Boost your professional development effectively this winter break with these simple steps.

Winter break is an important time for restoration, relaxation, and recreation after the sprint to the end of the semester. Fall 2020 has felt like even more of a wringer than normal in this sense, so taking time off as a graduate student is crucial. However, the winter break also offers a time to consider goals and tasks that we may have deprioritized due to teaching, research, and other personal and professional commitments.

Here are some effective and simple ways you can utilize some time this winter break to deepen skills, explore career options, plan for the future, and grow as a professional.

Set goals and plan for 2021 and beyond

  • Creating an Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a great way to set goals for academic milestones, research, skill development, and career planning. Download the template here. Schedule an individual consultation with GradPro to discuss your IDP or get help creating one.
  • Use a career exploration tool like ImaginePhD (for humanities and social science grad students) or MyIDP (for STEM students) to take self-assessments, explore career options, and set goals.
  • Consider joining one of GradPro’s Check-in Groups in the Spring, where you will meet weekly with small groups of fellow graduate students to support each other in setting and meeting goals. Registration will open in January; subscribe to the GradPro Digest for announcements.
  • Unsure what career paths you’d like to explore, or how to conduct a job search (academic or not)? Want to update your resume or get feedback on a cover letter? For individualized support on these important questions and more, make an appointment with one of the Career Center’s dedicated PhD counselors.

Practice networking and informational interviewing (yes, even virtually!)

Use the break for skill-building

  • All students have access to LinkedIn learning, where you can find courses of various lengths on a multitude of hard and soft skills, from project management to building self-confidence to social media marketing to Photoshop.
  • edX offers free courses from universities like MIT and Harvard, on subjects including data science, languages, business, and more.
  • Check out webinars from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (activate your free membership here), like “Every Semester Needs a Plan,” “Mastering Academic Time Management,” and “The Art of Saying No.”

Winter break is a time for a well-earned rest. But taking any of these easy, low-stress steps over the holidays will be a significant boost to your professional development.


About the Author: Alicia Roy holds a Ph.D. in German from UC Berkeley and is a Hitchcock Postdoctoral Fellow in the GradPro office of the Graduate Division.