Professional Development

By definition, professional development prepares you for your next steps in your career. However, PhD students have goals ranging from academia (whether that means becoming a faculty member or not) to government work, to non-profits, to the private sector. It is each student's responsibility to seek and identify the professional opportunities that align with their own goals and anticipated career trajectory. Someone interested in becoming a faculty member, for example, likely needs to focus on teaching, research, and service. Someone interested in working exclusively in a lab may have different goals.

In other words, because professional development is specific to the individual, it's challenging to talk about in general terms. Additionally, you must have an idea of where you want your career to take you before you can create a plan that will get you there. Consider a variety of factors (some of which may require research on your part), including:

  • What you are good at and what you enjoy (these are not always the same thing!)
  • What jobs are available that capitalize on your strengths
  • Where in the country/world those jobs are available and whether you are willing to live there
  • How much those jobs pay and whether you can live on that salary
  • What other goals you have for your life and whether the job you are considering will facilitate or hinder your pursuit of those goals

It's quite a lot to consider! Remember also that while almost everyone is willing to give advice, most people tend to give advice from their own perspective, which may or may not be relevant to your goals. Identifying a professional mentor whose career trajectory inspires you and finding out how they achieved their goals is one way to seek advice that pertains to your situation.

Graduate Education Information & Resources

There are over 13,000 graduate students (and counting!) at Arizona State University. Graduate Education provides a variety of professional development opportunities to graduate students, whether their end goal is academia or industry:

  • Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) and Scholars:  PFF is a nationally recognized professional development program for doctoral and MFA students, as well as postdocs, interested in pursuing a faculty position upon graduation or completion. In addition, training is available for students who are interested in careers outside of academia.
  • Diversity at ASU: At the core of our mission is a commitment to the belief that multiple perspectives and experiences are essential to a university education
  • Academic Integrity: Also see CLAS resources on academic integrity
  • The Versatile PhD: a web-based resource for members of the graduate community at Arizona State University who are interested in exploring non-academic career options
  • Meet your Library Contact: Mimmo Bonanni is a cross-disciplinary SHESC librarian. 

External Resources for those Considering the Academy

For those with their heart set on working at a college or university, there are many resources available. Students should obviously read journals, attend conferences, and subscribe to listservs that are relevant to their field. There are many of these, and your faculty mentor may be one of the best sources of recommendations. Listservs, especially, often contain calls for proposals (CFPs) for journals and edited collections as well as job announcements. Also consider the following:

  • social networking for academics
  • LinkedIn: social networking for professionals of all kinds (check out the groups!)
  • Vitae: aimed at researchers inside and outside the academy
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE): a sort of national newspaper for academics available in print and online (ASU subscribes so if you access through the library's link you'll get all content). Check out the forums and the job ads as well!
  • Inside Higher Ed: another online newspaper for academics
  • PhD Comics (Piled Higher and Deeper): a sarcastic take on graduate student life

Your fellow graduate students will be your colleagues throughout your professional career. Think in terms of long-term connections and strive to keep in touch with individuals who may have an impact on your career. Making an effort to keep in touch before you need help will put you in a better position to ask when you do need it!

External Resources for those Considering Non-Academic Positions

The majority of academic disciplines create more PhDs than there are tenure-track jobs available. However, not everyone with a PhD is interested in the tenure track in any case. Advanced degrees provide many transferable skills that are useful outside the academy, so becoming a faculty member is not the only reason to pursue the degree. Careers off the tenure track are often referred to as "post-ac" or "alt-ac" (post-academic or alternative academic).

No matter how supportive your committee is about your career goals, it may be difficult for many faculty (who have only ever had traditional academic positions) to guide you through the job-search process if you determine the tenure track is not for you. Fortunately, in today's increasingly online and interconnected world, the experiences of those who have made the leap before you are at your fingertips! Here is a selection of resources available:

  • ASU Career and Professional Development Services: this resource is available during your student career and even after graduation.
  • Jobs on Toast (see their guide to career coaches)
  • The Versatile PhD: aims to help humanities and social science graduate students and PhDs identify, prepare for and excel in non-academic careers. As noted above, ASU has a premium subscription for graduate students, so that link will provide you with the most resources.
  • PhDs at Work: provides real-life accounts from PhDs about what it is like to work in a variety of industries
  • Lilli Research Group: provides career coaching for PhDs, but has lots of free resources
  • From PhD to Life: a blog by a career coach who works with PhDs
  • Beyond Academia: a career education conference that exposes UC Berkeley PhD students and postdocs to career options outside of academia, but with lots of resources and a blog