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Graduate students at Memorial Union on Tempe Campus learning about career pathways.

Graduate Students Learn About Diverse Career Options

On Thursday, November 8, 2017, 40 graduate students came together in the Memorial Union at the ASU Tempe campus for a unique opportunity to learn about a variety of career pathways. The Graduate College partnered with Career and Professional Development Services (CPDS) to offer a professional development seminar entitled Career Pathways for PhD Students featuring a panel of professionals from various disciplines. 

The purpose of the seminar was to highlight various career options available to scholars with a PhD. Panelists shared their experiences while providing first-hand accounts of how the competencies and knowledge developed through a PhD program translated into skills relevant to their professional positions in various employment sectors. Panelists represented the sciences and the humanities, providing a cross-disciplinary perspective on career paths upon completion of their PhD. 

The panelists included Dr. Mary O’Reilly, director, Arizona STEM Network—Science Foundation Arizona, Dr. Matthew Eicher, assistant director for Student Development and Outreach at ASU, Dr. Teresa Clement, strategic technology manager for Raytheon, Dr. Benah J. Parker, leadership and executive coach at Level 42 Consulting, and Jennifer Gordievsky, a recruiter from BASIS Schools.  

Each of the panelists was able to contribute uniquely to the conversation due to the variety of their backgrounds. Gordievsky, for instance, provided the perspective of an industry recruiter on the traits sought when hiring PhD graduates, as well as the various opportunities located with schools, nationally and internationally, including Silicon Valley and China. “A very high percentage of our teachers serving at BASIS Schools in Silicon Valley have earned their PhDs,” she stated.

A breadth of experience, both within specific disciplines as well as in adjacent areas, is important for graduate students considering employment outside traditional academic pathways.

“The combination of work-related experience and their PhD is a powerful combination,” noted Eicher, advocating the importance of internships particularly for graduate students interested in non-academic careers.

While addressing the need to expand the knowledge of possibilities beyond positions in academia, the panel also reiterated the importance of understanding the current job market. Jennifer Rhodes, program manager for Knowledge Mobilization Initiatives within the Graduate College and moderator of the panel stated, “More PhD candidates either want to explore options outside academia because they may not prefer to teach or may realize that tenure-track positions are quite limited.”  

Rhodes also mentioned that attending programs such as the Career Pathways for PhD Students panel helps to stimulate four critical skills essential to graduate student success. Referred to as “the four C’s,” these skills are: communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. “Without such competencies, even those with terminal degrees may struggle, not only with securing a position, but also with thriving in their chosen industry.”

Student feedback related to the seminar was positive. Attending students stated that the personal experiences of the panelists were valuable and that insights into personal experiences were helpful. “The idea of starting your own business with your PhD is a new thought for me to stew on,” noted one graduate student.

Another attendee appreciated the diversity of the panel of speakers and learning how to kickstart an industry career regardless of adjacency to their specific research focus.

One first-year doctoral student attending noted the information presented, while not necessarily new, was useful to hear “in a different way, context, and from a different set of people,” and inspired him to revisit what he thought he knew of career-building in context with his educational experience.

The program also allowed students to further develop strong communication and networking skills within industry, providing students with the opportunity to network with panelists after the official panel. This rare opportunity allowed student participants to further support their professional identities and develop their careers through obtaining additional information about translating their knowledge into experience relevant to employers in industry.  Moving forward, participants are now equipped with additional resources and connections to maximize their job search strategies inside and outside of academia.

More professional development opportunities will be available during Grad Week (March 19-22). Check the Graduate College’s website, Facebook and Twitter, and the GCMN and Graduate and Professional Student Association calendar in the coming month.