Regardless of the career path you choose, general career preparation involves a key set of steps and developing important core competencies.

Steps You Can Take

Create a Timeline including Academic Progress Deadlines and Professional Development Goals

Developing an individual professional development plan (IDP) can help you think about your long-term goals, and what short-term steps will help you advance in your program and career. There are two free, online career exploration and planning platforms—myIDP for STEM students and ImaginePhD for students in the humanities and social sciences—designed to help you do just that. These tools offer assessments to help you evaluate your values, skills, and interests, suggest career paths based on your assessments, and also have templates and tools to help you develop an IDP to get where you want to go.

Graduate students at Berkeley who have been advanced to candidacy are also required to complete the annual Doctoral Candidacy Review (DCR), which is designed to help facilitate advising, mentoring, and the timely completion of program benchmarks. An IDP can be a great springboard for proactive conversations with your advisor about the DCR and other career-related topics.


Develop your Professional Identity

As you explore different career options, be sure to refine your online presence. This can help ensure that you are recognized as a subject-matter expert by potential employers, colleagues looking for participants in projects and conferences, people conducting research across disciplines, or members of the media.

You can participate in events hosted by the Career Center and Beyond Academia to help you develop your professional profiles on websites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, ResearchGate, and Beyond Academia often holds a professional profile clinic in the Fall semester, where you can receive feedback on your LinkedIn profile and get professional photos taken. Also see “How to Curate Your Digital Identity as an Academic,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2015) and “How to Overcome What Scares Us About Our Online Identities,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2014).

LinkedIn is a powerful tool not only for the job-search, but also for networking and effectively communicating your skills. For example, by posting code, a video of you teaching, or a short article, you are demonstrating your skills to your LinkedIn networks. Consider following this comprehensive guide to LinkedIn for PhD grads as you develop your profile. 

You may also wish to consider establishing a personal website, an arena in which your sphere of control over content is greatest. For a primer for graduate students on creating your own professional website, see “Where to Begin With Building a Website,”Inside Higher Ed (2018). For advice on how to use search engine optimization (SEO) to improve the ability of digital audiences to locate your work, see “Intentional Web Presence: 10 SEO Strategies Every Academic Needs to Know,” Educause Review (2012).

Take time to familiarize yourself with the expectations for credentials, membership in professional associations, formal training, and other markers of membership in different industries. You should also practice communicating your professional contributions concisely, with different foci for different audiences. See “Elevator Speeches Made Easy,” American Psychological Association, and the Writing and Communication competency in this guide for more detailed guidance.



Regardless of how uncomfortable or off-putting it may feel, networking is an essential step in both career exploration and securing a new job. It is also an important skill to build for a long-term career in academia. For instance, the tenure review process is partly based on external review letters, which require building new relationships with senior scholars in your field. 

It isn’t surprising that the importance of networking makes some of us uncomfortable; students and academics are typically taught that advancement should be based on merit, rather than who you know. However, networking isn’t simply nepotism or in-group favoritism. When an employer is hiring, it is strategically advantageous for them to either hire internally, or to hire someone whose work they know, such as a former temp worker or intern. This approach reduces the employer’s risk of going through the costly hiring or training process unsuccessfully. Once an employer has exhausted their immediate network, they may then explore the networks of those that they know and trust. Such practices unfortunately can run counter to equitable hiring practices and principles of equity and inclusion. However, the importance of networks remains central to many hiring decisions.

So, given this reality, what can you do as a job seeker? Talking to or connecting virtually with more people is the central activity of networking. When we don’t have networking events, conferences, or social events to attend, the most important step graduate students can take is requesting and conducting informational interviews. Informational interviews with people in the industry or career you are interested in can provide vital information about whether the general career path could be a good fit for your values and goals. They can also reveal what it would be like to work for particular organizations, and the skills and expertise needed to succeed in that career path. For step-by-step guidance on informational interviewing, read the GradNews article, “The Power of Informational Interviews,” or visit the Career Center’s informational interviewing page.

For those pursuing an academic career, professional conferences are important opportunities to make contacts in your field and to start to independently establish a scholarly profile. There is valuable information on how to talk about your work, approach senior scholars, and present yourself as a rising professional in “How to Work the Conference,” Part 1Part 2, and Part 3, from The Professor is In (2011) and  “The Art of Good Conferencing, Chronicle of Higher Education (2008). Be aware that some conferences are scams; for advice on how to assess the legitimacy of a conference, see “Red-Flag Conferences,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2009).

For more general information on how to network effectively, see Spinning Your #Postac Web: Networking 101,” The Professor Is In (2014),  “How Do I Create a Professional Network?” Chronicle of Higher Education (2011), and “How to Network Effectively,” Science (2015).


Cultivate Resilience to Stress and Failure

Career exploration and preparation can be a stressful period as you navigate  job applications and the expectations of yourself and others. Cultivating resilience is a skill that will serve you well both as a graduate student and  as a future professional. . To address these challenges, cultivating a support network of peers and mentors, and practicing self-care and self-compassion are essential

The Be Well initiative from University Health Services (UHS) is a collection of resources aimed at the multifaceted aspects of wellness, including responding to stress, resilience, sleep, time-management, self-compassion, and exercise. The Graduate Assembly hosts the Graduate Wellness Center, that provides graduate-focused wellness and mental health services. All students also have access to short-term counseling for academic, career, and personal issues through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Browse the Greater Good in Action resource hub for research-based practices to boost your well-being. Find even more resources on self-care and developing resilience on the GradPro Check-in Toolkit site here.

See these further resources on resilience:


See Career Development as an Ongoing Process

While some graduate students will move seamlessly to a new career after graduation, most life transitions take time. While there are no blue-prints to these transitional times, the book Transitions by William Bridges suggests that major life changes have three stages that cannot be skipped: an end, a period of neutrality, and a new beginning. The neutral time between finishing your graduate degree and starting something new can be uncomfortable and confusing, but it is also an important time for trying new things, exploring options, and clarifying what you want from your new beginning. In other words, while there are steps you can take to prepare and develop skills, competencies, and experience, deciding what comes next often only happens after you have graduated.