Grad School! But then what? (Part 1)

Photo by @christinekts, Instagram @gradlifemcgill

Photo by @christinekts, Instagram @gradlifemcgill

Do you ever think about what you’ll do next after grad school? Does that thought ever scare you? Over the last few months I’ve been thinking more and more about this. I have about a year and a half left and thinking about what comes next has left me with more than a few sleepless nights. It’s a big decision to come to grad school but there are also big decisions to make when you’re about to leave.

It doesn’t help when you’ve heard the stories about how hard it is becoming in academia, especially when you look at the statistics. In 2012, ASCB published a graphical representation of current biology PhD career paths that suggests less than 10% of current graduate students will get a tenure-track academic position. A NIH working group found that while PhDs awarded in biomedical sciences has doubled in the last 20 years faculty positions certainly haven’t and they found over 1/3 of biomedical PhDs are working in non-research related careers.

Now it’s not all doom and gloom, don’t get me wrong. But it is a reality we all need to be aware of and something we need to prepare for while we are doing our degrees. There are many other career options out there, but I feel that a lot of the time we just aren’t exposed to what is out there. After a bit of soul-searching, I know I personally don’t want to stay in academia, but that brings me to the following questions; What sort of job do I want? Where can I find that job? How can I prepare myself for the job market?

To help me answer these questions and to help others struggling with this as well, I’ve been involved in organizing a Career Development Day for grad students in my department. As part of BGSS (Biochemistry Graduate Student Society) in collaboration with the Goodman Cancer Student Society, we’re putting together a half day event dedicated to helping students figure these things out. We have a number of career and technical skills workshops, a keynote speech about how to prepare for the job market after graduation and a networking event with former alumni employed in non-academic careers that I’m particularly excited about.

I’ve been working with a number of services at McGill. CaPS and SkillSets are running multiple workshops for us. McGill Alumni Association has been a great sponsor as well. I’ve been with people at DCAT at the MUHC. All the people I’ve dealt have been wonderful and they are a great resource for anyone out there struggling with these sorts of questions. They are really willing to help.

The event is coming up soon. I’ve learned a lot while organizing the event about the sort of resources available to me, but I’m sure I’m going to learn even more by attending the workshops and talking with the alumni. I’ll let you know what I find out!

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