I Have a PhD! Now What?

I have a PhD, now what? Does that question sound familiar?  Approximately 26% of U of T Engineering PhD alumni are employed in tenure-track positions. The majority of PhD alumni find rewarding careers in diverse sectors, and mobilize their transferrable skills to make contributions to the scientific community, industry, and broader society beyond the academy. How exactly do graduate students and postdoctoral fellows prepare for the world of work? This month’s paper, I Have a PhD! Now What? A Program to Prepare Engineering PhDs and Postdoctoral Fellows for Diverse Career Options presents the development and evaluation of U of T Engineering’s intensive career preparation program, The OPTIONS Program (Opportunities for Professional Careers: Transitions, Industry Options, Networking and Skills).

OPTIONS is a nine-week, non-credit program that brings together a small group of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows for weekly two-hour sessions. Participants 1) reflect on their strengths, interests, and desires; 2) learn to communicate skills and expertise through job search strategies; and 3) apply networking tools to clarify career aspirations. This program  fosters greater confidence and an increased sense of optimism as participants launch from school to work. Learn more about OPTIONS: uoft.me/optionsprogram.

Student Takeaways:

When identifying the most valuable career preparation offerings, look for workshops, programs or resources that support you with skill development in these key areas: reflection, communication, and relationship-building.

Peer support is a cornerstone of OPTIONS. Participants work with a small group which provides opportunities for feedback. As you grow a network of support, which may include other professionals, professors and alumni, it is worthwhile to cultivate a forum for dedicated career discussion and brainstorming with a group of like-minded peers.

Participant feedback showed that alongside practical skill development, such as resume writing, having structured time for career development was one of the program’s most valuable components. As you approach your school-to-career transition, be intentional with your own time, and carve out specific times in your schedule that are dedicated to career preparation.