Working with the end (of the year) in mind

Dr. Joseph Barber

In thinking about what careers you might explore when you graduate with your PhD, or once you finish your postdoc, it would certainly be helpful to know where others have gone before you. Those people who have made it through your programs before share a lot in common with you.

  • They had passion around a similar subject area.
  • They experience the same types of faculty support
  • They had access to similar networks of contacts and career resources
  • They faced much the same type of job market
  • They also wanted to find a role that would engage them intellectually, challenge them mentally, and support their continued professional development and personal lifestyle.

The career options they have pursued might be those that you would also find interesting. The skills they use in their careers might be similar to the skills you current use in your research. Traveling down well-beaten paths is not the only way to reach a successful career destination, but it can certainly be an effective one. This is especially true when people in these different career fields are willing to share their experiences and insights with you to help you come to a more informed decision about your career path, or to prepare yourself for a specific path more effectively.

Let’s review the different levels at which you can seek information about career options, and find contacts through networking to help you find some of the answers that you are seeking.

The Penn connection

Penn has a rich history of engaged alumni, and current students can continue to make marvelous connections with a wide range of professionals in different careers by making use of the Penn alumni searchable database – QuakerNet. This is not a resource for asking people whether they have a job for you, but can be a great place to make connections to help you learn more about what it is like to work in a certain role, in a particular company, within a broad industry, and so on. Simply by asking people what they do, and what skills they use to do it, you can absorb some of the language you might be able to use to describe your past experiences in terms that your future employer might better understand – to use their language to make your skills relevant. If you are looking for a New Year’s resolution, then make sure that you put “set-up more informational interviews” at the very top of your list.

By now, you have hopefully been exposed to the potential that LinkedIn can offer you in terms of making connections with people like you doing interesting and wonderful things in many career fields. I know some people are a little resistant to this resource for many different reasons, but if you just see it as a powerful career exploration tool, then it can help you overcome some of these concerns.

Continue reading “Working with the end (of the year) in mind”

A Very Versatile PhD (a poem about an online resource)

Dr. Joseph Barber

Over the break you’ll have time to think,
To ponder career paths open to you.
But the next semester will be here in a blink
So here’s something easy for you to do.

Get to a computer – look you’re already here –
And find the Career Services website.
I’ve included the link to help you get near,
Just one click to gain helpful insight.

Click on subscriptions (PennKey is required)
And enter your secret details.
You’re taking important steps to get hired
So let’s see what this new page unveils.

Scroll down the list to the last but one,
It’s the Versatile PhD that you need.
Click on the link – but we’re not quite done,
So take a moment and continue to read.

If you’ve never been before, set up your profile,
It’s free, and you’ll be glad that you do.
There’s lots on this site that is very worthwhile
Including the “premium content” too.

Penn has a subscription to give you access
To this info that others can’t see.
Look on the top, on the right, see it? Yes?
OK, pull up a chair and get comfy.

You’ll find archived discussions for different careers,
And stories of PhDs on the non-academic track.
The resumes and cover letters they used will appear
Providing you with knowledge that you might lack.

Participate in the forums – don’t just lurk –
And make use of the premium content.
It’s a wonderful opportunity for you to network
And a winter break very well spent.