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STEM Peer Professionalization Group

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The OCS STEM Peer Professionalization Group (PPG) is a peer mentoring program, which pairs small groups of graduate students from STEM-related fields who are interested in actively developing their professional and career plans. This program combines monthly small group meetings with large on-campus and off-campus events each semester to provide a format that is flexible for the busy schedule of graduate students.



  • Consistently engage graduate students in career and professional development activities 
  • Increase communication, networking, and resource/knowledge sharing amongst graduate students
  • Advance students’ career preparedness and skills, including career awareness, professional narratives, informational interviewing, networking, and more
  • Provide a format that is both flexible and effective
  • Increase the awareness of the career resources around campus

Expected Outcomes

  • Self-assessment of skills, interests, and values
  • Identified career interests and goals
  • Abilities and opportunities to build up your peer and professional social networks
  • Interview and job application skills
  • Confidence to tackle the non-academic job market

Quote: Voices from PPG members 2018-2019

"Having a small group of like-minded individuals to bounce things off of was the best part of this program. It made not knowing what I want to do after Yale feel more okay."

"Our group is very supportive and I feel very comfortable sharing confusion, experience, questions, and thoughts with my group members."

"We were very well matched in terms of interests. In fact, we formed a team for the YGCC (Yale Graduate Consulting Club) case competition (with 2 other people outside our group) and won!"

After completing the program, ALL members participated in the satisfaction survey said they prefer to work in a group than individually!

How it Works

  • One Topic of Focus for each month, through September to December during the fall semester
  • The Topic of Focus for each month will be released on this webpage, and simultaneously through emails, OCS Twitter and Facebook accounts
  • ~1 hour of individual activities related to each month’s topic, to be completed before peer group meeting
  • ~1 hour peer professionalization group meeting with additional group activities and discussion
  • Attend at least 2 additional workshop, career lab, panels, treks, or other career related activity per semester, preferrably with group members

How to Sign Up and be Matched in a Group

  • Sign-up through this link by August 23rd to be added to a group. 
  • Group members will be matched based on the following criteria in order: location on campus, career interest.
  • A point of contact person is designated upon group formation. The point of contact is mainly responsible for scheduling small group meetings and logging monthly activity.

Program Outline

  • September: Self-assessment & transferable skills
  • October: Building your professional narrative & networking
  • November: Informational interviewing
  • December: Making a plan for career exploration

Topic of the Month

Follow along with our STEM PPG program each month here!

FAQ: September: Self-Assessments and Transferable Skills

Objective: To utilize self-assessment resources designed for PhDs to explore career families

Individual Activities

  1. Complete myIDP and/or ImaginePhD self-assessments for skills, interests, and values.
  2. Choose 1 or 2 career families that you would like to explore. You can explore these careers directly on the IDP webistes, on LinkedIn, or on VersatilePhD.
  3. Identify specific roles within this career family for further exploration.
    1. What responsibilities do they have? What skills do they require?
    2. What about these jobs do you like? Dislike?
  4. Some of the skills used in this job may not be directly related to your research, but are skills that you practice throughout your PhD that are transferable to non-academic positions and are also known as transferable skills.
    1. What transferable skills are important in this career family?
    2. Think of an experience from your graduate school experience in which you practiced one such transferable skill. Be prepared to discuss this with your group.

Group Activities

  1. Discuss the results of your assessments:
    1. What career families did you match with based on your self-assessment? Were you familiar with these careers?
    2. What career family/roles did you choose to further explore? Why?
  2. Share what you learned from exploring careers you matched with.
    1. What kind of experience(s) & skill(s) are employers looking for in the positions you searched? Are any of these transferable skills?
    2. Have you/can you work on these skills during your PhD training? Are there other resources here at Yale you can utilize to gain this experience?
  3. Brainstorm a list of transferable skills that are applicable to your career family and examples where you practiced or demonstrated these skills. This will be especially useful for developing your professional narrative and your resume.

FAQ: October: Building your Professional Narrative

Objective: To practice and prepare to effectively network, especially with individuals currently working in a role you might be interested in

Individual Activities

  1. Review OCS resources on networking and professional narratives
    1. Networking
    2. Telling your Story
    3. Your Professional Narrative
    4. Professional Online Identity
  2. Brainstorm the image you hope to convey while networking. Are you an entrepreneur? An excellent communicator? How can you weave this into your narrative?
  3. Complete this worksheet to prepare some content for your elevator pitch
  4. Create/update your LinkedIn account with your current role, interests, and career goals. Connect with your colleagues.
  5. Explore the Yale Career Network (YCN) database of alumni
    1. What is the YCN?
    2. Create an account/log in here. In a few days, you should receive a link to activate your account. You will need this for next month’s activities.
    3. Use the advanced search to find alumni working in a career you’re interested in learning more about. You can search for alumni with a PhD, alumni from your department, or alumni working in a specific career of interest

Group Activities

  1. Discuss tips and strategies for effective networking. We know that networking is an essential part of career development, but it can often be a challenge. Do you have any strategies that have helped you in the past?
  2. Work on developing your professional narrative. You have thought about what you’d like to convey about yourself, and hopefully written this out on the worksheet linked above. Now it’s time to think about how to convey it!
    1. Opening: What year are you? What do you study? What are your career interests?
    2. Motivation: Why are you interested Job X or Industry Y?
    3. Accomplishments & Transferable  Skills: What progress have you made in your current role? What transferable skills (that are important for the job you are interested in) have you gained through your research or other activities (such as science outreach experience, or volunteering) during your time at Yale?
    4. Supporting Experiences: How have you further developed these transferable skills?
    5. Closing: How are these experiences preparing you for your position of interest? How does this relate to the person you’re currently speaking with?
  3. Practice sharing your professional narrative. The more you practice, the more confident you will feel sharing your narrative when meeting new people! This will be important for next month’s topic: informational interviewing.

FAQ: November: Informational Interviewing

Objective: To learn more about specific roles within your career family of interest by conducting informational interviews with Yale alumni or other contacts. Informational interviews are a great place to establish a new connection and learn more about a particular career path, an alum’s career transitions, skills that are valuable to a job, or any other topics that will help you make informed decisions. Informational interviews should not be used to get a job or ask about job openings, and we recommend that you do not attach a resume.

Individual Activities

  1. Review the OCS resources on informational interviewing
    1. Informational Interviewing
    2. Professional Correspondence
  2. Select 2-3 alumni from the Yale Career Network (YCN) working in a career that you are interested in. Alumni on YCN have already agreed that they are willing to talk with current Yale students about careers! You may select alumni that did their PhD in the same department as you, share your undergraduate alma mater, and/or are working in a job/company that you are excited about using the Advanced Search.
  3. Write a draft of an email to the alumni where you:
    1. Introduce yourself
    2. Explain why you are contacting them (to set up an informational interview) and why you selected them (they are working in a job you are interested in learning more about!)
    3. Ask if there is a time they are available to chat on the phone for 20-30 minutes about their career
    4. Thank them for their time
  4. OCS has sample emails online, which can be found here.  
  5. Brainstorm questions you would like to ask the alumni when you speak with them
  6. You can also explore the OCS Alumni Spotlights to learn more about GSAS & PostDoc alumni who have found fulfilling career outside of academia to learn more and identify alumni to connect with. 

Group Activities

  1. Discuss any prior experiences with informational interview.
    1. Has anyone previously conducted an informational interview?
    2. If so, what was this experience like for you? What questions did you ask? What did you learn?
  2. Discuss who you chose to email and why you chose them. Is there something specific you are hoping to learn from each individual? Are you exploring multiple career paths?
    1. In the unlikely event that multiple people chose the same alumni, please decide on one person to email them
  3. Read and review emails drafts. Make any appropriate edits. Double check your spelling and grammar!
  4. When you’re happy with your emails, return to YCN and find your alumni. Click on the “Interested” button at the bottom of the alumni’s profile. This will open a dialogue box for you to copy and paste your message. When you’re ready, click send!
    1. If you don’t receive a response within a week or two, you may also try to connect with the alumni on LinkedIn.

FAQ: December: Making a Plan for Career Exploration

Objective: To reflect on your informational interview(s) and career development experiences, and to generate a plan to prepare yourself to be a strong job candidate

Individual Activities

  1. Conduct your informational interviews
    1. Remember the professional narrative you practiced earlier this year
    2. Have a list of questions in mind that will help you learn more about the career you’re interested in
    3. Keep an ear out for any places you might be of help to the person you’re meeting with (Did you recently read an article or hear a podcast that might be relevant to them? Do you have contacts that they might like to talk with?)
    4. Follow up with an email to thank the person you spoke with. Confirm any follow-up plans by email
  2. Reflect on what you learned in the informational interview, and throughout this program.
    1. Is there a career or role that you are excited about? Are there other people you can talk with to learn more?
    2. What skills are required in this role? Which of these do you feel are currently some of your strengths?
    3. Are there any gaps that you can work on in the next few years?
  3. Brainstorm activities you can get involved with to close any gaps you might have
    1. Are there groups/positions on campus you can get involved with?
    2. Are there external opportunities you can seek out?

Group Activities

  1. Share what you learned in your informational interviews. This is an opportunity to share the experiences and knowledge of the alumni you talked to with your group and to hear about their experiences in return.
    1. Who did you talk with? When did they graduate from Yale? What do they do now?
    2. What did you learn about this role (and related roles)?
    3. What surprised you the most about this role?
    4. How do you plan to keep track of your contacts and follow up with them? Will you use written notes or a typed document to record important details from your conversations?
  2. Recap each group member’s career exploration
    1. Did you have any thoughts of what careers you might be interested when you came into this program?
    2. How have your thoughts changed over this year?
    3. Is there one career that stands out to you?
    4. What skills might you need to work on to be a strong candidate for this role? How can you do that? As a group, brainstorm activities each member can get involved with to work on skills they might need
  3. Create a written/typed career plan with SMART goals
    1. What (3) skills do you hope to obtain by the time of your graduation that will make you a stronger candidate for a job you’re interested in?
    2. How do you plan to practice those skills? What clubs or activities can you participate in?
    3. What steps will you need to take along the way?
    4. How will you monitor your progress?

Program Resources

  • Program guidebook, provided to PPG members upon enrollment
  • Career Strategy Workbook GSAS Rubics and Worksheet
  • Registered PPG members will receive an invitation to a Slack Group for real time updates on career and professional development activities and opportunities available to Yale students

Tip: Tips

  • Scheduling group meetings: the best practice is to set a recurring date monthly that works for everyone (e.g. 4-5 pm the last Monday afternoon every month).
  • Group leadership and cooperation: point of contact is responsible for holding the group together, but defenitively every group member's commitment and enthusiasm is the key to make the most out of this program.
  • Group communication: face-to-face meetings are strongly preferred. However, if occassionaly geographic limits come in the way, Zoom is recommended to facilitate small group meetings.

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