Perhaps you’re anticipating entering your first year of grad school or maybe you’re just starting your graduate career. There’s a lot to take in during your first couple years, but now is the perfect time to become the superstar job candidate when you graduate.

Picture your first day of graduate school. Maybe you planned out what you’re going to wear and you show up to school bright-eyed and ready to soak in as much knowledge as you can! Okay, so perhaps your first day of school is less than picturesque, but you’re definitely new and just starting to learn the ropes. Your plan: do what you’re told, study hard, and make good impressions on your peers and professors. This plan is a good one, but it’s also naïve. What is the better plan? Instead of keeping your head above water your first year, start planning what you’re going to do when you graduate. Maybe you haven’t completely figured that out yet. That’s okay. But know your options and start making strategic decisions that will help you get there now. Here are some tips to help you get there:

Create a CV or Resume

It might seem silly to create a CV or resume when you have next to nothing to put on it, but do it now! Your CV or resume is your ticket to a job. You need to know the important components and sections of your CV so you can have an idea of what needs to be filled in. Think about the type of job you might want when you graduate. If you’re considering multiple career paths, make different CVs for different types of jobs. Look up as many examples as you can for each job type. If you want to go into academia, your professors’ CVs are great examples to use. Once you create your CV or resume, you’ll have a better idea of the relevant coursework, skills, experience (teaching, research, or practicum) that you need in order to be a great job candidate when you graduate. has great resources to help you create a CV.

Know the Milestones

Each program is different in how long it takes students to complete the degree. Within each program, each advisor may also have different standards. Be sure to know both. If you are in a 5 year program, be sure you know when the big milestones should occur (i.e., thesis proposal, thesis defense, comprehensive exams, dissertation proposal, and dissertation defense). Ask other grad students when each person gets each one of these milestones done. Is it common that some people take 3 or 4 years before they propose a thesis? How might you avoid becoming one of those students? Know how the funding situation may be affected by the timeline of each of these milestones, too.

Your Advisor is Your Advocate

It’s common for new grad students to be anxious around their advisor. This person is well-respected in their field, and here you are a newbie sitting in their office. Take criticism well–knowing that your advisor’s success depends on your success. Be sure to bring up your needs as a grad student. If you know that you haven’t been running as many studies as you’d like or you desperately need teaching experience, be sure to speak up. Your advisor may have other things on his or her plate and may overlook some of the important components you’ll need on your CV or resume when you graduate. Your advisor has the resources to help you accomplish your goals, but it’s your responsibility to bring your goals to your advisor’s attention.

Remember your graduate degree is a tool for getting a job. Make sure you know how to optimize your graduate career in ways that will increase your chances of getting your dream job when you graduate. Time is on your side if you’re just starting your graduate education.

Be on the lookout for Part 2 of Becoming a Great Job Candidate!


You must be logged in to post a comment.