PhD Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight: Yongjun Li (Hosted by Walmart – Applied Behavior Science)

In the spring of 2022, 34 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 the professoriate. Yongjun Li, a PhD candidate in Biology, was placed as a Fellow with Walmart’s Applied Behavior Science team. Read about Yongjun’s experience in the CEF below!

Headshot of Yongjun LiDescribe your experience working with your host:

My host from Walmart is my top choice. She is very engaging and extremely accessible, and I have had multiple one-on-one virtual meetings with her throughout the whole fellowship. She helped me figure out what jobs in the data science field I may be interested in and what skills I need to enhance to boost my career, guided me on the job application process, and organized my timetable for my very busy graduation season. Most importantly, she discussed with me in detail what a data scientist’s day looks like and the potential career paths of a data scientist in Walmart. She also helped me with my resume and cover letter and provided much instructional advice on my career development. Last but not least, she encouraged me to apply for jobs early to improve my chance of landing interviews and practiced with me for the job interviews. I appreciate all her help and would like to stay connected with her.

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

This fellowship offered me a valuable opportunity to learn the data science field which I had little direct knowledge. My job search anxiety was lessened a lot by hearing from outside experts that I could fit in many jobs with my established background and many transferable skills. Also, at the very basic level, I learned how to make a professional resume and cover letter, make full use of LinkedIn and Handshake, etc. I gained valuable information on the transition to non-academic careers, practiced my job interviews with peers, and started to build my network of non-academics.

How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?

The workshops on resumes, LinkedIn, and the STEM Q&A panel were very helpful. They helped a great deal at the very basic level and allowed me to jumpstart my career exploration. Also, by attending these workshops and communicating with peers who are also planning transitions to non-academic jobs, I was able to re-evaluate myself in the job market and consider what I’d like to do in the future.

What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?

To have a very experienced and established career expert in the data science field as my host. It allowed me to network with the experts in the data science field and get many professional suggestions for my career development to that career path.

Top reason Ph.D. students should apply to the CEF:

First, all the workshops are very useful. They help us build resumes, LinkedIn pages, and cover letters, know where/how to find jobs, and we heard from people from different fields on the job application and career paths, and long-term career goals.

Second, CEF allows us to have a close relationship with export in the field we are interested in, which provides us with updated job information and what we should be doing to reach our career goals.

By Jacob Myers
Jacob Myers 2021-2022 PhD Professional Development Fellow, Career Exploration Fellowship Program