PhD Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight: Elizabeth Bynum (Hosted by Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan)

In the spring of 2021, 44 PhD students from a range of academic disciplines at Penn participated virtually in Career Services’ PhD Career Exploration Fellowship (CEF) program, where they were matched with a host organization to learn about different careers beyond academia. Elizabeth Bynum, a PhD candidate in Music, was placed as a Fellow with Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan. Read about Elizabeth’s experience in the CEF below!


Describe your experience working with your host:

I met with my CEF host several times over the semester. My host was generous with her time and very willing to share her own experiences, answer my questions, and provide advice. During our meetings, my host also provided feedback on my resume and guidance on how to translate my research experience for non-academic contexts. When I started the CEF, I was looking for strong mentorship, and my host really provided that.

What did you learn from this opportunity (about yourself, about career fields, the job search, etc.)?

At the beginning of this fellowship, I was considering careers in a few different sectors. Talking with my host, participating in the professional development workshops, and conducting informational interviews helped me narrow my interests significantly. In addition to further defining the industries I’m interested in, my conversations with my host helped me reflect on the work-life balance I’m seeking.

How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?

The CEF professional development workshops gave me the space to set concrete, achievable goals for my career exploration and development. Setting short and long-term goals has helped me prioritize several professional development activities for the next six months to a year.

What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?

The CEF experience has given me confidence in my ability to search for and apply for the roles that interest me. I also feel more prepared to present my combination of skills to employers, and effectively narrate how my diverse experiences are relevant for a given role. Leaving the CEF, I’m excited to continue the exploration process and apply for jobs in the next year.

Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:

I think all PhD students should apply! Whether you’re still in coursework or farther along in your PhD program, the CEF is an excellent opportunity to consider multiple career paths and connect with PhD students across Penn. I learned a lot through meetings with my host, and working with other students during professional development workshops helped me fine tune my resume and other materials.

By Helen Pho
Helen Pho Associate Director, Graduate Students & Postdocs Helen Pho