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. Hannah Kolev, a PhD candidate in Biomedical Graduate Studies, was placed as a Fellow with SteegeThomson Communications. Read about Hannah’s experience in the CEF below!
Describe your experience working with your host:
I was placed as a Career Exploration Fellow with SteegeThomson Communications, a Philadelphia-based communications firm serving the nonprofit sector. During the fellowship, I completed 10 informational interviews with members of the SteegeThomson team as well as their partner institutions. From these interviews, I gained greater insight into careers in public relations, development, marketing, communications, and science writing.
In addition to these interviews, I also attended two planning meetings led by the SteegeThomson team. The purpose of these meetings was to develop a communications campaign proposal for a nonprofit research institute. Over the course of these meetings, I read documents describing the goals of the communications campaign and prepared notes for the SteegeThomson team by conducting additional background research about the nonprofit institute. I also visited the SteegeThomson office to meet with the team in person. Together, SteegeThomson Communications provided a welcoming environment that encouraged me to participate in their proposal planning and interact with numerous professionals in the communications world.
What did you learn from this opportunity (about yourself, about career fields, the job search, etc.)?
Through my placement with SteegeThomson Communications, I learned about a multitude of different careers that extend beyond my background in biological sciences. I met with people who work in public relations and who develop fundraising campaigns for nonprofits and private research institutes. I also met with scientific writers, freelance writers, and science communications strategists. Finally, I learned about the steps involved in developing a proposal for a communications campaign.
Through these experiences, I learned more about my own career interests. Coming into the fellowship, I knew that I enjoyed learning and communicating science; however, I had a narrow focus for my future career and was only considering medical writing. Through this fellowship, I learned about additional career opportunities for people like me who enjoy science communication. Furthermore, I now feel well-equipped to continue my career exploration beyond the CEF!
How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?
As a result of this fellowship, my future career plans have been broadened to include many opportunities that I did not think were available to me. Coming away from this fellowship, I feel less locked into one narrow career path, and instead, I feel excited to explore the many opportunities available in science writing and communications for the non-profit realm.
What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?
The most valuable part of my CEF experience was interacting with people outside of the academic and scientific sphere. The people I met – each with unique backgrounds ranging from history to English to journalism, generously shared their life experiences with me and provided helpful advice on how to navigate the career exploration process. Furthermore, they provided encouragement that the skills that I have learned through my PhD will be valuable in careers outside of academia.
Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:
One of the most important reasons to apply to the CEF is to attain a greater understanding of the numerous opportunities for PhDs, which in turn, reinforces the idea that we’re not limited to the academic realm. Furthermore, through the CEF and by exploring my future career prospects, I gained a greater sense of meaning and motivation for my PhD – I hope it will do the same for future Career Exploration Fellows.