PhD Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight: Paul Verhelst (Hosted by Penn Libraries – Research Data & Digital Scholarship)

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. Paul Verhelst, a PhD candidate in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, was placed as a Fellow with the Penn Libraries – Research Data & Digital Scholarship. Read about Paul’s experience in the CEF below!

Describe your experience working with your host:

Through virtual meetings, my host and I talked about my experience with Digital Scholarship, how my interests could work within the field, and some of the base skills needed when applying for jobs. My host then helped me to set up informational interviews with members of the Digital Scholarship group at the Penn Libraries. These interviews gave me the chance to talk to six people from the group and learn more about their interests within Digital Scholarship and experiences transitioning to non-academic jobs after finishing graduate school. My host and everyone within the group provided me with useful resources as well as shared helpful advice as I explore a career in Digital Scholarship.

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

All the skills, knowledge, and experience I gained through being a graduate student are strengths, regardless of whether I choose to apply them to an academic job or a non-academic job.

How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?

The CEF included workshops on topics related to identifying your strengths, developing your LinkedIn profile, and creating an effective resume. These and other workshops gave me a lot of insight, knowledge, and resources, which will be helpful as I apply for jobs in the future. Without these workshops, I would have gone into the job search less prepared and less informed than I am now.

What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?

The CEF made me more confident in applying for jobs outside of academia through giving me a better understanding of the different experiences and skills that can lead to a career in Digital Scholarship.

Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:

Need motivation to push you through the final phase of your PhD? The CEF can provide you with that motivation and prepare you for what comes next as you start applying for jobs.

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