Published: April 30, 2018 By

Cat Wilson (left) and Alaina Nickerson (right) from Career Services help graduate students and postdoctoral researchers develop a career path.

Cat Wilson (left) and Alaina Nickerson (right) from Career Services help graduate students and postdoctoral researchers develop a career path.

Some graduate students may be overlooking an important service at CU Boulder when they begin their job search. Career Services works with graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to assist in their career development and help them reach their career goals. 

Career Services offers career exploration, including helping students understand their strengths, values and interests as they research their options in the work world. To help students uncover that information, Career Services conducts assessments and uses coaching techniques to help students get clear about what they want from their career.

Taruni Muruganandan, a computer science graduate student, had just begun looking for opportunities in computer science, software engineering and data science. With no industrial experience, she realized she needed to start her job search early. She turned to Career Services for help.

She scheduled the earliest appointment available with a career counselor, to help review and tailor her résumé for the jobs she was interested in.

“For someone with no idea of where to start, this gave a clear direction,” she said. “I had a résumé, which was raw and had everything needed to get a job, but there is a knack to putting it in the right way. Now I know how to change my résumé and format my cover letter, just by reading the job description.”

Once students make a decision on what they’re interested in, Career Services advisors help graduate students gain self-awareness in a way that bolsters their confidence regarding their job search or career exploration process by providing training and strategies to help them prepare for their job search.

Advisors help students with the job application process, including reviewing résumé and cover letters, providing feedback, mock interviewing, networking and salary negotiation.

“Grad students already have a great deal of expertise in what they’re doing,” said Cat Wilson, graduate student career development advisor. “What Career Services can provide is someone who has expertise in what we do so that we can work together to get their job search and documents in the best shape. Because we’re not locked into thinking about their degree in a specific way, we can provide outside-the-box suggestions that open them up to the world of possibilities for their education and skill set.”

As a multifaceted resource, Career Services offers a battery of services to meet the specific needs of graduate students. Instead of students needing to wade through myriad options as far as career opportunities in industry, Career Services helps students identify what kind of work will be uniquely meaningful to them.

“A student can come in having no idea of what they want,” said Alaina Nickerson, assistant director for graduate students with Career Services.

“Or they can come in with a very clear idea, but they need help with the process,” she said. “When grad students have been in academia for so long, one of the major pieces we can provide if they are going into industry are orientations on how hiring works outside of academia.”

Time is crucial for students to build their professional network outside the university. They have guidance from faculty advisors about how to network in academia. If they’re thinking about a transition into industry, students also need to begin building those networks well before they graduate.

Career development services offered:

  • Career advising and assessments
  • Interview preparation
  • Networking strategies
  • CV and résumé review

“My advice for graduate students is that there are many options for their career path,” Nickerson said. “Diving in early and regularly to processes for clarifying their goals and building their professional networks is essential. Answers about where they want to end up ultimately come from the individual, so owning that process throughout their time at CU sets a student up for fulfilling work once their time as a student comes to a close.”

Muruganandan agrees.

“I recommend going to Career Services, as they are extremely helpful and friendly,” she said. “Career services and résumé writers elsewhere cost a huge amount of money and this is certainly an affordable and convenient option. I would suggest that you do come over as soon as you can and get a good early start.”