Faculty/Staff Resources

Funding to support career development initiatives

The Career Ally: Mentorship for Graduate Students’ Professional Development

Graduate alumni are finding markets for their skills in many lines of work. How can mentors support graduate students as they discern what career path is right for them?

  • At the time of recruitment and throughout the program, ask students open-ended questions that don’t presume a specific career path: “What might you like to do after you complete your degree?”  
  • Refer to careers in the plural. Notice where graduates of your program work and mention a variety of career outcomes to current students. Consider working with your colleagues to have a collection of diverse alumni career outcomes displayed on your department’s website.   
  • Encourage students to develop an Individual Development Plan, which helps them clarify the steps toward their career goals. These tools support each stage of developing the plan: 
    •  ImaginePhD - a general tool for people in any field, especially useful for social scientists, humanists, and artists; a more conceptual approach 
    •  myIDP - designed to serve scientists and others with technical skills; a more linear approach 
  • Talk with them regularly about their plan. Remind students that the plan will evolve as the student gains additional skills and insight into themselves and the career path(s) of interest to them. 
  • Name the broad and transferable set of skills students are developing in their graduate program. Writing, project planning, organizing data, and other skills learned in graduate school have value.  You may also consider consulting alumni who have translated their advanced degrees to diverse careers – this can help ensure that you are communicating a comprehensive list.   
  • Encourage students to pursue and document projects and extracurricular accomplishments (such as leadership and community service) as well as academic publications.  The IDP (see above) can be a great tool for recording these. 
  • Talk to students non-judgmentally about what parts of their work they like and what parts they don’t. Use that reflection to help them think about lines of work they might enjoy. Being strategically honest with them about your own work experiences might help spark ideas and contribute to an open dialogue.   
  • Your college’s career office will have resources to support students. 
  • Students can find mentors working in their field of interest through informational interviewing or attending professional meetings in that field. 
  • Students can look for Career Allies: faculty, staff, alumni of their programs, and others who are willing to discuss career paths.  
  • Demonstrate your investment in your student by listening with interest, without judgement, and by connecting them with resources and opportunities.  
  • Your department may have compiled resources for both students, faculty and staff to draw upon.  If not, it may be worthwhile to generate a shared document or a webpage for career resources you’ve vetted.  

This Career Ally guide was developed by Addie Cheney and Danielle Fosler-Lussier as part of a partnership between the Imagined Futures Initiative of the Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme and the ASC Center for Career and Professional Success.