Reflect and Explore Options

What Are Your Work Values?

As a graduate student or postdoc, you may not have spent as much time reflecting on your work values as you have for your skills and interests, but it’s arguably one of the most important factors in determining your career satisfaction and happiness. As you think about possible career paths, think about some of the following questions: Do you like working alone, or do you like working collaboratively on teams? Do you like fast-paced, short-term projects where you see immediate results, or do you like to work on long-term projects where it may take years before you see the results of your research? Do you like having autonomy in your work, or do you want close supervision? How important is compensation? How important is flexibility in your work schedule? Reflecting on these types of questions can help you identify roles, industries, and employers that may be a good fit for your values.

What Are Your Skills?

When it comes to thinking about your skills, you’ve developed many throughout your life, including in graduate school, but which skills are you most proud of? Which skills are your strengths that you would like to use in your future career? Which skills are you hoping to develop and hone in the future? A good career fit almost certainly involves roles where you will leverage your strengths and build on new skills that interest and excite you. As a PhD student or postdoc, take some time to think about the work you’ve been doing and the skills you currently use. Do you take pride in conducting research? Are you good at interpreting data and using quantitative analysis? Are you a strong communicator? Do you have good project management skills? What about leadership skills? Are you good at synthesizing large amounts of information into bite-sized pieces of information? Taking account of your strongest skills is a crucial component of finding a career that is challenging and engaging.

What Are Your Interests?

The other major factor in determining job and career satisfaction is your interests. What career-related activities do you enjoy doing? Thinking about this question can illuminate what you might enjoy in the day-to-day of a job or career. Do you like mentoring, motivating, or coaching others? Do you enjoy building relationships with people and making connections to bring others together? Does public speaking get you energized? How about engaging in activism or advocating for social justice? Do you like telling stories? What about influencing and persuading others? Are you someone who likes meeting new people? Do you enjoy learning about and navigating different cultures? Questions like these can help you identify the kinds of tasks that would be a strong match for your interests.

Action items:

  1. Complete values, skills, and interests assessments and create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) on ImaginePhD, myIDP , or your School-specific IDP (e.g., BGS), and share your results with friends, colleagues, advisors.
  2. Use VersatilePhD’s “PhD Career Finder” tool to read about career paths for PhDs.
  3. Make an appointment with a Career Advisor via Handshake to discuss your assessments and career exploration.
  4. Explore the Career Interest Communities on the Career Services website to get advice and resources for different career fields.
  5. Check out articles related to career exploration from Carpe Careers, a weekly column focused on career and professional development for graduate students and postdocs that provides personal, optimistic, actionable advice.
  6. Move on to the next step in your career exploration: Network & Gather Information.

Explore the other stages of the exploration process: