Preparing for Your Future Career


You may be in your second or third year of graduate school, and chances are good that you’re already setting long-term goals. Career-wise, you know where you want to be in ten years. But how do you get there? Here are a few tips for jump-starting your future career now while you’re in graduate school:

    1. Take stock. What do you want to get out of a job? Is there a specific set of skills you’d like to use in that job? Is there a specific set of skills required for that job? Julio Peironcely at recommends that you “have a clear definition of your job. This will help you to find the right job offers, to target your application documents and to grow your excitement.” An added benefit of taking stock now, in the middle of your graduate career, is having an idea of the skills you already have and the skills you still need to develop.

    2. Figure out who potential employers are and build your network. As Katharine Brooks writes in 10 Tips for Developing an Alternate Career While in Graduate School, start by looking within your program. If your department doesn’t track recent graduates, ask the department for names. Brooks recommends using online resources such as LinkedIn to find the recent graduates, and contacting those with interesting jobs to see about an informational interview (pages 4-5).

    3. Create your brand. If someone looks you up—online or offline—they should get a clear idea of who you are and what you have to offer them in terms of skills, experience and expertise. Gradhacker’s Eva Lantsoght recommends creating a clear picture of who you are and your skill set. Personal branding is less about marketing in a strict sense and more about knowing yourself and portraying that self to the world.

    4. During graduate school and beyond, build your online profile through blogging or other networking sites. Connect with like-minded people, as well as people and companies in the areas you’d like to work.

    5. “Develop varied references,” recommends Katharine Brooks. Your advisor may not be able to write about your transferable skills, but if you’ve volunteered for a non-profit or taken on a small internship, you’ll have a supervisor or colleague who can speak to the skills you’ve transferred from academia to your work, or skills that you’ve developed in your new role.

    6. Create and maintain a network. When you connect with others online, meet at industry events, and meet at disciplinary conferences, put effort into maintaining those relationships. Lantsoght recommends keeping in touch with classmates and old professors as well. You may find yourself collaborating with these people, or they may help you build connections when you begin looking into a job.

Start working your career now; don’t wait until you graduate. By taking a few simple steps while you’re in graduate school, you’ll be in a good position to apply for your dream job when you’ve completed your degree.



Brooks, Katharine. (October 25, 2011). 10 Tips for Developing an Alternate Career While in Graduate School. Retrieved from

Lantsoght, Eva. (September 18, 2013). Six Steps to Finding a Job after the PhD. Retrieved from

Peironcely, Julio. Leaving Academia: How to get a Job in Industry after the PhD. Retrieved from