By Rosa Conrad
A few weeks ago, I offered 10 tips for college students. This week, I would like to focus on what graduate students may face after graduation. Some may be asking what kind of career choices are out there for them. Their last year at graduate school will be focused on finishing the program, busy finalizing their thesis project. Many students have little time and opportunity to consider the types of careers that may be available out there. For many graduate students, myself included, they likely had a job or two that was not in a place of employment where they can easily find a new job position opening up. Perhaps their chosen degree is not appropriate for the place they are employed with. The transition of finding a new job with a degree is challenging, and finding out that the degree you hold in your hand is not going to be immediately opening up doors can be surprising. Researching jobs and applying to them is difficult and you realize quickly that you must be prepared.
There is one component to a job search that could be easily overlooked among graduate students: Knowing the career you want. Not everyone will be seeking a Ph.D. or seeking a career in teaching or research. So the question comes up as to what options are available and where to begin. What types of careers are available with the education and the experience you have? I have discovered a few things that I did not consider while finishing up my last year at graduate school:
- Applying for a job is a job in itself.
- Have a curriculum vitae (CV) and resume prepared.
- If your school has a career center, take advantage of their services before finishing the program, and ask if they are available to help you after graduation.
- Be ready with at least 3 professional references for any job application. Make sure you ask their permission to be a reference beforehand, and be ready to provide their contact information if requested by the hiring committee.
- Research multiple websites for job postings.
- Expand your keyword searches for jobs since many positions may be listed under different job titles and categories.
- Contact any potential contacts you’ve made and inquire if they have heard of any job openings.
Finding the right job takes time. Some employers are seeking people with specific experience while others are looking for a person with a particular degree. For example, if a person has all the job skills and experience qualifying for the job, they could be passed over if they do not have the desired education. Even having a Master’s degree does not necessarily meet qualifications for a job opening requiring that degree if your academic credentials are in an unrelated field or discipline. Hard to imagine how this can be possible but it does happen, so it is important to carefully review a job’s minimum qualifications and desired qualifications.
Internships can be a valuable opportunity as well. They will add to your work experience, cultivate desirable job skills, build a stronger resume, and potentially offer opportunities to move up in the place you’ve interned and begin a career. Perhaps most important is that internships can give you a chance to explore what kind of career you want.
Transitioning from school to a career is both challenging and difficult, so it is essential to be informed and to proactively seek out opportunities. Focus on your career choice but do not overlook jobs listed under different job titles. Prepare for job seeking by giving yourself time to do the research and to fill out applications. Be mindful that you may need to tweak your resume and cover letter based on the job posting, and always highlighting your experience with the skills they are seeking. The process of finding a career will take time, do not give up, the end result is sure to pay off. For career help visit our Professional Development page.