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Faculty Toolkit: Supporting Graduate Career Development

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Faculty and staff play a powerful and transformative role in helping GSAS students and postdocs achieve professional confidence and success. This guide highlights some of the ways you can support your graduate students as they engage in career planning and professional development while at Yale, so that they achieve meaningful, rewarding careers after Yale.

We welcome opportunities to build collaborations with faculty and departments, and invite your comments and suggestions for new programming and employer development.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to explore ways we can work together to provide the highest level of diverse career support to your students. 

  • Hyun Ja Shin, Director of Graduate and Postdoctoral Career Services
  • Brian Frenette, Senior Associate Director of Graduate and Postdoctoral Career Services

FAQ: Encourage completion of Individual Development Plans

The Office of Career Strategy and the Graduate School strongly recommend that all PhD students, whether they are planning careers in academia or beyond the professoriate, complete an Individual Development Plan (IDP) in the second or third year of their program with the support of their faculty mentors. An IDP is a personalized tool that students can use to evaluate values and interests, identify gaps in professional skills, assess potential career options, clarify expectations, and create realistic goals and timelines. By providing a structured framework for establishing and prioritizing professional goals and constructing actionable strategies to achieve them, IDPs can raise student productivity and enhance student-faculty communications.  

MyIDP, ImaginePhD, and ChemIDP are free online IDPs that offer a wealth of resources for self-assessment, career education, and goal-setting. To learn more about these tools and additional support available to students completing IDPs, see Individual Development Plans for GSAS Students and Postdocs.

FAQ: Embrace inclusive language that supports career diversity

A graduate student’s career decision is the result of their personal interests, values, and constraints or circumstances. In a recent report, the Council of Graduate Schools recommends careful consideration of language that reflects support for diversity in career choice.  Endeavor to choose terminology that embraces the broad range of career options open to graduate students, rather than presenting a binary choice between faculty careers and all other careers.  Some examples of inclusive language suggested by the Council of Graduate Schools include:

Instead of: Try:
non-academic careers, alt-academic careers careers beyond the professoriate, humanities careers, STEM careers
the job market job markets, the academic job market
back-up plan career of choce, career pathways, broad options
job placement next position, first destination

For more tips on using inclusive language and having career conversations with students, see Starting the Conversation with Students (Connected Academics, Modern Language Association) and Promising Practices in Humanities PhD Professional Development:  Lessons Learned from the the 2016-2017 Next Generation Humanities PhD Consortium by the Council of Graduate Schools (login required; see Figure 1).

FAQ: Communicate the broad versatility of PhD training

PhD students will often assert that they are not equipped for any profession outside of the professoriate. To the contrary, doing a PhD equips students not only with specialized expertise in their discipline, but with a host of skills that are relevant to any career. These skills include:

  • Research and information management
  • Written and oral communications
  • Management of complex, long-term projects
  • Problem-solving
  • Leadership, independent thinking and initiative
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • The ability to deal with ambiguity

By helping students to recognize and evaluate these skills, faculty can strengthen their sense of empowerment as they consider options and develop a professional narrative. To learn more about transferable skills and ways PhD students can further develop them while at Yale, see Transferable Skills and Resume Writing for Humanities PhDs and our tips on professional narratives.

FAQ:  Support professional development 

All students will benefit by investing in the development of transferable professional skills, regardless of their next career step.  Project management experience gained as a student organization leader or McDougal Fellow will be equally valuable to a research career in the lab as it will be to a corporate career, for example. Encourage graduate students to take advantage of the many ways at Yale they can invest in their professional advancement:

FAQ:  Inform students of ways to learn about diverse careers

At Yale, students interested in exploring careers beyond the academy have an extensive portfolio of resources and programming available to them. To get them started, refer students to the following:

Many campus organizations around Yale offer additional opportunities to engage with practitioners and learn from alums; for a non-exhaustive list, see Exploring Careers on the OCS website. Students can keep informed of upcoming events by signing up for center newsletters, reading the weekly OCS newsletter and reviewing the OCS event calendar for GSAS students and postdocs.

FAQ: Promote Office of Career Strategy resources

The Office of Career Strategy’s staff of 18 collaborate to support students in Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, postdoctoral scholars, and alums as they explore career options and navigate every stage of a job search outside of the academy.  

In addition, six McDougal Career Fellows serve as liaisons between academic departments and OCS to help inform GSAS students, postdocs, and faculty about the many career-related resources and programs available campus-wide. Learn more about our Grad Career Liaisons and how they can help your department (login with your Yale NetID required).

Other key OCS offerings are:

Graduate students can reserve advising appointments and register for events through the Yale Career Link

To learn more about OCS resources and services, see Top Five Resources to Share with Your Students.

FAQ: Invite the Office of Career Strategy to your department or class

OCS welcomes opportunities to work with faculty and departments to support the career development of Yale graduate students, regardless of career path.  Consider inviting OCS to:

  • Provide an introduction to OCS services at your new student orientation.
  • Conduct one or more career workshops for your graduate students: OCS offers workshops by request on a variety of topics related to career exploration and preparation for the job search, and can customize the format and content according to your needs.  Review topics and request a workshop.
  • Give a brief overview of OCS services and resources at a department faculty meeting.

We are happy to explore other ways to collaborate with faculty to help graduate students obtain the guidance they need to achieve career success. Please contact Hyun Ja Shin, Director of Graduate and Postdoctoral Career Services.

Additional Reading 

Data on Career Outcomes