illustration brain with wheels and cogs Career Exploration & Preparation

Career exploration, and preparation are the building blocks to every successful career.


Career Exploration and Preparation skills & steps you can take to develop them *

Academic Career Preparation

Steps You Can Take

Participate in Career Center Workshops on Applying for Academic Positions

Each fall the Career Center offers a series of excellent workshops on the academic job search. Ph.D. Counselors are also available for individual consultations. See the Career Center’s web pages devoted to doctoral students and postdocs for resources to guide you in all steps in the academic job search, from searching for positions and preparing materials to interviewing and negotiating an offer.

Participate in Summer Institute for Preparing Future Faculty

The Graduate Division’s six-week Summer Institute for Preparing Future Faculty provides information about how universities and colleges of different kinds are organized and what to expect from employment in these different settings, allowing you to navigate the academic profession, covering the norms of academic publishing, teaching expectations, and paths to tenure. The Institute features weekly panels of faculty from community colleges, liberal arts colleges, master’s granting universities, and research universities and elective courses on academic writing and developing a teaching portfolio.

Develop a Curriculum Vitae (CV)

As the Berkeley Career Center notes, “Constructing an effective CV is an iterative process.” It is a useful exercise to develop multiple types of CVs especially when applying to different types of colleges and universities.  Be sure, as well, to update and reorganize them as necessary—it is much easier to keep a CV updated as you go than to work backward at a later date. Following disciplinary conventions in presenting your accomplishments on your CV is essential. We recommend having it reviewed by your primary adviser.

See “Academic Job Search: CV,” University of California, Berkeley, Career Center.

Develop Cover Letters for Job Applications

The cover letter for a job application is a professional genre; as such, it will necessarily differ in form and content across fields and professions. Research what different cover letters look like for your field: your department may retain a file of successful cover letters from previous students, or you may be able to consult more advanced students to track down examples. Once you have compiled a collection of sample letters, develop different versions of your own for the types of academic positions you are considering.

For advice on writing an academic cover letter, see “Academic Job Search—Cover Letter,” University of California, Berkeley, Career Center. See “The Basics of Cover Letter Writing,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2000); “How to Write Appealing Cover Letters,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2000); and “What You Don’t Know About Cover Letters,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2002).

Write a Teaching Statement

Applications for academic positions often ask candidates to submit a teaching statement or philosophy that reflects their pedagogical experience and philosophy within their particular discipline. To get started with writing a statement of teaching philosophy, consider attending the GSI Teaching & Resource Center’s workshop on Developing a Statement of Teaching Philosophy and Teaching Portfolio. See workshop slides and resources in the Center’s online library.

Other resources from The Chronicle of Higher Education that may be helpful to you in writing a teaching statement include:

Develop and Practice Your Job Talk

Before presenting your research in an on-campus interview, you should practice in front of multiple audiences, in a timed setting, and get feedback on the content and delivery of your talk. Many departments create opportunities for graduate students to give practice job talks in a departmental seminar series or in the context of research group meetings. Ask the audience to anticipate and pose questions that may also be asked in the actual on-campus rendition of the talk. Ask for feedback on various aspects of your delivery: how clear it was, whether you spoke quickly or slowly, if you engaged the audience, etc.

For advice on how to prepare an academic job talk, see How to Deliver a Halfway-Decent Job Talk,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2014); “Talking the Good Talk,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2012); “Giving a Job Talk in the Sciences,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2001);

Undertake the Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

The Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education is designed to help you develop your classroom skills, to prepare for teaching as a future faculty member, and to professionally document your work as a teacher. The activities that are part of the certificate program include general and discipline-specific teaching skills such as developing a teaching portfolio, creating course syllabi, cultivating strategies for efficient and effective grading, and synthesizing and presenting feedback from student evaluations of your teaching.

Participate on an Academic Search Committee

Some departments include a graduate student on search committees for academic positions. Take advantage of such opportunities as it will provide you with first-hand experience and an understanding of the academic job search from the perspective of a hiring committee. In addition to being invaluable for your own job search, serving on a search committee will prepare you for responsibilities you will assume as a future faculty member. Should you not be able to participate on a search committee, be sure to attend job talks of candidates your department is considering and review candidate materials such as CVs and teaching statements that your department may make available.

Preparing for Careers Beyond Academia

Steps You Can Take

Participate in Workshops and Consultations at the Career Center

The Berkeley Career Center has a Ph.D. Counselor who specializes in applying for careers beyond the academy. She can help you explore interests, identify positions, and reframe skills you have developed in graduate school in applying for these positions. Workshops on applying for careers outside of the academy are offered by the Career Center in the spring semester.

Take Part in Conferences and Workshops Offered by Beyond Academia, SLAM, CDIPS, and MCB 295

Beyond Academia is student-initiated program that hosts a two-day conference each spring and several excellent workshops during the fall and spring to help graduate students explore careers option and prepare to apply. Beyond Academia’s career resources page features a wealth of professional development resources.

SLAM (Science Leadership and Management) is a seminar series focused on understanding the many interpersonal interactions critical for success in a scientific lab, as well as some practical aspects of lab management.

CDIPS (Career Development Initiative for the Physical Sciences) is a graduate student-run organization that provides resources to graduate students and postdocs in the physical and mathematical sciences about their options outside academia through a speaker series, the Data Science Workshop, and improved access to alumni.

MCB295 is a career and professional development seminar series for life science Ph.D.’s organized by students in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. The weekly series features speakers from a variety of careers who share their post-Ph.D. paths. The program also hosts workshops on topics in career development, including networking, resume building, interview techniques, and negotiation skills.

Identify Non-Academic Jobs for Your Discipline and Use Online Career Exploration Tools

Berkeley graduates pursue multiple careers; find out what previous recipients of your degree in your discipline have done with their training. Some departments maintain an alumni database or LinkedIn alumni group as a resource for graduate students who are applying for positions.

The VersatilePhD can assist you in exploring careers, reframing skills, and applying for positions beyond academia. All UC Berkeley graduate students have free access to Versatile PhD resources.

ImaginePhD: The ImaginePhD project seeks to bridge the knowledge gap between Ph.D. training and the realm of career possibilities for humanities and social science Ph.D.’s.  Spearheaded in large part by UC Davis and UCLA, the group is creating an online tool to assist graduate students in career exploration, goal-setting, and professional development. This online tool will be rolled out in fall 2017 and will be available free of charge to Berkeley students.

Take part in the Postdoc Industry Exploration Program (PIEP), a program that arranges site visits to companies so that postdocs and graduate students can learn about career options directly from professionals who hold these positions and gain useful connections in the process.

Explore Resources Offered by Professional Associations

Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Program: Expanding the Reach of Doctoral Education in the Humanities: Now in its seventh year, the ACLS Public Fellows Program places up to 22 recent humanities Ph.D.’s in two-year positions at diverse organizations in government and the nonprofit sector. This career-building initiative aims to demonstrate that the capacities developed in the advanced study of the humanities have wide application, both within and beyond the academy. The fellowship carries a stipend of $67,500, with health insurance for the fellow and up to $3,000 for professional development activities.

Connected Academics: Preparing Doctoral Students of Language and Literature for a Variety of Careers: A project of the Modern Language Association (MLA), funded by the Mellon Foundation. Includes programming and online resources to help graduate students use their humanistic training in a broad range of occupations.

Career Diversity for Historians: The American Historical Association (AHA), in conjunction with the Mellon Foundation, has developed a set of institutes and resources to assist faculty and graduate students in preparing for careers beyond the academy. These resources are also useful to faculty and graduate students beyond history.

Beyond Academia: Professional Opportunities for Philosophers: Originally published in 1984, this publication provides guidance in the form of resources, information, and advice to philosophers who are interested in exploring a wide range of professions outside of academia. It includes links to resources for non-academic career opportunities; data on non-academic careers, including new academic placement data and analysis; and biographical essays of philosophers who have successfully found ways to use their philosophical training outside of academia.

Develop a Résumé

While CVs are the gold standard for academic positions, you will need to convert your CV to résumé to successfully apply for positions beyond academia. Many resources are available to guide you in this process.

Develop Cover Letters for Job Applications

The cover letter for a job application is a professional genre. Find out what it should look like, and develop different versions for the multiple careers you might consider.

Participate in an Internship

Internships can enable you to test the waters while obtaining valuable experience and mentoring. They can also position you to apply successfully for career positions which may require prior experience. Some internship opportunities are listed on the Career Center website. A number of units on campus offer graduate student positions that function as internships, including the GSI Teaching & Resource Center, the Townsend Center, and the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, among others.

Participate in Entrepreneurship Workshops or Classes

Berkeley graduates in a wide variety of fields have found ways to create new ventures based on the skills and knowledge gained through their masters or doctoral programs. Find out how others have succeeded as entrepreneurs and if this might be part of your career path.

Get involved with the and the  Berkeley Postdoctoral Entrepreneur Program (BPEP), a program that aims to foster entrepreneurship in the UC Berkeley postdoctoral and graduate community by providing tools, mentoring, and a platform for science-business communication to enable research innovations to move into the marketplace.


* Some skills serve in the development of more than one competency. Some skills may apply more to one discipline than to another. Keep in mind that the list of skills and steps you can take to develop these competencies is not exhaustive.


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