Navigating your mid-stage PhD

Navigating the course of your PhD - the middle years

Early years

Mid-stage

Final Years

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During the mid-stage of your PhD, you will have settled into the academic schedule of your particular discipline, and you will be thinking very carefully about the specifics of your future research at Penn. Now that you are more settled, it is a great time to be expanding your professional networks within academia and beyond. The professional connections you can make now may play a significant role in your future career success. Without the pressure of needing to find a job, the mid-stage of your PhD is also a great time to be exploring more fully the wide range of career fields available to you once you graduate. Connecting with PhD alumni who work within and outside of academia will help give you the information you need. Make an appointment with a career advisor to help you make the most of the many networking opportunities available to you at Penn.


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Career Services

  • Purchase The Academic Job Search Handbook ($10 for Penn PhD students and postdocs).
  • Attend workshops and panels on applying for jobs and postdocs. See our calendar for more details. Remember to keep your career options as open as possible during the mid-stage of your PhD, as your career goals may still change over the next few years. Attend some alternative career programs to explore these opportunities.
  • Meet with a career advisor to discuss your plans. You can schedule an appointment by calling 215 898 7530. 
  • Review our website to learn more about other potential career paths and relevant resources for non-faculty positions.
  • Use PACNet (Penn Alumni Career Network) to find alums to talk to while researching career fields. 
  • Attend presentations by employers. These are often associated with the On-Campus Recruiting process, but you do not have to be involved in OCR to attend many of these presentations.

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Your department

  • Begin attending conferences in your field (GAPSA provides travel funds). 
  • Participate in the hiring process for any new candidates for faculty positions in your department. Attend their job talks.
  • Discuss your career plans with your advisor.
  • Scientists should begin researching postdoctoral options. A good way to do this is to network with researcher in your fields at other institutions where you might like to continue with your research post-graduation. Begin to think about funding resources for your postdocs. In many cases, you would need to apply 6-10 months in advance.
  • Develop your publications. Whether these are evidence of your research abilities or your communication skills, a good publication list will always be an advantage.
  • Try to locate former students in your program who have left the academy and talk to them about their experiences. 
  • Talk to faculty with contacts outside of academia to expand your network of contacts further.

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On your own

  • Update your LinkedIn profile. Information you might want to add could included courses you have taken, research you have completed, published papers, conference/symposium presentations, and any new skills you have developed.
  • Join your scholarly association. Speak to faculty members about which might be the best fit for your research topic. View the CVs of other academics to see which associations appear on theirs.
  • Open an Interfolio file and request recommendation letters from professors - especially if your advisors are busy with research and often out of the office/country.
  • Your research will become more intense over the coming years, and oftentimes more solitary. 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.
  • Join the Versatile PhD discussion forum and connect with peers exploring the expanded job market. 
  • Have you explored the Center for Tech Transfer Fellows Program?

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Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS)

  • See if there are support groups that can help you overcome challenges with your motivation to work on your research and dissertation.
  • Remember, the services that CAPS offers for graduate students are always free and confidential.
  • Take advantage of CAPS Career Testing Services - ask a CAPS or Career Services advisor for more information.
  • Attend Career Development Workshops. These are advertized through the Career Services listservs, and can be found on our calendar.

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Graduate Student Center

  • There is always coffee at the Graduate Student Center, but that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the many resources available to graduate students through this center.
  • Find out what is available for you by connecting 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.
  • Take advantage of two matching services coordinated by the Graduate Student Center: Dissertation Groups and Peer2Peer Grant Advice.
  • Talking about your specific research and your broader skills and interests will becoming increasingly important as you move towards the final stages of your PhD. Take all opportunities to improve your English. Look at the services offered by the Graduate Student Center for international students.

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Student governance

  • Ready to serve? Join SASgov or GAPSA to demonstrate leadership, communication, and management skills that will be sought after by your future employers.
  • Gain valuable skills organizing meetings and conferences, serving on committees and overseeing budgets.
  • Get a GAPSA travel grant to support your research, or for funding your student organization. Application information and due dates can be found here.

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Student career groups

  • Attend meetings and play an active role in any projects and committees. Your experience can be very useful when transferring your CV to a resume.
  • Hold office and develop leadership skills. These experiences will provide you with information about what type of work and work environment you might like once you finish your PhD.

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Libraries

  • Make an appointment with a reference librarian to discuss your evolving research needs. Having an effective way of keeping your literature searches organized and easily accessible/searchable will help you be more efficient in your research and your writing. Librarians can help you identify the right tools for the job.

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Center for Teaching & Learning (CTL)

  • If you see yourself in any sort of teaching environment as a professional, then continue to explore the many resources that the CTL provides.
  • 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. Having your teaching videotaped and critiqued can be an extremely helpful exercise, and is highly recommended.
  • Set aside time to pursue the CTL Teaching Certificate.
  • Polish your presentation skills.
  • Begin to finalize a teaching philosophy that represents your perspectives and approaches.

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Weingarten Learning Resources Center

  • The Weingarten Learning Resources Center offers graduate students a wide diversity of resources to help in your professional development and skill acquisition.
  • 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.
  • Take advantage of services and workshops to improve your writing.

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Writing Center

  • The Marks Family Writing Center can provide resources to help with the different styles of writing used in academic work, job applications, and more.
  • Make an appointment to get guidance and feedback on your writing.

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International Student & Scholar Services

  • Are you familiar with the rules about On-Campus Employment, Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), and the options to apply for the STEM extension for OPT? You'll find up-to-date, relevant information on the ISSS website.
  • If you'd like to work in the U.S. prior to beginning your dissertation, review relevant information on the ISSS website and consult an ISSS advisor to discuss your options.

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