hand shaking icon Professionalism

Learn how to explore field- and career-specific expectations of work preparation and ethics, as well as best practices for work/life balance in any career.


Professionalism skills & steps you can take to develop them *

Professional Ethics

Steps You Can Take

Complete the Required Course on Professional Standards and Ethics in Teaching

Managing a classroom successfully requires an understanding of the ethical dimension of leadership. This entails the ability to address difficult situations fairly so that those involved feel you support them and have their best interest in mind. Decisions made in teaching also need to abide by existing policies and laws. Facing challenges and making decisions as a leader or manager in other organizational settings is no different. The training provided through the Course on Professional Standards and Ethics in Teaching will bolster your ability to create a strong sense of commitment among individuals and teams to achieve common goals.

Complete Training in Responsible Conduct of Research

Research may require you to protect the privacy of human subjects, to observe ethical standards for research using animals, and to respect the rights of others to be recognized as contributors through proper citation, co-authorship, and granting of permissions for use of material covered by copyright. Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research and the Sponsored Projects Office (SPO) can help you accomplish these tasks successfully. Just as specific policies and ethical guidelines govern knowledge production in the modern university, analogous policies and standards govern project management, research, and development in other organizations.

Take Workshops on Fostering Inclusion in Research and Teaching Settings

Promoting inclusive work spaces and leveraging the creative potential of diversity are key to succeeding in modern multicultural organizations and fundamental skills needed in leadership and management positions. Teaching and conducting research in a diverse setting like Berkeley are great opportunities to learn and develop these skills. The GSI Teaching & Resource Center offers workshops designed to help you build inclusive classroom environments and promote participation among undergraduate students with different backgrounds. It has also developed a teaching guide with research-based recommendations to help you foster inclusive learning environments. The Multicultural Education Program (MEP) also offers diversity workshops and trainings on a variety of topics.

Teamwork and Collaboration

Steps You Can Take

Teach, Team-Teach, or Serve as a GSI in a Multi-Section Course

Collaborative teaching as a graduate student can take different forms, such as serving as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) in a multi-section course, team-teaching a course with another GSI, or serving as the sole GSI in a course taught by a professor. Co-teaching entails coordinating with faculty members or other graduate students on subjects like curriculum planning, scheduling, course content, communication with students, and assessment.

Practices that can make you a more effective collaborator in a co-teaching context include taking on leadership responsibilities, practicing effective communication, reconciling differing approaches and perspectives, and “managing up.” These are all interpersonal skills that are highly valued across many career paths.

On co-teaching, see “Grad Students Should Co-Teach,” Inside Higher Ed (2016), “Bringing Collaborative Teaching into Doctoral Programs,” The American Sociologist (2013), “What We Learned from Co-Teaching,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2016)

On collaboration skills, see “Managing Up: An industry skill you can learn in academia,” Science (2016) and “Teamwork and Leadership,” Beyond Academia.

Participate in an Interdisciplinary Working Group

Participating in, or organizing, an interdisciplinary working group can help you develop your skills through collaborative work on event planning, grant applications, research, outreach, communications, and assessment. It is also an opportunity to diversify your knowledge of the intersections between different academic fields. Units on campus that sponsor working groups include, but are not limited to:

Serve on a Campus Administrative or Academic Committee

The bodies that make university policy include committees under the purview of the Academic Senate (e.g., Diversity, Equity, and Campus Climate; Library; Teaching; Demonstrations and Student Actions; Academic Freedom); as well as committees appointed by campus administrators (e.g., Course Materials and Services Fees; Campus Advisory Committee on Creative Arts; Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on LGBTQ Communities at Cal; Police Review Board).

Serving on such committees is expected for tenure-track faculty at many universities, so sitting on committees as a student is a useful way to develop and exhibit the collaborative skills this work requires. It can also help you learn policy-making skills valued in many professions.

Some committees have special requirements for student members, while others are more open. To learn how to serve on a committee, which committees have openings, and what committee membership entails, contact the Graduate Assembly (GA) or join the GA as a departmental representative.

Co-Organize a Conference, Panel, or Workshop

Conference planning is highly collaborative and can be an important professional skill, both in academic employment, and in other careers where the ability to run events, facilitate discussions, and coordinate schedules is valued. Annual state, national, and international conferences provide regular opportunities to organize panels. You might also consider organizing a conference or workshop on the Berkeley campus, through your department or a working group.

On organizing a panel or a conference, see “So You Think You Want to Organize a Conference?” Inside Higher Ed (2012), “Of Cannibals and Conferences,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2015), and “How to Organize a Panel for a Conference,” The Professor is In (2013).

On timekeeping and chairing, see “Best Practices for Timekeeping at Conference Panels,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2013), and “Conference Rules, Part 1,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2008).

Participate in or Organize a Digital Research Project

Many digital research projects are collaborative, since they are often large-scale endeavors with interdisciplinary methodologies. Collaboration with future users is also part of the open-access ethos that informs the planning process for many digital research projects. For students whose research is typically individual in nature, digital projects can be opportunities to experiment with more collaborative research. Digital Humanities at Berkeley offers funding for collaborative research projects, and the D-Lab sponsors many working groups through which you can learn about or get involved in existing research projects.

Co-Author an Article

While highly discipline-specific, co-authoring can be a useful opportunity to work collaboratively with colleagues or a senior scholar, such as an advisor. Once mainly exclusive to the sciences, co-authorship is now increasingly common in the humanities and social sciences as well. Co-authoring requires close collaboration and strong communication among the participants, to navigate challenges ranging from authorship credit to workflow procedures. As such, this experience develops teamwork and communication skills that are widely valued in a variety of careers.

Because disciplinary practices vary widely, it is important to ask your advisor or another mentor in your field whether co-authorship makes sense for you. You can also look out for co-authorship opportunities in calls for papers from your professional association.

On co-authorship, see “Collaborating and Co-Authoring,” Inside Higher Ed (2009) and “To Co-Author, or Not to Co-Author?” Chronicle of Higher Education (2016).

Time Management

Steps You Can Take

Make a Daily and/or Weekly Work Schedule

Keeping a regular schedule can help you ensure you’ve made time for all your professional commitments, and is also a useful tool for maintaining work-life balance. Consider working on big projects (like a dissertation) in small, daily increments. You might wish to experiment with methods like the Pomodoro Technique. For more on scheduling, see “Academic Scientists at Work: Where’d My Day Go?” Science (2004), “The Trick to Being a Prolific Scholar,” Chronicle Vitae (2014), and “How to Make Time for Research and Writing,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2017).

The National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity (for which graduate students have access to Berkeley’s institutional membership) offers a variety of resources to help with time management, such as the “Every Semester Needs a Plan,” “Mastering Academic Time Management,” and “Align Your Time with Your Priorities” webinars.

Learn Strategies for Working Efficiently on Teaching and Research

Learning to work efficiently on various commitments is an important skill for a variety of career paths that value multitasking and project management. “Time-boxing” methods like the Pomodoro Technique can help delineate the amount of time you spend on certain tasks. There are many free apps and timers designed to facilitate this kind of time management. The GSI Teaching & Resource Center offers a variety of workshops and resources that can help you complete time-consuming teaching tasks both effectively and efficiently. The UC Berkeley Library offers regular workshops on citation tools like RefWorks, Zotero, Mendeley, and EndNote, as well as writing tools like Scrivener. These tools can help you save time and organize your thinking when it comes time to write up your research.

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 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.

Join a Writing Group

Knowing how to connect with communities that can support you in the writing process is a skill that will serve you well as a new faculty member, or in a variety of careers that involve long-term independent projects. Studies show that writing groups can help you to stay motivated and meet your deadlines.

Some graduate departments organize their own writing groups. The Graduate Writing Center organizes writing groups, workshops, and individual consultations on writing; the Graduate Minority Student Project offers periodic study halls; and the Humanities & Social Sciences Association runs a weekly writing group for graduate students, visiting scholars, lecturers and postdocs. There are also many online academic writing communities, such as the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity (for which graduate students have access to Berkeley’s institutional membership) and PhinisheD.

You can also start your own writing group. For resources on this, see “Starting an Effective Dissertation Writing Group,” Stanford University Hume Writing Center and “Making a Writing Group that Works,” Inside Higher Ed (2015).

Disciplinary Professional Participation

Steps You Can Take

Join Professional Organizations and Read Professional Publications

Most academic fields have their own professional organizations, such as the American Physical Society, the Modern Language Association, or the American Political Science Association. Many scholars belong to multiple such organizations (for instance, both the Modern Language Association and the Shakespeare Association of America). Staying up to date on the major events and publications of professional associations is often an unspoken expectation in academic life. Even if you aren’t yet ready to attend an association’s conference or submit an article to its journal, looking at conference programs and browsing journal indices on a regular basis will help you be more prepared if and when you do want to join these conversations.

In addition to field-specific organizations, also consider staying aware of issues pertaining to higher education more generally, by reading publications such as the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Network at a Professional Conference

Large conferences can be intimidating and impersonal, but they are also important opportunities to make useful contacts in your field, and start to independently establish a scholarly profile. In addition, an increasing number of academic conferences include panels and speakers on diverse career paths; meeting people at such events can also help springboard a non-academic job search. There is much 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 1, Part 2, and Part 3, from The Professor is In (2011).

Organize a Panel at a Professional Conference

Organizing a session or panel at a professional conference demonstrates knowledge of your field and an interest and willingness to contribute to its further development. It also provides opportunities to connect with colleagues and senior scholars from other institutions. The process of organizing a panel can start over a year before the conference itself, so keep abreast of the deadlines for your professional organization. Budget several months for coming up with a theme and assembling a roster of panel participants. For more, see “How to Organize a Panel for a Conference,” The Professor is In (2013).

Publish in your Field

The expectations for graduate students’ scholarly publishing output vary widely according to field. For instance, in many STEM disciplines, multi-authored publications are the currency of the realm, while this is less common in the humanities and social sciences. Some fields regard book reviews as a valuable contribution to the profession, while in other cases this is less true. However, in almost all academic fields, publishing is an important indicator of scholarly productivity, and a metric of your ability to contribute to the profession at the highest levels. For most junior faculty, publications play an important role in the tenure review process. For this reason, it is wise to learn about the publishing conventions in your field as early as possible. Consider initiating conversations with your advisor or other mentors early in your graduate studies about how and when you should publish during your program.

For more, see “How Grad Students and Junior Professors Can Publish, Not Perish,” Chronicle Vitae (2013), “Should Grad Students Publish?” Inside Higher Ed (2017), “Graduate Student’s Guide to Publishing,” University of Michigan.

Campus Professional Participation

Steps You Can Take

Organize Departmental Professional Development Activities

Departments and research centers on campus offer graduate students a variety of professional development activities. These include alumni panels, workshops, speaker series, and courses run by graduate students or co-run by graduate students and faculty members. Some units, such as the Center for Latin American Studies, provide funds to cover the costs of running these groups and events.

Taking the initiative to organize an event in your department gives you the opportunity to coordinate team work, create and execute a work plan, and build a sense of community, all hallmarks of professionalism. For ideas, peruse “Promising Practices: Steps Departments Can Take to Support the Professional and Career Development of Graduate Students,” developed by the Graduate Council’s Advisory Committee on Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellow Professional Development; or look at the programming offered by student-run professional development groups on campus.

Serve on a Campus Administrative or Academic Committee

The bodies that make university policy include committees under the purview of the Academic Senate (e.g., Diversity, Equity, and Campus Climate; Library; Teaching; Demonstrations and Student Actions; Academic Freedom); as well as committees appointed by campus administrators (e.g., Course Materials and Services Fees; Campus Advisory Committee on Creative Arts; Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on LGBTQ Communities at Cal; Police Review Board).

Serving on such committees is expected for tenure-track faculty at many universities, so sitting on committees as a student is a useful way to develop and exhibit the collaborative skills this work requires. It can also help you learn policy-making skills valued in many professions.

Some committees have special requirements for student members, while others are more open. To learn how to serve on a committee, which committees have openings, and what committee membership entails, contact the Graduate Assembly (GA) or join the GA as a departmental delegate.

Participate in Student-Organized Professional Development Events

Among the Graduate Division’s Professional Development campus partners are a number of student organizations that organize professional development events and initiatives on campus. Getting involved with these organizations is a great way to demonstrate interest in campus affairs and network with students, faculty, and employers. Moreover, experience with graduate professional development initiatives can be an asset on the academic job market. Student-run professional development organizations on campus include:

Participate in Student Government

The Graduate Assembly (GA) is the official representative body of graduate and professional students at UC Berkeley. Its responsibilities include administering a budget, setting an advocacy agenda, and running a variety of important outreach projects (such as the Graduate Minority Student Project; the Graduate Social Club; and Graduate Student Parent Advocacy, among others). To get involved, become a delegate and represent your department or graduate student group as a voting member of the governing body.

Some departments may have a formal election process, while in other departments you can become a delegate by just filling out the Appointment Form. Start by checking the status of your department’s representation, and learning more about what being a delegate entails.


Steps You Can Take

Learn to Network Effectively

Networking is important for job searches in a variety of careers. 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. While many people associate the word “networking” with artificial or superficial interactions, experts actually recommend thinking about networking in terms of building authentic, long-term relationships. Consider attending networking workshops at the Berkeley Career Center; networking workshops and opportunities are also periodically offered by organizations like Beyond Academia and Humanists@Work, among others. For more on how to network effectively, see Spinning Your #Postac Web: Networking 101,” The Professor Is In (2014), “Elevator Speeches Made Easy,” American Psychological Association, “How Do I Create a Professional Network?” Chronicle of Higher Education (2011), and “How to Network Effectively,” Science (2015).

Organize Classroom Visits to Community Sites

In the course of teaching a class at Berkeley, your syllabus might include a visit to a community site, such as an archive, museum, business, nonprofit, or performing art center. Such excursions could be free (e.g., a visit to BAM/PFA), funded by the department, or supported by a Course Improvement Grant. These kinds of visits can be valuable opportunities to make connections with professionals in other fields, as well as a rich form of outreach and community engagement.

Connect with Alumni from Your Department

Alumni from your program or department are some of your greatest networking assets. Studying alumni’s career trajectories and making contact with them can help you advance your professional goals. One way to access these alumni is to ask your department to invite them back to speak, perhaps by developing a career panel or alumni lecture series. Another way is to search for departmental alumni using LinkedIn. You might consider creating a departmental LinkedIn or Facebook group while you are still a student (if one doesn’t already exist), to help you stay in touch with your colleagues after graduation.

Schedule Informational Interviews

If you are curious about a particular career path, or hoping to expand your network in a particular field, informational interviews should be one of the first steps in your research. It is important to approach these interviews the right way: the purpose of such meetings is not to ask for a job, but rather to seek out more information about how to prepare for a particular career, ask questions about what a job is like on a daily basis, or ask for assistance with building a relevant network. For more information, take advantage of resources and workshops from the Berkeley Career Center, and see “Actually Useful Questions to Ask in Informational Interviews,” (2015), and “What’s the Deal with Informational Interviews?” (2011) from Ask A Manager.

Pursue Part-Time Jobs, Internships, and Volunteering Opportunities

Part-time jobs, internships, and volunteering are all great ways to develop new skills, or explore a new field or position. Devoting a summer, or a few hours each week, to a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity that diversifies your work experience and skillset can be a great investment in your professional development. The Berkeley Career Center holds multiple Internship and Summer Job Fairs each year, and provides resources and advice on getting an internship as a graduate student. A number of units on campus offer graduate student positions that function as internships, including Graduate Professional Development, the GSI Teaching & Resource Center, the Townsend Center, and the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, among others.

For volunteer opportunities, Volunteermatch.org posts a wide range of volunteer positions at organizations around the Bay Area, including local libraries, science and art museums, dance nonprofits, and senior centers. Positions might entail organizing an outreach campaign, collecting and analyzing data, planning events, or leading tours, among many other things. In addition, there are many part-time staff positions on campus for which graduate students may be eligible, as well as jobs specifically available to graduate students with work-study eligibility.

Curate Your Online Presence

Throughout your graduate school career, but especially when looking for jobs, it is important to have a professional online presence. Some departments allow students to create or curate the information on their departmental web page, by including information such as a photo, bio, and CV. It can also be useful to develop your own professional web page (using a tool like WordPress, Wix, or Weebly, for instance) where you can maintain an online portfolio or highlight your non-academic work experience. Consider creating profiles on Google Scholar, Academia.edu, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other networking sites.

It is important to consider the audience for each site, and what kind of information you want to highlight about yourself for that audience. If you don’t have a professional photo of yourself, consider getting one taken, either by a friend or at an event such as Beyond Academia’s annual Professional Profile Clinic.You may want to use an ORCID identifier to distinguish yourself from other researchers; you can contact Berkeley’s Scholarly Communication Services office for more information about this.

For more, see “Narrating Your Professional Life: Writing the Academic Bio,” GradHacker (2011), “Creating your Web Presence: A Primer for Academics,” ProfHacker (2011), “Personal Academic Webpages: An Update on How-To’s and Tips for 2015,” Townsend Center (2015), “How to Maintain Your Digital Identity As An Academic,” Chronicle Vitae (2015).

* 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.


Professionalism skill-building workshops & events

Date Event Organizer
April 11 2023 Grad Slam

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Selected resources to help deepen your Professionalism skills

Resource Provided By
CHEM295: Special Topics in Career Development
MCB295: Careers for Life Science PhDs
Summer Institute for Preparing Future Faculty GSI Teaching & Resource Center Graduate Writing Center
Job Search Services Career Center
Ph.D. Career Counseling Career Center
Individual Development Plan (IDP) Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs (VSPA) Program Career Center

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