most definitely will stand out in conversation with potential employers.
Following the story portion of the event, the floor was opened up to questions. One question that sparked interest from the entire panel was, “Can you name a skill that you wish you had acquired / worked on during your PhD?” The respondent candidly answered, “I wish I learned how to make quick decisions and not be over-analytical”. I’m sure as grad students we can all relate to the issue of dissecting everything we read and write, and still not reaching a clear decision.
The seminar concluded with the formation of breakaway groups that afforded students an opportunity to intimately dialogue with their discipline-relevant panellist (i.e. health science).
I was very impressed by how well attended this event was and how engaged students were throughout the different segments. An individual’s career path after grad school is not always laid out and this type of event provides phenomenal guidance for grad students at any stage of their degree. I look forward to future events hosted by Expanding Horizons and if you haven’t already, I highly recommend checking one out for yourself.