Navigating your early-stage PhD

Navigating the course of your PhD - the early years

Early years

Mid-stage

Final Years

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Penn provides great access to world-class faculty advisors, online and library resources, a wide-network of Penn alumni, and an array of student services to help you be successful. This page provides some guidance on how you can effectively navigate the early years of your doctoral experience at Penn. You can find suggestions for some of the key milestones you can aim for to build a solid foundation for your future career exploration and job applications. Make an appointment with a Career Advisor to help you understand why these are important, how you can reach these milestones, and how we can help you along the way.


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Career Services

  • Attend Career Services' Insider's Guide to Graduate Education at Penn. Find more details about this and other programs on our calendar.  
  • Begin developing your CV. Attend a CV writing workshop and explore our online CV resources to get you started. 
  • Learn about Career Services resources, programs and services and meet with a career advisor to get an overview. 
  • Sign-up for a Career Services email listserv to get announcements about programs, networking events, job postings and other professional development opportunities. 
  • Seek internships and other experiential opportunities. Utilize resources such as iNet and many of the Career Fairs.
  • Attend discussion panels on career opportunities, and seek out all opportunities to interact with the wide diversity of employers coming to the Penn campus each semester. 
  • Utilize Career Services library resources and investigate different career options. 
  • Use assessment tools to learn more about your interests, values, and motivated skills.

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Your department

  • Attend department orientations, training sessions, and all other events put on at the beginning of your PhD to help orient you to the resources and people who will be able to support you for the next 5 or more years. Career Services regularly attends orientations to talk about the resources we offer.
  • Attend school/departmental training for TA's and gain experience as a teaching assistant. Get to know faculty members, and get faculty to know you and your teaching by having them attend your class and discuss your practices. This is valuable for your own professional networking and development, and will help in the future as these faculty may be able to write stronger letters of recommendation for you.
  • Seek experience overseeing undergraduate research. Most employers will eventually be looking for evidence that you have leadership qualities, communication skills, and the ability to manage others.
  • If you are involved with research that may have industry applications, you can begin to build industry contacts early on through your networking.
  • Attend career presentations organized by your department/group, and also sit in on job talks given by prospective faculty members applying for faculty jobs at Penn. Talk to faculty in your department about which job talks they liked and why.
  • Plan your course of study with your advisor.

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On your own

  • Read The Chronicle of Higher Education regularly.You will learn a lot about the changing landscape of academia, and will expose yourself to alternative ideas relevant to your future career.
  • Scientists and engineers should start becoming familiar with online resources (e.g., ScienceCareers) that explore the diversity of career opportunities available, and keep track of changing trends in the field. Once you have settled in to the Penn academic environment, scientists and engineers should also explore MyIDP to develop their own individual development plan.
  • If you find yourself struggling with the demands of graduate school, motivation issues, working under your potential, relationship/family demands, and other stresses, set up an appointment with someone at CAPS.
  • Set-up your LinkedIn account, and get some feedback from a career advisor on your profile and how you can use this networking tool to your advantage throughout your time at Penn.

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Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS)

  • CAPS offers free and confidential services to all Penn undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
  • Explore all of the support services that CAPS has to offer. Many graduate students have found these services to be helpful in managing the demands of a PhD program.
  • See if there are support groups (e.g., Graduate Women's Group) that can offer you an opportunity to make meaningful connections with your peers at Penn.
  • Take advantage of CAPS Career Testing Services - ask a CAPS or Career Services advisor for more information.

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Graduate Student Center

  • Explore the various resources that the Graduate Student Center has to offer that have been developed just for graduate students.
  • Connect with the Grad Center via weekly e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • Attend Grad Center's Navigating the Classroom, Dissertation and Grant programs, and participate in the diverse talks and presentations offered through the Grad Center.
  • Connect with peers from many departments within the Grad Center, drink coffee, and use this as a helpful networking experience you can use as practice for all of the networking you will be doing in the future..
  • International Students: improve your English at language chats, and explore the other resources focused on the international student experience.

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Student governance

  • Connect with peers from many departments, and explore opportunities at SASgov and GAPSA to use a wide variety of leadership, communication, and management skills that will be sought after by your future employers.
  • Learn about the organization of the University, and contribute your ideas and perspectives relevant to graduate students.
  • Sign up for the GAPSA listserv to get updates on University policies.
  • Serve on a University Committee via GAPSA.

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Student career groups

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Libraries

  • Attend an orientation during your first semester.
  • Learn about workshops offered by the libraries across campus.
  • Speak to your department librarian or staff members from the other librarians to learn about many of the new electronic resources and tools available to you that can help you in your research.

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Center for Teaching & Learning (CTL)

  • Explore the many resources that the CTL can provide you to help you become a more effective teacher.
  • Attend teaching workshops, arrange to have a class observed, or visit for a consultation to develop teaching skills and the ability to talk confidently about teaching.
  • Begin to develop your teaching portfolio that will eventually be necessary for job applications for some faculty positions.
  • Consider pursuing the CTL Teaching Certificate.

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Weingarten Learning Resources Center

  • Explore the many academic support services and resources that the Weingarten Learning Resources Center can offer graduate students.
  • Make an appointment to develop a system of time management that will balance your academic, professional, and social commitments.
  • Reflect on your learning style and study methods and develop additional reading, writing and study strategies.
  • Extend preparation strategies for Comprehensive and First Year exams.
  • International Students: Attend the Academic Plus workshops to develop academic reading, writing, discussion, and listening skills.

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Writing Center

  • Explore the various resources and services provided to graduate students by the Marks Family Writing Center.
  • Make an appointment to get guidance and feedback on any stage of your writing.

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International Student & Scholar Services

  • F-1 and J-1 International Students: attend orientation programs to meet other students and to get information from ISSS staff about the visa considerations that might affect the professional development and career paths open to you in the future.
  • Check the ISSS website regularly for important updates and events.
  • If you would like to work in the U.S. prior to beginning your dissertation, then review relevant information on the ISSS website and consult an ISSS advisor to discuss your options.

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