Reflect

Taking time to reflect on and understand your work values, skills, and interests allows you to pursue a career that is meaningful, challenging, and rewarding before you launch into a job search. Check out some of our digitial resources at Penn and beyond to begin exploring careers.

What's On This Page?

Digital Resources | What Are Your Work Values? | What Are Your Skills? | What Are Your Interests?
Action Steps Checklist
| FAQs

Digital Resources

The resources listed below have been invaluable to PhDs and postdocs exploring the range of careers outside of academia. Simply create your free accounts, start exploring, and feel free to bring your assessment results and what you've learned from your online career exploration to your next appointment with a Career Services advisor!

ImaginePhD
ImaginePhD (Humanities/Social Sciences) is a free, online career exploration and planning tool designed specifically for Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scholars in the humanities and social sciences. On ImaginePhD, you'll be able to assess your career-related skills, interests, and values; explore career paths appropriate to your discipline; create self-defined goals; and map out the next steps for your career. If you're looking to explore common career paths undertaken by humanities and social sciences Ph.D.s, check out the 15 Job Families on ImaginePhD, where you'll be able to read profiles of Ph.D.s in different careers and connect with resources and build skills in relevant industries. ImaginePhD is sponsored by the Vice Provost for Education at Penn.
myIDP
MyIDP (STEM) is a free career exploration and planning online platform created for Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scholars in the STEM fields. It includes exercies to help you examine your skills, interests, and values; a list of 20 scientific career paths with a prediction of which ones best fit your skills and interests; and a tool for setting strategic goals for your career.
Versatile PhD
Versatile PhD (all) is a web-based platform for Ph.D. students and postdocs in STEM, Humanities, and Social Science fields to explore the full range of career fields that value the Ph.D. experience, and the skills and knowledge associated with doctoral education. Don't know what career options are out there? Check out the Ph.D. Career Finder to read stories of Ph.D.s who have gone on to exciting careers in a range of careers, see how they converted their CVs into resumes, and read their successful application materials. Don't forget to look at the forums as well for more insights and inspiration into how Ph.D.s have developed careers in different fields and industries. Just sign up for your free account through Career Services' online subscriptions to access the premium content on the site using your Penn email.

What Are Your Work Values?

As a graduate student or postdoc, you may not have spent as much time reflecting on your work values as you have for your skills and interests, but it's arguably one of the most important factors in determining your career satisfaction and happiness. As you think about possible career paths, think about some of the following questions: Do you like working alone, or do you like working collaboratively on teams? Do you like fast-paced, short-term projects where you see immediate results, or do you like to work on long-term projects where it may take years before you see the results of your research? Do you like having autonomy in your work, or do you want close supervision? How important is compensation? How important is flexibility in your work schedule? Reflecting on these types of questions can help you identify roles, industries, and employers that may be a good fit for your values.

What Are Your Skills?

When it comes to thinking about your skills, you've developed many throughout your life, including in graduate school, but which skills are you most proud of? Which skills are your strengths that you would like to use in your future career? Which skills are you hoping to develop and hone in the future? A good career fit almost certainly involves roles where you will leverage your strengths and build on new skills that interest and excite you. As a PhD student or postdoc, take some time to think about the work you've been doing and the skills you currently use. Do you take pride in conducting research? Are you good at interpreting data and using quantitative analysis? Are you a strong communicator? Do you have good project management skills? What about leadership skills? Are you good at synthesizing large amounts of information into bite-sized pieces of information? Taking account of your strongest skills is a crucial component of finding a career that is challenging and engaging.

What Are Your Interests?

The other major factor in determining job and career satisfaction is your interests. What career-related activities do you enjoy doing? Thinking about this question can illuminate what you might enjoy in the day-to-day of a job or career. Do you like mentoring, motivating, or coaching others? Do you enjoy building relationships with people and making connections to bring others together? Does public speaking get you energized? How about engaging in activism or advocating for social justice? Do you like telling stories? What about influencing and persuading others? Are you someone who likes meeting new people? Do you enjoy learning about and navigating different cultures? Questions like these can help you identify the kinds of tasks that would be a strong match for your interests.

Action Steps Checklist

There are many ways to reflect and explore your career options, and below are a few suggestions to get you started. Make an appointment with a Graduate Student & Postdoc Career Advisor via Handshake to discuss your plans as you embark on this process. 

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Complete values, skills, and interests assessments and create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) on ImaginePhD and/or myIDP.

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Use VersatilePhD's "PhD Career Finder" tool to read about career paths for PhDs.

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Make an appointment with a Career Advisor via Handshake to discuss your assessments and career exploration.

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Explore Career Services' Resources by Career Field, which contains websites listing jobs and internships, professional associations, and additional resources for 14 different career fields.

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Check out articles related to career exploration from Carpe Careers, a weekly column focused on career and professional development for graduate students and postdocs that provides personal, optimistic, actionable advice.

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Move on to the next step in your career exploration: Network & Gather Information

FAQs

Q: Where can I find out where Penn PhDs have been employed after graduation?
A: Penn PhD graduates are employed in a variety of meaningful, challenging, and rewarding careers. For more information about post-PhD career plans broken down by school, program, and graduation year, please see the survey reports here. You will also find information on career outcomes by searching for alumni in QuakerNet, and using the interactive alumni tool on LinkedIn.
Q: How do I access Versatile PhD?
A: Simply click this link here to access Career Services' online subscriptions and login with your PennKey.
Q: I've heard about other kinds of career assessments beyond myIDP and ImaginePhD. Where
can I learn more about them?
A: If you're interested in additional career assessments such as Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Strong Interest Inventory, and StrengthsQuest, visit this page here to learn more. It will be helpful to talk with a career advisor to determine if these assessments will be helpful to you as you are thinking about understanding yourself better as part of your career exploration.
Q: Do I have to take an assessment to figure out my skills or interests?
A: While assessments can provide a useful structure for your self-assessment, you can always think about what you enjoy doing and why, and can find lots of opportunities to talk with career advisors, mentors, your peers, faculty, family, and friends about your interests. Having conversations out loud with people, rather than keeping your thoughts inside your head, can be helpful.