Build on 2022 for a Strong Career-Focused Start to 2023

Joseph Barber provides a roundup of career advice from this past year to help guide you in the new one.

December 12, 2022
Man stands between a map of the world and a graph and points to an upward curve from 2022 to 2023.
(bymuratdeniz/istock/getty images plus)

It has been another dynamic year in the career world, with significant fluctuations in how we are working and which industries and employers are in active hiring modes. What hasn’t changed is the importance of the actionable, positive advice shared in Inside Higher Ed’s weekly “Carpe Careers” column over this past year. Here is just a recap, from posts in 2022, of some of the steps you can start taking to focus on your professional and career development in 2023.

Jaye Sablan and Bill Mahoney started off 2022 highlighting the importance of holistic mentoring in offering underserved graduate students the social capital they need to explore diverse career paths. One approach is to use an individual development plan to structure action steps, as well as to establish intentional career and professional development goals. The authors state, “IDPs are great tools for enabling mentors to understand how a mentee’s identities influence their career and research goals.”

Creating such a structured approach is important, but Chris Smith reminds us that serendipity and planned happenstance can also play a key role in your career exploration and job search process. Leaning into skills such as curiosity, optimism, persistence, flexibility and a little risk-taking can be part of this strategy, and Chris highlights how his own career path was supported by some of the volunteering he did at his institution and for his professional association. He says, “Acknowledge the need to be open to new chances to build skills, try out new tasks and grow your network.”

Of course, not all unexpected twists and turns along a career path feel positive at first. Irina Filonova discusses “career shock” and what you can do about it when it happens. She says, “Overcoming challenges builds your ‘change muscle’ and increases adaptability and resilience, components required for a successful and sustainable career in the 21st century.”

One of the ways to deal with change is to approach it from a strategic planning perspective. That is what Dinuka Gunaratne suggests when he says, “Strategic thinkers challenge their assumptions and look at challenges from several perspectives before deciding on the best path forward.” It is also often what Ph.D. students are trained to do with their research, so it a great skill you can apply to your own professional development.

In their articles, Andrew Cain talks about managing stress, and Natalie Lundsteen and Arnaldo Diaz Vazquez highlight the importance of balancing academics/careers with family responsibilities. In both pieces, the authors ponder the challenges of being forced to pivot unexpectedly, or respond to changes, and pose a question that many students and early career professionals may ask themselves: “How much longer can I remain resilient?” The advice they give is as important from a personal wellness perspective as it is from a career development perspective: “Giving and getting support is one of the most important aspects of community, so we encourage you to find … a community of support in your institution, graduate school or neighborhood.”

Another key theme across many articles was the advice for Ph.D. students and postdocs to build experiences beyond their research. Robert Pearson showcases the benefits of internships for graduate students, and Nana Lee adds other types of extracurricular activities into the mix of experiences that can support your career exploration and the job search. Even if getting an actual internship isn’t feasible as a graduate student, tools like InterSECT Job Simulations can be helpful.

And from Nana’s perspective, even if figure skating isn’t part of your job description (luckily for me), the value of having external outlets for creativity, community building and inspiration can be just what you need to get through hard parts of your research, or to inspire you to create innovate new teaching experiences and classes. Extracurricular activities like graduate student organizations can also be particularly helpful when it comes to skill development, community building and promoting personal wellness—Tithi Basu Mallik shares her experiences and suggests some approaches you can take.

Beyond internships and extracurriculars, Morris Grubbs and Ashley Sorrell describe the role that graduate teaching assistantships play in developing transferable skills relevant to many career paths. And if you are not convinced as to the applicability of teaching skills in a very broad range of career fields, make sure to read Lauren Easterling’s essay: “Even if it is not listed in a job description, countless jobs require employees to help other people learn—including customers, co-workers and students, among others.”

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From another perspective, having teaching skills doesn’t mean that you have to define yourself only as a teacher. Your professional brand is a key part of your professional identity. I highlight some branding best practices in my post “Amazing People Are on LinkedIn, and You Are One of Them,” and Ketan Marballi echoes many of those points: “While branding can take on many forms, at its simplest level, it is knowing your core values, skills and what drives you and leveraging that in as many ways possible to transition into a career path.”

But how can you identify and know your core values? Derek Attig in his article provides some effective approaches to gaining insights into what motivates you, guiding you through a “work breakdown” activity that “you can do on your own or with friends and colleagues. It is designed to … mine your experiences for insights about your needs, your values and your possible futures.”

With such knowledge, it becomes easier for graduate students to begin to tell optimistic and career-relevant stories about those experiences and the value that they can bring to a role. In a piece on storytelling, Salvatore Cipriano states, “Understanding how to communicate the story about your skills will help you build your confidence as you explore, and achieve, your career goals.” When you tell a good story about your experiences, it is important that people can associate that story with you, and ensuring that people are pronouncing your name effectively is a key part of this. Jovana Milosavljevic Ardeljan shows us how to make that happen professionally.

The job-search process often takes a lot of time and energy. Some of this time is taken researching different career paths—leveraging many of the same skills you already use in your research. Sonali Majumdar recommends starting this process early in your academic program: “To understand the future, you need to expand your knowledge of diverse professions, job functions and sectors, because new and emerging jobs hold the promise of intellectual stimulation, meaningful and purpose-driven work, and societal impact.”

Staying energized when job searching is another challenge, and Olga Koutseridi describes nine best practices you can use—including fostering a growth mind-set, challenging limiting beliefs and talking to yourself like you would a friend. International students face additional challenges when job seeking, and Paola Cepeda and Natalie Chernets share their own experiences helping international Ph.D. students and postdocs to prepare themselves for diverse career paths and to encourage their organizations to provide them with additional support.

Networking always plays a key part in professional and career development. Mabel Perez-Oquendo shares information on the role that informational interviews can play in promoting career clarity. And Anne Meyer-Miner offers networking advice from the perspective of a “self-proclaimed introvert” by breaking it down into three distinct phases: exposure, immersion and connecting.

Whether you are looking for advice on making hard career decisions, managing uncertainty, junk-drawer CVs or your résumé; seeking big-picture insights into changes that are needed to support graduate students and their career goals (such as this post); or trying to overcome impostor syndrome (possibly with help from your peers), you can find it within the “Carpe Careers” column. Many authors also share freely available resources and tools that you can use—many of which have been gathered by Chris Smith in his post on free online tools relevant to your career and professional development.

In sum, as we conclude 2022 and enter a new year, we encourage you to review these past columns as needed—as well as the new ones we will continue to provide in 2023 to help guide you on a successful career journey.

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Blue and white logo of the Graduate Career Consortium.Joseph Barber is the director of graduate career initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Graduate Career Consortium—an organization providing an international voice for graduate-level career and professional development leaders.

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