In the spring of 2020, 36 PhD students from a range of academic disciplines at Penn participated in Career Services’ PhD Career Exploration Fellowship (CEF) program, where they were matched with a host organization in Philadelphia to learn about different careers beyond academia. Hanna Lindner, a PhD candidate in Biostatistics, was placed as a Fellow with Penn Sustainability. Read about her experience in the CEF below!
What was your fellowship experience like working with your host? What activities did you engage in?
My host was very invested in our time together, and we began by brainstorming projects that would allow me to learn about a new area of interest while leveraging my established background. I built a dashboard using R Shiny to track the amount of waste (solid waste, recycling, compost) produced by campus buildings to help with strategic planning. I participated in advisory council meetings that work to achieve the goals laid out in Penn’s Climate Action Plan 3.0. I was also able to have several conversations with my host about the field to gain inside perspective and career advice.
What did you learn from this opportunity (about yourself, about career fields, the job search, etc.)?
It was very helpful in helping me to refine the sort of career I was looking for – from which sector I would like to work in, to the content area. It reaffirmed my beliefs that both research and community engagement are important to me, and that doing both at the same time is in fact possible. Most importantly, I learned that those coming from non-traditional backgrounds are valued (and needed!) in the fields that interest me.
How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?
My CEF experience is a strong addition to my resume and will help show future employers that I am serious about pursuing an alternative career. My host also equipped me with several resources that will aid in my job search, and connected me with individuals that I have gone on to do informational interviews with. Overall, I feel better prepared and more confident when thinking about graduating next year.
What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?
It affirmed by hopes that I could deviate from the traditional careers of a biostatistician and still be successful without having upend my current training and education. The CEF experience also got me in the mindset to do job research and searching – something that is never too early to get started on.
Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF?
It provides a low-pressure, high-reward opportunity for students who may feel uncertain about their career trajectory to branch out and see what is available. There is truly nothing to lose by participating, and so many potential doors to be opened.
For more information about Career Services’ PhD Career Exploration Fellowship, please visit our program webpage here.