The Graduate School has long recognized that many students see the job market beyond academia as the most promising and desirable career pathway. This trend was accelerated as the recent economic downturn led to abrupt changes to the academic job market. To help graduate students who are beginning to think about career pathways, the Graduate School, in partnership with Career Services, has created a series of panel discussions to connect students with alumni who have made that transition to successful careers beyond academia.
The panels are organized around a specific career area rather than academic discipline and feature alumni who have earned degrees in a variety of fields. This is meant to show students they have a broader range of career choices than what is traditionally dictated by their field of study. They can attain their goals in a number of ways.
The first panel discussion was held in October on careers in public policy. Future panel topics include health sciences, education and entrepreneurship.
As the panel moderator, Graduate School Dean Scott Adler guides the discussion to questions that students have about their careers, the job market and life after graduate school.
“This changed quite dramatically in the last nine months with the pandemic, the downturn in the economy, and the bottom dropping out of the academic job market,” Adler said. “We want students to know there are some great opportunities for them outside of academia. We have always had resources for students interested in careers outside academia but we wanted to add more to our offerings by connecting them with our alumni who can give them some insights about the training and knowledge they might want to acquire while still here at CU.”
While Graduate School professors are very familiar with the academic job cycle and how to speak to other academics, a different approach might be needed when seeking jobs outside academia, said Cat Diebel-Wilson, program manager for Graduate Student Career Services.
“You need to express yourself differently when you’re applying for jobs outside academia,” she said. “That’s why these panels with experienced professionals are so important. We are helping students to package themselves in a way that can be different from how they would package themselves for a teaching or research job.”
Advisors in Career Services keep abreast of what is happening in the world and the most effective job search strategies now.
“The average job search takes six to nine months, and that’s not taking into account COVID-19, which has made finding work more difficult. Any time the job market shrinks, landing a job becomes harder for applicants,” Diebel-Wilson said.
Her advice: Don’t panic. Grad students have many resources to help them navigate the stages of applying for jobs inside and outside of academia.
“Every student is different,” Diebel-Wilson said. “Every student has a different goal in mind, is coming from a different starting place with a unique set of education and experiences. I’m not here to make them take another path. I’m here to support them on the path they’re taking. I’m moving with them through that process, whatever form that takes.”