Career Services welcomed a new career advisor to our team in August. Dr. Fatimah Williams Castro joins the graduate student and postdoctoral advising team in a part-time position, and has jumped in to all the new fall semester activities. We asked Fatimah a few introductory questions, and below is the quick “interview” that resulted — I think from her answers it is easy to see why we were eager to have Fatimah on board.
— Rosanne Lurie, Senior Associate Director, Graduate Students/Postdoctoral Advising
What drew you to work as a career advisor for graduate students?
I believe that graduate students need greater access to career decision making and career planning tools. Most graduate students have made it to graduate school because of their commitment to the subject matter they study. With the time spent mastering bodies of literature, methods and approaches, it is easy for career planning to move to the back burner.
When I was getting my doctorate in Cultural Anthropology, I tried my best to get familiar with the world outside of my department and field of study and even do some applied work. I understand the demands on graduate students’ time and attention to excel in their graduate careers.
As a career advisor, I hope to streamline the career exploration and job search process so more graduate students are aware of the range of career paths available to them.
In what ways has your background prepared you for this work?
I have made two important career moves that give me first-hand experience with career decisions that graduate students and postdocs may be considering. First, I was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship after graduate school. This offer confirmed my place as a scholar and academician.
Later, when I began to explore expanded career options, I decided to try my hand at project management in the nonprofit and consulting fields. I enjoy this type of work as it has allowed me to use my analytic skills along with directly impacting policy and services. This second career area has also facilitated my access into the language and values of the millennial workplace, which I pass on to students and fellows I work with in Career Services.
I value the knowledge and skills that graduate students and postdocs bring to the job market, and believe in their potential to excel in any career path they choose.
What have you enjoyed so far, as you have gotten familiar with Penn?
It’s a joy to work with hardworking and dedicated staff. My colleagues in Career Services really enjoy the work they do to support student career transitions.
I was attracted to Penn Career Services for its leadership in the area of graduate and postdoc career development. While many university career services focus their energies and resources on undergraduate students, Penn also does a great job in tailoring career advising to the career needs of adult, advanced degree holders. Our presentations, programs, online resources and one-on-one advising are customized to graduate students and postdocs. My graduate school friends and I would have loved to have access to this level of support while in graduate school.
What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
I have lots of experience working with PhDs in the social sciences and humanities. This year I look forward to working with graduate students in design, engineering and the life sciences, and expanding my knowledge of career trends in these fields.