Free resources to help grad students navigate their careers (opinion)

The community of professionals supporting graduate students’ and postdoctoral scholars’ career and professional development is one of the most sharing I have been a part of. So many individuals and organizations and organizations have contributed resources and online, accelerated by the need to pivot to virtual programming during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This has resulted in an explosion of online tools, resources and videos focused on a range of professional development topics—from navigating the faculty job search to informational interviewing and negotiation. In this post, I will seek to organize and curate some of those resources to better assist graduate students, postdocs and those who support them.

Resources for Postdoctoral Scholars (and Beyond)

The National Postdoctoral Association has a range of resources on its website, including a growing resource library containing guides on topics from mentorship to career planning. Please note that content is being updated as part of a website refresh in spring 2022. If you are a postdoc, graduate student, faculty member or other individual at an organizational member of the association, you can access these resources and a wealth of webinar recordings for free using your institutional email address upon registration as a member.

Another great program to be aware of if you are a current or prospective postdoctoral scholar or are a faculty or staff member supporting postdocs at your institution is the Postdoc Academy, which organizes two different online courses on edX: Succeeding as a Postdoc and Building Skills for a Successful Career.

ImaginePhD: An Indispensable Tool for Career Exploration.

ImaginePhD is a free online career-exploration tool created by members of the Graduate Career Consortium, an international community of professionals working to support graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in their career and professional development. While this website is branded for a humanities and social sciences audience, I would argue it is one of the most powerful career exploration tools out there and useful to researchers in any discipline. MyIDP and ChemIDP are also great online career-exploration resources.

Some highlights from the ImaginePhD platform:

  • The general tip sheets are phenomenal! Topics include: writing a résumé and cover letter, informational interviewing, using LinkedIn, and the art of negotiating.
  • Complete an interests, values ​​and skills assessment to learn more about yourself and job families that could be a good fit for you.
  • Each job family within the platform has dedicated sections that allow you to:
    • Explore links to job simulations from InterSECT job simulations along with write-ups and Q&As on different careers available and personal perspectives from Ph.Ds who made the transition into those paths.
    • Connect with LinkedIn groups and professional organizations to increase your ability to network with professionals working in certain sectors or career areas.
    • Build skills through trainings and resources that provide information about in-demand skills.
    • Apply for positions through links to job boards and have access to analyzed job descriptions with tailored resume and cover letter examples.

In addition, the menu on the right-hand side of the screen displayed within any of the four sections (explore, connect, build skills, apply) contains a live Indeed job feed of positions being advertised in this job family. This serves as a great way to see what skills and abilities are being asked for in current job descriptions. You can also build a career and training plan within ImaginePhD and export your various goals and deliverables to your digital calendar of choice to stay on track.

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