Happy Academic New Year!

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September is my favorite time of year. It’s always hard to say goodbye to summer but the fall season also brings some of my favorite things – crisp autumn leaves, hoodie weather, football, savory pies… and a feeling of fresh beginnings fueled by a recently completed 7 year stint in graduate school.

“New Year” Challenge: How Will You Work Career Planning into Your Schedule?

Like many, I walked into the PhD assuming I would just be able to find a good job afterward simply because I had a PhD. Luckily, halfway through my program I realized that I needed to start carving out time to plan a career, or at least be ready to find a job following graduation. Though I’m still searching for my next career step, I feel well positioned in my job search and I’m very grateful that I put in the hours to get here. My first approach was to treat career planning as part of my other responsibilities – at the same level as teaching, manuscript deadlines, data collection, etc.

Here are a few more of my strategies:

  1. Halfway through my program, I started dedicating 20% of my work time to career planning. Yes, this did go down to 5-10% during high demand times like manuscript and dissertation deadlines, but making time to do at least one career activity per week took some of the stress out of job searching later on.
  2. I made a goal to meet with or at least reach out to one new person a week. After realizing I had a small network, I started volunteering for committees and searching for organized professional events (when I had time, even just one or two helped me meet new people). I knew that I needed to meet more people, and that these people could help me get my first job. Furthermore, asking old and new contacts to have a coffee and talk to me about their career path also gave me valuable opportunities to learn about potential opportunities for myself (e.g., academia, consulting, instructional design, industry training, government research, etc.).
  3. I read countless job posts to learn the language, expected skills, and more in general about different types of positions when trying to understand what my options were. This includes learning about typical hours worked and compensation for different positions (we’ll keep salary negotiation for another post), as well as things involved in the culture (thank you network).

For myself, finding a new position/contract is in the schedule for the change of season. What about you?

-Rebecca Maymon


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